Gear Oil Spec Finally Meshes


Six years ago, the Society of Automotive Engineers adopted its own version of a U.S. Army standard for gear oils. The document was the centerpiece of an effort to keep alive the internationally recognized specification even as the military retired from administering it.

But the SAE standard itself, J2360, was only one piece of the puzzle, and it took some time for the others to fall into place. In fact, it was not until last year that that a subsidiary of the society (since renamed SAE International) established a key list of products that have been qualified as meeting the specification.

Now the specification appears on its way to becoming a mechanism for identifying gear oils that meet top standards. Those involved in the effort say it will help improve the quality of gear oils used in much of the world. They also predict that SAE J2360 will come to supersede the American Petroleum Institutes GL series of standards.

The Army established the MIL-PRF-2105E standard decades ago to ensure availability of quality gear oils wherever it operated. As was the case with other military specifications, industry piggybacked, with numerous original equipment manufacturers recommending it, too.

In the past decade, however, the U.S. military has moved to exit the standards business. Wanting to keep the standard alive, industry asked SAE to take it over. The Warrendale, Pa., organization complied, translating the mil spec to fit its own structure and adopting it as J2360 in 1998. SAEs Lubricant Review Institute began reviewing test data from products against the specification, and marketers of those found to meet the requirements of J2360 were permitted to say so on labels.

Still, proponents of the specification envisioned more. The Army asked SAE to develop a list of products qualified against the standard. SAE, however, was not set up to administer this type of list and eventually decided that the QPL and administration of LRI fit much better within the business scope of its subsidiary, the Performance Review Institute. This and other factors led SAE to transfer the LRI to PRI.

The actual implementation of the spec did not have much meaning until PRI put the appropriate pieces in place, and the last piece was the QPL, said Robert Cain, of Lubrizol Corp., vice chairman of SAEs Fuels and Lubricants Technical Committee 3. For whatever reason, it took awhile for that to happen.

PRI established the qualified products list in March of 2003 and has now approved almost 90 products from 15 lubricant and additive companies. The institute charges $250 per year for each product that it approves and lists. Finally, late last year, the Army cancelled MIL-PRF-2105E.

PRI officials and Fuels and Lubricants Committee members say they expect manufacturers and purchasers of aftermarket gear oils – such as fleet managers – to begin using J2360 to identify products that meet their quality expectations.

The thing about this standard is that you have the QPL, which allows customers anywhere in the world to go to the internet and find out who makes gear oils that meet this specification, said Ethyl Corp.s Dick Kuhlman, another member of Technical Committee 3. Thats a lot easier than having to look for companies that meet it.

Proponents say J2360 should help lead to an improvement in the quality of gear oils available in much of the world. Under the Armys administration, approval for meeting MIL-PRF-2105E was limited to companies from countries that were party to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

As a practical matter, you couldnt get gear oils that met the mil spec in most parts of the world, Cain said. You couldnt find local companies that met the standard and it cost so much to import. The result was shorter drain intervals and, according to some people, higher rates of equipment problems.

But J2360 is a true global specification, and I think it will have its biggest impact in non-NATO countries.

The American Petroleum Institute administers the GL series gear oil specification – GL-5 is the latest version – which has been used by companies throughout much of the world. Members of Technical Committee 3 predict, however, that J2360 will eventually take precedence.

This specification is unique among commercial specifications because of the extent of testing that it requires, said David DuBois, PRIs market development coordinator. I think once the word gets out about its usefulness, its going to become very popular.

PRIs qualified product list for J2360 can be viewed at

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