NMMA OKs New 4-Stroke Spec


The National Marine Manufacturers Association approved a new four-stroke oil specification for catalyzed marine outboard engines that features tougher formulation testing requirements and a focus on limiting catalyst poisoning.

The associations board of directors on May 5 endorsed the new specification, indicated by an FC-W Catalyst Compatible designation, during the American Boating Congress legislative conference in Washington D.C. The new specification has a targeted Sept. 1 roll out date.

Tom Marhevko, NMMA vice president of engineering standards, noted that the organization has had a testing and certification program for four-stroke marine oils for several years.

With the advent of the recent catalyst requirement for marine engines, the OEMs realize that the oils that we have may not be the best oils for a catalyst engine, even though theyre excellent for the straight, non-catalyst marine engines, Marhevko told Lube Report. We looked at additional requirements for this type of oil, what the engine would want in the way of not only formulations, but looking at testing to see if it would be applicable. We also looked at passenger car motor oils, and realized that passenger car motor oils were not quite enough for a marine engine.

For the last year weve been looking at an additional category he continued. We put together a draft test manual for these oils, and put together a product approval system for the entire concept, which we presented to the NMMA board of directors for approval at the May 5 meeting.

The testing for the new specification focuses on efforts to avoid poisoning the catalyst. We wanted to minimize catalyst poisoning, he emphasized. If a chemical binds to [the catalyst], it shuts down its ability to burn off all the emissions.

The association is working with additive companies Infineum, Chevron Oronite and Lubrizol on the certification, Marhevko stated. The additive package in this type of oil will be a little different than the additive package that goes into the four-stroke marine oil, which itself is different than a four-stroke motor oil, he added.

He said the four-stroke catalyst compatible specification puts some additional ranges and limits on the additive in the oil, and starts off with a higher performance heritage. The whole performance package in FC-W starts off with an [API] SG heritage, he explained. In the catalyst oil, its an SM heritage, he said. SG and SM are API service categories that denote an additive technologys performance level.

Marhevko noted five different limits in chemicals or tests in the catalyst version of the specification versus the basic FC-W requirement. For phosphorus, FC-W Catalyst Compatible adds a range, whereas there is no limit under FC-W. The new specification also adds limits for silicon, stay-in-grade, volatility and wear, he continued, while FC-W has no limits on those test results.

The new specification does not look specifically at ethanol issues, Marhevko said, noting that the associations boat programs are examining the growing use of ethanol in gasoline for marine motors.

Fees for the new designation remain unchanged from the FC-W four-stroke specification. The cost remains an annual fee of $1,500 per license and $2,000 for each new formulation. According to Marheveko, the association will make manuals and other documentation for the new specification available in August, once they have been approved.

To certify an engine oil for an NMMA specification, a marketer must enter into and comply with a licensing agreement with the association, including payment of the annual fee as established by the groups Oil Certification Committee. The committee includes original equipment manufacturers, marine oil formulators, distributors and other involved in the marine oil industry. The license represents a formal agreement between the licensee and NMMA.

In 2004, the Chicago-based association introduced the four-stroke cycle engine oil specification to accommodate the influx of larger and more advanced four-stroke cycle outboard engines. Previously, four-stroke cycle engines had mainly been limited to inboard and inboard/outboard (sterndrive) boats, the association said at the time, and the smaller-output range of the outboard motor market.

NMMA noted that the lubrication demands of marine engines are unique. High loads, high speeds, and exposure to high levels of humidity and salt water are some of the unique characteristics of the marine environment.

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