Contributed by Bob Chabot
Get Ready for GF-6 Motor Oil
Licensed sales begin May 1, 2020
It’s official. Like modern engines, motor oil has become complicated. Beginning on May 1, 2020, the International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee (ILSAC) will start licensed sales of GF-6, the next generation passenger vehicle motor oil standard. It’s time to begin preparing.
To help you, MOTOR met with the International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee (ILSAC), American Petroleum Institute (API), as well as Pennzoil and Shell Motor Oil, two automobile motor oil manufacturers that have worked closely with API to develop and prepare for marketing GF-6 (which the American Petroleum Institute refers to as API SP). Here’s what you need to know now.
Current Motor Oils Inadequate for Modern Vehicle Gasoline Engines
“GF-6 passenger vehicle motor oil was defined as the new standard by the automotive and motor oil industries in April 2019. The new standard was needed because mechanical advances in modern engines were not getting the protection needed from the preceding GF-5 motor oil standard.”
In short, GF-6 motor oils meet the requirements of modern engines that the preceding GF-5 standard has not. The ongoing push for improved fuel economy has driven the engine downsizing trend by automakers. The application of turbocharged gasoline direct injection (TGDI) engines has increased in recent years. However, this and other advanced technologies require increased protection against both low speed pre-ignition (LSPI) and timing chain wear.
GF-6 motor oils are required to provide the same or improved performance over older GF-5 motor oils. In particular, GF-6 provides improved protection against low speed pre-ignition and timing chain wear that smaller modern turbocharged gasoline direct injection engines were experiencing with GF-5. (Images — American Petroleum Institute)
GF-6 Oils Will Provide Better Protection
Since being initially defined in 2019, GF-6 has widened in application. Petroleum manufacturers and regulators have settled on standardized GF-6 motor oil tests required by petroleum manufacturers and regulators; and May 1, 2020 has been set as the start date for licensed sales of the motor oil.
Much like the current API specifications for heavy-duty engine oils (CK-4/FA-4), the GF-6 standard will be split into two subcategories — GF-6A and GF-6B. The GF-6A standard is a backward-compatible standard for SAE 0W-20, SAE 5W-20, SAE 0W-30, SAE 5W-30, and SAE 10W-30, but not SAE 0W-16 viscosity grades. In addition, GF-6A will continue to utilize the existing ILSAC starburst symbol for licensing.
In contrast, the new GF-6B standard is currently meant for modern engines that use SAE 0W-16 only. GF-6B standard will not be backward-compatible to any previous categories, unless specifically approved for use by an OEM. Finally, GF-6B will soon be assigned a different ILSAC starburst for licensing purposes.
GF-6 Manufacturers Must Meet Eight New Test Parameters
GF-6A and GF-6B licensing requires lubricant manufacturers to meet eight engine tests — seven of which are new — to demonstrate these modern motor oils provide the minimum improvements and improved robustness required by modern passenger vehicle engines. Specific to GF-6 motor oils, these test requirements provide improved protection and performance for modern engines that GF-5, GF-4 and earlier standards do not.
Here’s a brief description of each of the new eight engine parameters for modern engines:
- Sequence IIIH – Requires 33 percent improvement over GF-5 for oxidation and deposits.
- Sequence IVB – Provides improved valve train wear.
- Sequence V – Ensures substantially reduced sludge and varnish.
- Sequence V – Ensures substantially reduced sludge and varnish.
- Sequence VIE – Requires 19-39 percent improvement in fuel economy, depending on oil viscosity.
- Sequence VIF – A new minimum fuel economy test for 0W-16 motor oil only.
- Sequence VIII – Improves GF-6A corrosion.
- Sequence IX – Verifies minimum level of LSPI protection.
- Sequence X – Assures less timing chain wear.
Developing one grade that met the needs of many automakers isn’t easy. While it’s taken a long time to develop GF-6, the new standard provides better protection for modern engines. The major reason for the delay was the request by more than 10 different automakers that the new GF-6 classification successfully address low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI) problems in turbocharged direct injection gasoline engines. ILSAC GF-6 motor oils will meet the requirements of modern engines currently unmet by GF-5, including improved fuel economy compared to motor oils meeting the GF-5 standard, and helping prevent LSPI and timing chain wear.
Compared to older GF-5 motor oil, five tests in the center require performance improvements over GF-5, and the three tests on the right are brand new for GF-6 that were requested by the automakers.
Beware of Pretenders
“Service professionals should also be aware that until May 1, 2020, no motor oils in the U.S. marketplace can claim to be GF-6 licensed,” stressed Kevin Ferrick, API’s Director of Product Programs. “Between now and then, some reputable motor oil manufacturers may claim to be “GF-6 ready,” since those companies have had access to the technical tests and draft limits issued to them, but no companies can sell any GF-6 oil until then.”
“Automotive shops and technicians need to be wary of false claims by shady oil products, whether older or newer petroleum products,” advised Ferrick. In March 2019, API updated known false claims made by unethical manufacturers on its Unauthorized Use of API Certification Marks website.
This API webpage shows the marketer’s name, brand, viscosity, U.S. city and state of sale along with pictures of the product label. In addition, shops can verify whether a specific motor oil is properly licensed by checking API’s online EOLCS Directory of Licensees website.
API cited Pennzoil and Shell as examples of some of the first “GF-6 ready” companies when licensing becomes available on May 1, 2020. They have already completed the testing protocol for select Full Synthetic products, and based on those results, expect that a suite of their products will meet the ILSAC GF-6A and GF-6B standards.
Do You Have a GF-6 Action Plan?
After outlining the process for licensing ILSAC GF-6A, GF-6B and API SP — the three new passenger vehicle gasoline engine oil standards — Ferrick shared some action points for shops to consider.
“Products licensed by API as meeting ILSAC GF-6A, GF-6B, and/or API SP will be able to use the appropriate API engine oil mark(s) in conjunction with the licensed products beginning on May 1, 2020 — less than a year from now,” Ferrick emphasized. “During the time between now and then, expect approval of the specifications, API Service Category and first licensing to be finalized. The time also gives large, medium, and small oil marketers the opportunity to qualify their new formulations against the new specifications and ready the products for market.”
“There are some immediate impacts automotive shops and service professionals should be aware of,” Ferrick shared. “Service professionals should ask their suppliers when they expect to be ready to deliver bulk or smaller containers of GF-6 oils that meet the new standards. They should also realize that many retail locations will also have these new oils by then, another reason the time to begin preparing is now.”
“Shops should also consider switching from GF-5 to GF-6A oils because these oils are expected to be recommended for use in engines where GF-5 oils had previously been recommended,” he emphasized. “Otherwise, once the improved GF-6 oils are available, continuing to use GF-5 will be a misapplication that could pose liability issues.”
“Finally, develop a plan to incorporate GF-6B oils into your shop for the passenger vehicle gasoline engines where this specific oil is recommended,” Ferrick noted. “Currently, only SAE 0W-16 is included in GF-6B. At this time, any future grades less than SAE 0W-16 will be subject to review before inclusion in GF-6B. So make sure your shop staff understands that GF-6B oils should only be used in those vehicles it is recommended for, again to prevent any misapplication.”