This column was published on May 23 in the Herald-Journal.
Author: Kenn Peters
Imagine driving your car or truck for 1 million miles. Why, it would take forever. And then you'd have to be driving around the clock.
Mobil, the oil and gas company, did it when it was developing Mobil 1. It took four years to cover the miles.
Bill Maxwell, an environmental engineer and head of product development for the Mobil Technology Co., in Paulsboro, N.J., said the company did high-mileage tests of Mobil 1 synthetic oil during 1989 and 1990 in two Oldsmobiles with General Motors' since discontinued Quad 4 engine.
The cars were put on a treadmill and run for 200,000 miles. The oil in one car was changed every 7,500 miles and in the second car every 15,000 miles, Maxwell said. At the end of the 200,000 miles, the car's engines were torn down and found to be in perfect condition.
"It was astounding. The engines looked like they were virtually new," he said. Mobil learned from that test that even people who break the rules by not changing their oil on schedule will be forgiven by the oil.
But Mobil wasn't satisfied. So the company bought a BMW 325i with a 2.5-liter in-line 6-cylinder engine. The company decided to go for broke and run the BMW 1 million miles.
The BMW spent four years on the treadmill, 24 hours a day, mostly at 85 miles an hour, but with varied speeds, too, down as low as 45 miles an hour to simulate everyday driving.
Mobil followed BMW's recommended service schedule. Along the way it changed the fan belt and hoses and did other hardware maintenance. It religiously changed the oil.
AT THE END of the road, when the engine was taken apart, Mobil's engineers discovered that the wear measurements were the same as the manufacturer's specifications.
Today that synthetic oil is commonplace not only for vehicles on the road, but those on the racetrack, too.
The 5W30-weight Mobil 1 is used almost exclusively by racing teams on the NASCAR circuit, and most Indy-type cars use 15W50-weight Mobil 1, Maxwell said. Military fighter planes have been using synthetic oil for a long time, he said.
One of the basic elements of synthetic oil is a so-called synthetic fluid, the development of which evolved over the years until it became obvious it could provide lubricating benefits not obtainable with mineral oils, Maxwell said.
ONE OF THE oil's toughest tests was in heavy equipment that does duty on the Alaskan pipeline. The oil must perform in temperatures that dip to 40 below zero, Maxwell said.
Oil companies are constantly being pushed to develop new products to meet the demands of engines that run hotter, Maxwell said.
"We want higher fuel efficiency and that means cars will be much more streamlined, hood areas will get smaller, and engines will have to be smaller," he said. "That will result in less air flow."
What all this adds up to is hotter running engines and more demands than ever on engine oil.
Incidentally, have you ever noticed how often manufacturers claim products have been used for years in Europe before they come to the United States? Well, that's the case with Mobil synthetic oil. Maxwell said it has been used in Europe for over two decades.
Auto Editor Kenn Peters' column runs Thursdays in the Herald-Journal.
Copyright (c)1996, The Herald Company