All posts by xtrevolution

Exposting the Flaws in 540RAT’s “Engineering Test Data” Blog

Exposing the flaws in 540RAT’s “Motor Oil Engineering Test Data” blog, one flaw at a time. This has been circulated in oil related threads for as long as I can remember, and I’ve debunked this as being a useless test over a hundred times in oil discussions across social media. I decided it was time to publish an article to settle this one once and for all.

The article in question, the 540RATBlog (click for link) is a series of “test data” performed by a self-proclaimed expert. Curiously, this individual begins his article not with a technical explanation of his testing, but by conditioning you to believe everything following with a list of seemingly impressive credentials. A mechanical engineer, a patent holder, a member of two societies, and a variety of automotive pursuits. it is curious that none of these includes an STLE CLS (Certified Lubrication Specialist) certification, yet he assumes himself to be one. It is worth noting that if your technical data is sound, and your conclusions valid, you should find no need to elevate their credibility by flaunting your credentials, but I digress.

The Technical Flaws

This whole testing methodology relies on one basic flaw, that extreme pressure testing is a modern, relative, consistent, and valid way to test the performance of engine oils. To achieve this comparison, an extreme pressure machine is used to apply force to a metal surface while another spins. The amount of force that can be applied before the lubricant fails and seizes the spinning surface is recorded in PSI. The concept is very simple, and various machines designed for this purpose have been employed by shady lubricant salesmen in the past. More on this later.

The author goes through a long and over-drawn explanation as to why he believes that extreme pressure protection is the most important metric to engine oil, focusing heavily on cam lobes. This would be great, were the year 1975.

  1. The first and most critical note to make is that the testing methodology is kept a secret. The details and the specific test equipment, unlike with ASTM industry standardized testing equipment and procedures, which can be calibration validated and evaluated by real industry professionals, is noted as proprietary information. This is an immediate red flag, and for obvious purposes: nobody can validate the results of this testing. 3rd party validation is extremely important in a test like this one, where results can be very easily manipulated.
  2. Extreme pressure testing (what is conducted in this test) is not relevant to modern engines. Simply put, there are no extreme pressure conditions in the overwhelming majority of modern, mass-produced engines. We use roller cams, not flat tappet cams, and where flat tappet/bucket cams are used, valve spring weight is sufficiently low, and reciprocating valvetrain mass sufficiently light, that extreme pressure protection is not required as it was decades ago. However, don’t take my word for it.Back in 2010, there was an FAQ session over on BITOG that was published (click for link). This list of FAQs was provided by the Pennzoil Ultra team, which consisted of Pennzoil’s global brand manager, their technology manager, their passenger car motor oil technology manager, and their lubricants technology group manager. A question is asked which states, “Compared to Pennzoil Platinum®, how does Pennzoil Ultra™ do in the 4-ball wear test (better, worse, or about the same?)” As a bit of background, Shell’s 4-ball wear test is an industry standardized test, represented under ASTM D2783. Unlike the author’s testing equipment, this is an industry standardized method that can be peer evaluated by certified industry professionals. This test is used to measure extreme pressure protection of lubricants. Pennzoil answers with the following: “The 4-ball wear test has no correlation with wear performance in an actual engine. It was developed to test industrial oil performance for roller bearings under extreme load. The test repeatability is very poor. However given the above then for an equivalent viscosity grade and anti-wear package (Industry specification controlled), then the performance can be expected to be equivalent.”Read that again as many times as you need. The 4-ball wear test, an extreme pressure testing methodology, has no correlation with wear performance in an actual engine. In short, extreme pressure testing is not relevant to modern engines! However, they note that test repeatbility is very poor. More on this next.
  3. The test repeatability is very poor. In order to understand how engine oils prevent wear, you must also understand the principles behind boundary lubrication and also how antiwear additives decompose. To make a long story short, antiwear additives require heat in order to decompose, at which point they cling to two metal surfaces and produce a protective layer that prevents wear in the event that the oil film would fail and the two surfaces were to meet. It’s a rather simple concept, right? Wrong.The challenge comes in two phases. First, since it takes heat to decompose antiwear additives, you must be able to measure, and keep precisely constant, the temperature of the lubricant at the point of contact at all times. This is impossible to do with any testing methodology. Since these antiwear additives require heat, you must build that heat. The general method is to apply light pressure at first, building slowly until you place maximum pressure and force the film to fail. The duration used for applying light and medium pressure is critical, as a longer duration would build more heat and therefore decompose more additives. While the duration may be kept reasonably consistent, it is not in the least bit representative of oil temperatures at the point of contact. An information series video presented by AMSOIL highlights this concept very effectively:
  4. Last but certainly not least, only brand new oils are tested. Most oils, over the course of their service interval, will be compromised in their ability to prevent wear in extreme pressure conditions. This is due greatly in part to viscosity shear; the thinning of the oil’s viscosity. As a result, this test is not representative of real-world conditions.

Conclusion

Even if a test that is consistent (his isn’t), and repeatable (his isn’t), one that is able to measure oil temperature at the point of contact (he can’t), and one that can measure performance across a variety of service intervals and service durations (infeasible) we still have to contend with the fact that extreme pressure testing provides no measure of performance in modern engines, where extreme pressure conditions do not exist. Even if you did own an engine with a flat tappet valvetrain that required the use of oils with high extreme pressure protection ability, you still must contend with the issues faced by testing an aspect of engine oils that allows for higher test results to be achieved by generating more heat between moving metal surfaces.

We should be careful not to jump on board the bandwagon of false data and blatant misinformation simply due to the lack of alternate data.

Chevy Cruze, Sonic, Trax, & Buick Encore 1.4L Turbo LUV/LUJ PCV Issues

An overview of PCV issues affecting the 1.4L Turbo engine in your Cruze, Sonic, or Trax, or Encore. This contains documentation, links to resources, and steps for diagnosis so you can get back on the road successfully.

Affected Models

2011-2015 & 2016 Limited Chevrolet Cruze 1.4L Turbo
2012-2017 Chevrolet Sonic 1.4L Turbo
2013-2017 Chevrolet Trax 1.4L Turbo
2013-2017 Buick Encore 1.4L Turbo (Excludes Sport Touring)

Overview

Turbo engines require two PCV check valves. To evacuate pressure from the crankcase, a normal engine has a valve that opens to allow pressure into the intake duct or intake manifold. With a turbo engine, the intake and intake manifold are under pressure when building power, which requires an alternate path for PCV gas to escape. As a result, an additional check valve is placed to allow gas to evacuate upstream of the turbo.

In the 1.4L Turbo, these check valves are at the turbo inlet and inside the intake manifold. If you’re reading this, you may think that there is a check valve in the valve/camshaft cover, but that is simply a PCV pressure regulator diaphragm and not a check valve. The check valve is a little round disc with a nipple inside the intake manifold.

The below image explains the PCV path for this engine.

Cruze PCV System
Cruze PCV System

A full, detailed explanation of this PCV system can be found at the following link: 1.4L Turbo LUV/LUJ PCV System Explained.

Common Issues

You’ve probably found this article because you have issues with your vehicle. The two most common issues that affect this engine’s PCV system are as follows:

  1. The valve/camshaft cover’s pressure regulator diaphragm ruptures. This is located directly under the disc that you can see if you pull the coil pack/engine cover off. When this goes out, it will cause a hissing sound, and may cause oil to be splattered about the engine bay. This is often accompanied by rough idle. If you place your finger over the vent opening, the idle will smooth out. This usually triggers a check engine light.
  2. The intake manifold check valve disappears, causing elevated oil consumption and can potentially trigger a check engine light. This can go unknown to the owner for quite some time, but the effects, when accompanied by elevated oil consumption, can be disastrous.

Both of the components that fail are made of rubber that eventually becomes brittle and breaks. There is no preventive maintenance that can prevent this failure from occurring.

A brief overview of the issues and how to check if you have these symptoms is described in the following link:  1.4L Turbo LUV/LUJ PCV Issues.

Associated DTCs (Service Codes)

If you have a check engine light and get the codes scanned, the following service codes may indicate a PCV-related issue:

P0171
P0106
P1101
P0507
P0299
P2096

Available Solutions

If the PCV pressure regulator diaphragm on the Valve/Camshaft Cover has failed, your only recourse is to replace it.

Part Required: GM Part # 55573746

1.4L LUV/LUJ Valve/Camshaft Cover Replacement Tutorial

If the Intake Manifold Check Valve has failed, you have two options.

  1. You can replace the intake manifold with a new one, at a cost of $250-$350 depending on where you purchase the intake manifold.
  2. You can fit an external check valve onto the existing intake manifold, at a cost of $145. The retrofit has the benefit of costing far less than a new manifold and lasting much longer, since it is a redesign of the flawed OEM system. A new intake manifold will inevitably fail; the retrofit is much more robust.

I love being wrong.

It occurred to me earlier this week that people don’t like to be wrong. I thought a bit more about it since I had nothing else to do at the time, and came to the realization that I love being wrong. Why is it that people always seem like they hate being wrong? Allow me to explain.

When I have debates with certain people, I bring a technical, factual perspective. If I cannot provide the technical data or factual evidence, I either don’t debate, or I accept that it is simply personal preference/opinion that I am sharing. Sometimes, I am proven wrong or corrected, and I waste no time in acknowledging that.

That being said, I often have debates with people who see them as arguments, which is understandable since I spend a good amount of time supporting my points with facts and data, and they support their points with anecdote and unsupported opinion. Even so, there are many people who, even when concretely proven wrong, will either resort to personal attacks out of frustration, or will simply regurgitate the same ineffective BS in hopes that it will have a different effect than the first time. In that sense, I feel as though people have a mental block that prohibits them from acknowledging that the facts and evidence invalidate and nullify their points.

Naturally, there are discussions based on opinion where it should be acknowledged that nobody is going to be right or wrong as you cannot concretely prove a point one way or another, but in discussions regarding things like lubrication or economics, there’s no room for opinion. Facts are inherently arrogant, and a colorless debates make one sound equally arrogant. In layman’s terms, facts and evidence don’t need to be sugar coated, and I usually opt not to.

To be honest, I love debating. I find it thrilling to engage in a solid debate against someone on technical merits, because only one side can be right, which means one side will be wrong, and I love both of those end results. If I’m right, it’s a personal victory because I win the debate. If I’m wrong, it’s also a personal victory because I learned something, so I’ll guarantee a win in the next debate.

That’s not how most people I come across are. Most people tie being “right” to their ego or sense of self-worth. They subconsciously associate being wrong with a feeling of shame (likely because small-minded people in their lives followed that with personal attacks, insults, and poking fun), and their pride and ego won’t allow them to be wrong. People like those live in a continuous cycle of ignorance because that pride doesn’t allow them to learn anything.

If you are never wrong and never make a mistake, you never truly learn from those mistakes or misconceptions. Keep repeating them to yourself, and you may eventually start to believe the lies.

I ask everyone to consider one very important question. Which benefits you more, being wrong, or being right? The answer is obvious, and so should be the reason why I spark so much debate and confrontation. Someone ends up being wrong, and in a healthy mindset, that person will learn something.

So you want to teach?

This is my first “blog” type article that doesn’t have to do with a particular topic of interest, or one in which I might be considered a subject matter expert. It is, however, related to what I do on this site and on CruzeTalk.com. It is a topic that has been on my mind for a while, and my opinions of this topic have shaped many of my decisions.

Today, I’d like to talk about the challenges in teaching.

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GM Inside Look – Performance Build Center

When I first launched this site, I wrote a couple of articles about my tour of the Flint Engine Operations plant and the GM Powertrain Global. After a long delay, I’ve decided it’s time to continue the tour articles with the Performance Build Center. The GM Performance Build Center is where a small team of engine builders hand-assembles each of the Corvette engines. Commence drooling.

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The Crux of “Audiophile” Sound Quality

I’ve spent a bit of time in the DIY audio world; designing and building home theater speakers, and designing and installing car audio systems that strive for high levels of sound quality. I’ve designed and built countless sound quality-oriented subwoofer enclosures, tuned active and passive crossovers, and worked with some fantastic equipment. While not proclaiming that I’m an expert in all fiends – I’m still always learning from those who have far more experience than I – I’ve come to the realization that there’s a crux when designing an audio system. That is, a decisive point of difficulty. It’s probably not what you think though…

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What to Expect – The 2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel

I recently had the opportunity to interview two chief GM engineers directly responsible for the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel during the 2013 Chicago Auto Show on media day. There are plenty of generic publications floating out on the internet and blogosphere, so I’m here to bring you some insider knowledge from GM’s lead engineers to give you an idea of what to expect if you are planning on buying or are interested in buying a Chevrolet Cruze Diesel.

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Behind the Wheel of the Chevy Cruze

Grab some popcorn and a soda, because this one long review. A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to review a 2012 Chevy Cruze LTZ for a week. GM dropped this off at my door as a courtesy so I could get some behind the wheel time with another Cruze. As some of you know, I’ve had a 2012 Chevy Cruze ECO since early January of 2012. I’ll be covering both of these cars in this review. I currently have 17,000 miles driven on this car, and as the Super Moderator of CruzeTalk.com, this is about as genuine and thorough of a review as you’ll find. This review will cover both my own Chevrolet Cruze Eco, and the Chevrolet Cruze LTZ that GM sent me.

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Audio 101 – Crossovers

In the last few articles, I talked about frequency response, on/off axis response, and the various types of drivers you’ll come across when designing speaker systems. Today, I bring some of that together and talk about crossovers. Crossovers are a critical part of a system design, and being able to understand the different types of crossovers as well as the functions they serve will be pivotal to your ability to create a solid system.

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Audio 101 – Types of Speaker Drivers

Today, I’m going to get down to the basics, as I need to cover a few fundamentals before we move on to our next topic. In this article, I’m going to briefly discuss the basic differences between the types of speaker drivers commonly available; tweeters, mids, woofers, subwoofers, and full-range drivers. Each of these serves a specific purpose in reproducing parts of the frequency range.

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