A recent quality survey looking into performance claims made by lubricant manufacturers found some products were incompatible with oil categories established by the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA).
Driven Racing Oil’s Lake Speed Jr. says while the survey results originated in Europe, the truth is there are lubricants across the globe whose performance claims may be inaccurate.
“Some products claim to meet a laundry list of specs. But wait, some of the specs are mutually exclusive. One motor oil can’t be an A3\B4 and C3,” says Speed, who is a STLE Certified Lubrication Specialist. “Not only are some motor oil specifications mutually exclusive, this is also very true of automatic transmission fluids.”
For example, a Dexron 6 fluid can’t meet the same requirements as a Mercon 5 fluid. There’s just “no such thing” as a multi-vehicle automatic transmission fluid, Speed says. “Basically, if it says universal, like it’s supposed to fit all applications, it probably fits nothing,” he adds.
Speed goes on to say his “buyer beware” caution applies equally to transmission fluids and motor oils.
In America, the American Petroleum Institute (API) sets motor oil specifications based on the needs of vehicle manufacturers. So, determining the correct oil type and viscosity for an OEM vehicle with no modifications is as simple as checking the owner’s manual. That same vehicle with equipment modifications may require a different oil, however.
“If there’s no change to the oil system, go with the same OEM viscosity, but in a high-performance grade oil,” says Speed.
To further illustrate, Speed explains the oil requirements of an LS engine, based on various modifications.
“A stock LS engine is a great example; 5W-30 and Dexos 1 spec oil is what GM calls for,” he says. “But with a cam swap and rocker arm upgrade, exhaust tuning and 4L80 transmission to make it street/strip capable, you still need 5W-30 but are outside of the Dexos limit. Use our LS30 oil that has an additive package for upgraded engines.
“When road race or autocross and make oil system changes, you’d want to talk an engine builder,” Speed continues. “You’ll probably need a racing oil.”
Generally, he says, oil selection for modified vehicles should be based on upgraded components and how the vehicle will be driven. It’s likely, at some point, an API-certified oil will no longer meet the needs of your modified engine.
Speed notes Driven Racing Oil develops oil especially for those modified engines, which often means including more phosphorus and sulfur (think ZDDP), among other ingredients, than the API allows to meet manufacturer recommendations.
“Driven oils actually exceed the API’s specifications,” he says.