James Halderman’s Engine Oil Update talk – NACAT Conference

engine oil update

At the 2015 North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) conference, I gave a technical presentation titled, “Engine Oil Update”. This topic was well received and created many questions because of the changes that have occurred over the past few years that few, if any, automotive instructors were aware. The major items of greatest interest included:

  1. The term “synthetic” has an entirely new meaning since 1999 when a highly refined mineral oil was ruled by a federal judge to be a synthetic because the molecules were changed.

  2. As a result, there is now little difference between most mineral oils and what is labeled a synthetic.

  3. The specifications for oil are many and include:

  • SAE– viscosity or thickness at both low and high temperatures

  • API– Oil that meets the API standard has the circle on the back of the container and letters and numbers indicating which API standard it meets.

  • ILSAC– If the oil meets this standard, there is a “starburst” symbol on the front of the oil container.

  • ACEA– This standard is used for oil designed to be used in European vehicles and is different from the specifications for Asian or domestic vehicles.

  • Vehicle specific oil specifications– Vehicle manufacturer’s often have their own specified oil, such as General Motors Co. vehicles (Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac) specify that the oil used be certified as “dexos”(spelled with a lower case “d” as specified by GM), a unique specification designed to meet the needs of engines used in GM vehicles. Many other vehicle manufacturers also specify their own standard.

  • Older engines need to use oil formulated with additional zinc– The amount of zinc (ZDDP) used in oil has been reduced to help protect emission control devices over the past ten years. However, older vehicles (pre-1990 usually) require that the oil needs to have the amount of zinc that was used in the older engine oil.

  • New lower viscosity oil coming soon– Starting in late 2016 or early 2017, a new lower viscosity oil has been approved. The new SAE 0W-16 is designed to be used in 2016 or new vehicles and is not backward compatible for use in older vehicles.

  • Even lower viscosities have been approved– SAE has recently approved SAE 4, 8 and 12 viscosities for possible future use all do to the need to improve fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions.

What does all this mean? It means that one size or one specification cannot be used when it comes to engine oil. Always use what the vehicle manufacturer recommends and use oil that not only states that it meets the specifications but is also from a known brand. Avoid using any other than oil that is specified for your vehicle, to help insure a long life.

For a copy of the engine oil update Power Point, visit – www.jameshalderman.com

  • Click on “Jim’s Stuff” at the top.

  • Select “Conference Power Points.”

  • Select “Engine Oil Update” and then right click to “save target as” to save to your computer.

  • Enjoy

Editors’ Note – This is a guest post by Jim Halderman, an esteemed automotive repair textbook author and contributor toAdamsAutoAdvice.com.  

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Adam loves cars and anything with wheels. He has many interests and passions but he especially loves writing and blogging. Hence starting this auto blog.

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Adam loves cars and anything with wheels. He has many interests and passions but he especially loves writing and blogging. Hence starting this auto blog.

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