Mechanics have a love-hate relationship with anti-seize compound. On one hand, we know that anti-seize a fantastic preventative measure that has saved many from hours of extracting broken exhaust manifold bolts and rusted suspension bolts. On the other hand, we rue the reality that anti-seize is a goopy, unwieldly mess that attracts dirt, traps moisture, and gives you an unpleasant version of the Midas touch that turns everything a grimy silver.
So when a small Tampa-based company called Steel Camel asked if we wanted to test out a very different kind of anti-seize compound, we couldn't say no. After all, every anti-seize compound out there is basically the same thing: Metallic powder suspended in grease. How different could it possibly be?
We would find out soon enough. A few short days later, we received an innocuous metal bottle of Steel Camel Thread N Post, and it was time to start another of our long-term product tests.
Who is Steel Camel?
Well, when we say that Steel Camel is "new" we really mean that they are "new to most car enthusiasts." It turns out that they've been around for quite some time, making industrial-grade corrosion preventative products for the agricultural, construction, and large-scale machine industries.
Their flagship product is a heavy-duty corrosion preventative that keeps rust from forming on bulldozers, cranes, and snow removal equipment. They also manufacture a desiccant powder that is so potent that it can remove water from gas, diesel, or oil - even after it's been mixed in. We played with samples of this stuff on our test bench and can tell you that it's pretty amazing stuff.
Promotional before and after shot from Steel Camel's online catalog. We'll do a similar test sometime in the future.
As enthusiasts of older cars residing in the rust-friendly Northeast, we at StudioVRM can think of more than a few applications some of their heavier duty anti-corrosion products. But first things first. Let's take a closer look at their anti-seize and see just how different it is.
First Impressions: Not Your Typical Anti-Seize
When we asked Steel Camel founder Dan Jenkins about Thread N Post, all he said was that it was "not your typical anti-seize or corrosion inhibitor." Turns out he was right.
Steel Camel Thread N Post looks like no other anti-seize or anti-corrosion product out there. Thread N Post has a translucent magenta hue that looks almost like a high-quality synthetic grease. Unlike most automotive greases, it has a smooth, low-tack consistency that feels silky rather than tacky to the touch. It's also much thinner than most greases - Thread N Post has a viscosity that is somewhere between brake lube and petroleum jelly. As far as automotive greases go, this stuff looks pretty unique.
Even more unique is the smell, or the relative lack thereof. Where your average Permatex or 3M aluminum anti-seize compound lets off a distinct smell when uncapped, Thread N Post doesn't have a particularly strong or unpleasant smell. It has a subtle scent that vaguely resembles a slightly metallic version of Vaseline, and you really need to stick your nose in the bottle* to get a whiff of it.
As subtle as they are, these qualities alone make Thread N Post worth a closer look. The biggest downside with automotive greases (and anti-seize compounds, for that matter) is that they are prone to attracting dirt. This is bad news for the nuts and bolts that hold your car together. Dirt in bolt threads will not only make them harder to remove, but it will also damage the threads and, in the long term will end up causing them to rust from the inside out.
The fact that Steel Camel's compound is low tack and low viscosity makes this much less of an issue, which in turn means that you can use it in the dirtier parts of your suspension and engine bay without having to worry about dirt contamination. And the fact that it doesn't let off noxious metallic fumes means that you can use it on the inside of your car without to worry about the smell.
*Our editor has advised that, despite the fact that the MSDS says Thread N Post does not emit toxic vapors, it is still not a good idea to stick your nose in the bottle to smell petroleum-based products. So don't do this.
Non-Acidic Protector of Lead-Acid Batteries
In addition to its anti-seize properties, Steel Camel also markets Thread N Post as a corrosion preventative for electronics, and in particular, battery terminals. Most battery terminal cleaners and protectors tend to contain either a strong acid or a strong base, which means that they also tend to react with automotive plastics and metals. To make sure that Thread N Post wouldn't react with any of the soft plastics or metals in our cars, we broke out some pH testing strips to see where it lands on the scale.
To our surprise, the Thread N Post barely changed the colored testing pads on our pH testing strips, indicating that it was almost Neutral. Even with some light staining from the magenta coloring of the compound, the quick test clearly showed that it was between 6 and 7 on the pH scale. While this is very good news for us, it also left us with no idea as to how Thread N Post prevents oxidation on batteries.
At the end of the day though, how an anti-seize compound works isn't as important as how well it works. So we brought out three of the most common anti-seize compounds out there and put together a series of long-term tests to see just how Thread N Post compares to its well-established competition.
The Challenger and the Competition
We brought out the three most popular anti-seize compounds used by mechanics and DIY car enthusiasts to test against the Steel Camel Thread N Post:
- Permatex 80078 Aluminum Anti-Seize
Cost: $8 - $12 US per 8 oz bottle
Specs & Safety Data Sheet
The ubiquitous metallic grease in a silver can, both adored and hated by automotive enthusiasts everywhere. Designed for general-use applications in environments with moderate temperatures and dirt.
- 3M 08945 Copper Anti-Seize Brake Lube
Cost: $18- $20 US per 9 oz bottle
Specs & Safety Data Sheet
A high-temperature, copper-based anti-seize designed specifically for brake systems, wheel hubs, and steel suspension components. The copper content can react with stainless steel and with other soft metals, so be careful what you use it on.
- Permatex 77124 Nickel Anti-Seize Lube
Cost: $18 - $25 US per 8 oz bottle
Specs & Safety Data Sheet
A high-temperature alternative to copper anti-seize that won't react to aluminum or stainless steel. Harder to find. Most people have allergic skin reactions to nickel anti-seize, so wear gloves.
And of course, our challenger:
- Steel Camel Thread N Post (aka Thread Defend)
Cost: $21 US per 8 oz bottle
Specs & Safety Data Sheet
An anti-seize and anti-corrosion compound specifically designed to protect against fuel vapors, salt, acids, and other hostile environments.
With our contenders lined up and ready to go, we put together a battery of real-life tests to see how each of them would fare in the harshest conditions an average car enthusiast might put them through.
Test 1 - Torque Test with a Dirty Twist
Most off-the-shelf anti-seize compounds do a decent job of protecting nuts and bolts in a clean environment. But what happens when anti-seize treated nuts and bolts are covered in dirt and left outside to rust?
In order to find out, we applied each of our four anti-seize products to some Class 8.8 M12x1.75 mild steel bolts, attached them to some old brake rotors, torqued them down to 80 lbs-ft of torque, and buried them in a bucket full of dirt. We then put the bucket outside in an uncovered area so the rain, wind, and humidity could do their worst to the freshly entombed work pieces.
We plan to leave these work pieces buried underground until we start to see heavy corrosion forming on the bolts and rotor faces. We will then pull them out and use a torque adapter to measure the amount of torque needed to loosen each of the bolts.
Test 2 - Water Resistance & Wash Test
A good anti-seize compound needs to protect metal surfaces from all kinds of moisture and water intrusion.
So to see how well our anti-seize compounds do at keeping moisture out, we built a wash resistance bench by grinding the paint off of the winch mounting plate on our open car trailer and marking off a 2x2 grid on it using tape. We applied then applied the aluminum, copper, and Steel Camel anti-seize compounds to three of the squares, leaving the fourth one bare metal as a control. Then we left the trailer outside during the rainiest season of the year.
We will check the plate every few weeks to see how much of each compound gets washed off by the rain, and to check for any corrosion that might be forming underneath the layer of anti-seize.
*Due to the fact that nickel is a very common allergen, we chose to not include it in this test. We didn't want to leave a large plate of nickel anti-seize on a big flat surface where an unsuspecting passerby could accidentally stick their hand in it.
Test 3 - Road Grime Resistance Test
Road grime is an unfortunate fact of life for the underside of your car. The rocks, dirt, and dust that gets kicked up as you drive slowly wears away at the protective coatings on your car's chassis and suspension. Then, the next time you drive over a puddle, moisture splashes on the exposed metal and your car starts rusting from the inside out.
Realistically, you wouldn't want to use any anti-seize compound as an undercarriage sealant. But it would be nice if you could use it on your tie rod ends and suspension bolts to keep them from seizing up. We wanted to see if Steel Camel Thread N Post was up to the task.
For this test, we ground the paint off of the forward-facing skid plate of the StudioVRM FJ Cruiser, covered half of the exposed metal with Thread N Post, and covered the other half with copper anti-seize. We specifically chose copper anti-seize as our baseline for this test because it is what most shops use on suspension and brake components.
Our plan is to drive our FJ Cruiser on its usual 15 to 50 miles per day and see how much dirt and road grime accumulates on the anti-seize. At the end of the test, we will take a close look at the bare metal underneath and see how much corrosion formed under the layer of protective anti-seize.
Test 4 - Extreme Heat Test
Modern cars generate a tremendous amount of heat. In order for an anti-seize compound to be of any real use to a car enthusiast, it needs to be effective at well over 400 deg F (204 deg C).
We wanted to see just how hot Thread N Post could get before it solidifies and loses its anti-seize properties. So we looked towards the hottest part of any modern car - the brake system.
The front brake rotors on the StudioVRM Prelude race car have seen temperatures above 1000 deg F (537 deg C) under race conditions, so this would be the perfect place to put this heavy-duty anti-seize to the test. We wanted to conduct this test in a realistic and safe manner, so in lieu of greasing up the brake rotors, we applied a generous coating of Thread N Post to the threads of the CV joints as well as the axle nuts. CV joints don't get quite as hot as the brake rotors, but they still get above 300 deg F on a regular basis.
Our plan is to run the StudioVRM Prelude through a weekend or two of hard driving on the track, and see how the temperature affects the Thread N Post.
Test 5 - Battery Oxidation Test
We would be remiss if we didn't test the manufacturer's claims that Thread N Post protects car batteries from forming nasty, battery-breaking oxidation. After all, the "Post" in "Thread N Post" comes from the battery posts on modern batteries.
Rather fortuitously, the car battery in the StudioVRM FJ Cruiser happens to be over four years old and has become prone to forming a fair bit of oxidation in its old age. This made it the perfect testbed to try Thread N Post for what it was actually designed for.
We unbolted the terminals from our Toyota's well-worn battery, used a soft bristled brush to remove the powdery white corrosion from the posts, applied a thin layer of Steel Camel Thread N Post, and bolted the assembly back together. We purposely left some of the harder chunks of corrosion on the outside of the terminals to see how the Thread N Post would react with existing oxidation.
Our plan is to check in on these terminals over the course of the following weeks and months to see if the oxidation reforms on this old car battery.
And Now We Wait
With all five tests set up and in place, it was now time for the most difficult part of the test: Waiting for the results.
For better or for worse, the reality is that corrosion doesn't happen overnight. While we could artificially accelerate the rusting process by spraying hydrogen peroxide and vinegar on the work pieces, that didn't seem appropriate for a real-life stress test. I mean, when was the last time you've used hydrogen peroxide or vinegar on your car? So, we're just going to have to wait. Sorry.
The good news is that we set these tests up a little over a month ago, so we should start to see some tangible results soon. Check back soon for interim reports on how Thread N Post is stacking up against the best off the shelf anti-seize products.
In the meantime, we'll see you at the track.
For the first time in the history of StudioVRM, we received this bottle of Thread N Post from Dan Jenkins at Steel Camel specifically for this test. That said, neither StudioVRM nor Roger Maeda are affiliated with or sponsored by Steel Camel. These tests were created and are being conducted independently and without input from the manufacturer or any of its dealers. In fact, they don't even know that this article is being published here. So Dan, if you're reading this, well... surprise!