By Erika Howes
Howes, the leading developer of the highest quality additives and lubricants, reached a full century in business back in 2020. For over 100 years, Howes has been a family owned and operated company dedicated to providing their customers with the best products for fuels, engines, and injector systems.
Howes was founded in 1920 by Wendell V.C. Howes. A tinkerer by trade, Wendell discovered that he required an that just didn’t exist at the time. He needed a product that he could use on all surfaces without the fear of harming any of his tools or materials. At a loss, Wendell decided to develop a product of his own. After extensive testing, Wendell finally developed a formula that fit his every need. Thus was born Howes Lubricator and Motor Elixir. A petroleum-based product that was safe to use on almost any surface, Motor Elixir could lubricate without evaporation, while penetrating and permeating, leaving a protective film that wouldn’t attract dirt or dust. It dissolved rust, sludge, and gunk while displacing water, and could even be used on rubber and around electrical wiring. For nearly 50 years Wendell packaged the product and sold it door to door to auto shops, quite literally out of the back of his car, all the way until his eventual passing in 1979. Still used today, the original formula is now called Howes Multi-Purpose Lubricator and Penetrating Oil, affectionately referred to as “Multi,” and serves as the foundation from which all Howes products are based.
In the early 1980’s Wendell’s grandson, Robert Bruce Howes, known solely as Bruce, approached his mother Olive Jones, requesting his grandfather’s secret formula. He, along with his son Robert Bradley Howes, continued to pedal the product shop to shop, challenging mechanics and others alike to compare their penetrating oil to similar products on the market. Rob Howes recalls, “We knew our product was better than the rest. My father and I would show up at a shop with a bunch of product in the back of our truck. We would literally beg people just to try it for a week. A week later we would go back and they would be begging us for more.”
While they found some success in this approach, Bruce saw unlimited potential in his grandfather’s secret formula. He began to find needs in other, less saturated markets, and found that he could be of most use in the Diesel Industry. He realized that heavy duty trucks could really use a product that could lubricate diesel fuel, improve mileage, and prevent them from getting stuck in colder temperatures. In 1984, using Wendell’s secret formula as a baseline, Bruce developed Howes Diesel Treat, the company’s flagship product.
Diesel Treat is an that has kept generations of over-the-road truckers from gelling up while extending the life of their engines. Petroleum-based and one hundred percent alcohol-free, Howes Diesel Treat was the first diesel additive to be packaged in a clear bottle. To this day, Howes continues to package their products in clear bottles, so customers can see exactly what they’re buying. All Howes products contain no alcohol or harmful solvents, are safe to use, and will not void engine manufacturers’ warranties. “We only want to put out products that help people,” Bruce used to say. The family continues to hold strong to that sentiment.
In late 1990, Bruce decided to sell the majority of the company to his son Rob, while moving his position in the business to marketing consultant, where he flourished until his eventual retirement. Over the years, Rob began to develop new products to fill more needs in the industry. In 1998, Rob introduced to the market. At the time, it was a diesel injector cleaner formulated to clean and prevent deposits, safely remove water, and increase fuel mileage. Today, the product has evolved to be farm-formulated for fuel storage and stabilization. It continues to clean and prevent deposits, as well as safely remove water, eliminating the environment that promotes microbial growth.
For the next several decades, Rob and his wife Deborah continued to grow the company in the Diesel Market. In 2009 and 2010 respectively, their children Robert Bruce Howes II and Erika B. Howes joined the company. “We were beyond excited to welcome the fifth generation into the business,” Deb recollects. Rob II, taking after his great, great grandfather, Wendell, began tinkering with formulations. Tirelessly testing their potential, Rob II aimed to improve and add to the Howes line of products in any way he could.
Meanwhile, Erika took after her grandfather, Bruce, becoming involved in the many facets of marketing. She began writing for the company and for several years has been heard on the radio as the voice of Howes. She currently oversees the creative development of many advertising initiatives and spearheads the company’s social media efforts. Deb declares, “We couldn’t be more proud of them and the progress they have made over the years.”
Now in a period of transition, Rob and Deb are in the process of turning over control of the company to their children. “We’re utterly impressed with the changes and developments our kids have brought to the table already,” boasts Rob. “We’re more than confident that our family legacy will not only live on, but be enhanced with them at the wheel.”
Dedicated to his family’s high standard of only releasing products safe to use and proven to work, Rob II spent 7 years developing , one of the latest Howes products. An emergency rescue formula designed to de-gel diesel fuel and de-ice frozen fuel filters, Lifeline is the only alcohol-free product of its kind. “It works fast even in the coldest temperatures,” assures Rob II. “And unlike competing products, it is petroleum-based and requires no mixing with other fuels.” Lifeline was the first product developed by Rob II, but certainly not the last. He continues, “We recently released our newest product, Diesel Defender with Howes proprietary IDX4 Detergent. It is the strongest on the market and contains maximum lubricity, allowing for a guaranteed minimum 5% increase in fuel economy.” Now the Executive Vice President of the company, Rob II also continues his work in the lab, with his ongoing goal of adding to and improving on the Howes line of products.
As they hit their 100th year, the family decided it was the perfect time to refresh and revitalize their brand. Erika, now the V.P. of Business Development, took a leading role on the project. “We’ve always kept up with changing fuels, engines, and government regulations. We finally decided a few years ago that we should update our look to match,” states Erika. From their packaging materials to a completely overhauled website, the new brand look is centered around clarity and improved messaging, making it easier for customers to quickly grab the Howes product that best suits their needs. “With Diesel Treat being our flagship product, people have come to know us strictly as a winter additive company and that’s not true at all,” Erika points out. “We wanted customers to be able to recognize that we offer an array of products to help their engines perform at their best all year round.” That’s not the only thing that’s changed. “For years we had gone by ‘Howes Lubricator’ in honor of the first Howes product,” explains Erika. “But it’s the man behind the product, our great, great grandfather, that we truly wanted to honor. So, as you can see on our new labels, we now go simply by ‘Howes.’” The change has garnered an additional member of the family as well, the new Howes mascot, a Saint Bernard. The dog embodies the core values of Howes: trustworthiness, loyalty, and the mission of providing unrivaled protection to all those they care about.
“Family is the heart of our company,” explains Rob. “It has been for the past 100+ years and will continue to be for the next 100 and beyond.” Rob was grateful to his father for trusting him to lead the company and is now excited to pass it down to his children.
“There are no words to express how proud and impressed we are with what our dad has done with this company over the years. The lessons that he has taught us are invaluable, and we wouldn’t be able to step into these roles without him,” declared Erika. She and her brother credit both of their parents with their upbringing, explaining that the two instilled balance within them. “Because of our amazing parents, we are each filled with business-sense and empathy. We are driven to provide the best to people because we were taught to cherish people. It’s part of the reason that we are always looking for ways to show our appreciation for the industry and the people in it.”
“Beyond that,” adds Rob II, “we never want to lose sight of our appreciation for our parents and grandparents before us. We both know that neither of us would be here without them. They have provided an incredible legacy to live up to.”
Today, Rob II is a father himself to a 2-year-old boy, Ryder. He hopes his son will grow to become the head of the sixth generation of the family business. No matter where the company goes from here, they will always put family first. “We try to honor our family every day in the things we do and decisions we make,” states Rob II. “And it’s important to note that we truly consider all of those we work with as family, and all of our customers as part of our family, too.”
For more information on the Howes family or to learn more about their products, visit .