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October 18, 2017

Volume 17 Issue 52

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Most GF-6 Tests Shaping Up

The Sequence IVB may be attracting the lion’s share of attention, but the ILSAC GF-6 engine oil upgrade also has six other new or replacement engine tests that must be completed before the much-delayed specification can be adopted and brought to market.

Fortunately, those tests are near enough to being completed that they appear unlikely to cause delays beyond those being caused by the Sequence IVB test for valvetrain wear. (See GF-6 Timing May Come Down to Key Test in the Oct. 11 issue of Lube Report.)

The Sequence VIE and VIF tests are being developed to measure engine oil contribution to fuel economy. After the Sequence IVB, they are probably drawing the most attention, but the urgency surrounding the VIE and VIF concerns their role in supporting GF-5 and the upcoming API SN Plus supplemental category. The Sequence VIE is a replacement test for the Sequence VID, which is a requirement for GF-5 but can no longer be run because testing companies have run out of parts. The American Petroleum Institute has been provisionally licensing new GF-5 products since March and is counting on the Sequence VIE to be ready early so that it can be used for GF-5 as well as GF-6 and API SN Plus.

The Sequence VIF is specifically designed to evaluate fuel economy of the new SAE XW-16 low viscosity grade oils which will be part of GF-6B. VIE and VIF tests are now ready for validation and candidate testing. A crucial item that must be addressed concerns API’s Category Life Oversight Group, which is working to determine GF-5 limits for the new tests. Because the Sequence VID is already defunct, CLOG is developing equivalent limits in the VIE based on the known performance of current GF-5 engine oils to accomplish this task. Once GF-5 equivalent limits are determined, they will also serve to anchor discussions around fuel economy improvement as focus turns to ILSAC GF-6.

Critical work on the Base Oil Interchange/Viscosity Grade Read Across (BOI/VGRA) guidelines for the VIE/VIF tests is anticipated to start late this year, and plans and funding for this effort appear to be in place. In short, some work remains to be done on the Sequence VIE and Sequence VIF, but it appears these tests will be ready sooner than the Sequence IVB valvetrain wear test (which still must go through a precision matrix to validate its capabilities).

Another test, the Sequence VH, has been approved as an ASTM test, and all stakeholders feel it is ready to replace the Sequence VG as soon as the CLOG team approves equivalent limits to its predecessor, and BOI/VGRA work is done to help manage the cost of deploying GF-6 engine oils. The Sequence VH is being readied to take over from the Sequence VG to measure low-temperature sludge, wear and varnish control.

The Ford low speed pre-ignition test also appears to be in good shape, and it is expected that BOI/VGRA work will begin once some new hardware is validated. This test is key to the new supplemental SN Plus category, which automakers want urgently. That all but ensures that it will be in place very soon.

The Sequence IIIH oxidation and deposit test is needed not only for GF-6 but to replace the Sequence IIIG and IIIF before those tests run out of parts. Based on a 3.6-liter Chrysler engine, the IIIH has also been approved for industry testing work, and CLOG has provided equivalent limits to the two older tests, which utilized General Motors engines. The BOI/VGRA Task Force is holding up its work until industry resolves a glitch due to new hardware – since limits for reference oils were agreed to, this test is generating less-severe results on viscosity increase than expected – but observers do not feel this will impact GF-6 timing.

Ford’s new chain-wear test had to change to a 2016 model year engine from a 2014 model year engine, and its development team is doing a matrix to ensure the new hardware produces equivalent results to validate previous work, which has some observers concerned. Once this change is validated, BOI/VGRA work can be done so long as no issues are found. This test should be ready to go, but changing hardware is always a tricky thing, so stakeholders will be closely watching this one.

ILSAC is the North American and Japanese automakers’ International Lubricants Standardization and Advisory Committee. In sum, and barring an unforeseen surprise, it appears that the oil and auto industries should be able to finalize a new timeline for launching ILSAC GF-6.

The one other item that can impact industry issuing a revised schedule for ILSAC GF-6 concerns the new API SN Plus supplemental category and how that affects ILSAC GF-6. There is no doubt that industry resources and testing have and will need to be diverted to the API SN Plus supplemental category deployment, and that could delay progress on developing the appropriate technology for GF-6.

In addition, additive companies and oil marketers will want to recover the investments required to roll out API SN Plus, and may want GF-6 timing to move back to allow this to happen; OEMs may counter that API SN Plus development helps advance GF-6 and certainly not delay it. Some critical work lies ahead, and this item may become an issue for debate.

Before that happens, industry must make sure that all test development work is complete so that the Auto-Oil Advisory Panel can move past engine test development and API SN Plus implementation to once again focus on GF-6 timing. It is likely GF-6 will not commence before the first half of 2020.