Project Ecowagon: K&N Filter & Ravenol Oils

Despite the B4 Car Network offering us one, we bought Project Ecowagon knowing it needed a service – haggling a little discount on the price accordingly. So, after only 1,000 miles of driving and with the ‘Service now!’ indicator on the MFD beeping away in a consistently German manner, we took our new VW Golf Bluemotion Sportline to our good pals at Henstead Motors, near Beccles in Suffolk – home of Road Magazine project cars – for its first interim service.

Once they’d had their laughs and got over the shock of me not arriving in a performance car, Henstead’s boss Dave Green and his right hand man, Simon, soon had the Ecowagon up on the ramps, for a good going over. And, thankfully (but not unexpectedly with it being a VW, and only four years old), they were both impressed with the quality of the new project car – giving it a clean bill of health. Dave only noted that the brakes will need attention in the foreseeable, so that’s on the to do list, along with the cambelt service in about 8,000 miles.

So, it was on with the basic service.

Every car I’ve ever owned has been treated to an uprated air filter – either an OEM-fit panel filter, or a bespoke induction kit – and, despite Project Ecowagon being more about economy than performance, I still felt it deserved the same cost-effective, power-boosting treatment. As such, I ordered an uprated panel filter from K&N.

Since 1969, K&N have been designing and manufacturing market-leading air filters (they also do oil filters, but not for this model). They offer a huge range of over 5,000 high-flow air filters (and over 500 air intake systems) to fit most cars – including all NASCARs and manyother motorsport series worldwide – even the humble VW Golf Bluemotion.

Their environmentally friendly cotton filters are all washable and re-useable – unlike the crappy, restrictive, built-to-a-budget, paper OEM units most manufacturers use on the cheap – are valid with a manufacturer’s warranty, come with an amazing 1,000,000 miles warranty and last up to 50,000 miles before cleaning is required (depending on driving conditions). They are also dyno proven to increase engine power and torque – which the 105PS, 185lb ft Ecowagon could do with a little assistance with really. And, whilst K&N don’t claim their filters increase fuel economy, they do say “keeping air filter restriction as low as possible can be an important tool, among others, for maintaining high mileage” and I reckon better air filtration efficiency should lead to better engine efficiency.

Fitting our Project Ecowagon’s K&N replacement factory filter is so muppet-proof even I could manage the task! Simply unscrew the airbox bolts and remove the clips, pop out and disguard the (fatter, more restrictive) OEM filter, make sure the airbox is clean and empty of any dirt, slot in the new K&N unit and re-fit the airbox cover: Simples!

Next up on the service is the all important oil and filter change. Oil is the lifeblood of any engine. As such, I wanted to use the best quality oil I could find, for maximum efficiency on our fuel-sipping Project Ecowagon. I’ve lost count of the amount of engineers and technicians in motorsport arenas who’ve told me to spend decent money of decent fluids to extend the life of engines (and transmissions), not to mention up their efficiency. And, having heard great things in the world of motorsport (rallying in particular) about Ravenol oils – especially from two top, hard-to-please experts, Roy Millington (engine builder supreme & now Ravenol supplier) and Stuart Newbie (rally car builder) – I selected them. The fact that Stuart recently stripped a rally car gearbox down after a full, hard season and said he could have sold the components as new says a lot I think. Impressive.

Despite being a name few here in the UK may have heard of, Ravenol are big in their home country of Germany (I’ve seen them well used in the Nürburgring pits) and have been making quality oils and fluids since 1946 in Werther, Northern Germany. The Ravensberger Schmierstoffvertrieb GmbH (Ravenol for short) currently supply over 80 countries worldwide, making them one of the largest independent oil and lubricant manufacturers in Germany. They specialize in developing and manufacturing high performance oils and lubricants for the automotive, motorsport, motorcycle and marine market. So they should be more than capable of working in the humble Project Ecowagon.

Ravenol has a really excellent, extensive range of engine and transmission oils, additives and sundries on their online shop and were super fast at delivery, even all the way from Germany (Teutonic efficiency see!); I’ve waited longer for UK-based parts before now! And now they have a UK base in St. Helens, expect delivery even faster! (Incidentally, for classic car fans, Ravenol boss Brain has just designed and launched a new brand – Erwinol).

The expert Ravenol sales team also offered superb advice over the phone and via email too. They recommended a full synthetic, low friction Ravenol VMP 5W-30 for Project Ecowagon’s Turbo Diesel eco engine – a fuel economy focused, low friction motor oil with CleanSynto ® technology based on PAO Poly-alpha-Olefin and Mid SAPS Technology. It’s widely sold for the latest petrol and diesel engines – with and without turbo charging – in passenger cars and light vans with normal or extended oil change intervals… perfect!

Expected benefits of the new 5w40 engine oil are: Improved fuel economy in part load and full power operation, excellent wear protection and high viscosity index even under high-speed operation, exceptional cold starting characteristics, a safe lubricant film at high operating temperatures, low evaporative tendency (so lower oil consumption, which is currently quite extensive), no deposits in combustion chambers, in the piston ring zone and valves (due to superb detergent and dispersant additive package) and extended oil change intervals.

Dave also changed the oil filter, which like most modern cars is now not underneath the car off the sump, but a funny little item under the engine bay – requiring top loading. Seems odd to me, but that’s progress for ya!

Finally, with oil and filters done and the Golf checked over, we plugged in the latest vehicle diagnostics Henstead Motors have just spend thousands on and made sure there were no fault codes – which there weren’t. And Simon also re-set the MFD service indicator – which now says we’ve got 9,000 miles happy, hopefully trouble-free driving ahead before the next major service (cambelt and all). Time to enjoy a few 70+mpg road trips…

Post service – which was the usual Henstead quality and great VFM, not to mention fun, seeing what else is in there (including a Ferrari this time) – Project Ecowagon felt much more spritely and I’d confidently say the combination of the fresh and fancy Ravenol engine oil and the free-flowing K&N air filter have added a bit of extra go, whilst also serving to increase the fuel economy, so says the MFD. The average mpg now is just shy of 60mpg, whereas previously it was low 50s and it’s also recorded it’s best run ever, at a whopping 71mpg – proof that good servicing pays for itself.


Dave & Simon at Henstead Motors.

Don at K&N Filters

Brian at Ravenol Oils

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