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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 02-18-2011, 09:38 AM
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What does Marvel Mystery Oil actually do in an E39 (and what are the ingredients)?

In doing research for a thread today about a SES light:
- Service engine light after gasket replacement and oil change

I did some quick research to help the guy who had plaintive things to say about what happened after his use of Marvel Mystery Oil.

Since someone looking up Marvel Mystery Oil won't likely be looking in a thread about the SES light, I'll repost what I found here.

The request is that others add to the tribal knowledge as my opinion may not be correct as it currently stands (having only spent ten minutes on the subject).

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  #2  
Old 02-18-2011, 09:40 AM
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To save you the clicking, here's what I wrote (it's just my opinion; yours may differ).

Having worked in (technical) marketing before, I gotta' wonder about the thought process that goes into the "Marvel" marketing plan (actually the "Turtle Wax" marketing plan as mentioned by pleiades).

I inherently don't believe in snake oils in the first place; but, for Marvel to highlight the fact by blatantly referring to it as "mystery oil" would seem, to me, that they're aiming for the wishful-thinking populace who actually do believe that miracles can be found for just a few bucks in a can.

Or maybe they just have a great sense of humor (sort of like Smuckers does).

Here's what they say on the web site:
Quote:
the name caught on and is still recognized today for its "mysterious" ability to cure and prevent almost any engine ailment.
Wow! "... cure and prevent almost any engine ailment"!

Of course, I recognize the way they couched that statement "it's recognized today for" that ability (not that it actually does anything).

But, again, I just gotta' wonder what type of person actually believes any of this horseradish?

The marketing guys prey on people looking for the Hail Mary in a can. It should be illegal for them to take advantage of people like that. I do realize they don't actually say anything on their web site (it's all innuendo); so I just have to keep going back to who on earth keeps these guys in business?

I looked up the ingredients on Wikipedia (which, interestingly, fell wholly flat) and then found listings on the web (1) (2)

I had to fall back on pleiades' link:
http://www.turtlewax.com/res/msds/MM010-4.pdf

Reading that removed the mystery from the oil; here's what it is:
- About 75% aromatics (e.g., benzene)
- About 25% mineral spirits (i.e., mostly hexane)
- About half a percent of chlorinated hydrocarbons (yet another solvent)

So, the "mystery" is out. It's a solvent. Pure and simple.

The funny thing is, it's not an oil. In fact, it's just about the opposite of an oil. It's clearly nothing more or less than a solvent.

In fact, they should call it "Marvel Mystery Solvent" but I guess that wouldn't distinguish it from any other solvent, nor even from plain old gasoline for that matter.

You wanna know what I think (after doing this tiny bit of research).

I strongly suspect you'd get the SAME effect (for less money) if you:
  • Purchase a can of the Marvel Mystery Oil
    • Use it as directed on the label
  • Refill the can with gasoline (or turpentine or hexane or mineral spirits or any other similar solvent)
    • Use it (again) as directed on the label
  • Repeat as needed

Last edited by bluebee; 02-18-2011 at 09:42 AM.
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  #3  
Old 02-18-2011, 09:47 AM
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If I'm correct (that's it's just a solvent), then the interesting question for our E39 community is:
  • What would happen to my E39 when I pour this solvent into my oil?
And, since they advertise that it's an "additive" for gas or oil ...
  • What would happen to my E39 when I pour this solvent into my gas tank?

Last edited by bluebee; 02-18-2011 at 10:00 AM.
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  #4  
Old 02-18-2011, 10:00 AM
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  #5  
Old 02-18-2011, 10:17 AM
bobdmac bobdmac is offline
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Bluebee, in the spirit of thoroughness, here's a little background on Marvel. I realize you've probably read it, but others may not have. This is from Moyer Marine, a highly respected rebuilder and accessory supplier of Atomic-4 engines, a widely used and thoroughly antiquated motor that's used in sailboats. It was originally designed as a forklift engine in the 40's, I believe. He's a firm believer in using the stuff to help restore old engines, which he's been doing for decades. You'll note that he doesn't think it's necessarily suitable for modern engines, which are built to much tighter tolerances than the Atomic-4.


Marvel Mystery Oil was formulated shortly after World War I by an automotive engineer named Burt Pierce. Pierce was best known for his invention of the "Marvel Carburetor", which became the standard automobile carburetor of its time. GM bought the rights to much of Pierce's work and hired him as a consultant.

One of the things that Pierce did during his relatively short stay with GM was to cook up a mixture of "light oils and various chemicals" to clean sludge and lead build-up out of carburetors. In 1923, Pierce went out on his own, incorporated as Marvel Oil, and began selling his recipe of light oil and other chemicals as "Mystery Oil", claiming it to be a "universal lubricant and cleaner". One of the more recent VP's of the Marvel Oil Company is quoted as saying: "'The basic formula hasn't changed since 1917".

WHAT IS IT?

My own understanding from earlier articles on the subject is that Marvel Mystery Oil is a light viscosity oil, roughly equivalent to an SAE 3W, containing (among other things) about 20 percent solvent (probably mineral spirits), dye, wintergreen for smell, and 790 PPM of a phosphorous additive.

WHY DO I NEED IT IN MY ATOMIC 4 AND NOT IN MY CAR?

Unlike your clean running modern automobile engine, your Atomic 4 has a lower compression ratio, doesn't have the latest electronic fuel injection and ignition systems to optimize its combustion parameters at every power setting and temperature condition, and doesn't get used nearly as consistently. In other words, your Atomic 4 is much more like your Aunt Tillie's 1952 flathead, in-line six-cylinder Plymouth than your family's Ford Taurus today. Not that your Taurus wouldn't benefit somewhat from MMO, but your Aunt Tillie's Plymouth thrived on it twice a week; once to church and once to the grocery store around the corner.

HOW IS IT USED?

By far, the preferred way to use MMO is to mix it with the gasoline in your fuel tank as an upper cylinder lubricant. Directions on the back of the can recommend 4 to 6 ounces per 10 gallons of fuel. MMO then goes through the carburetor with the fuel, enters the combustion chamber, and ignites with the gasoline.

From there, it vaporizes and soaks into any carbon build-up within the combustion chambers (especially in and around the rings and between valve stems and guides). It eventually loosens these build-ups so that the carbon residue can exit through the exhaust system. Quoting loosely from the back of the can, "MMO also leaves behind a lubricating residue in the aftermath of the combustion process". Like, how good can that be!

The engineering staff from Universal (when they were still in business) was very outspoken on the use of MMO; in fact, they recommended doubling the recipe used in the fuel in cases whenever there was any hint of sticky valves or other indication of carbon and gum build-up within the engine.

We have never recommended continued use of MMO in the engine oil. However, in cases where it is suspected that carbon and sludge have built up within the crankcase, a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil can be added to the crankcase 5 hours before an oil change to help remove the carbon and sludge, especially in and around oil rings and valve tappets. The residue that mixes with the oil will be removed during the next oil change.

NOTE: Our reservation with respect to the continuous use of MMO in the crankcase is that it reportedly contains no dispersant to hold dirt in suspension, and therefore dilutes the dispersing ability of our modern high-detergent oils. With an SAE rating of 3W, MMO also dilutes the viscosity index of a multi-viscosity oil, making it somewhat less resistant to temperature changes.

Our reservation on the continuous use of MMO in the crankcase notwithstanding, the use of MMO as an upper cylinder lubricant is the most cost-effective thing you can do to insure the longest possible life from your engine and delay (many times indefinitely) the expense of a rebuild.
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  #6  
Old 02-18-2011, 11:04 AM
A Trini A Trini is offline
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I run it in my fuel in both my '97 540 and my '03 audi A4
The 540 ran smooth since i got her but the audi developed a little bit of a vibration on cold days and also a bit of a whine from the fuel pump. Changed spark plugs and filters and pressure tested the pump (which was within specs).
Used marvel for about a week and it cleared up the vibration and fuel pump whine. I have been using it ever since (about a year and half now)

My girlfriend's uncle is an army retiree. He used to run two trucks from Fairbanks to Anchorage (in Alaska) for laundry as there was no facilities at the time.
He said as an experiment they ran one truck with marvel and one without, both getting the same oil, fuel and regular maintenance. After 100K miles both motors were torn apart. He said the one with marvel looked almost new and ran smoother than the one without.

Audi's are known to be sludge prone so i will continue to use it in that car (in the oil before every other oil change).The 540 seems to be all about preventative maintenance so maybe I will continue in it also in the fuel (have not used it in the oil as yet). Being as cold as it is up here for as long as it is, I dont see it hurting anything more than the weather does already.
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Old 02-18-2011, 12:04 PM
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LOL! Another interesting BlueBee topic!

I think I have a can of MM Oil someplace in my garage. But I dont use it often. If its a solvent I wouldnt put it in my Bimmer. In the early part of last century engines ran really dirty. I could see how it would help back then. But when doing the VANOS seals on my 528 a few weeks ago, I was amazed at how clean the inside of my engine was after 165,000 miles. I got the car at 100k and do regular oil changes with mobile1 (oil brand is NOT my point here) and the engine was CLEAN. It must of had a pretty good oil change history before me. I would not use any type oil cleaner additive, even if just before an oil change. The reason being is, first, it doesnt need it. The engine was without a trace of sludge or stain. And second, there is probably a half a quart of trapped oil in little nooks and cranies that does not drain out when you do an oil change. If you ruin the viscosity of your oil with a solvent or cleaner, you will never get it all out and it will just mess up, to some extent, your brand new oil. Open up your engine before using these oil additive/cleaners. If it is sludge free, you are only making yourself feel better, not your engine.
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  #8  
Old 02-18-2011, 12:27 PM
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adding the mystery oil into the engine wont do much if you use synthetic oil in your engine or other engine oil that are top of the line. for example, lubro moly or pentosin. in my opinion, these oil clean and keeps the engine clean and also condition the seals.

people that needs to put the mystery oil in their engine are the people that does not do oil changes reguarly and uses conventional oil.
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Old 02-18-2011, 12:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobdmac View Post
in the spirit of thoroughness
Thoroughness is always a good thing!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobdmac View Post
I realize you've probably read it, but others may not have.
Yes. I read it. Over in the other thread. It's good to quote. The two points about the Marvel Mystery Solvent (which were brought up in the other thread, IIRC), are that a marine environment may not be the same as the BMW E39 environment ... and ... that you want to get rid of your oil within five hours of putting this solvent in there!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobdmac View Post
Marvel Mystery Oil is a light viscosity oil, roughly equivalent to an SAE 3W, containing (among other things) about 20 percent solvent (probably mineral spirits), dye, wintergreen for smell, and 790 PPM of a phosphorous additive.


Ummm... er ... I took organic chemistry in college. I read the Marvel Mystery Oil material data sheet. It sure doesn't say what is written above. That MDS says it's roughly 75% a specific aromatic solvent and roughly 25% mineral spirits), i.e., straight-chain alkanes, with a teeny tiny dollop (less than 1%) of organochlorides.

Maybe I didn't read the MDS as thoroughly as I could (as all I was looking for were the ingredients), but, seems to me, Marvel Mystery Oil is a solvent (pure and simple) and not an "oil" by any stretch of the imagination.

Maybe someone with a chemistry background can doublecheck my datapoints?
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Old 02-18-2011, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by first540i View Post
adding the mystery oil into the engine wont do much if you use synthetic oil in your engine or other engine oil that are top of the line. for example, lubro moly or pentosin. in my opinion, these oil clean and keeps the engine clean and also condition the seals.

people that needs to put the mystery oil in their engine are the people that does not do oil changes reguarly and uses conventional oil.
Since it's recommended more as a fuel additive than an oil additive, it might have some value in keeping the combustion chamber clean. But even Moyer, who sells lots of the stuff (see above), doesn't advocate regular use in the oil. He specifically mentions that it degrades the oil's performance.
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Old 02-18-2011, 02:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post

[/I]Ummm... er ... I took organic chemistry in college. I read the Marvel Mystery Oil material data sheet. It sure doesn't say what is written above. That MDS says it's roughly 75% a specific aromatic solvent and roughly 25% mineral spirits), i.e., straight-chain alkanes, with a teeny tiny dollop (less than 1%) of organochlorides.

Maybe I didn't read the MDS as thoroughly as I could (as all I was looking for were the ingredients), but, seems to me, Marvel Mystery Oil is a solvent (pure and simple) and not an "oil" by any stretch of the imagination.

Maybe someone with a chemistry background can doublecheck my datapoints?
Bluebee, as I read the data sheet, it says it's 70-80% naphthenic hydrocarbons, which as best I can make out, means that it's a form of mineral oil, belonging to the naphthene group.

That's about as far as I can go in organic chemistry. Although my dad was a research chemist for Atlantic Refining (which later merged with Richfield to become Atlantic Richfield and then ARCO), I abandoned the sciences after inorganic chem.
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Old 02-18-2011, 02:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobdmac View Post
Bluebee, as I read the data sheet, it says it's 70-80% naphthenic hydrocarbons, which as best I can make out, means that it's a form of mineral oil, belonging to the naphthene group
It's interesting that your "mineral oil" link referenced "napthenic oil" which apparently is one type of mineral oil ... but ... it's a guess if that is the same as "naphthenic hydrocarbons".

Unfortunately, there is no wikipedia entry specifically for "naphthenic hydrocarbons", so we're really left on our own to ponder what that specifically means.

In my first post, I assumed naphthenic hydrocarbons meant aromatics (e.g., benzene, toluene, xylene, etc.); but I'm really not sure what they mean by "naphthenic hydrocarbons".

Googling a bit, I can find definitions, but, they don't seem much better than my oversimplification of "aromatics" ...

Here's one definition of napthenic hydrocarbons:
Quote:
A type of organic compound of carbon and hydrogen that contains one or more saturated cyclic (ring) structures, or contains such structures as a major portion of the molecule. The general formula is CnH2n. Naphthenic compounds are sometimes called naphthenes, cycloparaffins or hydrogenated benzenes. Naphtha is a refined petroleum fraction that contains a high percentage of these types of hydrocarbons.
So, we really do need someone better with chemistry to get us a better description of this, the main ingredient of the mystery oil.

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  #13  
Old 02-18-2011, 07:53 PM
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MMO doesn`t have much in the way of viscosity, I doubt it would be good for lubricating much of anything. In high school, I had a part-time job rebuilding air tools, impact guns and the like. First step was always to squirt about a tablespoon of MMO into the air intake port of the tool, and run it for a minute or so to do a little preliminary cleaning. Seemed to work OK for that purpose. Never put any in a car engine, though....
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Old 02-20-2011, 09:09 PM
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so my car has a little lifter noise... if i use MMO will it solve the problem?
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Old 02-20-2011, 09:33 PM
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you guys are freakin hilarious!

you all know better than to put ANYTHING in your oil...No?

Visit bobistheoilguy.com and take a look around...

we all have a little 'tick' cuz that is the 4.4l engine doin its thing, not because there is anything wrong. If you want to do something just run a heavier oil NOT heavy but heavier, our cars are perscribed for 0w-40 so if you run a 10w30 your noise will be minimized but not gone.

Keeping your engine clean, by cycling some ATF or kerosene, or seafoam through 1x per year is ok...provided you change the oil at least 2x per year, What happens is this mmo and stp and slick50 motor honey, ya da ya da ya da is allows oxygen into your oil, and where the bubbles reside there can be no lubricaiton because there is no oil in the bubbles...NOT GOOD.

If you hear your lifters 'rattle' in the first few seconds of startup ...that is good. It shows your oil is pumping up the lifters and doing its thing...

jeeze how many oil questions have we been through over the years? After all the arguments, red faces, name calling etc...it always boils down to keeping your engine clean with fresh oil is the best for your engine...
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:50 PM
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^ does your 540 have that ticking noise even though the car is warmed up?

well i was thinking of putting it in the gas tank.
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Old 02-21-2011, 12:19 AM
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I have used naphtha to clean bicycle chains. Gasoline also. MarvelMO (naphtha?) probably has better solvency then pump gas. I haven't seen gummed up throttle bodies (really carburetors, who uses those anymore?) in quite some time, I think the gasoline (some of it is detergency) requirements for fuel-injected automobiles have reduced the need for MarvelMO and similar products. But oil has also improved, which also includes detergency requirements. However you can see that people still have sludge problems, most likely related to NOT changing the oil enough.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naphtha
Anyway, the marketing works, it doesn't mean the product doesn't work.

I don't have all the answers, but different chemicals do different things. For example in terms of solvency I have not found anything better than lacquer thinner for removing carbon buildup in combustion chambers. I wouldn't recommend using lacquer thinner in the fuel tank, or oil for that matter. I use it to clean the combustion chambers after the engine is taken apart. Maybe I should find its generic equivalent, or maybe MMO is a combination of this stuff. Actually I think lacquer thinner is a lot of methyl ethyl ketone, and acetone (some people call this nail polish remover).

For CYA reasons... do not put these chemicals in your fuel tank or oil, I don't know what it will do. MEK will eat away many plastics.

Anyway because of marketing you cant believe anything, but also my CYA crack was for the lawyers. Because companies feel a need for CYA, you also can't believe anything. Is the internet a good source of anecdotal information? Can we believe anything? Are the people who say that Marvel works paid by the company to say this? I believe that marketers are very evil, so I don't think it's a stretch to say this.
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Old 02-21-2011, 08:59 AM
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If you want a safe, reliable way to clean your engine`s internals, next time you`re ready for an oil change, add a quart of Dexron or other ATF to the crankcase, and run the engine at a fast idle (around 2000-2500 RPMs) for about 20 minutes. Do *not* drive the car during this cleaning cycle. Drain everything, change the filter and install new oil.
This process will remove a lot of crud, and help reduce sticking lifters, etc.
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Old 06-14-2011, 10:07 AM
dvsgene dvsgene is offline
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Resurrecting an old thread. Was researching Seafoam on BITOG and came across this thread:

http://www.bobistheoilguy.com/forums...Number=1231898

Using hot water has reportedly the same effects as the steam softens the crud in the same way.

Makes sense as when I use the oven during thanksgiving, about 30 mins before turning it off, I pour a pan of hot water in the oven and after I turn it off, the baked on grease and food dripping just wipe off. Not need for Easy Off oven cleaner or hasrh chemicals.

So an analogy would be Seafoam=Easy off (harsh chemicals) and hot water is free and effective.

Before anyone goes on about hydrolock and engine damage: remember Sea Foam is a liquid too. As long as you control the flow of water/Sea Foam, you don't risk damage.


Interesting to note: Whether MMO or Seafoam all seem to have a very low viscosity oil and a naphtha product. See the MDSD for Sea-Foam:

http://www.seafoamsales.com/componen...oad/view,file/

Pale Oil 40.00 - 60.00%
Naphtha 25.00 - 35.00%
IPA 10.00 - 20.00 %

Pale Oil is like a SAE 2-3W oil. Based on a SUS of 42 at 100 Deg F.
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Old 10-10-2011, 02:33 AM
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Related MMO information from the E60 forum today ...
- E60 (2004 - 2010) > Service engine light came on. Sea Foam it or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeT View Post
Had a 1968 Mercury Cougar with a 302 ci motor that had a stuck valve lifter. An old time mechanic advised me to put in a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil at each oil change. Problem went away. After several oil changes, I figured I didn't need it anymore: didn't drive 5 miles before violent engine vibration started back.
Later ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeT View Post
Added a quart of MMO and everything was fine. With the exhaust valve lifter stuck, the valve wouldn't open creating compression in that cylinder when it should be exhausting. I just pity the poor guy that bought the car later. Problem started around 60,000 miles and traded it at 110,000 miles but the timing chain had slipped a cog (nylon coating cogs of the timing gear had worn off). No unusual oil usage when traded.
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Old 10-12-2011, 02:36 PM
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I've used MMO with good results but then it was to loosen stuck rings, quiet lifters, etc. on engines from the 30's to the 70's. I don't think I would use it in any modern engine since they do run so clean and those earlier problems don't come up too often in the newer stuff. If I did have similiar problems and was desperate then I would consider it. It's not really for lubrication but rather to loosen things up like any other solvent based procedure.

Last edited by fortunateson; 10-12-2011 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 10-12-2011, 06:15 PM
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From what I found on an RX7 forum (previously copied from a jaguar website) these are the ingredients.

Ingredient # 01
Ingredient Name BENZENE, 1,2-DICHLORO-
CAS Number 95501
Percent 0
Ingredient # 02
Ingredient Name MINERAL SPIRITS
CAS Number 8052413
Percent 0
Ingredient # 03
Ingredient Name NAPTHENIC HYDROCARBONS
CAS Number 64742525
Percent 0

ingredients may be wrong/missing... and i don't know the percentages of any... but my friend who is a chem major says "Based on those components, I'd guess that it would be a low viscosity oil (last two chemicals) with a high boiling point (first one)." He also says that it would work great as a paint thinner because all the ingredients are good solvents. That is all of the info i can add to this post.

Last edited by GEinfeldt; 10-12-2011 at 06:18 PM. Reason: forgot information
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  #23  
Old 05-02-2012, 09:20 PM
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Trebbia Trebbia is offline
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Mein Auto: BMW E39 I6
http://www.marvelmysteryoil.com/inde...iewthread/290/

So the great little 4oz containers of "Marvel Lubricating Oil" can be refilled from the giganto 1 gal Marvel Mystery Oil container.
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  #24  
Old 05-03-2012, 05:02 AM
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Topaz540i Topaz540i is offline
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Mein Auto: 2001 540i/6
Sounds like the same stuff as seafoam.
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  #25  
Old 05-03-2012, 06:26 AM
Ed Cheung Ed Cheung is offline
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Mein Auto: E39
Used to have a 3.8 Rover V8 with lifter / tapping noise, put in a liter of ATF and ran it for 20 minutes before the oil change. And the noise slowly fade away. And notices the oil stay clear for a longer time, as previously new oil will turn black in just a month of driving.
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