New oils a ‘brand new ballgame’

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MISSISSAUGA, ON – New oil categories are delivering longer drain intervals and added protection for engine components, but few fleets appear to be embracing the most fuel-efficient formulas of all, Petro-Canada Lubricants reports.

FA-4 oils are “not flying off the shelves,” admitted Brian Humphrey, OEM technical liaison, during a briefing for industry media. There’s a general resistance to change among those who oversee expensive equipment, and engine manufacturers have been “pretty cautious” when announcing what models can use the oil, he said. “Especially if you have a mixed fleet … you’re going to stick with CK-4 because it covers everything.”

Those CK-4 oils are backwards compatible, for use in existing and new engines alike, and they are proving they are up to the job.

Citing real-world tests, Petro-Canada Lubricants says benefits including better engine protection, cold-cranking capabilities, and pumpability have all been realized through a reformulated product line-up that includes Duron HP, SHP, UHP, and Advanced oils.

A waste hauler using Cummins engines in the Toronto area is reporting longer service intervals and lower levels of iron and lead in the used oil, the company says. An open pit mine in Western Canada has seen the overall protection for its Caterpillar 3516 engines increase by 33%. And six Peterbilt 579 trucks with Cummins and Paccar engines have reported better cold-flowing properties and improved fuel economy when comparing a new 10W40 to a previously used 10W30 – even though the demanding applications involve 140,000-pound Gross Vehicle Weights.

 “Protection of the oil is all about flowing through the engine,” said product specialist John Pettingill.

Cold-cranking capabilities of the company’s 15W40 oils have improved 33% at -20 Celsius, while 10W30 oils have seen the measure improve 26% at -25 Celsius. “That’s easier on your starter. It’s easier on your battery,” Pettingill said. Once the engine starts, the new oils are flowing more effectively as well, Petro-Canada Lubricants reports. The 15W40’s pumpability is 23% better at -25 Celsius, while the 10W30’s pumpability has improved 16%. “If your engine starts,” he said, “your oil has to flow.”

Shifting from CJ-4 oils to the split category of a backward-compatible CK-4 and fuel-efficient FA-4 was no small matter.

“This has been or was the largest overhaul in recent memory,” said Barnaby Ngai, Petro-Canada’s category portfolio manager – heavy duty engine and driveline oils, calling it a “whole brand new ballgame.”

At Petro-Canada Lubricants alone it meant 20 products had to be reformulated and requalified, with 70 unique labels and changes to more than 250 pieces of marketing collateral required to describe it all. Ongoing tests continue to subject the formulas to applications with Gross Vehicle Weights up to 140,000 pounds, and the cold conditions that are a reality in northern locales.

“A lot of energy and talk in the industry is all about fuel economy,” Ngai said. But there was no overlooking one key requirement: “It was all about engine protection, it was about protecting that asset.”

The journey to the new categories was measured in years rather than months, too. The first request from manufacturers looking for a new oil category came six years ago, said Humphrey. What emerged were tougher pass/fail limits and new tests designed for specific engine brands.

Combined with advanced electronics, it has also meant new possibilities to extend drains.

“The data coming off the engines is so much more detailed,” Humphrey explained. “In the past the OEMs used rather nebulous terms to describe the duty cycles of the equipment like severe, moderate, light. What do those terms mean?” Fuel economy, miles per gallon or gallons per hour, and percent of idle times are the new focus. “That’s what they’re using now to determine the drain intervals,” he said. “It’s not subjective anymore.”

Petro-Canada Lubricants is clearly focusing on fleet testimonials when describing how well the products perform. This January it formally launches a Duron Challenge offering free oil and used oil analysis for comparison tests.

Jepson Petroleum switched to Duron HP 15W40 and found minimal viscosity changes with prolonged operating hours, significant improvement in wear protection, better shear stability, and drain intervals pushing from 500 to 750 hours. DLM Trucking, an agricultural hauler in Washington State, has doubled its drain intervals to 40,000 miles in four Kenworth tractors equipped with Paccar MX13 or Caterpillar C-15 engines. It also didn’t consume any oil in the first 20,000 miles of service, while the Base Number at that point was 2.5 times better than had been realized with a previous oil. Resistance to oxidation, and nitration and viscosity retention, also improved.

There’s no looking back. While fleets can still find CJ-4 oils offered by other manufacturers, Petro-Canada Lubricants has shifted its entire portfolio to CK-4 and FA-4 engine oils.

“The new product is better,” Ngai said. “It can do that much better for your organization.”

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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