New API Engine Oil Standards Good for Consumers, Environment
John D. Siciliano
Posted April 27, 2020
Enhancing engine protection and performance with the co-benefit of improving fuel economy in cars, trucks, and SUVs is what the public can expect when API’s new engine oil standards go into effect on May 1.
The 18th edition of the API 1509 engine oil standard – Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System (EOLCS) – is a product of industry’s continuous process of updating motor oil specifications to meet the demands of the marketplace and consumers.
For example, the new standard includes a conservation specification to improve fuel economy – in addition to keeping a vehicle’s emissions control systems in check – while also being able to account for the introduction of more renewable fuels into the gasoline supply.
This means that oil bearing the API licensing mark can both boost the number of miles driven on a gallon of gasoline, while improving the overall performance of the engine, which is good for consumers and the environment alike.
The new engine oil standards were published last year, consisting of two new International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee (ILSAC) performance standards officially designated as ILSACGF-6A and ILSAC GF-6B, in conjunction with the new API SP engine oil performance standard. API developed these new performance standards in response to a request from automakers to introduce more robust engine oils capable of meeting the needs of current and future gasoline engines.
The improved performance gains from licensed ILSAC GF-6A, ILSAC GF-6B and API SP with Resource Conserving oils will help vehicles meet fuel economy standards. These motor oils under the new standard will also provide greater turbocharger protection to benefit current and future engines, including engines designed to operate on ethanol-containing fuels up to E85. API SP oils are also designed to provide protection against low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI), a phenomenon common to gasoline direct injection (GDI) turbocharged engines.
The new specification and corresponding engine tests were developed through the unique partnerships API has across several relevant industry sectors. API partnered with the auto industry, oil marketers, and additive companies to put in place the new standards to ensure that the engine oils used by consumers will provide the highest level of protection and performance.
API aims to ensure this high level of quality by licensing the use of its marks to oil marketers. The presence of API marks indicate that the motor oil has met API’s specifications. Oils licensed by API are subject to API’s rigorous aftermarket audit program. This includes running physical, chemical and performance tests on licensed engine oils and verifying that the API-registered marks are properly displayed on containers and convey accurate information to consumers.
API worked closely with ILSAC to develop the new ILSAC performance standards to ensure that oils meeting the needs of current and future engines will be available across the globe. In addition, the API Lubricants Standards Group adopted the new standards and approved API to begin licensing oils meeting the standards. These groups help API stay ahead of the curve when it comes to changes in the vehicle market, enabling API standards development to respond to the ever-changing needs of the industry and their engines.
Starting May 1, oils that have passed all appropriate testing at the limits specified by API 1509 and have been properly licensed with API against the new performance standards will be eligible to display the API Engine Oil Quality Marks. The respective corresponding marks are the API Certification Mark “Starburst,” the API Certification Mark “Shield,” and the API Service Symbol “Donut.”
This is the first time that the industry has introduced a “split” ILSAC specification. The need for this arose from the automakers’ concerns with the trend toward low-viscosity engine oils, in this case SAE 0W-16. This trend warranted not only a separate specification with different fuel economy requirements, but also a new API certification mark to prevent the misapplication of these oils in their engines.
As a result, API will be introducing its newest certification mark: the “Shield.” This new mark, different from the two previous API marks “Donut” and “Starburst,” will apply to those engine oils that meet the criteria for the ILSAC GF-6B specification. In general, this specification includes a range of qualities, including improved fuel economy. In addition, a specific viscosity level – the measure of an oil’s ability to flow at certain temperatures -- must be met in order to achieve the new Shield mark.
Licensed oils displaying the “Shield” will be compatible with oil grades such as SAE 0W-16 API SN that had been recommended for certain vehicle engines in the past. Oil licensed under the Shield mark will work as well or better than previously available SAE 0W-16 oils.
Marketers will also be able to continue to license their oils with the additional designations of SN PLUS and Resource Conserving to improve fuel economy and maintain a vehicle’s environmental and pollution controls.
About The Author
John Siciliano is a writer for API Global Industry Services’ Marketing and Communications Department. He joined API after 14 years as an energy and environment reporter and editor. Most recently, he was senior energy and environment writer for the Washington Examiner and the Daily on Energy newsletter. He began full-time reporting in Washington in 2001 as a foreign affairs correspondent, also covering national security and defense. His coverage of the Mideast and Saudi Arabia led him to become a full-time energy reporter. He earned a bachelors degree in psychology from Ohio Northern University, and he also holds a Masters of Science degree in education from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.