New Oil Standards Ensure Cleaner Engines & Better Performance

April 1, 2020
On May 1, 2020, API will unveil its new oil standards

When API’s newly approved engine oil standards go into effect on May 1, the public can expect enhanced engine protection and performance with the co-benefit of improving fuel economy in cars, trucks, and SUVs.

The new engine oil standards, which consist of two new International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) performance standards officially designated as ILSAC-6A and ILSAC-6B (in conjunction with the new API SP engine oil performance standard) have been published in the 18th edition of API 1509 - Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System (EOLCS). 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.  

Starting May 1, 2020, oils that have passed all appropriate testing at the limits specified by API 1509 and that 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 towards 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 is introducing a new certification mark: the “Shield.” The API Certification Mark “Shield” will be used on SAE 0W-16 products that have been properly licensed against the GF-6B specification. Licensed oils displaying the “Shield” will be backwards compatible for applications where SAE 0W-16 API SN licensed oils are recommended.

Meanwhile, oils licensed against the GF-6A specification will be eligible to display the API Certification Mark “Starburst.” In keeping with tradition, these oils will be backward compatible for applications where oils meeting GF-5 or earlier gasoline engine oil standards are recommended.

Oils licensed against the over-arching API SP standard will be eligible to display API SP in the Service Symbol “Donut,” and these oils will be backward compatible with API SN and earlier requirements. Marketers will also be able to continue to license their oils with the additional designations of SN PLUS and Resource Conserving.  

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) engines. 

How Were These New Designations Established?

The new specification and corresponding engine tests were developed through the unique partnerships API has across the 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 oil 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 the 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 the 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. 

For more information, API 1509 is available free of charge on the API website.