What's your take on synthetic "pre-lubricants"?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I read your great pamphlet "10 Ways you May Be Ruining Your Car Without Knowing It." I noticed you didn't say anything about synthetic "pre-lubricants" like Slick 50. I've seen this stuff advertised. They say it's supposed to stay on wearing surfaces of the engine to protect them during start up, before engine oil can reach the moving parts. My mechanic is skeptical because he's never seen any good research proving the stuff works. What do you guys think?

TOM: We used to think the same thing your mechanic thinks, Herm. In fact, here's a copy of the "answer" we wrote to a readers question last year:

"Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a Tempo, a ninety two,
And right away I thought of you.
It was a rental, you understand,
And on the speedo, there's thirty grand.
I checked the auto-trans and wheels,
Changed the oil and checked the seals.
I didn't mind the salesmen team,
And added Slick 50 to the Valvoline.
I have a can of STP,
And trust your judgement, what ever it be.
Would you advise to use this stuff,
Or is Slick 50 quite enough?

TOM: Andy Granatelli, the racing guy,
Said STP makes your mileage high.
For years on TV did Andy toil,
Til studies showed it was just snake oil.

RAY: Now Slick 50's all over the tube,
Claiming to be the world's best lube.
We can only advise you: "buyer beware,"
Because the facts to support their claims just ain't there.

TOM: So stick with plain, old Valvoline.
It's as good as any that we've seen.
We'll stand our ground, ye lads and lasses,
Until Slick 50 sues our butts. "

RAY: Aside from proving we have absolutely no poetic aptitude, our point was that Slick 50 was making claims, but they had no good research. All they had was what we call "anecdotal" evidence; a story about two cab drivers in Houston who got 200,000 miles using Slick 50. But that doesn't prove anything.

TOM: But since we wrote that actionable little jingle, Slick 50 has actually conducted some bonafide research. And the research was legitimate enough to be published by the SAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers. And that research showed--to our satisfaction--that Slick 50 does make a difference during those first few seconds of operation (although there is still no evidence that it does anything to improve mileage).

RAY: According to the report published in SAE, Slick 50 adheres to the moving parts of the engine, and serves as a lubricant before the engine oil gets distributed. And those first few seconds ARE when a lot of wear and tear take place.

TOM: So we feel compelled to add another stanza to our previous ditty:

TOM: Slick 50 claims to protect the parts,
Those first few seconds the engine starts.

RAY: And now they've convinced my brother and me,
'Cause they've been published in SAE.

TOM: P.S. Robert Frost, eat your heart out!

Get the Car Talk Newsletter