In the last article, I discussed two ways how lubricants can be differentiated, namely by application and viscosity. In this article, I will cover the third way which is by performance level.
Performance level is where the oil is put to the test in determining whether it meets machine design and operating conditions.
It is done by applying certain ratings to the oil. The ratings are issued and standardised by global technical organisations: the most widely accepted are American Petroleum Institute (API) and European Automotive Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). Examples for passenger car application are API SP or ACEA C3 respectively
To meet the required rating, the oil has to undergo series of tests and must meet the criteria under that rating. Depending on application, the tests cover many parameters from wear protection to resistance against oxidation and heat. They are meant to reflect the expected demand needed to be fulfilled by the oil in real application.
Ratings help consumers know and have the confidence that their selected oil will meet criteria specified by their machine without the need to understand the test and other technical aspects. Ratings also help oil manufacturers to formulate oil with the right elements and concentration while providing guidance on which tests to perform and their limits.
Equipment or vehicle manufacturers also issue their own performance rating which is intended to enhance the protection of their proprietary technology components. Failure to use oil that meets their performance rating can affect warranty coverage when there is a breakdown. This is why we see oils often carry many different ratings because of the need to meet the selected equipment manufacturers specification at once.
When looking at ratings, careful consideration is needed to differentiate between the terms ‘meeting’ and ‘approved’. The former is the claim by oil manufacturer that their lubricant meets the required performance rating but has not been verified by equipment manufacturer. Only when it is ‘approved’ is when the verification is made.
This is not to say one should only choose oil that is approved. Sometimes equipment manufacturers, such as Caterpillar, do not practice issuing approvals to commercial oils. Other times, due to cost and other constraints, the oil manufacturer does not pursue in getting the oil approved although the oil meets the ratings required.
Understanding the differences in performance rating and whether it is approved or meeting the specification helps us in lubrication selection. However sometimes things are not that straightforward. This is where ILD Technical can provide advice and technical assistance to ensure your equipment is protected with the right oil.
Need technical advice? Email our engineers Aaron and Edmundo directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
Aaron Said is ILD/Sinopec’s National Technical Manager. He is responsible for developing and delivering value-added lubricant technical services to client for reliability improvement, lubricant optimization, and cost-savings. Among his professional credentials are Certified Lubricant Specialist (CLS) and Oil Monitoring Analyst I (OMA) from Society of Tribology & Lubrication Engineers (STLE) and the International Council of Machine Lubrication (ICML)’s Machine Lubricant Analysist I.