New Oil Standards - How Will They Impact You!

November, 2009

Changes are coming in the formulation of motor oil that will be used in 2011 passenger cars and light trucks. These changes are needed to increase engine life, reduce emissions and improve engine efficiency. However, these new oils also bring longer change intervals and higher prices to cover the cost of research and development, testing, more expensive ingredients, licensing fees and royalties.

The two new incoming standards are ILSAC GF-5 and General Motors Dexos.

ILSAC-The International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee is a consortium of the automakers General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler LLC and the Japan Automobile Manufacutrers Association (JAMA). These folks will determine the need for an improved motor oil specification and sets testing standards.

GF-4 which came into usage in 2004 is the latest standard. Since then, the need for longer oil life, improved mileage and lower emissions has heightened. Not long after the GF-4 standard was adopted, the industry began to look at raising the bar for the next generation of engines.


Improvements over GF-4 must include:

  • Fuel economy and fuel economy retention
  • Engine Oil robustness
  • Protection of emission control systems

GF-5 is scheduled to be released next year, about the time the 2011 models hit the market. The challenges toward attaining GF-5 are many. More sophisticated additive mixtures will need to be incorporated for improved:

  • Fuel economy
  • Emission systems protection
  • Rust protection with the use of E85 (ethanol/gasoline blend)
  • Protection for turbochargers
  • Avoiding engine sludge
  • Keeping pistons clean
  • Compatibility with sealing materials

Right now, oil formulators are performing months testing to ensure their products meet the stringent GF-5 standards. Product range is expected to include W-02, W-30, 5W-20, 5W-30 and 10W-30.

One thing is for certain: there will be a higher content of additives and synthetic compounds. This will increase the cost of the end product. The end price of GF-5 may range from 15 percent to 20 percent higher than the current GF-4 spec. due to the formulation, development, testing, royalties and marketing costs.


General Motors Corp. has decided to take a separate path to setting standards for its global family of engines. The company plans to introduce its Dexos global motor oil specification with 2011 models.

Dexos 1: as factory-fill and service-fill for gasoline engines

Dexos 2: as factory-fill and service-fill for diesel engine.

Of course both are compatable with previous models.

GM currently manufactures more than 20 engines and 18 plants worldwide and assembles vehicles in 37 countries - although all that may change drastically under the new governement-controlled strategy. The intent of the global Dexos specification is to ensure the same quality and specification from all suppliers for all engines in all countries.

The reason for developing Dexos specifications are:

  • To ensure worldwide availability of equal quality oil for factory and service fill
  • To further improve fuel economy
  • To provide a more robust formulation (added engine protection)
  • To further entend service intervals
  • To support longer intervals for GM's Oil Life Monitoring System (OLMS)

GM has used OLMS for may years and it is now entering a completely global application.

DEXOS 1, for gasoline engines, will be offerred in these formulations: OW-20, 5W-20, W-30 and 5W-30

DEXOS 2, for light diesel engines, will be packaged in 5W-30, 0W-40 and 5W-40.

Dexos-1 will supersede the current GM6094M specification for most GM gasoline vehicles. At this time, GM plans to also use DEXOS-1 to replace the GM-4718M spec for Corvette, Cadillac and engines with turbochargers, which stipulated Class III synthetic blends; Mobil 1 or the equivalent.

GF-5 Versus Dexos

GF-5 is generally considered as the next step toward total synthetic products and will probably remain in place no more than 5 years. GM, on the other hand, is leaping forward a decade to establish its own mark. Therefore, it's expected that Dexos will meet and exceed GF-5, but GF-5 will not meet the Dexos specification. The cost is expected to increase. Research and Development, plus testing costs by oil formulators and additive suppliers, will prompt higher prices. GF-5 is expected to increase by 15 to 20 percent; Dexos is expected to bring a 25 percent to 30 percent premium. This brings the two closer to the price of fully synthetic blends. It bears repeating that with these products, change intervals will be lengthened, so the overall cost may stay close to-or improve-current cost-per-mile levels.

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