Category Archives: General Automotive

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Exposing the Flaws in 540RAT’s Rebuttal

A little bit ago, I wrote an article titled, “EXPOSTING THE FLAWS IN 540RAT’S “ENGINEERING TEST DATA” BLOG.” This article was written out of an annoyance of having to constantly explain why extreme pressure testing is not relevant in modern engines. I came across someone today who decided to make “540 RAT,” aware of my article. He e-mailed back a rebuttal that I’ll examine and address in this post.

Note that my initial article was entirely technical and provided supporting evidence from a Q&A session held by Pennzoil representatives. I made no personal attacks against the author, but rather the testing methodology and the results provided. His response to me was, well, the opposite of that. Let’s begin. I will note my responses as comments inside his own post in red.

I read his write-up from the link you provided, which made me laugh. He obviously has some kind of agenda to try to discredit my test data, which is puzzling since the Amsoil he sells has typically performed rather well in my testing. – Perhaps it would behoove one to acknowledge that my selling AMSOIL has nothing to do with my article, else I would readily embrace it as a validation of my own marketing efforts. Clearly, it isn’t that I’ve consulted with a highly certified STLE CLS and have done my research in tribology, it’s that I have some sort of agenda. Queue a lecture on cognitive dissonance… In the process of attacking me and my Engineering test data, he totally embarrasses himself with all of his biased and incorrect statements. Yet he isn’t even smart enough to realize how foolish he made himself look. – The hallmark of a lost argument begins where one cannot separate the subject matter being attacked from their own person. 540 RAT claims I attacked him, which is odd given I only re-stated his own claims in the context of what would normally qualify one to present such information in the lubrication industry. 

He certainly is not the motor oil expert he claims to be, and doesn’t fully understand how motor oil works. He has NOT proven anything, provides absolutely no data of his own, and just sounds like a Political candidate who lies and twists the truth, in order to take a stand against an opponent. He has done everyone a disservice who reads his claims, who may be gullible enough to believe his propaganda. – Here we have the 2nd series of hominem attacks.  We are two paragraphs in, and so far, everything has been an attack not on the statements I made, but myself as a person.  

He completely leaves out facts and proof that I provide in my Blog, then selectively takes only certain things from my Blog to distort and/or completely misrepresent them. – I’m not sure what the purpose of this statement is. Given the length of this entire reply, the statement is awfully empty without specific examples, but we’ll move on in hopes we can find them. This ends paragraph 3 without any response to my technical points. 

For some reason he felt that he can pass judgment on what I do, so he belittled the fact that I show my credentials. But, he does not know that readers in my Blog and on Car Forums wanted to know my background. So, that they could put my Engineering test data into perspective. So, I provided my credentials per their request. That way, they would know whether or not I was just another Internet crackpot like him, who spews bad information about motor oil.I felt I could expose the technical flaws in his test results and methodology on the basis of an understanding of boundary lubrication. The effort is noble, but the conclusions, misguided for the reasons I mentioned. That said, we now find an interesting pattern. We find him elevating his own credibility (exactly what we saw in his blog), while at the same time attempting to reduce mine. However, we have the third series of ad hominem attacks, where I am referred to as an “internet crackpot who spews bad information about motor oil.” Keep it professional, 540 RAT. 

He, nor anyone else knows exactly what my test equipment and test procedure are. Because they are proprietary information, since I invested a lot of time, money and effort into developing them. So, I will not be sharing them with the whole world. – Exactly, which is part of the problem I identified. Nobody knows what the test equipment and procedure are, but anyone with an elementary understanding of boundary lubrication and extreme pressure testing can just about guess how one would test extreme pressure. You apply extreme pressure to a moving surface to determine when the fluid film fails. It’s not that hard to understand. The problem is that, as I noted, proprietary testing methodology cannot be validated for calibration, cannot be reviewed under ASTM testing guidelines, and cannot be verified or validated. The message is clear, “just trust me, and anyone who disagrees is an internet crackpot who spews lies.” Perhaps some of that time and money could have been spent on an STLE CLS. 

But, he takes it upon himself to declare that my testing is inconsistent, even though he does not know what my specific testing is. – All extreme pressure testing of engine oils lacks repeatability, even the Shell 4-ball wear test developed by what I consider to be one of the best large oil manufacturers in the world. Note, the Shell 4-ball wear test was developed by Tribiologists, who are qualified to evaluate lubricants. 

He takes it upon himself to declare that my testing is not repeatable, again without knowing what my specific testing or equipment is. – See above, Shell’s engineers would agree with me. Since it is practically impossible to maintain perfect consistency between test duration, temperature, and for application levels, I will stand by the claim that the test is not repeatable. My precedent for stating so is based on the Shell 4-ball wear test. The precedent for stating it is reliable is, of course, proprietary, conveniently. 

What kind of incompetent nutball thinks he can come to a final technical conclusion like that, with no specific detailed information to go on? That is NOT how Engineering works. He definitely does not sound like a qualified Degreed Engineer. So, why would anyone want to follow his bogus claims? – Here, we find our 4th ad hominem paragraph. By now, 540 RAT, the engineer, has called me a crackpot who spews lies, spreads propaganda, and an incompetent nutball, We are on paragraph 8, without addressing my supposed “biased and incorrect statements.” No technical discussion yet. I could reciprocate an ad hominem attack regarding 540 RAT being a qualified Tribiologist, but I won’t stoop to that level.

The truth is, my Engineering test procedure is very consistent and very repeatable, or I would not be using it. That is why it is proprietary. I am the only one who has developed this specific equipment and this specific test procedure that “IS” consistent and repeatable. And I make that quite clear in my Blog, yet he ignored that entirely. – The truth is that, because it is all “proprietary,” 540 RAT’s claims cannot be validated. It is fantastic that an entire industry of tribiologists around the world have not developed such an “engineering test procedure.” 

He says my testing does not reflect the real world, which is completely false. I provide numerous examples in my Blog, of how my test data EXACTLY MATCHES the real world, both on the street and in racing. But, he also ignored that as well. – 540 RAT’s testing does not reflect the real world, because in the real world, extreme pressure conditions do not exist with the exception of old flat tappet cam based engines. Therefore, any extreme pressure testing is wholly irrelevant. This is a statement backed by Pennzoil’s representatives, so it’s not just me saying it. 

He also does not understand that for wear to take place, in an old style engine, or in a new style engine, that an oil’s film strength has to be breached, in order to allow metal to metal contact, and thus wear or damage to take place. That is WHY I test each motor oil’s film strength, load carrying capability, shear resistance, using the exact same equipment and exact same test procedure. To find out how various motor oils directly compare to each other, in their ability to prevent metal to metal contact. This is not hard to understand, yet he cannot grasp the importance of it. – 540 RAT does not understand that wear is caused by many factors. Film doesn’t have to fail on order for wear to occur. Wear can occur as a result of catastrophic failure absolutely unrelated to the lubricant, such as fatigue. Wear can occur when a lubricant becomes acidic and corrosive to soft metals. Wear can occur on cold starts where oil film is not a factor as a continuous supply of oil is unavailable. I can go down the list, but the bottom line is that wear caused by a failure of film strength is not a relevant metric by which modern engine wear can be evaluated. 

He also criticizes the fact that I test brand new oil. Of course I test brand new oil, that is the only technically acceptable way to test a wide range of oils, so that they are clean and represent what their formulas truly provide. That way, they can be directly compared to each other, in a meaningful way that represents their true performance capability. – Except…an oil that shears in viscosity due to poor quality VI modifiers or a cheap base oil will inevitably compromise the film strength of that oil, so if the test were relevant, it would only be relevant right up until the oil film fails. We haven’t even talked about the effects of fuel dilution on film strength here. 

And he ignored the fact that I also made clear, that I tested a number of used oils with 5,000 miles on them, and found that there was no loss in wear protection capability. He also ignored the fact that I have an Oil Change Recommendation Tech Article on my Blog, where I recommend oil change intervals that call for changing the oil BEFORE they degrade enough to compromise the wear protection of an engine. – A number of used oils does not represent the whole. An engineer should readily acknowledge that. – I didn’t feel like responding to that bit since I’d have to give a lecture on why base number is a nonlinear function based on proprietary detergent formulations, and why evaluating oxidation (a term that is not found in the entire blog) is also a critical factor in predicting oil drain intervals. 

My Engineering test data is determined by the Physics and Chemistry involved in the testing. There is no theory, nor any opinion, involved in my tests. The Scientific results from my tests, speak for themselves, and are the real deal, even if he wants to argue with that Science. Who do you think will win that battle? – My article exposing the flaws in 540 RAT’s blog is determined by years of studying tribology publications, purchasing SAE case studies, and consulting with certified lubrication specialists in the industry. If we are to assume that all one needs to do to win an argument is to elevate their credibility, I am more qualified to comment on matters regarding tribology than someone who has a mechanical engineering degree. Of course, credibility means nothing in the absence of valid technical data, it is just an appeal to authority

He is a biased motor oil retailer, and criticizes my test data with his bogus claims, but does not provide any alternative of any kind. He simply does not know what he is talking about, and will only direct people down the wrong path. He is just another self-proclaimed motor oil guru who should be completely ignored. He should read and learn from my Blog. – Here we have our 5th ad hominem paragraph. Let’s update our scorecard, shall we? By 540 RAT’s evaluation, I am, “a crackpot who spews lies, spreads propaganda, an incompetent nutball, and a biased motor oil retailer with bogus claims that does not know what he is talking about, and a self-proclaimed oil guru who should be completely ignored.” Ah, if only ad hominem attacks ever proved a point. 

I am not involved in the motor oil industry in any manner, so my Engineering tests are totally independent and unbiased. Therefore, I have no stake in what oil anyone buys for their vehicles. Therefore, I have absolutely no reason to manipulate any of the data. I simply share my test data as a courtesy for free, however it comes out, good or bad, with other gear heads. That way, they can make more informed buying decisions, to provide the best protection for their engines. Since I do not sell motor oil, it makes no difference to me, if people embrace my data to make use of it for their own benefit, or if they ignore it and continue to guess which oil is best. – Perhaps if 540 RAT were actually involved in the motor oil industry, his data would be more relevant and useful to his readers, but as it stands, it is deeply flawed. A critical reader will note the absence of extreme pressure testing in modern engine oil specifications. Were this an important (and relevant) metric to evaluate, all modern gasoline engine oil specifications would include standardized testing of extreme pressure performance. 

I still challenge anyone, anywhere, including him, to PROVE that any of my Engineering test data is wrong. People should read my entire Blog, then decide for themselves what information they want to believe and make use of.” – I do not contest that 540 RAT’s engineering test data is wrong. Absolutely not. I believe that the results were reached using scientific process and the results themselves, for the conditions existent, were accurate. My challenge is not in whether the data is right or wrong, but whether or not the data is relevant, repeatable/consistent, or representative of real-world driving conditions. It should be noted that the context of all of my statements revolves around street driving conditions in stock, lightly modified, or moderately modified vehicles where extreme pressure conditions do not exist. Heavily modified engines making double or more power than stock or racing applications are a whole different can of worms. 

Take care,

540 RAT” – Don’t take it personally; I attacked your data, not your anonymous identity. An engineer should be interested most in providing relevant, consistent, and reliable data above defending his/her results. Industry experts overwhelmingly agree that extreme pressure testing is not a factor in modern engine oils. 

Since 540 RAT is now aware of my little blog and my existence. I would like to share a few comments.

  • I did not make my initial post lightly. The contents and conclusions drawn in that post were formulated over the course of the last three years. The conclusions were validated with an STLE Certified Lubrication Specialist I know in addition to various professional lubrication publications. To suggest that my statements were made on a whim is would be unfounded.
  • My statements had nothing to do with my selling of a product. It is worth noting that my business is a part time gig. I will not disclose my full time job for obvious reasons (the value of anonymity clearly isn’t lost on “540 RAT”). My statements were exclusively and entirely technical in nature. Even in this post, I have made a conscious effort to refrain from ad hominem attacks, against my natural tendency. I will also state that any extreme pressure testing, ASTM standardized or otherwise, that elevates the products I sell over others should be ignored with respect to modern engines.
  • Do not underestimate an individual. The absence of publicly available technical information regarding lubrication engineering does not automatically mean that knowledgeable people do not exist where you least expect them. The president of Blackstone Labs made that mistake once before on NASIOC, whose apology I respectfully accepted. If 540RAT reads this post, he would do well to avoid accusations that my statements are influenced by a conflict of interest.
  • There is a “contact” function on my website, where I can be contacted, should 540 RAT wish to hold a personal conversation. I will gladly make my cell phone number available and will entertain discussion on the merits of this post and the results provided in his blog.

If time allows, I will try to write an article in the coming weeks that will explain the metrics by which gasoline engine oils can be better evaluated.

Edit 8/23: I tried to play nice guy, but apparently that doesn’t work for some people. In his most recent reply to this post, he referred to me as hateful. Sounds like someone does a lot of projecting, given I haven’t personally attacked him, yet I’ve been insulted countless times.

I decided to do some research to see if I was the only one, since his reply to this post looked an awful lot like email I responded to here. I was pleased to find I wasn’t the only one to call him out on this. I feel sorry for everyone mislead by his “engineering data.”

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 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)


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:


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.

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.

Continue reading GM Inside Look – Performance Build Center

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.

Continue reading What to Expect – The 2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel

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.

Continue reading Winter is coming! Check your tire pressure!

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.

Continue reading How to Get Better Fuel Economy

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.

Continue reading General Motors Inside Look – GM Powertrain Headquarters