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November 9, 2016

Volume 17 Issue 52

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Ford Shuns New API Heavy-duty Oils

In a surprise move, Ford has issued a new diesel engine oil service fill specification, WSS-M2C171-F1, covering all Ford diesel engines. This specification specifically disallows the use of API CK-4 and FA-4 categories, which were adopted by the auto and lubricant industries earlier this year. Ford’s specification identifies API CJ-4 category oils issued before 2016 as acceptable for use in its vehicles until the Ford 6.7L diesel engine test is completed and approved by ASTM.

Ron Romano of Ford notified the industry at an Oct. 26 meeting of the Diesel Engine Oil Advisory Panel – a stakeholder group which represents engine builders and oil and additive companies – that 6.7L engines tested on CK-4 and FA-4 formulations had experienced valve train wear not encountered with CJ-4 formulations. The CJ-4 formulations in question contained more than 1,000 parts per million phosphorus, an effective antiwear ingredient, while the CK-4 and FA-4 formulations were below that threshold. As a result, Ford declared that it has wear concerns about the use of CK-4 and FA-4 formulations with less than 1,000 ppm phosphorus in new and older Ford engines.

Ford diesel-equipped F-450 pickup truck at work

Photo: Ford

Many of Ford’s diesel-equipped F-450s are aimed at the Class 4 and Class 5 segments.

In a statement released to the general public at the Oct. 26 DEOAP meeting, Ford said FA-4, which was developed for heavy-duty diesel truck operators looking to enhance fuel economy, is unsuited for any diesel-fueled Ford trucks because its viscosity is too low. The company added that neither will it recommend CK-4 oils because of the wear issue.

“Testing Ford has done on some CK-4 formulations has shown inadequate wear protection compared to CJ-4 formulations developed and licensed before 2016,” the company said. While stating that it will continue to recommend CJ-4 oils with more than 1,000 ppm phosphorus, Ford advised that such products are acceptable only if their packages do not display CK-4 in the American Petroleum Institute’s donut logo, which would indicate they also meet the latter category. The company added that such products may not be available on the market for long.

“This oil would most likely be an older CJ-4 formulation, developed and licensed prior to 2016,” the position statement said. “These oils could be around for about a year after CK-4 licensing begins, Dec. 1, 2016.”

Historically Ford has always recommended API diesel categories. The company called for API to change CK-4 and CJ-4 to include a minimum phosphorus limit of 1,000 ppm. It are also recommended that if no phosphorus requirement is added to CK-4 or CJ-4 then API should require oils with less than 1,000 ppm phosphorus be labeled as low phosphorus.

Chevron Lubricants’ Shawn Whitacre, chairman of ASTM’s Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel, which is responsible for the engine tests that support CK-4, recalled that Ford first voiced concerns in January 2015, based on two tests it conducted during 2014.

“They believed, and still do, that the wear mechanism in their 6.7L is not addressed by the three existing wear tests in the category,” Whitacre told Lube Report. “At the time, they expressed preference for tighter limits on phosphorus content in CK-4 since they were committed to ensuring that their products could accept industry spec oils. Further, they expressed commitment to develop an engine test based on their in-house experience, much akin to how Daimler Truck North America has continued to develop the DD13 Scuffing Test.”

At the DEOAP meeting in Baltimore Oct. 26, Whitacre said, Ford proposed adding a minimum phosphorus level to the new API categories, along with mandatory labeling of phosphorus levels. But “neither proposal seemed to garner broad industry support,” and afterward Ford released its position paper.

Ford’s spec, WSS-M2C171-F1, is not yet complete. It will be based on CK-4 but will also include a valve train wear test run on a 6.7L engine. That test is still under development, and the company expects to complete it during the first quarter of 2017 and then turn it over to ASTM. Ford will have an approval program for this specification and will publish a list of approved products.

Until the 6.7L engine test is completed, Ford will approve CJ-4 formulations licensed before January 2016 if they contain 1,000-1,200 ppm phosphorus and an antioxidant boost to meet the CK-4 limits on a Volvo T-13 test. Formulators may also ask Ford to approve alternative testing on a 6.7L engine on a case-by-case basis.