GF-6 Timing Still Unresolved

While automakers are now pushing for an April 2020 debut of the ILSAC GF-6 passenger car motor oil classification, some in the lubricant industry say the introduction will more likely be delayed until the fourth quarter of that year, if not later. However, several actions could close the gap.

The technical demonstration period for GF-6 is in progress, having officially started at the end of June, and is slated to last 12 months. During this period, additive companies work to develop and test additive packages designed to meet the new category requirements. However, all of the engine tests required for the category must be in place, and key test limit targets must be set so that additive companies know the parameters they are aiming to meet. This is not currently the case for all tests.

Once test limits are set and the final specification is issued, a mandatory waiting period of 12 months is required before the oils can be sold as ILSAC GF-6. To try to condense the timeline, the Auto-Oil Advisory Panel may choose to allow test limit setting and specification development to overlap with the technology demonstration period, bringing GF-6 oils to market sooner.

The Sequence IVB test for protection against valve train wear still needs to be approved with finalized parameters and, if possible, accepted into the American Chemistry Council code of practice. Ideally this should have happened before the technology demonstration period began. The delay means that the technical demonstration period could stretch out beyond its allotted one-year duration.

Test limit negotiations will likely begin during the technical demonstration period and typically take about three months. During these discussions, automakers will aim for the maximum level of performance, and additive companies will provide their thoughts on reasonable targets. If an agreement is reached quickly, the overall timeline could be shortened by about a month, maybe more if voting can be expedited.

Shortening the mandatory waiting period seems to be the most promising strategy for speeding the categorys introduction to market. There is precedent to reduce the waiting period by about three months for passenger car and heavy-duty engine oil categories, which has often happened. The waiting period for APISN Plus was even shorter, though it is a supplemental category with only one new test - compared to the four replacement tests and three new tests being developed for ILSAC GF-6A and GF-6B. (ILSAC GF-6B was written for SAE 0W-16 viscosity oils and lighter oils that will be introduced in the future. It uses a different version of the Sequence VIE test than GF-6A, the Sequence VIF, which is compatible with the lower viscosity limits.)

The Sequence IVB test - accepted into GF-6 in May by AOAP despite lingering concerns about its validity - was reported to require substantially different additives in a passing oil than its predecessor, the Sequence IVA. Not having that test ready has had a major impact on the overall schedule.

The mandatory waiting period could also be shortened through adoption of extensive base oil interchange and viscosity grade read across rules, which would cut down on the number of engine tests that must be run and formulation variations that must be tested. BOI and VGRA rules are also important for evaluating engine test capacity, which further impacts the mandatory waiting period.

The BOI/VGRA subgroup of AOAP has developed many of the necessary guidelines and is close to finalizing others, but until all the tests have guidelines, final timing cannot be established. As of now, the Sequence IIIH test for oil thickening and piston deposits must be run with each base stock used to formulate an oil and may require at least two tests in each base stock to cover VGRA rules. BOI and VGRA testing for the Sequence IVB (for low temperature valve train wear and scuffing) has yet to begin, but if experience with the Sequence IVA is any guideline, the outcome from that testing may not have much of an impact on the mandatory waiting period.

It will take more time for all stakeholders to come to agreement on the above tasks and set a definitive timeline for ILSAC GF-6. Industry sources say the category is unlikely to be introduced by the second quarter of 2020 and that the timing could drift beyond the fourth quarter of 2020 unless significant progress on the Sequence IVB happens soon. Once the Sequence IVB test is fully approved and BOI/VGRA rules are final for this test and others, the first allowable use date may begin to crystalize - if no more difficulties crop up along the way.