Petro-Canada unveils “tougher” new engine oils

TORONTO, Ont. – On the eve of the launch of the new CK-4 and FA-4 heavy-duty engine oil categories, several members of the industry press – not this one – found themselves hanging off the edge of the CN Tower as part of its Edgewalk experience.

It was Petro-Canada’s way of highlighting the toughness of its new engine oils, which will be hitting shelves today with new labels and branding displaying the API CK-4 and FA-4 donuts. The new CK-4 oils have been quietly rolled out already but oil companies were not permitted to label them as such until Dec. 1, when the new specifications became official.

There’s lots to like about the new oils, according to Petro-Canada officials, who touted them as the biggest change the oil industry has seen in a decade. Many readers will recognize these as the PC-11 oils that have been in the works for a couple of years, but the PC (Proposed Category) label was replaced with CK-4 and FA-4 as the rollout neared. It’s the first time an oil category has been split in two. CK-4 oils will serve as a straight replacement to current CJ-4 oils and are fully backwards compatible with older engines. FA-4 oils have lower high-temperature high-shear properties to provide enhanced fuel economy, but they’re designed specifically for new engines that generate higher heat and produce lower emissions.

While putting FA-4 in an older engine will not likely cause catastrophic failure, fleets should consult with their engine manufacturers before doing so and follow their guidelines.

Petro-Canada took a global approach to launching its new oils.

“As a global company, we took the opportunity to revamp our entire product line globally,” said Tony Weatherill, global marketing director, automotive and transportation with Petro-Canada Lubricants. The company exports its lubricants to more than 80 countries.

The split category, officials acknowledged, is likely to cause some confusion in the marketplace. New branding and labeling will help to prevent this; FA-4 oils will bear packaging that’s a different color and the API FA-4 donut will be prominently displayed.

“Fleets have to be more knowledgeable than they have been in the past,” said Barnaby Ngai, category portfolio manager, heavy-duty engine and driveline oils with Petro-Canada. “The general consensus is that there are varying degrees of knowledge throughout the marketplace. We’ve placed lots of importance around education and communication.”

On that front, Petro-Canada earlier this year launched its website, which explains in detail the implications of – and reasons for – the new categories. It’s still not clear to what extent engine manufacturers will allow or recommend FA-4 oils.

“All the OEMs have different positions,” said Ngai. “Some are adopting FA-4 as factory fill out of the gate. Each OEM has a different take on it.”

The attraction of FA-4 is the greater fuel economy it’s expected to generate, though those savings may be difficult to quantify. John Pettingill, product specialist, said a 10W-30 FA-4 will likely provide about 1% improved fuel economy compared to a 10W-30 CK-4. Moving from a 15W-40 CJ-4 to an FA-4 10W-30 will yield a fuel savings of about 2%.

But even fleets that opt to stick to CK-4 oils will see performance improvements. Pettingill said the new oils come with a “chemical box” to limit ash levels. They’ll provide better aeration, oxidation resistance and shear stability than the previous generation CJ-4 oils. They will also produce less soot. This will present an opportunity to extend drain intervals.

“All our field testing demonstrates extended drain capability,” said Pettingill, noting intervals can be stretched to 70,000 kms with the support of an oil analysis program and the approval of the engine OEM.

Petro-Canada tested its new oils in Canadian fleet operations with gross vehicle weights of 140,000 lbs and in extreme cold weather.

The company is coming to market with four CK-4/FA-4 performance levels: Duron HP (High Performance); Duron SHP (Super High Performance); Duron UHP (Ultra High Performance); and the FA-4 category, Duron Advanced. FA-4 will initially include only a 10W-30 viscosity offering, but a 5W-30 will follow.

Duron HP will come as a 15W-40, Duron SHP will be available as a 15W-40 or 10W-30 and Duron UHP can be had as a 10W-40, 5W-30, 5W-40, 0W-40 or 0W-30.

“15W-40s comprise about 80% of the market and will continue to do so,” despite the gradual move towards lighter-weight engine oils, Ngai said. “15W-40s are not disappearing. They’re still going to be the core grade, whether on- or off-road,” he added.

The launch of a completely new product line was a significant undertaking. Weatherill estimates more than a thousand pieces of collateral had to be updated, including packaging, labels and marketing materials.

Petro-Canada is confident enough in its oils to offer a free 205-liter drum to fleets with 30 or more trucks who’d like to compare its performance to their existing oil. Petro-Canada provides before and after used oil analysis reports.

“Up to 90% of operators who take the Duron Challenge switch to Duron,” said Pettingill.

For more on the new Petro-Canada oils, visit

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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