by Robert Sanborn on Mon, Apr 27, 2009, who was a member of the STLE Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers for 15 years.
Motor Oil Companies Don’t Create the Standard
Motor Oils are big, big business. The major oil companies have revenues, when added together, of well over 1 Trillion dollars annually. With such staggering power one would think that they make the specifications for motor oil, but they do not. Motor Oil warranty specifications are created by the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC), which are headed up currently by Bob Olree, who works for General Motors Corporation. Makes sense when you think about it that the car manufacturers, who engineer how long their cars will last, dictate the standards.
GF-5 the newest motor oil warranty specification, which will be licensed in 2009 by the American Petroleum Institute (API), is another powerful giant. With their main headquarters near the White House in Washington D.C., the API is one of the most powerful lobbies in the U.S. today. The oil companies as competitors do not get along all the time, thus the API comes into the picture to eliminate anyone not following their agreed upon rules, or trying to go around them.
Castrol can tell you all about this when they questioned the mileage test years ago as it used a one cylinder Buick engine with leaded fuel. At the time unleaded had been on the market for years, and they questioned the validity of the test. The API sued Castrol and stepped on them like a bug. They got the major oil companies to quick in a slush fund of royalties off motor oil sales to fight Castrol. They emerged victorious and with a 240 million dollar slush fund.
Motor Oil Companies Formulate with the Least Amount of Additives Possible
What the public doesn’t realize is that motor oil warranty standards contain a minimum standard for a series of 36 tests. As long as your product beats that standard you can advertise that it surpasses the highest standard in the land. You may run the test up to three times and not have to reformulate. So, if you fail the test twice and pass once you can go on to the next test. Why is this significant? The test is run against a reference oil, so once you surpass the minimum standard on the first test, you can cut down your additives to get them as close to the minimum standard as possible.
Why would an oil company do this you might ask? Because additives cost money and obviously they are responsible for achieving most all of the results. Since an oil company cannot advertise any more than their product exceeds the highest standard there is; remember its also the lowest, there is no incentive to go over the standard in any significant fashion. With the revenues of the major oil companies a quarter penny of additives could mean millions of dollars of savings. For this reason, most all of the motor oils made by the majors are the same. The only thing that is different is the marketing. For example, Connoco/Phillips just came out with a new motor oil called liquid titanium, however when testing the product you will find that there is no titanium in the oil, it just sounds good.
If you want real performance beyond what the car manufacturers intend for you, turn to additional additives as they are the workhorse that can improve your mileage and wear. The oil companies even advertise their performance additives to the aftermarket additive companies, and provide testing to validate their benefit. Additives are the future of high performance lubricants.