Motorkote: Scandals and Lawsuits

Motorkote is an oil additive manufactured and sold by Into Great Brands Incorporated. Oil additives, as the name implies, are aftermarket compounds added to your motor oil in order to reduce friction, reduce foaming, modify viscosity, and prevent corrosion. This is a tricky value proposition because standard engine oil already does all of those things. Oil additives just claim that they can enhance it. They’re supplements for your motor oil rather than competing engine oil brands by themselves. The issue has motoring enthusiasts divided down the middle. Some swear by their oil additives. Others are convinced the entire industry is one giant scam.

Debate on whether oil additives are necessary or not aside, Motorkote, its parent company Into Great Brands Inc, and its sister brands Dura Lube and Slick 50, are no strangers to controversy. This ranges from FTC fines for false advertising, allegations of fraudulent dealing by company leaders, class action lawsuits, and unacceptably high chlorine content in their oil additives. 

Leadership wrangles at Motorkote’s parent company

Motorkote is owned by Into Great Brands Inc, a holding company-venture capital hybrid that also owns Dura Lube and Slick 50. 

The company’s president, Alan T. Rudy, has stayed almost entirely out of the limelight except for a lawsuit in 2006 where the company’s former CEO sued Rudy after he was fired. L. James Scott claimed that Rudy fired him unlawfully and failed to invest money into the business as they had agreed upon following the purchase of a then bankrupt Dura Lube. The company lawyer had a classic counterargument: “We didn’t sign anything.” 

The class action lawsuit against Mortokote’s sister brand Slick 50

For overstating the capability of its product and slandering competitors, Slick 50 was sued by a large coalition of customers, retailers, and competitors with the Federal Trade Commision as an interested party. 

The case went all the way to the US Court of Appeals for Third Circuit where Slick 50 squeaked away with an acquittal on a technicality. The company had already reached a separate settlement with the FTC that guaranteed at least 10 million to consumers so it wasn’t entirely a loss.

False advertising and run-ins with the FTC

Two of Motorkote’s sister brands, Slick 50 and Dura Lube have both gotten into trouble with the Federal Trade Commision for making false claims in advertisements promoting their products. They were forced to retract these claims but no one advertises retractions. Who knows how effective they were?

Slick 50 was penalized by the FTC in 1997 for claiming that its product:

  • Reduces engine wear
  • Prolongs engine life
  • Lowers engine temperatures
  • Reduces toxic emissions
  • Increases gas mileage
  • Increases horsepower

All of these claims were proven false and the company was forced to withdraw them. The settlement also granted the FTC the right to sue Slick 50 should a class action lawsuit in progress at the time result in a settlement of less than $10 million. 

Slick 50 still makes similar claims even today. The only difference is that the statements are carefully worded to avoid any lawsuits. Look at this gem from their website: Jason Scheinbart’s 2003 Ford Excursion going over 500K Miles with Slick 50®It implies a whole lot of stuff but claims nothing specific, just like the lawyers advised. 

Dura Lube is another brand under the Into Great Brands Inc umbrella to be caught claiming their snake oil cures cancer. In 2000, Dura Lube paid $2 million in a settlement for making deceptive and unsubstantiated performance claims in a TV ad that featured a NASA astronaut. 

Dura Lube’s claims were mostly similar to the ones made by Slick 50. But you would never know that looking at their website where they make vague statements like this: 

For over 30 years, and millions of satisfied customers, Dura Lube® has been a dependable name in automotive performance fuel & engine additives. As part of your regular basic maintenance, using Dura Lube® products can help your vehicle run better, longer. Adding Dura Lube makes the difference.

So, Dura Lube won’t make your vehicle run longer but it can help. Adding Dura Lube makes the difference. What is that difference, you may ask? The lawyers told them not to say.

The chlorine content in Motorkote’s oil

Engine oil should only contain trace amounts of chlorine (0-150 parts per million). Yet when Amsoil conducted a test of various oil additives in 2010, two products from Motorkote; Motorkote MK Million Mile Formula and Motorkote Hyper Lubricant /Engine Treatment, contained 207,000 ppm and 272,000 ppm of chlorine respectively. That’s upwards of 20%. Motorkote’s sister brand Dura Lube Engine Treatment Booster came in with a chlorine concentration of 55,000 ppm (5.5%)

While chlorinated paraffins were used as additives in lubricants for extreme pressure applications, they aren’t used anymore. In the high heat of the engine coupled with combustion by-products, chlorine can mix with trace amounts of water to form hydrochloric acid. Acids and metals don’t mix. Acid will literally dissolve your engine. Motorkote hasn’t said anything about the chlorine content in its motor oil additives or the Amsoil report.