Workshop: Oil Part III – Meet The Specs


Words Freddi Stafford

“Everybody has a world, and that world is completely hidden until we begin to inquire. As soon as we do, that entire world opens to us and yields itself. And you see how full and complex it is.” – David Guterson.

In a world of changing technology, automotive lubricants have changed along with motor vehicle technology, and these lubricants have become extremely complex – and more difficult to understand.  However, our opening quote shows that it is worth digging deep.

In last month’s article, we said that the correct choice of base oil is a major determining factor in the quality and performance of the finished lubricant. We also discussed the confusion created by the oil industry and lubricant marketers who use the term ‘synthetic’ to describe an engine oil that is really a combination of heavy paraffinic, hydrotreated, solvent-dewaxed petroleum distillates, and whose base oil is usually either mostly unspecified, or mineral oil.

As Plato once said, “The lover of inquiry must follow his beloved wherever it may lead him.” I hope that you have taken the time this past month to look at a can or
two of the oil in your garage or workshop, and pondered the contents in the light of my previous articles.

In this article, we will focus on the importance of using OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)-approved lubricants, and on the importance of lubricants meeting the specified ACEA specifications required by the OEM.

The race for lower emissions

As there is a regulatory requirement, and legislation (from governments around the world) aiming to improve air quality and lower greenhouse gases, OEMs continually
research vehicle solutions which will allow compliance with stricter emission laws.

Today’s engines run hotter and harder than ever before. Stricter emission standards have led to new hardware technologies which derive more power from smaller engines. These emission standards have also forced the introduction of new lubricants, referred to as low-ash or low-SAPS lubricants (low Sulphated Ash, Phosphorus-
Sulphur). These low-SAPS lubricants are now recommended by many OEMs.

The SAPS contained in traditional lubricants can have a harmful effect on the post-treatment systems that eliminate pollutant emissions. Diesel particulate filters (DPF) are particularly sensitive to SAPS, because of their porous ceramic filter element substrates; these can be cordierite, silicon carbide, or aluminium titanate.

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