How to Label GF-6 Oils?


At the May 8 meeting of the Auto-Oil Advisory Panel, held in Detroit, the question of how to label the new GF-6 engine oils for consumers continued to be an important topic. Because there are two grades, GF-6A and GF-6B, there is concern by all quarters of the industry as to how the oil will be designated.

Current practice calls for all GF series oils to be identified by the API Certification Mark, known as the Starburst. GF stands for gasoline fueled, and each upgrade in the specification has used this same trademark since the advent of GF-1 in 1992. It is found on the front label of packages of licensed motor oils.

The Starburst logo is evergreen, in that it does not indicate whether oils meet the current GF-5 specification or some earlier variant. As is the case with APIs Service and Commercial engine oil categories, the GF series is backwards compatible, with GF-5 oils being suitable for use in older engines that originally were covered by GF-4 and earlier types.

GF-6 presents a new problem since there will be two versions, which the industry must define and approve by April 2016. GF-6A will continue the pattern of oils which meet the same viscosity grades and are suitable for use in older vehicles. GF-6B, on the other hand, has a lower high-temperature/high-shear viscosity than was defined for earlier versions, and there are serious concerns about this lighter-weight oils ability to be backwards compatible.

The question now is how to designate both versions so as to clearly identify to consumers what is backwards compatible and what may not be.

Dennis Bachelder of the American Petroleum Institute on May 12 sent an exit poll to AOAP members and others who attend its meetings, identifying three proposals for dealing with the issue. For each trademarking option, respondents are asked to indicate if they can accept the choice, cannot accept the choice and why, or have no preference.

The first choice is simply to continue with the current system, with all eligible products showing the Starburst on their front labels whether they meet GF-6A or GF-6B. The API Service Symbol, which has been in use since the 1970s and is commonly known as the Donut, would continue to indicate the products API Service category, resource-conserving properties and SAE viscosity grade. Concerns expressed in the past about this option are that it does not help assure GF-6B oils do not find their way into older engines.

The second choice is to continue with the present system only for GF-6A oils, and to have no Starburst mark on GF-6B oils. In this case, the Donut might be used to designate both GF-6B and the API Service category. However, the purpose of the Starburst is to verify for buyers not only the engine performance of the oil but also its fuel economy benefits. The Donut can denote resource conserving performance but has been criticized as being less clear and consumer-friendly than the Starburst.

The third choice is to continue the current system for GF-6A and to create a new certification mark for GF-6B. This choice has the benefit of maintaining the familiar, current system for GF-6A, while developing a distinct designation for GF-6B (and presumably for future oils, too). The downside is that a new certification mark will require an educational process and could lead to confusion.

Also, until now the API Donut symbol has shown only the API S and C categories, Kevin Ferrick of API pointed out to Lube Report, but the information poll shows how it might look if the GF series were included. This is something for the industry to consider, he said. API owns the Donut trademark for showing oil categories, and while GF is not a category, it is a definition of performance levels. So if GF-6B oils had no Starburst on the label, as in the polls second choice, one possible idea is to show the 6B specification in the Donut, to help prevent misapplication.

APIs Bachelder has requested that the informational poll be returned by June 10 so the results can be compiled and summarized for the Auto-Oil Advisory Panel to consider. It next meets on June 12. Bachelders e-mail is

Related Topics

Regulations Specs & Testing    Specifications