Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2010   by Tom Venetis, Editor

Pouring in the new standards

New ILSAC GF-5, Dexos engine oil standards push synthetic motor oils further in lowering emissions, raising fuel economy for vehicle owners

Later this year, independents will see something a bit different on their motor oil shelves. On October 1st, the GF-5 oil standard developed by the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) will be rolled out for all new motor oils and lubricants for gasoline and diesel engines. This new standard will be for the OEM factory-fill and all aftermarket service. At the same time of the new ILSAC standard, General Motor Corp. (GM) will likely release its Dexos engine oil standard which is made to be used in 2011 model-year vehicles made by the company, and like GF-5 will be for both OEM factory-fill and aftermarket service.

So what does all this mean for independents that rely on oil change services for a steady flow of dollars? In one case, it is nothing to worry about; in another, you may possibly have to stock two oils for service intervals.

ILSAC GF-5 and the evolution of motor oils

ILSAC GF-5 is an evolution from the earlier ILSAC GF-4 specification for North American motor oil, much as GF-4 was a natural evolution from the earlier GF-3 standard. When GF-4 was released for the 2005 vehicle model year, motor oils had to meet very strict criteria, demonstrating superiority in several key areas of performance: a higher resistance to oxidation to protect against high engine temperatures; increased detergency to prevent deposits from forming in the engine; improved protection against internal friction and greater fuel economy; and reducing the components in motor oils that are known to harm catalytic converters and thereby meet new emissions requirements.

The ILSAC GF-5 standard is made to improve upon and exceed the criteria set out for the earlier GF-4. It means motor oil makers will have to reformulate their products to meet the new specifications.

“By 2011, passenger vehicles made in the United States will have to meet new regulations for improved fuel economy and reduced emissions,” says Raihan Khan, field marketing advisor PVL with Imperial Oil, Lubricants and Specialties. “To help meet the new regulations, the new GF-5 standard will provide improvements in fuel economy and fuel economy retention; protection of the emission control systems; engine sludge protection and piston cleanliness and turbocharger protection.”

To achieve these key goals, GF-5 balances many different things which have a very positive impact for vehicle owners who regularly use synthetic motor oils. One is certainly the enhanced emissions systems protections, better balancing the ability of high phosphorous retention oils to protect against engine wear while not clogging up and damaging the catalytic converter. The additive mix used in the motor oils will be improved with new combinations of ashless antioxidants, detergents, dispersants and friction modifiers to meet the needs of better sludge protection (Seq. VG) and piston cleanliness (Seq. IIIG).

Jeff Hsu, global technology manager with Shell Products and Technology says another area where the new GF-5 specification will be unique is its compatibility with ethanol-based gasoline.

“With the addition of bio fuels especially E85, GF-5 had designed into the specification Emulsion retention ASTM D7563 to make sure the oil can tolerate E85 fuels with no water separation,” he says.

But the key thing to remember is this GF-5 specification and all motor oils based on it can be used in all vehicles. Those drivers who for years have been using synthetic oils based on the GF-4 standard can use the newly formulated motor oils without any worries about problems with their engines. In fact, motor oil makers say the wear, emissions and fuel economy improvements in the GF-5 specifications are actually going to make it easier for independents to continue to promote the sale of high-quality synthetic motor oils, a market that has for some years been growing because of the benefits synthetic motor oils have over conventional motor oils for consumer vehicles.

“Our market research indicates that synthetic oil use in Canada has been increasing steadily over the years,” says Imperial Oil’s Khan. He cited, as one statistic, the growth in his company’s Mobile 1 products, growing in sales by 17 per cent last year.

“Synthetic oils perform better in extreme cold,” he continues. “In very hot conditions and under extreme use (such as stop-and-go traffic, going uphill, towing trailers, etc.), synthetic oils hold their lubrication properties better than conventional oil and resist oil breakdown.”

Chris Hayek, global brand manager with Shell Lubricants, makers of Quaker State and Pennzoil, adds the growth in synthetic motor oil has also been helped by growing recommendations on the OEM vehicle side for synthetic motor oils during regular maintenance, support from Japanese and European car makers, but also from a more educated public who have taken to the benefits of synthetic oils.

“Consumers are more savvy today than ever before and they are now consciously looking to higher-tier benefits,” Hayek says. “They are using social networks, blogging and other media to educate themselves (on motor oils). Consumers buying cars now see them as nine-and ten-year investments, and they are looking to protect that investment and they know that synthetics have better protection and additives for better performance.”

The only visible change consumers and independents will see in this move to GF-5 is some new information on the bottles. Valvoline’s Thom Smith, technical director for branded lubricants, says the traditional “Energy Conserving” classification on the API label, for example will be replaced with a “Resource Conserving” classification, and this will be also be reflected in the labelling on the back of the bottle as well.

What about Dexos?

One area that is causing some concern amongst some in the industry is the introduction of Dexos from General Motors, which General Motors announced will likely be introduced later this year, possibly in June. According to the specifications released by General Motors for approval, Dexos — which will supersede the GM6094M specification — will be a full-synthetic motor oil that will likely have characteristics of European formulations for motor oil and have a low volatility (13 per cent NOACK) Group III base stocks. Dexos will also feature improved low-temperature pumpability, reduced volatility limits, improved limits on weighted piston deposit tests and better sludge performance.

The question for many independents right now is whether they may have to carry two different synthetic motor oils for their clients.

David McDuffe, product and pricing manager with Wakefield Canada Inc., says that is a question many people are asking as independents do not want to carry double stock of motor oils for different vehicles.

“The big question is, ‘will the additive suppliers be able to come up with cross-functional additives that will be good for GF-5 and Dexos?’,” McDuffe adds. “That is still under review, from what I understand.”




Castrol-Wakefield Canada Inc.

Imperial Oil

Shell Lubricants


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