Motor oil is the vital lifeblood of combustion engines. It requires regular replacement, and catastrophe can occur without the fluid. Additives, designed to alleviate various engine ailments, can improve an oil’s performance, but how well do they work without the base oil? A new video from Garage54 found out.

The team took a Honda Odyssey with the automaker’s F23 engine, which the company used in the 1990s and early 2000s, and drained it of its oil. They flushed the engine before mixing a potent cocktail of oil additives into a giant jug. It was a smorgasbord of chemicals that resulted in an oily, greenish-brown substance that was then poured right into the engine.

The Odyssey’s engine wasn’t tip-top before replacing the oil, with smoke billowing from the tailpipe under a heavy throttle. The additives didn’t fix the smoking problem, and the van worsened. The smoke changed from blue to gray as it was driven around town, and large puffs of black smoke blasted from the exhaust pipe with a bang. However, through all the abuse, the Honda survived the short test.

To measure any changes in the engine, the Garage54 team tracked the oil pressure in each cylinder. Two dropped, one stayed the same, and the fourth increased, but these were negligible changes, and the Honda left the shop for an extended overnight trip. The Odyssey drove over an additional 62 miles (100 kilometers) without issues. 

The engine didn’t blow, so the crew decided to perform the experiment in reverse. The team drained the additives from the van, which had turned black, and replaced it with fresh – and thicker – motor oil before taking it for another spin. The van still spewed smoke out the back, but running it with the additives didn’t seem to cause any significant problems.

Any visitor to an auto parts store has seen the wall of miracle fluids designed to keep cars on the road that might not have gracefully aged. The various products can enhance the beneficial aspects of the fluid or suppress undesirable outcomes by augmenting the oil’s formula. They can increase lubrication, modify viscosity, and keep engine components free of harmful deposits and sludge, which might be one reason why the drained additives looked so dirty.

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