AfterMarketNews Brake&Frontend BodyShopBusiness Counterman EngineBuilder Fleet Equipment ImportCar Motorcycle & Powersports News Servicio Automotriz Shop Owner Tire Review Tech Shop Tomorrow's Tech Underhood Service Speedville

Preventive Maintenance Profits: Preferred Automotive, Jenkintown, PA

With the summer months heating up and cross-country road trips beginning, many people want to make sure their vehicles are prepped for the long haul. For the first-ever July edition of Maintenance Chronicles, we will focus on Preferred Automotive Specialists,...

Read more...

The Engine Thermostat: Understanding Electronically Assisted Thermostats

The Engine Thermostat: What to Know About Electronically Assisted Thermostats The engine thermostat has been an important component in automotive internal combustion engines for almost a century. The engine thermostat helps to speed warmup and reduce...

Read more...

Honda Civic: Failed PCMs And CAN System Diagnostics

It’s not unusual for me to get help requests through my e-mail. Sometimes it’s from working technicians, other times it’s from vehicle owners who can’t get their problems solved through professional repair shops. In early 2014, I received one...

Read more...

Tire Tread Wear: Causes And Symptoms

Understanding Tire Tread Wear Tire tread wear can tell you a lot about a suspension. Most specifically, it can tell you if the angles, inflation and components are within specification. Here are the most common tread wear patterns and what causes them. Over-inflated...

Read more...

GM Power Steering Noise/Leaks

GM: Power Steering Noise/Leaks from Power Steering Pump, Gear or High Pressure Hose During Extreme Low Temperature Conditions MODELS: -2009-2015 Buick LaCrosse (Equipped with Hydraulic Power Steering) -2010-2013 Buick Regal -2012-2015 Buick...

Read more...

Ford Edge Brake Replacement

Ford Edge Brake Replacement Basics The Ford Edge is an SUV based on the CD3 platform. The brakes on these vehicles are straightforward and do not break any new ground. There were no major changes to the brake systems from 2007 to the current model. For...

Read more...

The Ins And Outs Of Sanders

Sanders are required tools in today’s collision repair shop. Body techs and painters rely upon them every day to achieve that perfect finish on your customers’ vehicles. Whether you’re prepping a panel for paint or removing imperfections before...

Read more...

Are You Regularly Maintaining Your Equipment?

Technicians who are idling because the welder won’t feed wire, the hydraulic ram won’t pull chains, the booth heater won’t heat or the air compressor won’t compress enough air is a costly mistake, as labor time is the most expensive thing in any...

Read more...

Celebrate 'Back To The Future' Day By Watching The Time Machine Get A 2015 Detail

    For many today is just another Wednesday, but for a lot of people it is more than just your average Wednesday, it is "Back to the Future" Day. It is a day that everyone who watched the cult classic trilogy Back to the Future recognizes...

Read more...


Home Opinion Are You Ready for GF-5 Oils?

Print Print Email Email

As automotive technology continues to evolve, so do the motor oils that lubricate today’s engines. Though our government has not raised Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements in a long, long time, they would like to see significant gains in fuel economy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Former Vice President Al Gore would also like us to burn less gas so we can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are contributing to suspected global warming. Making motor oil more slippery is one way to accomplish both of these goals. By reducing friction with (1) better base stocks, and/or (2) more friction modifiers in the additive package, a low friction motor oil can reduce parasitic horsepower losses inside the engine allowing the engine to deliver better fuel economy. According to vehicle tests that have been run using the Federal Test Procedure (FTP) — which is the same test procedure auto makers currently use to certify vehicle emissions compliance — some of these new next-generation, low-friction motor oils are delivering 1-2% better fuel economy over today’s commercially available oils. A couple of percentage points may not sound like much of an improvement, but if applied across the board to the entire U.S vehicle fleet of 230 million cars and trucks, it could save 1.4 to 2.8 billion gallons of fuel a year! Those kind of numbers would have a significant impact on our balance of payments for foreign oil, not to mention CO2 emissions.

Certifying Motor Oil
Most of you are probably familiar with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the API “Starburst” certification logo and service symbol “donut” that appears on all licensed containers of motor oil that meet API specifications. API has various motor oil classifications that are based on OEM lubrication requirements and various industry testing procedures. The current API service categories for gasoline engines include:

  • SM – Introduced Nov. 30, 2004 for 2005 model year engines. SM oils are designed to provide improved oxidation resistance, improved deposit protection, better wear protection, and better low-temperature performance over the life of the oil.

  • SL – A current classification for 2004 and older engines.

  • SJ – A current classification for 2001 and older engines.

Any API rating from SH back to SA is considered obsolete and not suitable for newer engines. Of course, API isn’t the only body that certifies the quality and service classifications of motor oil. Various aspects of motor oil testing have come under the auspices of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM). So back in 1992, the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) was formed to consolidate and coordinate standards for motor oil testing for North American and Japanese auto makers. ILSAC developed minimum performance standards for gasoline-powered passenger car and non-commercial light truck oils, which later became known as GF (Gasoline Fueled) motor oil standards.

Motor oils that meet ILSAC GF standards usually meet similar API standards, but not always. The test and certification procedures are somewhat different. But for the average end user, the important point is that motor oils are required to meet certain criteria. So here’s a little history on what’s occurred so far.

The first GF-1 standard was established in 1996 the same time that API announced its SH service classification. The new classifications limited the amount of phosphorous in motor oil to 0.12%, a level the Environmental Protection Agency wanted to extend the life of catalytic converters (phosphorus contaminates the catalyst and causes it to age).

In October 1996, ILSAC announced its new GF-2 specification at the same time API released its new SJ service classification. The new standards reduced phosphorous even more to a limit of no more than 0.10%. The new standards also set higher benchmarks for low-temperature operation, high-temperature deposits and foam control.

In 1997, API also announced a new “Energy Conserving” rating for motor oils that demonstrated improved fuel economy. To qualify as an Energy Conserving motor oil, 5W-20 and 0W-30 oils had to show a 1.4% improvement in fuel economy over a standard reference oil, 5W-30 oils had to show a 1.1% improvement, and 10W-30 oils had to show a 0.5% improvement.

The Energy Conserving rating was based on a test procedure known as Sequence VI-A, which replaced an earlier test method and used a Ford 4.6L overhead cam V8 instead of a Buick 3.8L pushrod V6.

In July 2001, the next round of standards were announced. These included the new ILSAC GF-3 and API SL classifications. As with the previous ratings, the bar was raised once again for emissions durability, fuel economy, volatility and deposit control, viscosity retention, additive depletion over the service life of the oil, and oil consumption rates.

The next round of specifications, the ILSAC GF-4 and API SM ratings, didn’t arrive until November 2004 for model year 2005 vehicles. The new ratings included a new fuel economy test (Sequence IV-B), improved fuel economy requirements, enhanced oxidation and piston deposit control (20% better), and better low-temperature pumpability as the oil ages (a new requirement for GF-4). Oils that meet the ILSAC GF-4 and API SM ratings also have lower phosphorous (0.08%) and sulfur levels (0.5-0.7% depending on the viscosity grade) to allow catalytic converters to last up to 120,000 miles or longer.

GF-5 Will Be Next
ILSAC is now working on developing a fifth generation motor oil rating called GF-5. The goal is to have the new standard ready to go by mid-year 2009 for the 2010 model year vehicles. Like all the previous ILSAC and API standards, GF-5 motor oils will have to be backwards compatible to accommodate all the older vehicles that are on the road.

The auto makers as well as the oil companies say a new GF-5 certification procedure is needed to take oil performance to the next level, and to better document the fuel-saving benefits of friction-modified oils. The current GF-4 test laboratory procedures do not produce the same kind of fuel economy numbers that are seen on an FTP emissions certification test, so engineers are developing a new Sequence VI-D engine test procedure that will more accurately evaluate gains in fuel economy. The Japanese auto makers would also like to see a new timing chain wear test added to the GF-5 specification.

The current objectives of the GF-5 program are:

  • To increase fuel economy compared to current GF-4 oils.

  • To improve high-temperature, high-load lubrication performance.

  • To reduce deposit formation.

  • To reduce the level of chemical impurities in the oil, and their impact on emission control components (which probably means even lower phosphorous and sulfur levels).

  • To extend oil change intervals (possibly as high as 8,000 miles or longer).

GF-5 Issues
Most of the issues surrounding the coming GF-5 oil standard have to do with engineering test procedures that are obsolete or need to be changed. The current Sequence IV-B fuel economy test, which is done in a laboratory on a test bench, will have to be replaced with some type of engine dynamometer test that more accurately simulated real-world driving conditions. The new test procedure should be ready by early next year.

Another concern is that some of today’s GF-4 oils may not lubricate timing chains adequately, so a chain wear test or roller follower test may be added to the GF-5 standard. There has also been discussion about adding an oil aeration test that would measure the effect of air bubbles in the oil on lubrication.

GF-5 may also require reducing phosphorous and sulfur even more to extend the life of the catalytic converter to 150,000 miles and beyond. Phosphorous and sulfur can contaminate the catalyst and reduce the life of the converter if the engine uses oil. But both of these ingredients are also important anti-wear agents, so the fear is that reducing phosphorous and sulfur too much may end up reducing the life of the engine itself.

There are already concerns that today’s levels of phosphorous may be too low for older pushrod engines with flat tappet camshafts. Camshafts with flat-bottom lifters generate a lot more friction between the cam lobes and lifters than roller cams with roller lifters. Consequently, cam lobe wear in older engines may be a problem if the oil does not contain adequate levels of anti-wear agents, or if the oil is not changed regularly.

The following two tabs change content below.
Larry Carley

Larry Carley

Larry Carley has more than 30 years of experience in the automotive aftermarket, including experience as an ASE-certified technician, and has won numerous awards for his articles. He has written 12 automotive-related books and developed automotive training software, available at www.carleysoftware.com.
Larry Carley

Latest posts by Larry Carley (see all)

Latest articles from our other sites:

Import Insights: Hyundai (July 2016)

Hyundai Azera Earns AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award The 2016 Hyundai Azera earned a top spot in the large car category in AutoPacific’s 20th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs). “With...More

Arnott Introduces New Rear Air Strut For 1999-2006 S-Class Mercedes-Benz

Arnott Air Suspension Products has introduced a new, not-remanufactured rear air strut – right or left – for the 1999 to 2006 S-Class Mercedes-Benz (W220 chassis) with Airmatic, and with or without...More

Honda TPMS

Honda TPMS can be one of the more difficult systems to program in new sensors, relearns and calibrations. But once you know the basics, it is easy to service these vehicles. Honda direct TPMS are different...More

Check Out The July Issue Of Brake & Front End Magazine

The digital version of the July issue of Brake & Front End magazine is available online. CLICK HERE to access the easy-to-view digital version that features articles on Toyota Tundra Brake Job,...More

Ernst Screwdriver Storage Keeps Techs Organized

The V-Slot 8 Tool Screwdriver Holder from Ernst Manufacturing with help you organize your garage or workspace. Designed for use on all common pegboard sizes, the patent-pending V-Slot securely holds...More

Loosen Rusted or Seized Fasteners with Lisle's Specialty Tools

Lisle Corp. introduces its Seized Fastener Remover Kit (62140) for use with a pneumatic impact tool to loosen rusted or seized fasteners. This specially designed driver works with the included sockets...More