What Oil Does Your Engine Crave So It Does Not Cave

When talking about engine oil, consumers think little about it, figuring that pretty much a range of viscosity and weight will work interchangeably in their vehicle. And maybe the more expensive oil is better than the rest. Few know that there is a rating and standardization body that rates motor oil. Oil, like many things, has markings on its packaging, letting you know that it meets or exceeds these standards.


Havoline Shell and Mobil 1 motor oil with API Seals
Three different Oils displaying the API Standards Seal

Engineers have specifically sited oil that is created for specific engines and works with this body to continually ensure that engine oil is up to the standards of modern fossil fuel burning engines. Ask your quick oil change shop what oil standards they use when changing your fluid.


You may have seen the Donut, Starburst, and now Shield that is the mark of the API certification. But where do you find out what your engine requires?   Two resources: The vehicle’s owner’s manual – Under Engine Oil. It gives the correct information about the engine oil that is designed to work properly in that specific vehicle.  While it may not be citing a specific brand, or it might be, it will give you the API Standards and Specs for the oil to be used.

Kevin Ferrick speaks to Washington Area Automotive Press Association Members about Engine Oil.
Kevin Ferrick speaks to Washington Area Automotive Press Association Members about Engine Oil.

And the API website   –  The American Petroleum Institute, an independent group of petroleum producing members, has its own American National Standards Institute accreditation process, ensuring that the API standards are recognized not only for their technical specifications but also their third-party accreditation which facilitates acceptance by state, federal, and increasingly international regulators. API is used as the guide for durability and level of quality for motor oil since 1919.

API has set new standards, that are backward compatible with previous oils.  This new, more stringent performance specification is due to the new engines coming online that are smaller and more fuel efficient.  GF-6A and GF-6B, are the latest in a line put forward by the International Lubricant Standardization Advisory Committee (ILSAC), and a third standard, AP SP, is API’s latest engine oil performance standard. API SP includes all of the ILSAC requirements while at the same time provides performance requirements for oils that do not fall under ILSAC-member recommendations.  The new standards specify more stringent engine oil performance requirements for spark-ignited internal combustion engines. All three of these standards can be licensed under API’s Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System beginning May 1, 2020.

Mobil 1 Motor Oil API Starburst rear label
Mobil 1 Motor Oil API Starburst rear label

The development of GF-6A, GF-6B, and API SP was done over the course of seven years. In that time, seven new tests were developed, evaluated, and measured for precision, and engine oil producing companies ran tests to demonstrate that their oils can meet the more stringent requirements. Now, oil marketing companies are working to bring the oils that meet these standards to market to ensure current and future engines perform as designed.

Licensed oils that meet the ILSAC GF-6A standard will be allowed to display the API Certification Mark “Starburst” and may be used where oils meeting GF-5 or earlier gasoline engine oil standards had been recommended. Oils that meet ILSAC GF-6B will be allowed to display a new mark, the API Certification Mark “Shield,” and may be used where SAE 0W-16 oils meeting API SN had been recommended.  API is introducing this new “Shield” at the request of automakers to prevent confusion and ensure that 0W-16 oils are used only in applications where they are recommended.


While API does not make or specify the recipe for modern oil, it does testing to make sure that it meets established standards that are used by various organizations that grade oil for use in modern engines, be they gasoline or diesel powered.   Society of American Engineers SAE and National Institute for Standards and Technology NIST use the API guidelines as part of the work they do in the field

API Program Marks
API Program Marks

API is the only national trade association representing all facets of the natural gas and oil industry, which supports 10.3 million U.S. jobs and nearly 8 percent of the U.S. economy. API’s more than 600 members include large integrated companies, as well as pipeline, exploration and production, refining, marketing, marine businesses, and service and supply firms. They provide most of the nation’s energy and are backed by a growing grassroots movement of more than 47 million Americans. API was formed in 1919 as a standards-setting organization. In its first 100 years, API has developed more than 700 standards to enhance operational and environmental safety, efficiency, and sustainability.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s