Share this story...
Latest News

Are you familiar with ‘Snake Oil?’

Have you ever heard the story about the engine that could easily run on water? The story always ends with the oil companies buying the rights to the invention or the inventor of the water-running engine mysteriously disappearing.

As a young aspiring inventor, I was enamored by the idea that someday I could invent an engine that would run on water or some other amazing world-changing device that generally had something to do with cars. My dad was always supportive, but at the end of the conversation there was always a footnote from my dad to “never to quit my day job.” Thanks, Dad! He never did say I couldn’t fall back on radio.

Regardless, this interest of mine led me into fabrication and modification of vehicles. Whether it was cars we took to the illegal drags on Saturday nights as teenagers or Jeeps built to drive where no vehicle had driven before, I always thought I could build a better, more effective mouse trap. Sometimes I did, it’s just that the modification from the stock design came with a myriad of negative consequences that wouldn’t be acceptable the average everyday consumer.

I bring this up because we recently had a vehicle at Tri-City Transmission that had been to two prior repair shops that were unsuccessful at fixing the intermittent loss of power that the vehicle was experiencing. Well, we got lucky and stumbled onto the right answer.

Someone, at some point, had installed a device called a “tornado” in the air intake tube. I recognized the gadget from the infomercial. It was supposedly designed to create turbulence in the air intake, creating a more combustible air-fuel mixture. The infomercial made lots of amazing promises saying that this aftermarket part would significantly increase fuel economy and horsepower as well as attract lots of attention from the opposite sex.

Of course, none of those promises came true. Instead, was resulted was three different trips to the repair shop, frustration and then there was no way you could have made this guy sexy! My point is this: GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda would have all installed a $45 Tornado if they thought it would do all those wonderful things. These companies spend millions of dollars a year in research and development in efforts to achieve the same things that the infomercial promised.

Right now, it’s the gold rush for automakers as they aim to better fuel economy and power. I can tell you for a fact that a little back yard engineering is not going to produce positive results you might be looking for unless, of course, you are going to the illegal drag races this Saturday. For the average automobile user, aftermarket modifications can do more harm than good. I’ve got lots of stories and have seen plenty of snake oil come and go. I will leave you with this: Be very careful what you add to your car that hasn’t passed the sifts of good R&D and back yard engineering

Remember, Tornadoes won’t make you sexy!!

Join co-hosts Matt Allen and Dave Riccio on Bumper to Bumper Radio, Arizona’s top automotive show heard every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on News/Talk 92.3 KTAR. Call in with your questions at (602) 277-5827. You can also reach us 24/7 at for the best partners, products and advice!