Motor oil 107
Chapter Seven. What is the terminology from SAE and API.
Many think that the “W” in 10W-30 means “winter”.
From SAE J300 p.2:
"Two series of viscosity grades are defined in Table (1): (a) those containing
the letter W and (b) those without. Single viscosity grade oils with the letter
W are defined by maximum low temperature cranking and pumping viscosities
and a minimum kinematic viscosity at 100C. Single grade oils without the
letter W are based on a set of minimum and maximum kinematic viscosities at
100C and a minimum high shear rate viscosity at 150C. The shear rate will
depend on the test method. Multigrade grade oils are defined by both of
The W is just a designation of one type of testing vs another.
What is the viscosity of the various weight oils? The definitions are as follows:
From SAE J300, viscosities at 212 F...
20, range - 5.6 to 9.2
30, 9.3 - 12.4
40, 12.5 - 16.2
50, 16.3 - 21.8
60, 21.9 - 26.1
By a modified analysis the min. viscosity at 302 F...
40, 2.9 - 3.7
Note again that the difference between the 20W and 60 weight oils at 302 F
is only about 1 (one). Whereas the difference in viscosity at 104 F is 120
units. The 20W has a viscosity of 40 and the 60W a viscosity of 160. The
difference at startup is even higher, probably 250 or 300.
The American Petroleum Institute, API, and Society of Automotive Engineers,
SAE, have rated engine oil performance over the years. We have seen the
ratings go from SA, SB, SC, SD, SE, SF, SG, SH, SJ, SL with SM to follow. SI
and SK were eliminated as they are used by other businesses. There are over
3 dozen tests that oil now must pass in order to make the next higher rating.
The tests are defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials,
ASTM. Some tests have progressed to a zero tolerance level. For example
there can be no sticking of any piston rings any more. I will compare the SL
rated oil to the previous SJ oil in a few categories. For simplicity I will skip
the units of measurement:
.......S J........S L......
.......30........20......maximum cam plus lifter wear
........9.........7.8.....sludge build up
........5.........8.9.....varnish rating (more is better)
.......60.......45.......high temperature deposits
.......17.......10.......high temperature volatility
Other categories include: Resistance to rust, resistance to foaming,
resistance to oil consumption, homogeneity and miscibility, flow reduction
with varying amounts of absorbed moisture, gelation index and others.
As one can see just going from the previous SJ to the current SL rating is a
significant improvement. I cannot wait to get the upcoming SM oil into my
Regarding cool whether gel formation, a small except from SAE j300 1999:
4. Because engine pumping, cranking and starting are all important at low
temperatures the selection of an oil for winter operation should consider both
the viscosity required for oil flow as well as cranking and starting, at the
lowest expected ambient temperature.
Pumping viscosity is a measure of an oils ability to flow...during the initial
stages of operation. Test in ASTM D 4684. ....samples are tested after a
slow cool cycle. This cycle has predicted as failures several SAE 10W-30 and
10W-40 oils which are known to have suffered pumping failures in the field
after short-term (2 days or less) cooling. These field failures are believed to
be the result of the oil forming gel structures that result in excessive yield
stress and viscosity of the engine oil...
A.2.1...After preliminary warming, the sample is subjected to a controlled
temperature/time cycle over 5 1/2 to 7 days. The cycle
reproduces ...instability or reversion which has occurred during storage of oils
in moderately cold cyclic conditions. Recent work shows relevance to engine
oil pumpability failure. Oils exhibiting pour reversion have solids resulting from
wax gel formation, at temperatures significantly higher than their ASTM D 97
Extracted, from ASTM D 4485-03 Standard Specification for Performance of
Engine Oils, copyright ASTM International, 100 Barr Harbor Drive, Wets
Conshohocken, PA 19428, USA.
My point is that tests are not just laboratory concoctions. They design tests
to match real life conditions.
I use 5W-20 Pennzoil mineral based multigrade oil in my Expedition as it has
many of the low temperature characteristics of higher weight synthetic oils.
My '04 manual states that the SUV is delivered with a Ford semi-synthetic oil
and although regular oil can be used they recommend a semi or full synthetic
oil. For the differential gear oil they used 75W-140 in my ‘98 Expedition but
now recommend 75W-90.
Please note that it makes no difference what oil you are using. The 0W-20
Mobil 1 that is SL rated meets the same criteria as that SL rated 10W-30
synthetic or mineral based Pennzoil. That SJ or in particular that SH oil some
people are looking for (from their older automotive owners manual) is no
where near as good as any SL oil of today. Always use the most currently
available, highest rated motor oil, even in the oldest, most worn engine. You
may require a thicker grade but just make sure it is SL rated.
The SH rating was used in oils starting 1993. The SJ rating started in 1997
while the SL became effective in 2001 oils. According to ASTM D 4485, SL
rated oils are superior to previous oils and from:
X2.3.1 and 2: SL oil is for use in current and all earlier passenger cars, sport
utility vehicles, vans, and light trucks. This SL rated oil can be used in
engines requiring SJ and all earlier categories.
See: American Society for Testing and Materials- www.astm.org
........Society of Automotive Engineers- www.sae.org
........American Petroleum Institute- www.api.org