GF-6 Timing May Come Down to Key Test


Much of the recent passenger car lubricant news has been focused on the proposed API SN-Plus supplemental category. North American and Asian automakers though have made it clear that their main goal is still to get the ILSAC GF-6 engine oil category upgrade in place as soon as possible, with no delay due to the introduction of the supplemental category.

API SN-Plus (a stop-gap designation to address engine-impairing low speed pre-ignition) became needed because of ongoing delays in developing GF-6s engine tests. For some time now the Auto-Oil Advisory Panel responsible for creating GF-6 has not wanted to issue a revised official time line for its launch; theyre waiting until all the required new tests are in place and theres much less probability that the timing will change again. The American Petroleum Institute then can set a date for when compliant products may show the new category on their labels.

As recent meetings show, it now appears that timing will likely depend on the latest efforts to complete the new Sequence IVB engine test to protect against valve train wear.

At the June AOAP meeting, Bill Buscher from the engine test laboratory Intertek gave a complete run down of all the concerns with the Sequence IVB and the steps to be taken to improve and finalize this key test, which is being sponsored by Toyota Motor. At the latest AOAP meeting, Sept. 14 in Detroit, Buscher and Toyotas Terry Kowalski presented an update and new time line for this test and reported on the progress being made to resolve all issues, which included an aborted precision test matrix.

Buscher commented that work is on track to start the new precision matrix in October and all work should be completed and the precision matrix analyzed by year end, so the test can be accepted early in the New Year. Its notable that Toyota procured funds to make up for those spent by industry for the aborted matrix work, and the new precision matrix will only include the independent test labs for now, not the in-house labs at oil and additive companies.

This test may also impact the licensing of both current and older engine oils, as the Sequence IVA will shortly be the only test remaining to help define wear protection in active API S categories for passenger car engine oils.

From an historical viewpoint, the industry once had two tests looking at engine wear: the Ford-sponsored Sequence VE evaluating low temperature wear, and General Motors Sequence IIIE for high temperature wear. When the Sequence VE reached the end of its lifecycle, Ford replaced it with the Sequence VG and the wear parameter was dropped, first for the VG and now for its replacement, the VH. The Sequence IVA was introduced for ILSAC GF-3 as the new wear test.

Meanwhile, the Sequence IIIF and IIIG took over from the IIIE to maintain the high temperature wear protection. Fast-forward to today and the Sequence IIIH will replace the IIIG and IIIF as they become obsolete – but the new version, from Chrysler, will no longer be used to validate lubricants for high temperature wear.

This makes the Sequence IVB not only critical to GF-6 but also to help ensure back serviceability to older engine oil categories, and so is being closely followed by APIs Category Life Oversight Group or CLOG team.

As many know, engine test development is difficult and looking at multiple performance criteria makes it even more difficult; this is why most engine tests are focused on one measurement, such as sludge, and helps explain why updated tests rarely attempt to focus on multiple parameters.

Complicating back serviceability is that the formulation appetite for the Sequence IVB from Toyota may be different than the Sequence IVA (which used a Nissan engine), meaning it may not be a direct replacement and could lead to making older categories obsolete. One possibility could be incorporating a chemical limit such as an 800 ppm minimum for phosphorus, as was done when the Sequence VE was no longer available. A chemical limit is not desirable for any of the stakeholders, because it restricts formulation flexibility, and given that current phosphorus levels range from 600 to 800 ppm, it could restrict back-serviceability. In addition, by relying on the phosphorus content only, it does not account for other additive chemistries that provide wear protection. Automakers and oil marketers also need oils to be back-serviceable and hopefully CLOG will be able to develop a solution with the Sequence IVB. The clock is ticking as the current Sequence IVA test will likely become obsolete by the time GF-6 is formally introduced.

The development team appears confident that the latest improvements will bring the IVB engine test development to a successful conclusion and this may allow the AOAP to negotiate a new timeline taking into account BOI/VGRA work, which will take two-three months once the IVB is deemed ready, as well as the technology demonstration and mandatory waiting period.

Industry stakeholders will be watching closely as everyone would like to close in on timing so that planning can take place for all the other work needed to launch ILSAC GF-6 products for their customers.