ILSAC GF-6 was introduced on May 1, 2020, and ILSAC GF-5 became obsolete on May 1, 2021, as the industry continues to evolve its lubricant specifications. It is worth noting that ILSAC GF-5 was the longest serving ILSAC category since the system was introduced in the early 1990s. Introduced in 2010, it served the industry for about 10 years.
The industry expected ILSAC GF-6 would do the same but there are headwinds that appear to require the introduction of ILSAC GF-7 before the end of the decade. It’s still far away, but the industry received some insight from Mike Deegan of Ford at the Lubricants Standards Group meeting on June 29, 2022. He said that ILSAC, the International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee, will officially request a new category before the end of the year. Proposed timing would be around the second quarter of 2028, about six years away.
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Deegan gave some indication of the needs expected for ILSAC GF-7 and noted that a more detailed request is expected as early as September. ILSAC has proposed lowering fresh oil mini-rotary viscometer results to a maximum of 40,000 centipoise, a new Noack volatility test to look at oil volatility and consumption, a sulfated ash limit of 0.9 due to the expected integration of gasoline particulate filters as well as an updated low-speed pre-ignition test to ensure that the engine is protected over the life of the oil drain as well as a potentially new high-temperature wear test, a test for ability to avoid clogging of turbochargers, and some other specification revisions.
Lurking in the background are the ongoing needs to track the performance and life of the various engine tests used to define the two categories created under the current standard, ILSAC GF-6A and 6B. Finally, some OEMs want to add lighter viscosity grades, SAE 0W-8 and SAE 0W-12, and these grades will likely be introduced into the ILSAC system for ILSAC GF-7B.
The MRV requirement is of little surprise. It’s been a topic of discussion for the SAE Engine Oil Viscosity Classification Task Force for more than a year as the group considered whether the SAE J-300 limit should be lowered for all specifications from the current 60,000 cP limit to 40,000 cP. SAE J-300 is the industry’s main standard for defining engine oil viscometric properties. Investigation there shows that the vast majority of SAE 5W-20 and 30 products meet the lower limit today, as do SAE 0W-20 engine oils. But changing SAE J-300, which is a global standard, impacts many specifications and existing products and must be done with great care.
Data from the American Petroleum Institute notes that there are products that are acceptable today that would fail a revised limit. General Motors already uses the lower limit in its Dexos 1 specification, so all OEM members of ILSAC could require the lower limit today in their OEM specifications, if they desired.
The Noack requirement may be an additional test or a replacement for the current Noack test, which is run at 250 degrees C to meet a limit of 15% Noack. Developers intend the new test to be run at 150 C which may provide a better correlation to overall oil consumption. Lower levels of sulfated ash and metal-containing additives have been discussed for various specifications for many years as OEMs seek to reduce tailpipe emissions and particulates. Work is also already in progress to develop a new test for low-speed pre-ignition in response to concerns that Ford raised about three years ago.
Angela Willis of Willis Advanced Consulting meticulously tracks the use and life of engine tests as part of her role as Passenger Car Engine Oil Classification Panel chairperson. Early on, data seemed to indicate the industry had enough test parts to last into 2030, but that has changed.
“My forecasts are only as good as the data I receive, and it is always changing,” Willis said. “Recently other standard-setting bodies have been adopting ASTM engine oil test methods into their standards and specifications, which were developed and implemented for purpose to support ILSAC standards and API categories. Engines and critical hardware are being depleted at a faster pace than planned, which plays a role in shortening the life expectancy or availability of a given test.
“One example of this is use of the Sequence VH in the GM Gen 3 Dexos 1 specification. There is no base oil interchange or viscosity grade read across allowed, resulting in numerous tests to be run to support the Dexos 1 specification. As an industry, we need to do a better job communicating and comprehending additional needs over and beyond ILSAC and API to ensure these tests have the appropriate life expectancies.” Sequence VH measures engine sludge and varnish.
Industry work never stops as stakeholders do the hard work to prepare for future engine oil technology needs. Marketers strive to provide the products to protect cars already on the road while introducing new ones for future cars.
On a final note, the industry is already working to introduce a new heavy-duty category by January 2027, while GM indicates it will introduce Dexos 1 generation 4 around the same time. All of these initiatives, including GF-7, will pose a challenge for industry resources due to the amount of work required.