Addressing AMSOIL & API Licensing
API Lacks Necessary Performance Categories - Overview
Since I wrote that title the API has had its hand forced by the automotive manufacturers (ILSAC) but yet AMSOIL gives you options. We now have two motor oil product lines which are API Certified and Dexos 1 as well which you will see but our main top tier products go beyond the protection available by these "warranty compliant" OEM rated products.
updated December 19th, 2010.
North American gasoline motor oil specifications continue to evolve.
With three major specifications now in play, consumers are facing an increasingly complex market.
By Dan Peterson - Amsoil VP of Product Development
The automobile industry is continually changing; between advancing technologies and increasingly stringent performance mandates, change is constant and essential. In North America, engine oil specifications have traditionally been governed by the American Petroleum
Institute (API) and the International Lubricant Specifications and Approval Committee (ILSAC).
The API first created engine oil groups in 1947 and has been continually improving engine oil specifications ever since. The API represents the interests of hundreds of oil marketers and defines oil service categories in addition to administering the Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System (EOLCS). There are currently two registered marks administered
by the EOLCS: the API service symbol (donut) and the ILSAC certification mark (starburst). Certified oils carry one or both of the registered marks. Since the development of the “S” and
“C” categories around 1969/1970, the API, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) have been working together to develop engine oils that meet changing performance demands.
In 1987, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM, formerly AAMA) informed the API that it was dissatisfied with the current approach for approval of motor oils and created a new system for approval governed by a new committee, ILSAC. ILSAC consists of nine
original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from North America, Europe and Japan. ILSAC recently developed the GF-5 oil standard, which improves performance over the previous standard, GF-4. The increased performance standards are achieved by mandating certain performance requirements; some of the main improvements have been aimed at fuel economy, engine oil robustness and emissions system protection.
The API’s most recent service categories are SN and SN “Resource Conserving.” The
API SN category applies to oils for gasoline-powered passenger cars, SUVs, vans and
light-duty trucks. The API SN Resource Conserving category requires increased performance
over SN and more closely matches the ILSAC GF-5 specification. The API SN and SN Resource Conserving licenses were both introduced October 1, 2010.
General Motors complicated matters a bit this year with the introduction of its dexos1™ oil licensing program. GM created the dexos1 oil specification to reduce the oil’s impact on the environment and increase its performance in certain categories. dexos1 has tighter performance
requirements than GF-5/API SN in some areas and looser requirements in other areas. Consumers driving model-year 2011 and newer GM vehicles will have to be sure they use an oil recommended for dexos1 applications.
Government mandates weigh heavily in the formulation of motor oils and the development of new service categories. Federal regulations for automotive performance, fuel economy and emissions limits are becoming increasingly stringent, requiring vehicle manufacturers and oil companies to develop technologies to meet these requirements. Vehicle manufacturers are developing new engines and emissions systems that meet the requirements, but they are also relying on oil manufacturers to help meet the new mandates. Government mandated corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) requirements are focused on improving the average fuel economy of vehicle manufacturers’ passenger car and light-truck fleets.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), together with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), monitors the fuel economy and emissions performance of vehicles. The average fuel economy of an OEM’s fleet of vehicles must meet the minimum CAFE standards or OEMs face costly penalties.
With all these changes happening at the same time, it can be difficult to sort out all the updates and differences between specifications. AMSOIL simplified the situation for Dealers and customers by formulating motor oils that meet or exceed performance standards in each
of the main categories. AMSOIL OE and XL Synthetic Motor Oils meet the API SN
Resource Conserving and ILSAC GF-5 performance requirements; OE 5W-30
and XL 5W-30 meet the GM dexos1 performance requirement. The top-tier line of AMSOIL synthetic motor oils will be reformulated to meet the latest industry specifications in the first quarter of 2011.
(PDF version on consumer fears on API for emailing and printing)
There are motor oil consumers who have a fear of using non-API certified motor oils, i.e. motor oils that do not have the API donut certification. The only way to address this fear is to understand the background and facts as they relate to the API licensing, or certification, of motor oils.
Not only do we define the role of the API, we provide insight on actual licensing practices that do not create a level playing field as it relates to the use of synthetic versus petroleum motor oils. We also address the matter of warranty so that the
AMSOIL customer can rest assured that they will not void their vehicles warranty by using AMSOIL motor oils – be they API certified or not. In short, we are prepared to respond to the following questions:
1. What is API Licensing?
2. What is the API?
3. Why are some AMSOIL Synthetic Motor Oils licensed and some are not?
4. If I don’t use an API Licensed motor oil, doesn’t that void my manufacturer’s warranty?
5. How do I know that AMSOIL products meet or exceed the minimum specifications of the tests required for API Licensing?
What is API Licensing?
An API (American Petroleum Institute) license indicates that a specific motor oil formulation has passed the minimum performance standards as defined by a series of laboratory bench tests that include; physical, chemical and engine tests. These tests were selected, and minimum performance standards were set by, the API Lubricants Committee to address specific areas such as engine wear, deposits, fuel economy, emissions, etc. The committee is comprised of representatives from automobile, oil and additive companies.
What is the API?
API stands for the American Petroleum Institute. They are one of the primary trade associations of our industry. API represents more than 400 members involved in all aspects of the oil and natural gas industry. The association draws on the experience and expertise of its members and staff to support a strong and viable oil and natural gas industry. API also provides the opportunity for standards development, technical cooperation and other activities to improve the industry’s competitiveness through sponsorship of self-supporting programs.
Why are some AMSOIL Synthetic Motor Oils API licensed and some are not?
There are two primary reasons:
1. There are strict phosphorus additive level restrictions placed on API certified oils that would
minimize the full performance and extended oil drain capability of AMSOIL motor oils.
2. The API does NOT allow read-across approvals for synthetic motor oils, and therefore
certification costs become unrealistic.
Full API licensing, or certification, would impose strict phosphorous limitations on AMSOIL motor oils. This limitation is the main reason most AMSOIL motor oils are not API licensed. AMSOIL INC. currently disagrees with this limitation and feels strongly that the reduced wear and longer oil and additive life achieved through higher levels of properly formulated and balanced phosphorous content is more important than the arbitrary API phosphorous limit that does not give any consideration to the NOACK volatility level of an oil. When chemistry is developed that will provide superior engine wear protection with reduced phosphorous levels, or NOACK volatility considerations are put in place, then the phosphorous level will become a non-issue.
Keep in mind that every time a person changes their motor oil, they are introducing a fresh quantity of phosphorus from the new oil to the engine’s catalytic converter. By the very nature of providing extended oil drains, in a typical application AMSOIL motor oils actually introduce a smaller volume of phosphorus to the catalytic converter over the life of the vehicle, which means it is more friendly to the catalytic converter and is actually a more environmentally friendly product to use.
In the lubricants industry petroleum motor oils that are API licensed have “ read-across approval .” What this means is you can seek API licensing approval on a specific product, with a particular additive package, and then use read-across approval to market this same oil formulation in any number of oil viscosities. For example, if you license a 5W-30 with additive package ABC, then you can market your 10w-30 or 10W-40 engine oils with the API certification donut provided these other viscosities use additive package ABC. The API does NOT allow read-across approval on synthetic engine oils, which means that every single oil viscosity must be individually/separately, certified to carry the API certified donut mark of the API.
API Licensing, via read across approval, works for petroleum products, but the licensing process has a “stranglehold” on synthetic technology. This puts AMSOIL INC. in a tough situation. If we followed conventional practice, not only would we find it necessary to buy “ off the shelf ” oil formula components from specific vendors - and be at the mercy of their pricing - we would not be able to make any major improvements to the lubricant formulas for 2 to 3 years, without new testing and, not surprisingly, even higher associated costs.
The cost for running a test program for a single passenger car motor oil formulation is from $125,000 to $300,000, depending on if the formula passes the tests the first time through, or if it requires multiple test runs or formula modifications to achieve a passing average.
Note: That amount goes to $275,000 to $500,000 for a Heavy Duty Diesel licensing program on a specific formula.
Once that testing is complete and the formula has passed all of the minimum requirements, it can be licensed for $825 per year for non-members and $625 per year for members. There is also a small royalty fee per gallon sold for all gallons over one million. The length of time between new specifications is now approximately 2 to 3 years, which does not allow a great deal of time to recover testing costs.
To solve this problem, the API should establish base stock interchange guidelines for synthetic basestocks - just as they have for other basestocks - as well as develop interchange guidelines for other components so that manufacturer’s and marketers of synthetic engine oils have an even playing field as it relates to API certification costs.
API licensing of lubricants is a voluntary process. In a perfect world it should ensure that automobile manufacturers and consumers meet a set of “minimum standards.” What this means is that if a consumer wants a product that just meets minimum specifications, then they should purchase API Licensed products and get exactly what they paid for…minimum performance! In the future, should these standards be raised to a level consistent with AMSOIL's standards for motor oil performance, AMSOIL will consider licensing all oils. For those that feel pressured to use an API licensed product, AMSOIL offers them. It should be noted that AMSOIL API Licensed motor oils are chemically engineered to outperform all other petroleum, semi-synthetic, and synthetic licensed API motor oils. As such, if it is peace of mind you seek, we encourage you to use them:
AMSOIL does offer superior performing motor oils that are not API licensed for all of the reasons explained in this document. They provide our customers with alternatives to the commodity products typically available in the market today. If you want the convenience of extended drain intervals and top performance from your vehicle, AMSOIL has engineered the very best motor oils that money can buy. (Even our competition says so!)
If I don’t use an API Licensed Motor Oil, doesn't’t that void my manufacturer’s warranty?
Fortunately, the law does not allow manufacturers to "void your warranty" simply because of the brand of oil you use, the specifications it meets or the miles you drive between oil changes. To be specific, they cannot deny fixing your broken radio, faulty valve or cracked piston because you used an AMSOIL non-API licensed motor oil, or because you've gone more than 3000 miles since your last oil change. Denial of warranty coverage must be specifically due to an oil related failure. All courts of law will rule against any manufacturer or dealership that tries these warranty shenanigans.
If any automobile dealership insinuates that your warranty will be void if you use AMSOIL products or utilize extended drain intervals, let AMSOIL INC. know the name of the Dealership, the address, the owner's name and the name of the employee that made this statement. Mail to:
Attention: Technical Services Department
Superior, WI 54880
or e-mail to email@example.com .
They will almost never put it in writing, but if they do, please send us a copy of that, too. Either way, we will send them a letter informing them they must cease the intimidation of our customers.
Only if the oil is determined to be the direct cause of the engine problem can a manufacturer or dealership deny warranty coverage for that specific problem. In this situation the AMSOIL warranty would apply, and the AMSOIL Technical Services Department would assist you in processing your claim and in getting the vehicle repaired. That's our pledge to you!
AMSOIL INC. sells millions of gallons of oil per year and warranty claims are a rare occurrence. If you ever have a warranty problem with an automobile manufacturer or dealership, AMSOIL will assist you by analyzing the problem and providing data supporting the fact that repairs should be made under the vehicle manufacturer's warranty. If this does not resolve the problem, AMSOIL will submit a claim with our insurance company and request that an adjuster have the vehicle repaired and pursue legal settlement later if necessary. The fact is there has never been an engine failure attributed to the non-performance of AMSOIL products, and we do not expect there ever will be. If there ever was, both AMSOIL and our insurance company would make certain your problem was resolved.
How do I know that AMSOIL products meet or exceed the minimum specifications of the tests required for API Licensing?
First, AMSOIL INC. works closely with major additive companies to design the top performing passenger car and heavy-duty diesel motor oil additives. These additives have already passed all of the API licensing requirements in a petroleum or synthetic based formulation. AMSOIL’s experienced R&D Chemists work with the additive company to maximize the amount of additive used and to boost the additive package in selected performance areas to achieve an optimum performing additive package for reduced wear and extended drain intervals. This is unlike the vast majority of companies who, because additives are expensive, use the minimum amount of the least expensive additives required to meet the minimum API requirements.
AMSOIL utilizes a blend of carefully selected synthetic basestocks with known performance characteristics as a replacement for the petroleum basestocks to optimize performance in areas of lubricity, volatility, viscosity index, oxidation and nitration resistance, pour points, flash points, deposit control, soot handling, emissions, etc. We also utilize a highly shear stable VI improver to ensure viscosity retention throughout extended drain intervals. This replaces the inexpensive and less shear stable VI improver used in the API licensed petroleum formulas. AMSOIL does laboratory bench tests before running field tests to verify the superiority of the synthetic formula in actual use. We also continue to monitor the performance of the oil through close scrutiny of tens of thousands of oil analysis tests per year across a wide variety of vehicles, all around North America and the World. AMSOIL INC. has been collecting used synthetic oil samples from passenger cars since 1982. No other oil company has such a vast database documenting the performance of synthetic lubricants over extended drain intervals.
AMSOIL products and formulations outperform API licensed oils. They're engineered that way! Period!
In my Motorcycle; How can a 20W50 protect my transmission when it calls for a 90WT, 85W90 or 75W90?
The answer is simple. The viscosity for engine oils and gear oils are not part of the same scale. In fact a SAE 90 gear oil may actually have less viscosity than a SAE50 (20W50). The illustration clearly explains why. Now you know something most mechanics don't know.
Note on the above chart - We will soon be publishing a whitepaper study showing that most 90 WT gear oils use the cheapest base stocks thus at the bottom of the scale before early shear. This means they dip into the 40WT (engine oil) realm long before they are replaced, thus the inefficient operation.
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