MOTOR Magazine

A MOTOR Magazine Newsletter
Nov. 20, 2018

Contributed by Bob Chabot
Will ILSAC GF-6 Ever Be Approved?

Scheduled April 2020 approval at risk


The American Petroleum Institute’s (API) latest passenger vehicle motor oil classification, covering API SN Plus petroleum products, was licensed for sale on May 1 of this year. The new classification was created for automakers concerned about Low-Speed Pre-Ignition (LSPI) and the expected licensing of a new International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) GF-6 classification being delayed until 2020.

For many modern engines, API SN Plus has been an improvement over the prior oil standard. One of the primary functions of API SN Plus is a chemical adjustment of the detergency that (1) reduces the calcium content and (2) requires the increase of magnesium, which reduces the frequency of LSPI. These were intended to provide more turbocharger protection.

Surface elemental composition of NGEO deposits and HDD soot measured by EDX. (Image — Infineum Americas Industry)

But some automakers believe the new stander is far from good enough. They are concerned that damage caused by LSPI can destroy an engine and that API SN Plus petroleums don’t do enough, in particular, when used over the long mileages many petroleum manufacturers recommend.

To more strongly address LSPI remediation, a number of concerned automakers have already begun to recommend in their service statements using higher quality petroleum than API SN Plus. Recent reports by ILSAC and other sources advising that GF-6 likely won’t be ready by 2020 indicate those automakers’ decision is prudent.

What is Low Speed Pre-Ignition (LSPI) and why it is a serious concern for engines. (Video — Lubrizol Corp.)

Most Complex and Costly Process Ever
“There are still three main GF-6 development timeline activities that need to be completed by [ILSAC],” noted Joan Evans, Liaison Manager for the Infineum Americas Industry, at the recent joint API Lubricants Group’s Auto/Oil Advisory Panel (AOAP). “These include (1) the technology demonstration period, (2) the limit setting, and (3) the mandatory waiting period.”

“The combined duration of these activities would put the first allowable use (FAU) at end of September 2020,” she continued. “ILSAC has stated that April 2020 is their preferred date. All stakeholders have invested heavily in ILSAC GF-6 and want the new specification to commence as soon as practical. At the June AOAP meeting it was agreed that the technical demonstration period could start – but what is more important here is when it will finish. To facilitate the process, a plan of communication was discussed between ILSAC and American Chemistry Council (ACC).”

Evans explained there is already immense pressure on the timeline to close this gap. ACC has also raised potential concerns on three key issues that could impact the timing further:

  • Readiness of the Sequence IVB test.
  • Sequence VH fuel batch replacement.
  • Potential lack of test capacity due to limited BOI/VGRA read across.

The AOAP reviewed past specification introductions and asked for a bench test status report from Dennis Gaal with ExxonMobil to eliminate any capacity/testing issues for ILSAC GF-6 implementation. He shared that there are no areas of concern for the bench tests and that there is a robust process in place to handle any issues that may arise."

“This is important because, in the past, bench tests have not been analyzed for potential capacity or availability issues when new specifications were introduced and this has caused challenges and/or delays,” Gaal stated. “This work should help to smooth the introduction of ILSAC GF-6. The technology demonstration period is essential to assess if it is possible to pass all of the tests in the category, in all the viscosity grades and base stock types.”

The Aftermarket Reacts

“Motor oil isn't just motor oil anymore,” explained Günter Hiermaier, CEO of LIQUI MOLY. “It’s clear that oil choice is no longer a general lubricant, but rather a highly specialized, liquid replacement part that has to precisely fit the corresponding engine. But finding your way through the crowded field of oil specifications, approvals and brands is not easy.”

Shops need to step up and find credible suppliers to work with,” he continued. “Using the wrong oil is like fitting the wrong replacement part. The consequences range from a loss of warranty to increased wear and engine problems right up to total engine failure.”

Visit this LIQUI MOLY website to view the correct motor oil and other additives for a vehicle, based on make, model and engine. (Image — LIQUI MOLY)

GF-6 Timing Delayed Yet Again
The need to meet the performance requirements of two new and five replacement engine tests while balancing the new durability requirements, deposit improvements against new fuel economy requirements, is extremely challenging. Formulations must be balanced into a single ILSAC GF-6 core chemistry that matches the desired performance limits, base stock selection and viscosity grades.

Formulation requires all the tests to be ready, fully defined and stable for the majority of the technical demonstration period. Right now, the key area of concern is Sequence IVB. While Toyota says all this analysis can be completed and approved by the Surveillance Panel before the October AOAP Meeting, this may be overly optimistic, which could introduce further delay.

Compromise will be necessary by all the stakeholders to meet the specification introduction timing. Here are several key areas identified by Infineum:

  • Engine Test Update — In terms of base oil interchange (BOI) and viscosity grade read across (VGRA), Sequence IX BOI/VGRA was put in place for API SN PLUS. API BOI/VGRA Task Force is meeting regularly to review matrix data and the statisticians’ analyses for the ILSAC GF-6 tests. Lubricants Group agreed to issue ballots for read across for the Sequence VIF. Currently in process are the Sequence VH, IIIH, and X datasets and proposed guidelines. The Sequence VIE matrix testing is close to completion and the Sequence IVB is awaiting ASTM Surveillance Panel guidance before commencing the matrix.
  • Sequence IVB — The Sequence IVB Task Force has been meeting frequently in the past two months and have completed the FEWMEOT measurement procedure and made significant progress on other outstanding issues. However, it remains to be seen if these changes have improved the test and much work is still required by the statisticians here – with the analysis still to be defined. Other outstanding items, which need to be completed include: development of a lubricant test monitoring system (LTMS) for FEWMEOT, plus the definitions for lobe failure and oil consumption and the engine life guideline all need to be approved and validated.
  • Sequence IIIH — Batch 5 pistons have brought the test back to the precision matrix severity and everything is running on target, with no issues.
  • Sequence VH — LTMS and registration are both in place. However, the existing fuel batch will exhausted at the San Antonio test labs during Q4, creating a sense of urgency to approve a new fuel batch. The test matrix for this new fuel batch is well underway and the data reported to date look promising. A target of approving this by the end of October seems realistic, which would result in minimal disruption to the technology demonstration effort.
  • Sequence IX — The new batch of pistons (BC) were tried and found to be too severe and, as a result, a new batch of BB pistons is being made. Ford is ordering a seven-year supply of these pistons. Reference oil 222 is no longer available and will be replaced by Reference oil 224 with a target of five events per test.
  • Sequence X — This test is not sensitive to piston batch and will only use engines with BC pistons.

“In our view, meeting the current ILSAC GF-6 draft specification is a challenge both in terms of the technical performance of a formulation and time required to complete the work to define this formulation space,” Evans summarized. “Insight will continue to update future ILSAC GF-6 progress.”

[Editor's note: Visit for the latest diagnostic and service insights.]

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