Unintended Consequences Drive GDI Engines to Your Shops Part 8

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Do we value efforts behind applied sciences producing motor oils that permit modern engine operation?

We respond “yes” while recognizing that when limits to motor oil stressors and contamination are reached the best return on investment becomes “Out with the old, in with the new.”

We also join those recognizing that engines place varying demands on motor oils. Including smaller, more powerful GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) and TGDI (Turbocharged GDI) engines with increased stress and contamination to motor oils, (for details, see series articles No. 5 and 6).

Good news; this opens the door to a growing oil change service opportunity as millions of aging GDI engines enter service provider shops with “unintended consequences” to federal mandates.

Consider that the millions of Ford EcoBoost engines arriving in shops are all TGDI. Also research GM EcoTec and Chrysler/Mopar GDI and TGDI engines. And it’s not unique to the US — in fiscal year 2016-2017 General Motors of Shanghai “sold more than one million new vehicles, all of which featured TGDI or GDI technology,” according to fuelandlubes.com.

If you would like to do more research on this subject, please remember:

  1. The old gold prospector who said, “Son, it can take lots of digging to find the nuggets.”
  2. The differences between hyped “fool’s gold” and applied science “nuggets.”

Know Your Customers’ Needs

Veteran GM lubrication engineer Eric Johnson observed, “Engine oil may not be quite as exciting as some other parts of the car, but for something that is so basic, there is a pretty amazing lack of knowledge out there.”

Familiarity with reliable applied science becomes vital as customers gain knowledge and then perceive the lack of it. Word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire and impacts service provider choices.

And counter personnel need time to reliably inform customers. Negative customer perception is a high price to pay for hurried personnel who blow off inquiries and miss opportunities to inform.

Oil’s Slippery Slope and CAFE

Oil changes inhabit a slippery slope, especially considering differences between state and federal compliance regulations. And here’s a need-to-know issue impacting motor oil choices; federally mandated CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements, including:
    • About motor oil choices; obviously, the thinner the oil, the better the fuel economy. But as Consumer Reports states, “… engines improve performance and save fuel, but at a price.”
    • About CAFE’s cost; in 2010 Edmunds reported, “Mercedes-Benz paid more than $200 million in fines since 1983.”
About the impact of CAFE’s slippery slope; in 2016 Automotive News reported, “Higher fines for missing mpg targets could upend compliance strategies [for an industry] blindsided as CAFE fines jump. … automakers at risk of missing their targets still don’t know how much more the increased fines may have already cost them. … [the recent more-than-double] ‘draconian’ increase will make it harder to make progress toward fleetwide average of 54.5 mpg by the 2025 model year.”

Preventive Maintenance

About oil change needs; customers connect with the obvious. Personal anecdotes: a fleet of semis delivering cross-country fruit and produce; an automobile sold with 323,000 odometer miles to a buyer who tested it severely and found it solid; a vehicle driven to 425,000 miles and then sold to an associate. All proved preventive maintenance the best ROI for operating efficiency and longevity.

Most customers understand preventive maintenance, with engine life and performance extended while preventing huge maintenance costs.

Applied to GDI Engines

Readers following this series also understand that GDI engines, especially small, high-revving TGDI engines with oil lubricating hot turbo bearings, expose crankcase oil to equivalent – or greater – stress and contamination than diesel engines. For all engines, especially GDI and TGDI engines, preventive maintenance provides vehicle owners their best ROI – especially compared to the cost of engine failure.

How About the OEMs?

For those asking about OEMs, research why GM re-calibrated their OLM (Oil Life Monitor) algorithm in 2013 to shorten oil change intervals.

A GM dealer’s newsletter dated Feb. 14, 2013, reported, “GM did not get specific on why they made this change, but it can be inferred that they have determined that the longer oil change intervals must have had a negative impact on long-term engine performance and customer satisfaction.”

Unofficial reports indicate that GM’s concern grew with increased timing chain wear issues, a contributing factor to the OLM algorithm re-calibration for more frequent oil changes.

For other manufacturer information, research:

  • “Why Some Late Model Dodge/Chrysler Vehicles Are Prone To Catastrophic Engine Failure” including “… smaller than feasible drain back holes in the heads and block, create a ‘frying pan’ effect by breaking down new oil faster and leaving sludge in the engine.”
  • Ford developing a timing chain wear test with their 2.0L I-4 EcoBoost TGDI engine.

ILSAC and Timing Chain Lubrication

ILSAC (the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee) proposed to add a timing chain wear test to the GF-6 motor oil requirement for API licensing to help address timing chain durability needs.

OEM Bulletin, Piston Ring Wear and Oil Consumption

GM Service Bulletin No. 10058791-5041 reads: “Subject: Special Coverage Adjustment — Excessive Engine Oil Consumption … engine may exhibit excessive engine oil consumption due to piston ring wear … This special coverage covers the condition described above for a period of 7 years and 6 months or 120,000 miles (193,000 km), whichever occurs first … Dealers are to replace the 4 piston assemblies. The repairs will be made at no charge to the customer.”

More Research Recommendations

  • ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association) working with oil industry partners to develop a suitable test for timing chain wear.
  • ILSAC licensing a motor oil upgrade to help address LSPI (Low-Speed Pre-Ignition, see series article #6) in TGDI engines.
  • Hard-to-remove deposits containing metals Ca, Zn, Mg, etc., on intake valves and combustion chambers from crankcase oil via the PCV system.

What About Viscosity?

Correct viscosity helps ensure that rotating shafts and bearing shells don’t touch, and plays a role in other friction-surface lubrication, timing chain tensioner operation, variable valve timing operation, etc.

Is viscosity important? Consider that certain vehicle manufacturers now require 0W-16 motor oil, rather than 0W-15, including a 0W-16 OEM with (at last count) six different variable valve timing systems driven by oil. These changing oil viscosity requirements, according to the SAE, “… set a precedent for future [motor oil] grades whereby they count down by fours instead of fives.”

But what happens to viscosity when vehicle owners operate these engines? See Fig. 1 test results from Keith Howard’s, “Small, Hot and Stressed: Turbocharged Direct-Injection is Engine Oil’s Next Big Hurdle.”

Oil Sludge and Carbon Deposits

Engine heat, friction and stress can cause oil to oxidize into sludge deposits that interfere with critical functions including lubrication and cooling. This interference with cooling causes more sludge to form and bake into harder carbon; it’s a vicious cycle.

If not eliminated in a timely manner, oil sludge deposits can plug oil passages and bake into hard carbon that may require mechanical scraping for removal — or cause catastrophic engine failure with traffic safety hazards and engine replacement costs.

Gasoline Dilution

Readers following this series understand that GDI engine operation includes increased compression with gasoline blasted directly into the combustion chamber, leaving unburned fuel droplets on combustion chamber surfaces, and low-tension piston rings to help improve fuel economy.

The problem? With this combination, more unburned gasoline enters the crankcase. Crankcase oil gasoline dilution increases, known to produce the odor of gasoline volatiles in the crankcase and decreased lubricant flash point — a disaster waiting to happen.

The solution? Out with the old, and in with the new.

Primary Take-Away

Following GDI Deposit Problems presentations, I sometimes hear, “That’s almost overwhelming!”

I respond, “With solutions listed on numerous slides, focus on the solutions.” This is especially important for vehicle owners stuck with upside down finances on a GDI “debacle.” The solution and the best ROI for motor oil issues including engine life, operating efficiency and deposits, “Out with the old, in with the new.” And while getting rid of dirty oil, it’s important to clean the dirty lube system and oil pan.

Remember, preventive maintenance always provides the customer’s best ROI. Smooth engine operation and longevity improves with fresh, quality motor oil, bringing return customers along with friends and neighbors.

Here’s to quality motor oil and its preventive maintenance ROI when changed regularly.

Related Articles

Unintended Consequences Drive GDI Engines to Your Shops – Part 7

Unintended Consequences Drive GDI Engines to Your Shops Part 9: Key Trends and Wrap-Up

Unintended Consequences Drive GDI Engines to Your Shops - Part 5

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