Tailoring Engine Lubricants Is Critical To Performance Output
With broad changes coming to vehicle emissions and fuel consumption standards in 2017, including an average annual efficiency improvement of five percent per year scheduled until 2025, the design of every part of a vehicle is soon to be challenged. By 2025 EPA/NHTSA standards will require passenger cars to achieve 54.5 mpg, while for trucks the ideal target is in the high 30s.These changes will test fluids and oils as well as hard parts, and the lubricant industry is working to achieve the necessary gains with a proposed move to what is known as the GF-6 standard.
Developed by the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC), the GF-6 standard anticipates that tomorrow’s lubricant demands will be entirely different from what’s commonplace today. The engines of the future will be downsized, turbocharged and much more highly stressed. The GF-6 specification is intended to increase fuel economy, enhance oil robustness, expand overall fuel efficiency, improve protection and reduce motor oil aeration in these power plants.
To meet the goals of GF-6, many car manufacturers have been experimenting with lower viscosity grade motor oils, as lower engine oil viscosity significantly reduces engine friction. A lower viscosity oil equals less resistance and thus improves fuel economy. Friction reduction through improved oil technology will have the greatest impact on these areas of the engine: the crankshaft bearings, the piston ring area, the cam-valve interface and the cam drive itself. Within these components, the crucial oil performance aspect is the film-forming ability in the sliding areas.
Deposit control will also be important element of GF-6, along with protection against low-speed pre-ignition and cam chain wear.
Another key component of the GF-6 specification is the provision for two separate ratings. GF-6A is backward compatible, while GF-6B will not be backward compatible for older applications and will feature an entirely new formulation. In addition to GF-6B’s lower viscosity, a unique balance of additives, viscosity modifiers and base oils will work with new and unique engine designs to maximize fuel economy.
Key tests are being conducted within the industry to help determine the final specification of all GF-6 formulas. These tests include: high temperature/high load, valve operating system, low temperature deterioration and fuel economy performance. Current testing has shown no noticeable differences in wear between a reference SAE OW-20 and an experimental SAE OW-16. Results have proven that that the lower viscosity oil will demonstrate equivalent or superior engine protection in engine and bench tests, yet also return improved fuel economy. Even lower grades –such as 12, 8 and 4—are being investigated around the lubricant industry as well.
However, performance enthusiasts need to be aware of these GF-6 formulas and the demands on them in the future. While these oil upgrades are good for the most current production engines in stock trim, this does not make them an upgrade for older or highly modified production engines. The more the GF-6 oils are tailored to the needs of fuel efficient and lower emission passenger car engines, the less appropriate they will be for older and high performance ones.
The reason is that all oils are application-specific. To get better performance from a lubricant, it must be tailored to the specific application it is being used for. In turn, that lubricant is less appropriate for other applications. In general, the days of “one-size-fits-all” motor oils and lubricants are ending as new standards like GF-6 become the norm. Motor oils today are more application-specific than they were 20 years ago, and will only get more specific over the next 20 years. The result is that GF-6 oils will be designed for late model vehicles, but older hot rods and muscle cars, which will not need to adhere to the new standards, run the risk of being left behind. In addition, flat tappet engines will no longer be used in any GF-6 testing.
Advanced lubricants that are the result of GF-6 will be essential in paving the way for the next generation engines that will come out of the ambitious emissions requirements for 2017-2025 model years. However, these lubricants will be more costly and formulated differently than the motor oils we know today. Yet by eliminating the backward compatibility requirement, GF-6B will also be able to offer advanced lubrication solutions for tomorrow’s sophisticated engines.
At the same time, GF-6 will not affect Driven Racing Oil products as the company does not believe that API and ILSAC testing in modern engines provide representative performance for older or high performance racing engines. As a result, Driven will continue to produce its own application-specific-formula lubricants for performance engines, classic vehicles and race cars.
The GF-6 upgrade is aimed for 2017 model year vehicles, which is the point where the fuel efficiency curve begins to rise most steeply.