The Match Game: Selecting the Right Oil for Your European Import Customers
One of the things that drives me nuts when I go shopping these days is how much variety there is. Shampoos come with a gazillion options — for greasy, normal or dry hair, with conditioner, without conditioner, etc. It was so much easier when you could simply go to the store and pick up a bottle of Head and Shoulders without having to read all the differentiators.
On a recent run to the store for deodorant, I noticed once more that it is no longer a simple matter of replacing the Gillette Clear Gel Antiperspirant/Deodorant that I always get. No, the shelf was a quarter mile long, and every brand had a full array of options, including styles of application from spray to gel to stick with names like Aqua Reef, Swagger, Blossom, Lemon Sage, Red Zone and Tahitian Breeze.
Toothpaste decisions are no easier, and even underwear is getting complicated.
So, when customers come in for an oil change, you need to keep in mind that the world has become a very confusing place. What your customer needs is less, not more, confusion.
As everyone in our industry can readily see, the variety of cars on the road is very diverse. It’s no longer a matter of GM, Ford and Chrysler makes and models. We have Rios, Pilots, Quattros, as well as those adorable smart cars to learn about. Though the top four car models sold in America are Hondas and Toyotas, European cars are certainly popular in many of our American landscapes.
A recent top 10 list of European cars being sold in America included four models of Volkswagens, two BMW models, the Audi A4, Mini Cooper and two Mercedes-Benz models. Depending on where you live, you may be noticing more and more of these cars. Do your lube shop employees know what kind of motor oil they require? I will tell you this up front: Depending on the type of engine, even those Volkswagens use different kinds of oil.
Why European Oils Are Different
One reason motor oils in the U.S. and Europe are different is because of the sanctioning bodies that establish the standards. In North America, oil quality standards are set by the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the oil and gas industry. API sets minimum standards for automotive use here, primarily driven by efforts to satisfy increasingly stringent CAFE requirements (for fuel economy) and tighter emissions standards.
In Europe, oil quality guidelines are developed by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). The ACEA recognizes that European engines differ from U.S. engines in both their design and operating conditions. As a result, the demands on their oils are different, as well. Many automakers there run specific tests to make sure the oil meets specific performance requirements.
Selecting The Right Viscosity Is Not Enough
A lot of us still remember when the only thing you needed to know about motor oil was when you last changed it and whether it was 10W-40 or not. Today, it’s a whole new world.
The primary differentiator among various makes and models of European car oils has to do with acceptable levels of sulfated ash, phosphorus and sulfur, which for convenience is called SAPS.
• Sulfated ash is the by-product of metallic compounds as they are burned. These compounds can improve an oil’s antioxidancy, anti-wear properties, TBN, corrosion resistance, engine cleanliness properties and soot handling ability.