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Oil Companies Must Follow These Labeling Rules For Newest Standards

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Aug. 26, 2019—NOLN has written a lot about GF-6, which is the newest oil standard from the International Lubricant Standardization Advisory Committee.

The formulations for qualified oils will help protect against low-speed pre-ignition and perform better at lower viscosities, among other improvements. Licensing won’t take place until May 1, 2020 and will coincide with the new American Petroleum Institute’s newest service category, SP.

If you see an engine oil claiming certification for GF-6 or API SP before May 1, there’s something wrong. Months of lag time was planned between the announcement of the new standard and the rollout of certification.

“From the time that we approved it to May 1, 2020, there’s a period of time where companies are given the opportunity to get their labeling, ad products and formulations in line with the new standard,” said Kevin Ferrick, API's director of product programs.

But what if a company’s engine oil already meets GF-6 specifications? There are some things you might see on oil packaging.


Language Rules

The first thing to know is that until May 1, the “donut” label for API service categories and the “starburst” label for ILSAC standards can only represent certification for GF-5 and SN (or SN Plus), respectively.

If an oil meets specifications for GF-6, it still meets GF-5. The same goes for API SP and the older SN, because each is backwards-compatible. But Ferrick said that companies can also add extra language saying that it will meet GF-6 standards once it’s licensed.

“You can claim that you meet the new standard,” Ferrick said. “You can say that you're GF-6A compliant or something like that.”

There could be a marketing claim that an oil will meet the GF-6 standard or that it’s manufactured to that specification. The package cannot say that it has been tested and passed by API for those specifications.

“What you can’t say is that GF-6A approved," he said. “You can't say that it’s been certified. So you have to stay away from words that say we’ve approved it.”

There are similar rules for invoicing and product orders, Ferrick said. There can be language that a product will meet the newest standard; not that it has been certified as such.

Come May 1, there will also be a transition period, during which both GF-5 and GF-6 will be certified through API testing. After that, oils displaying the certification labels will only meet the newest standard.

Ferrick said that it’s time to have a conversation with distributors and oil companies about how their products will be marketed during and after the transition into GF-6.

“They should be asking whether their product is meeting the newest standard or not,” he said. “They should be aware that the products meeting the current standard, GF-5, can be marketed for a year (after May 1).”


The Labels

Here are the labels, which you're likely familiar with as most mainstream engine oils are certified to these specifications.

The API donut denotes the latest service category from the American Petroleum Institute. Before May 1: API SN (or SN Plus). After May 1: transition to API SP.

API donut

The ILSAC starburst shows certification for the latest category. Before May 1: GF-5. After May 1: transition to GF-6A.

API starburst

This new shield badge will be displayed for GF-6B oils, which is not backward-compatible to any previous standard. These oils are far less common than GF-6A types and will be limited to SAE 0W-16 oils.

API shield

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the effective date for API SP and ILSAC GF-6 licensing. It has been corrected.

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