CDX News Featured Article: Time for an Engine Oil Perception Change

Posted by Kirk VanGelder on Nov 15, 2016 10:58:00 AM



Many technicians don’t think much about engine oil, except that it needs to be changed regularly. Much like engine oil itself, however, the lack of attention given to oil and new lubrication standards also needs to be changed.

Technology has affected the realm of engine oil just as much as it has virtually all other aspects of a vehicle. Engine oil is now engineered to meet specific manufacturer requirements, or even individual engine requirements within a particular manufacturer’s lineup. Long gone are the days when we can use generic 10W-30 engine oil out of a drum for every vehicle that rolls through the shop.

Let’s look at just two of the less familiar standards.

ACEA Standard – The ACEA classifications formulated for engine oils used in European vehicles are much more stringent than the API and ILSAC standards. Some of the characteristics the ACEA-rated oil must score high on are soot thickening, water, sludge, piston deposits, oxidative thickening, fuel economy, and after-treatment compatibility. While some of these may be tested by the API and ILSAC, the standards are set high to achieve ACEA certification ratings. If you are servicing a European vehicle, it is advised that you make sure the oil meets the recommended ACEA rating specified by the manufacturer, or the manufacturer’s own specification rating.

OEM-Specific Standards
- Many vehicle manufacturers have developed their own oil rating standards. These standards may even be specific to individual engines within a manufacturer’s line-up. Here are a couple of examples: Oils meeting Volkswagen’s VW 506.00 standard are suitable for use on diesel engines (not with single injector pump) with an extended service interval of up to 31,000 miles or 2 years. Oil meeting General Motor’s dexos1 is specified for use in all GM vehicles except those equipped with Duramax diesel engines and is backward compatible in all older GM vehicles. It has a service interval of up to 18,600 miles.

While we have only scratched the surface, you can see it is important to understand the oil change requirements for the vehicle you are working on and only use the specified oil. Also, remember that you need to take into account whether the vehicle is operating in normal vs severe conditions when recommending an oil change interval. For more information on this topic check out the lubrication chapter (Chapter 45) in CDX’s new Fundamentals of Automotive Technology: Principles and Practice textbook.


Kirk VanGelder is the editor of CDX News. He is also an account manager, subject matter expert, and author for CDX Automotive.

Check out more from Kirk in the Second Edition of Fundamentals of Automotive Technology: Principles and Practice

Read a Sample Chapter