Update: Making the decision to switch to API CK-4 engine oils

Now that the new API category CK-4 engine oils have been in the market for nearly a year, it’s a good time to assess their impact in the market and address some questions that still persist.


What do the fleets that have made the transition to CK-4 have in common?


In a word, preparation. We’ve had many customers involved in training sessions, webinars, and online educational resources. We also field tested our new products with several customers, which enabled a seamless transition when the new products hit the market. Some customers simply rolled from one product to another at the same viscosity grade, while others took the opportunity to transition to lower viscosity oils for better fuel economy.


What benefits does CK-4 offer fleets with older engines?


CK-4 oils are backward compatible, meaning they meet all requirements of the earlier API specifications and offer new API CK-4 performance benefits. For older engines, the most important consideration is viscosity grade. Many OEMs require the use of SAE 15W-40 oils in older engines, particularly those built before 2007-2010. So owners of older engines can still use the recommended viscosity grades, while gaining new benefits like improved oxidation stability.


How can fleets that operate new equipment benefit from CK-4?


Owners of modern equipment have more flexibility in oil selection than ever before. Many OEMs have adapted their engines to take advantage of the fuel economy benefits of the new specifications while also allowing extended oil drain intervals when the new oils are used. This translates into considerable cost savings. It is important to consult with your OEM to understand what is recommended for your particular make and model, and with your oil supplier to make sure that you’re taking advantage of the benefits.


How does switching to CK-4 improve productivity and profitability?


This new category is specifically oriented to improve operational efficiency in three ways: improved fuel economy (with lower viscosity grades), extended oil drain intervals and improved engine protection. Selecting an oil that is best suited for your fleet’s equipment mix will allow you to leverage these benefits maximum cost savings over the long haul.


How do new regulations affect the decision to switch to CK-4?


Environmental regulations have influenced oil quality specifications over the past 20-plus years. For many years, the regulations were focused on controlling pollutant emissions (nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) and drove significant changes in engine oil formulation. With nitrogen oxide and particulate pollutant emissions approaching zero, the regulations are now focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improved fuel economy. This is why engine builders requested these new categories – to allow for greater fuel economy through lower viscosities, and to improve the oil’s thermal stability to stand up to the higher heat that is common with the newer engines. As GHG regulations continue to phase in over the next 10 years, we’ll continue to see emphasis on these types of improvements.


What about fleets that are still on the fence?


There are still misconceptions about these new oils. Some operators may believe they are only for newer engines. Others believe they might be sacrificing protection. The fact is the new engine oil categories give fleet operators significant flexibility in product selection. Take the time to understand which performance category and viscosity grade are best matched to your equipment mix. Consider running a trial in a few engines before embracing a full-scale transition. You might be surprised – moving to the new oils may well be a more cost-effective option for your fleet.


Shawn Whitacre
Shawn’s career spans nearly 20 years focused exclusively on research and engineering dealing with heavy-duty engine lubricants, fuels, and materials. Before joining Chevron in 2013, he spent 12 years leading global fluids and materials engineering activities for Cummins. He also spent five years conducting lubricant, fuel, and emission research for the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. At Chevron, he is a Senior Staff Engineer primarily responsible for product formulation of the Delo Brand of Heavy Duty Engine Oils. He is currently the lead formulator responsible for development of Chevron’s PC-11 product line upgrade. Whitacre is the new chairman of the ASTM Heavy-Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel, which is tasked with the final development of the Proposed Category 11 (PC-11) requirements that take effect in late 2016.

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