Canola oil instead of petroleum oil car treatments and ethanol blends

I was impressed the other day when I finally got around to rustproofing my car at Antirouille M√ɬ©tropolitain, a chain of rustproofing businesses in Quebec. My car is 13-14 years old and has virtually no rust, although I have to repaint the running board on the driver side yet again, I let things go too long over the past few months so the rust is starting up, but it’s not bad at all. Yet.

They asked me “do you want the traditional oil based treatment or the “bio” treatment? It’s dripless and made of canola oil.”

Apparently the selling point with most people was that it’s dripless, vs. their traditional oil treatment, for which the optimum formula is necessarily drippy. For me the selling point was that it’s canola oil, and the dripless part was just a secondary bonus. This doesn’t affect their usual performance guarantees.

After I’d paid and while the technician is prepping my car and even starting the treatment, I asked the man behind the counter “Aren’t you going to tell your technician to use the canola oil treatment?” To my surprise, he replied that their default policy is to treat cars with the canola oil unless the customer expressly asks for the traditional oil treatment, in which case he would then inform the technician to use “the old treatment”.

The story works out that it took three years to develop the product so that its effects would be equivalent to the traditional oil treatment they developed, and they spent the more two years doing road tests before widespread commercialization of the treatment. They started commercializing the treatment in early 2009. Apparently, the canola oil treatment is the overwhelming choice at this location, as well as business wide to varying degrees — no doubt due to some clever marketing and a highly refined counter-level sales pitch that had me sold hook, line and sinker — to the point that it they sell perhaps one or two traditional oil treatment per week, if that; apparently the principal selling point, as mentioned earlier, is that it’s dripless. In urban centres such as Montreal and Quebec City, this is a big selling point because people don’t like having oil drip marks in their driveways and on their garage floors. In somewhat less urban centres such as Sherbrooke, the adoption rate of the canola oil treatment is down to 40% to 60% apparently because the market, having a larger rural clientele, isn’t as likely to have asphalt driveways or concrete garage floors that would be stained by the dripping oil from their rustproofing purchase, and/or seem slower in changing old habits, such as from the “old” mentality (and old sales pitch) that it being drippy is a necessary side-effect of the formulation so that it can have its maximum effect.

So I was quite impressed that the market is slowly shifting away from some “old fashioned” treatments. Now let’s hope that the rest of the formulation doesn’t outweigh the benefits of replacing the petroleum components.

Note that for the past few months I’ve also been making a point of buying gas from Sonic since they seem to be the only mainstream chain of gas stations in Quebec, or at least in the Montreal area, that sells ethanol blends (6%-10%); they also sell biodiesel blends. Sometimes I go really out of my way or plan routes to pass near a Sonic, but usually not much since there happens to be a Sonic minutes away from home. The other Sonic I occasionally frequent is near Drummondville when I happen to be driving that way. There is another along the way west towards the end of the island. Apparently there are a few other gas stations — I presume independents — who also sell methanol blends in my area, although I have yet to locate them.

This part about the gas has been quite the reverse culture shock from Ottawa, where it’s (or was about 12 years ago when I worked there) the unusual case that a gas station either doesn’t sell ethanol blends or at least isn’t within a couple of blocks of one that does; it’s taken me over 12 years to finally get back to making a point of using the ethanol blends.

Now only if the ethanol blends were more available, and the blends were higher; however, a quick check on Wikipedia suggests that most cars with standard gasoline engines can only tolerate up to about 10% ethanol without some kind of adjustment.

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