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Despite the advantages experienced for years in aviation, synthetic oil did not gain traction in the mainstream automotive industry until the oil crisis in 1973, when fuel was scarce and Americans were searching for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. That same year, Mobil unveiled Mobil 1 Synthetic Motor Oil in Europe. The product became an overnight success and was quickly modified to produce a fuel-saving oil for sale in the United States, which was released globally in 1974. Two years earlier, AMSOIL introduced the first synthetic motor oil in the world to meet American Petroleum Institute (API) requirements, although company founder Al Amatuzio had been commercially selling synthetic oil by 1968. Synthetic oil gained footing in a difficult market by capitalising on the oil crisis and has exponentially expanded since, with synthetic oil rapidly proving a better option than conventional motor oil. Again, despite the advantages of synthetic oil for automobiles, it has taken decades for synthetic motor oils to make major headway in the automotive market. Auto manufacturers have begun to comprehend the benefits of synthetics due to their desire to reduce emissions and provide more mileage between oil changes. Today, some auto manufacturers factory fill with synthetic oil. But this practice applies only to some applications and is not industry-wide. Conventional oil still controls the lion’s share of the engine-oil volume.


In 1989, Mobil collaborated with BMW to conduct the “Million Miles Test”, in which Mobil 1 Synthetic Motor Oil was used in a new BMW 325i and run for 1 million miles (around four years straight). After 1 million miles, the engine was taken apart and showed no sign of significant wear. From here, Mobil 1 rapidly became the standard oil for numerous vehicles, including all Porsches from 1996 to present, several Mercedes models from 1992 to present and every Chevrolet Corvette from 1993 to present.


Despite being the first players to enter the synthetic oil game in the U.S., Mobil 1 and AMSOIL synthetic motor oil are not the only options in the market anymore. Shell’s motor oil is sold under the Pennzoil name and is the factory fill for all new Ferrari, BMW, Jeep and Chrysler vehicles sold in North America. British Petroleum (BP) manufactures and sells motor oil under the Castrol brand, which comes standard in various Audi, Volvo and Volkswagen vehicles. Automotive companies have formed partnerships with a variety of oil companies, meaning that no single


company holds a monopoly over the market. This creates more competitive field and, as a result, no oil company is keen on the idea of sharing its “secret formulas” for what makes its motor oil superior.


This competition has inspired oil companies to push the limits with respect to oil formulation and pave the way for improvements in oil life and fuel economy. In the early 1970s as synthetic oil hit the market, 10W-40 was the most common viscosity oil for passenger cars and trucks. Oil viscosity has steadily decreased since. In the 1980s, 10W-30 oil began to overtake 10W-40 due to its ability to increase fuel economy. In the 1990s, 5W-30 oils gained widespread popularity whilst a study in 2013 revealed that 10W-40 motor oil only accounted for two percent of U.S. sales that year. Use of 10W-40 oil has decreased so much, National Oil & Lube News has removed it from its annual Operator’s Survey. 5W-30 oil currently makes up 56 percent of the motor oil market, but lower-viscosity oils, like 5W-20 and 0W-20, are on pace to overtake it. Many new Toyotas and Hondas now require 0W-20 motor oil, and oils such as 0W-16 have been added to the SAEJ300 Engine Oil Viscosity Classification Standard.


But what do all these numbers mean? Many people are unfamiliar with the differences between oil viscosities and how they affect engine performance. Motor oils are currently rated by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and typically have a multigrade rating. Multigrade oil ratings consist of two numbers, following the XW-YY format, where XW is the viscosity of the oil measured at 0ºF (-17.8ºC). The W stands for “winter” since this number is the “cold” rating. The YY represents the viscosity of the oil measured at 212ºF (100ºC). This is the “hot” rating. This means that a 5W-30 oil flows better at low temperatures than a 10W-30 oil due to the lower viscosity of the 5W vs the 10W. The lower the W rating, the better cold-temperature start-up protection it will provide for your engine. At increased temperatures, the viscosity of a 5W-20 oil is lower than a 5W-30. Lower numbers after the W indicate lower-viscosity, or thinner, oil. Advancements in chemistry have led to the improvement of motor oil additives, which allows for oils to have varying viscosities depending on temperature. These additives help stabilise oil viscosity throughout temperature changes, which helps protect the engine in a variety of ambient conditions.


Continued on page 12 LUBE MAGAZINE NO.155 FEBRUARY 2020 11


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