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Ask a Mechanic: Are additives necessary for winter maintenance? 

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Every week, we take your questions about what is going on under the hood of your vehicle and pose them to a knowledgeable mechanic in the Greater Toronto Area. In today’s column we discuss motor cleaner and oil additives.

Dear Ask a Mechanic,

A neighbour was telling me he puts motor cleaner and oil additives in his truck every year as part of his annual maintenance before winter. What are these, what do they do and are they really necessary? With the winter season coming up, I want to know if this is something I need for my vehicle. – Added benefits

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Robert Lirette, a professor of automotive technology at Toronto’s Centennial College, said a number of factors — such as how old the car is — will determine whether additional measures are needed. He explained additives can do anything from improving existing properties (by cleaning, cooling, and lubricating) to adding new properties (such as changing the freezing point). Manufacturers normally state it’s not necessary for drivers to add in their own lubricants, and Lirette believes it should only be done if recommended by a service technician.

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This may be the case for older vehicles. Additives containing zinc compounds, for example, can help prevent premature camshaft wear in classic muscle cars. Modern oils contain low or no zinc and aren’t needed in newer engines. The owner’s manuals for the Chevrolet 2021 Equinox and 2020 Ford F-150, for example, both specifically state not to use oil additives. Every situation is different, Lirette said, and not everyone should be putting motor cleaner and oil additives in their vehicle. To get more information on what’s best for a specific vehicle, drivers should consult a licensed mechanic for advice.

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Ask a Mechanic is written by Nida Zafar, a reporter who grew up in a house full of mechanics in Scarborough, and occasionally poses your questions to her dad or brother. You can send your questions to . These answers are for informational purposes only. Please consult a certified mechanic before having any work done to your vehicle.

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