Can you really get extra horsepower from a bottle?
Do engine additives improve motorcycle performance or fuel consumption? We put them to the test on a dyno – and even in the van as it racked up 10,000 miles transporting bikes here and there; there including some impressive hills called the Alps.
It used to be you’d fit X, Y and Z to your bike and the handling, performance, comfort, range or looks would easily be improved. But times have moved on and so has the package you buy from a dealer. Nowadays the bike you buy is so evolved, so refined, that it’s not so easy to find the X, Y and Z that fits your pocket with the same noticeable gains of the past.
The ratio of Pounds to Reward has widened but there are still a wealth of available options out there. Some very expensive, some not so much and, let’s face it, some of them sound a bit dodgy.
One of the most overlooked options come in the shape of additives, or snake oil as many a doubter prefers to call them. The dictionary describes snake oil as ‘a product of little real worth or value that is promoted as the solution to a problem.’
Now, while this could be used to describe many an item for sale in the aftermarket catalogue, it seems to be more commonly thrown around when you mention engine or petrol additives. People will happily spend hundreds of pounds on an end can for a few extra ponies (and of course the obligatory extra decibels), but try to get them to spend a few quid on additives…
Faher is a company which until recently wasn’t known to me. I’d never heard of the Spanish company who amongst other things, specialise in fuel and engine additives. That they did a motorcycle chain lube was the start of my exposure to them. Having had a pre-Euro trip service down at MotoWorks, I found that they’ve started using them after their own tests resulted in sufficient improvements to warrant them being part of their workshop inventory.
I initially tried their engine oil additive in my 5000-mile Triumph Street Triple RS (bike review here) and noticed an improvement in gear shifts and reduction in engine vibration. Constantly thinking I was in 6th when in fact I was in 4th led me to conclude the claims of reduced friction – through higher quality PTFE content than the engine oil itself – were to be believed.
Curious as to how Faher achieved this, I approached Paolo, their representative in the South East, and spoke to him about these miracle ‘snake oil’ products they produce. They offer a myriad of subtly promoted products to help improve a wide range of vehicles, not just motorbikes; covering petrol and diesel engines with applications that include reducing high mileage wear to fuel system care. They even do a chain lube for cyclists – the bikes, not the owners…
The product is simple really: Produce a fluid with higher PTFE content, itself a friction reducer and be rewarded with less friction between moving parts. The result is engine parts coated for reduced wear, allowing better mpg, bhp, improved throttle response, reduced engine vibration and quicker acceleration. In addition, they also have products that lube and care for the fuel system, whether in use or stored.
Paolo showed me, in fine snake oil salesman fashion, a loaded bearing test, resulting in reduced wear to metal-on-metal parts when their products were added. It gave me an idea of what’s going on inside the engine, or between your chain and sprockets.
But a simple workshop demo is one thing, decent data from testing is another. So with 3 long European trips ahead of me this summer, as well as running his products in my Street Triple, Paolo offered to administer their engine and fuel treatment to my 55,000 mile Vauxhall Vivaro diesel van. Sceptical but curious too, I agreed.
Some 10,000 miles and numerous fill-ups later, I have to concede improvements to the mpg. With a 200 kilo motorcycle plus tools, paddock stands, service items, and luggage for a dozen bikers also coming on the trips, the van gave 36mpg, precisely the same as when it was empty last year and an increase of 3mpg to 39mpg when unloaded. On top of this, the van has improved gear changes and is happy to hold a taller gear for longer on long hills. 6th gear on long European motorway climbs was a non-starter last year in the same van, but this year, after the Faher treatment, on the same route with the same payload, the van is happy to hold 6th far longer, sometimes not needing 5th at all. For someone who had been thinking of a remap for the van, this has swayed me to not bothering; saving me the time and money that would have cost. The mpg increase in itself is not earth-shattering, but for the sake of around £20 of snake oil I’ve got a reasonable result closer to what I wanted in the first place and a smoother drive to boot.
I also took some samples on a trip to the Vosges and without specific explanation talked two of my most cynical riding buddies into using the oil additive and chain lube on their bikes, and a further two into using just the chain lube. All four returned with similar accounts. One went as far as to shake my hand 20 miles down the road and ask what I had done to ‘turbo charge’ his bike? Better shifting, less vibration, less engine noise at idle in particular and smoother transitions on and off the throttle were all similarly reported. These were also the typical sorts of comments MotoWorks were getting back on a regular basis. Customers are calling them after a service and thanking them for the difference the work had made to their ride.
I spoke with Paolo again recently at a MotoWorks open day. On site they had DynABike, the well-received mobile dynamometers with the experienced Richard Board running the operation. He had spoken to Paolo earlier in the day and rightly voiced the common scepticism about whether an oil/ fuel/chain additive would produce anything other than mixed results. His experience showed that there could be such variance in the bikes he’d dyno’d, being able to agree any improvements could be difficult unless the initial runs were consistent.
So Paolo, taking this view as a challenge, asked if there were any untreated bikes on site that would be willing to have some dyno runs and show there is indeed more than feel involved with their products. I was on my strictly manufacturer-method run in S1000R Sport and in the interests of actual hard figures on top of feel, I offered the use of my bike. The bike is as stock as they come from the dealer, bar a satnav mount and din power connector for the battery trickle charger I have at home. 2500 miles on the clock, the bike had recently done 1400 of those over a two week period in the French Alps. The bike still feels tight, the gearbox and in particular the shift from the autoblipper still feeling it needed a firm prod, rather than the light touch you’d want.
© Biker & Bike | Jock’s BMW S100R Sport goes on the dyno
Richard agreed to give the bike a couple of runs to establish the pre-additive bhp and torque of the bike, then we let Paolo add his products (engine, fuel and chain lube), before running the bike to get the products into the moving parts. After roughly 10 mins of running time we did two more runs.
The first two runs delivered 151bhp at the back wheel with the figures almost identical to each other, give or take a couple of decimal points. Based on previous data Richard has that’s pretty much par for the course for a low mileage S1000R Sport.
Paolo commented that a decent ride and return may have been better but was willing to put his reputation and company claims on the line in front of an increasingly curious and growing crowd.
The result for the next two runs was 153bhp, with again the figures almost identical to each other to the decimal point. This may not seem a lot at first, but you can spend hundreds on an aftermarket end can and see exactly the same increase in power. But in a world where a few bhp is hard and costly to find, especially with new bikes, the Faher products costing around £20 had done exactly as Paolo and Faher predicted.
Fair play, Richard was impressed at the consistency and conceded that the products showed they will allow the bike to produce more bhp due to the reduced friction between the moving parts. He too agreed that running the bike longer with the products before the second set of runs may have yielded yet more gains. It takes a brave and confident individual to publically put their products to test, as Paolo and Faher did. And it takes a humble and knowledgeable one in Richard to concede that not all snake oil is snake oil.
So there we have it thinks I, hard data on top of feel. But then I still had to ride the bike home. The very first prod into first and something was different. Slicker was different. Gear changes have become gentle, easier to the point that I need to keep my foot away from the gear lever for fear my boot putting pressure on the lever into an autoblipped gear change. The gearbox is night and day better. And that is not impressed with extra bhp enthusiasm, (you can’t feel the extra 2 bhp, even Vale would struggle to notice that), but it’s ‘sore foot from two weeks of Alpine gear changes’ noticeably better.
Also, the S1000 engine in all its guises is an inline-four buzz box. Some are worse than others, but it’s a high revving inline-four, 1000cc bike, so that’s kind of expected. Now, it’s creamy smooth, thank you very much. The tingles in the right grip are pretty much diminished, and that was one of my running-in complaints to BMW which was explained by the grip being mounted on a moving part. Which makes sense. Vibey engine, the throttle tube is always going to vibrate on the bar, where the left side is fixed straight onto the bar. The motor now spins up more freely, which is clearly friction related. Or less friction related to be precise.
90 miles home and no numbing of the right hand. I can tell you the right hand got excitedly exuberant at this newly found slickness. Two weeks staring at the letterbox waiting for the envelope of death exuberant, if you know what I mean. One of those kinds of rides.
So, in conclusion. Whether it be a diesel van, mid-sized or litre engine motorbike, I’m confirming Faher products really do work. The BHP and MPG gains are decent benefits, even if not earth-shattering, but the improved feel is noticeable to all. They consistently confounded me and other biking buddies who used it. Snake oil isn’t meant to be noticeable, let alone work. The reduction in vibration and rattle, the improvements to the gearbox shifting and power delivery is on top of the promise of less wear to your engine over time. These are all positives. Faher may not be cheap by the litre bottle, which in some ways is comforting, nothing good is free these days, but they’re affordable per application.
It’s still true that a hell of a lot of stuff out there is snake oil, but, in my opinion, these products can’t be described as one of them.