Truck News


Guessing Game

What we do know about the new "proposed category 10" (PC-10) heavy duty oils currently in development to protect 2007 truck engines, is that they will be backwards compatible. So says Jim McGeehan, gl...

What we do know about the new “proposed category 10” (PC-10) heavy duty oils currently in development to protect 2007 truck engines, is that they will be backwards compatible. So says Jim McGeehan, global manager for diesel engine oil technology at Chevron, and chairman of the ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) Heavy-Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel, the body responsible for putting new oil categories in place and which is made up of the diesel OEMs, all four additive suppliers, and the major oil companies. But what we don’t know about PC-10 oils is still pretty much everything else: how much the new oils will cost, how they will impact oil change intervals, or even, for that matter, what API license name they will be marketed under. The obvious succeeding name to the current API CI-4 Plus oil category is API CJ-4, but “CJ” is trademarked by Jeep, so CK might end up the next best thing.

What these new oils will mean to fleet maintenance managers is still hard to say. Most are reluctant to speculate on maintenance strategies without knowing more about the overall economics of the new 2007 diesel engine trucks. What kind of fuel economy can they expect? What kind of costs? Reliability? Maintenance requirements? By mid-2006, when fleet managers get this information, many may yet give themselves more time to sort out such questions as whether to stock just the new PC-10 oil or both the PC-10 oil and the current CI-4 Plus oils by pre-buying 2006 vehicles.

For Itamar Levine of Bison Transport, pre-buying is definitely an option. He employed this strategy four years ago when the 2002 engines were brought in. “It came down to the wire in terms of information. Back then we decided to pre-buy. The downside of that is if I buy a whole bunch of trucks I don’t bring into the fleet for another six months, that’s a lot of pizza.”

Systems approach

Increasingly stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards have necessitated a systems approach to reducing diesel exhaust emissions. The components in this approach include the use of Ultra Low Suphur fuel, improved in-cylinder combustion, exhaust after-treatment devices, changes in vehicle design and engine oils compatible with after-treatment systems.

The reason this new category of oil is different, of course, is that for the first time all diesel engines will use diesel particulate filters to collect the particulates burned off in combustion and unburned components coming from the engine oil.

In order for these exhaust particulate traps to last the 150,000 miles and avoid creating excessive back pressure before being cleaned, as mandated by the EPA, the new engine oils themselves will require certain chemical levels to be capped. The ash level in fresh PC-10 oil will be limited to 1%, phosphorus to 0.12%, sulfur to 0.4%, and the volatility of the product limited to 13%.

The problem this creates for oil formulators is that some of these substances have traditionally been used to enhance engine oil performance. Being put on this kind of a diet reduces what is called the “total base number,” which represents the oil’s ability to neutralize acid. “The fact that we’re reducing the phosphorus level means that we have to put in some different or new wear inhibitors. By limiting the sulfur in the base stock, it also means we have to use base oils that don’t have too much sulfur in them. We’ve got those base oils in what we call Group 2 oils, but we’re now, for the first time, constrained within this chemical box,” McGeehan says.

One factor helping motor oil producers is the European experience, attests Jim Putz, category manager of commercial transportation products, Petro-Canada.

“They are the same commission guidelines. For instance, E6 is very similar to what is going to be introduced with PC 10,” says Putz. “We have prototypes that we are testing in our facility here in Ontario.”

What’s the cost?

Cost is another question still without a definite answer.

“Each time a new category comes along, the question is always asked, ‘Is the new category going to be backwards compatible with the older engine designs?’ Then the question becomes, ‘What is the cost?’ You can have something backwards compatible technically, but it doesn’t mean that it will be cost backwards compatible,” says Stephen Miller, product manager for passenger car and heavy-duty engine oil, Shell Canada. By 2007, the market will have a large proportion of old engines and a small proportion of new engines. Fleet maintenance managers running both new and old trucks will want to keep things simple by stocking just the new oil and avoid potentially costly mistakes, but will they be willing to pay for PC-10 oil technology if they don’t need it in all their trucks?

The assumption is that new technologies cost money to develop. But currently, without test pass limits and without engine oil test results available to formulators, none are willing to put a price tag on the new PC-10 oils. Mike Lynskey, heavy-duty products technology, BP Lubricants North America (Castrol), says, “One thing that isn’t always discussed is the amount of investment the lubricant industry has to put into developing a new category. It’s a multimillion-dollar investment. We have been looking at this category for a number of years now and doing field trials and developing products to ensure that we have lubricants that work in these engines. We’re also now realistically looking at changing all categories of oils every two or three years and to recover two or three million dollars every two or three years is almost impossible.”

As the oil formulators like to say, the marketplace will ultimately determine the price of the new PC-10 oils.

Oil change intervals

Operators who change their oil every 12,000 miles will not see a difference in using PC-10 oils in either new or old engines, McGeehan says: “Those that change at 15,000 miles probably won’t see any difference either, but for people doing 30,000 miles, potentially they may have to pull back – even on existing vehicles.” But this is not a categorical statement, he adds, “In fact,

to truly know the answer oil change intervals will require three to five years of in-field use.”

Lynskey is optimistic that PC-10 oils will allow the oil change intervals of today: “That is based on the fact that low sulfur diesel is a lot less severe in terms of its degradation of lubricants. We will lose some of the additive chemistry, which will have a negative effect on oil change intervals, but we will win on the side of the fuel quality.”

Petro-Canada’s Putz points out the importance of how the new oils will handle soot in the 2007 engines, which are expected to boost exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) rates from the currently 13% or so to “EGR rates as high as 30%. With a truck that is idling, it could be pushed up as high as 70%. So there really is a definite need for heavy-duty engine oils to handle soot on a superior level. It’s a concern for the OEMs and it’s something that our engine oils will address.”


With 2007 trucks expected to arrive on dealer lots in October 2006, oil manufacturers want to have their products already in the marketplace by then. As of September 2005, The ASTM Heavy-Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel settled on a total of 15 tests for the new engine oils for this category. Apart from the existing tests, McGeehan says some major new tests have been added: “One is the Caterpillar C13 for piston deposits and oil consumption. We have Mack T12 for ring wear, liner wear, and bearing wear. Then we have a Cummins ISV test for camshaft wear and a Cummins ISM test for valve train wear, ring wear, sludge and filter life.”

The participating engine manufacturers will propose pass limits for these tests at a December 6, 2005 ASTM meeting. Oil manufacturers will then have the opportunity to test their prototype oils. By the third or fourth quarter 2006, all the testing should be complete and an API license ought to be in place, but there is still debate about whether an API license will be ready in October 2006 or January 2007. “If the API license is delayed until January 2007, we anticipate manufacturers such as Cummins and Mack to issue their own specifications by midyear 2006. So there will be oils qualified under the OEM specifications,” McGeehan says.

Historically, in complying with increasingly stringent EPA standards oil companies have also continually improved the quality of their products. In part, this development has contributed to the truck durability and it may be why fleet managers like Bob Davies, director of fleet services for Westcan Bulk Transport, which runs 450 trucks, are not particularly concerned about the new PC-10 oils: “There’s still just so much stuff in the air about the new engines and engine oils, but we are going to pre-buy. A lot of carriers want to get some of that new iron into their fleets before this 2007 stuff hits. If anything, we may have to move some of our newer EGR motors to a lower oil change interval, but that will probably be the extent of it.”

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