About a decade ago, the EPA set new standards for diesel engines that required significant reductions in nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions. Engine manufacturers upgraded their catalytic exhaust systems and installed particulate filters in the exhaust systems. Paired with the requirement to use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, this required an entirely new grade of engine lubricants. American Petroleum Institute’s (API) designation of CJ-4 was created to meet the demands and operating requirements of 2007 and newer engines.

As if history is repeating itself, regulations are changing—demanding more efficient work trucks that get increased fuel economy and reductions in tailpipe emissions. To accomplish this, engine manufacturers have been designing engines that use lower viscosity oils and operate at higher temperatures. This demand will require oils to withstand even more extreme under-hood temperatures than the present.

Most fleet managers may now be aware of two new categories of oil standards that are expected to be licensed in December: API CK-4 and FA-4. In development, they are referred to as PC-11A and PC-11B, respectively. According to the API, these two new categories “improve upon existing standards by providing enhanced protection against oil oxidation and protection against engine wear, particulate filter blocking, piston deposits, and degradation of low- and high-temperature properties.”

Which oil is right for my fleet?

Many operations run with a mixed fleet of cars and trucks, both gasoline and diesel, as well as alternative fuels. With improving fleet operations, many fleets have relied on a single grade of engine oil that carries the appropriate Service and Commercial rating
to meet their needs.

CK-4 is essentially a drop in replacement for the current CJ-4 category of oils. This backward compatible oil will have the same viscosity grades and oil types (conventional, full synthetic, and synthetic blend).

FA-4 is specifically designed to provide fuel economy benefits for engines approved by the OEM manufactured in 2017 and beyond.

Update your oil drain intervals

Engine oils have many additive packages that protect and prevent oil breakdown, and neutralize acids that are a byproduct of fuel combustion. With the continued use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (15PPM) there should be no change in recommended drain intervals.

However, how will this affect fleets that have begun to use, or are considering implementing, an extended drain interval for oil changes? Beginning with any extended drain interval program, it is imperative that fleets utilize good oil sampling and analysis programs to determine how far they can safely extend their drain intervals. Due to the major changes from CJ-4 oils to the new CK-4 and FA-4 oils, it will be necessary to establish a new baseline for these oils. Once a baseline is established, continue to review it carefully for indicators of lubricant failure and adjust your fleet’s program accordingly.

With any new change in technology, it’s important to understand the impact to operations. Always ensure that manufacturers approves using these new lubricants for use in their equipment.

This article was originally published in the National Truck Equipment Association’s October 2016 issue of Fleet Affiliation, and is used with their permission.

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