Category Archives: Automotive

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. ZDDP doesn’t decompose at one temperature, it decomposes in tiers. 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. You cannot evaluate the performance of antiwear additives with only one temperature. 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. It would be infeasible to test all of the oils on the list in a variety of conditions.


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 PCV Valve Issues

An overview of PCV issues affecting the 1.4L Turbo LUV/LUJ 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
2012-2018 Chevrolet Sonic 1.4L Turbo
2013-2018 Chevrolet Trax 1.4L Turbo
2013-2018 Buick Encore 1.4L Turbo (Excludes Sport Touring)


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.
  3. The corrugated hose from the intake manifold to the turbo cracks and creates a vacuum leak, or the check valve at the turbo inlet gets stuck closed.

Both of the first two 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:


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 OEM one, at a cost of $250-$350 depending on where you purchase the intake manifold.
  2. You can replace the intake manifold with an aftermarket one. Dorman makes an intake manifold for ~$145-$180 shipped, depending on where you find it, but uses the same check valve design as the OEM manifold.
  3. You can retrofit an external check valve onto the existing intake manifold, at a cost of $85. 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. In addition, it uses an external, serviceable check valve that is far more robust than needed for this application.  A new intake manifold will inevitably fail; the retrofit is much more robust. Use the links below to learn more about that kit:

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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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, 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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Winter is coming! Check your tire pressure!

Cold weather is upon us in the Northern half of the United States, and we’re just over a month away from the official start of Winter. For many of us, that means freezing cold temperatures, but that also means “winterizing” our vehicles. While making preparations for the cold weather, we sometimes forget to check some of the more basic things, like tire pressure. Here’s why it’s important.

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How to Get Better Fuel Economy

My Chevrolet Cruze is rated for 28MPG city and 42MPG highway, yet I average 39.5MPG with 73% city driving and get over 50-55mpg fuel economy on the highway. I’ve made no significant modifications to my vehicle, and my car is not a hybrid! Let’s talk about how to get better fuel economy. This article will share my tips, techniques, and tricks for improving fuel economy that anyone can use. These are all practical and simple techniques that don’t require any significant mechanical modification or extra expense on your part.

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General Motors Inside Look – GM Powertrain Headquarters

Today, we have a chance to peek into GM Powertrain Global to determine how their engines are designed from the ground up. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any photos of this facility, but the information is still quite valuable.

GM Global Powertrain Headquarters is where engines and transmissions are designed, manufactured, and tested. Due to the confidential nature of this, I was unable to take photos, but what I will share is what I learned, which should be infinitely more valuable. None of the pictures would have made any sense to most people anyway.

Engine development at GM is, to put it plainly, state-of-the-art. The have perfected this to a thing of beauty, beyond just excellence and superiority. Yes, I’m referring to its competitors. GM’s Powertrain Global Headquarters is the largest and most advanced powertrain engineering complex in the world. It is the product of 30 years of planning and restructuring inside GM, and I can honestly say the future is looking blindingly bright for GM.

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