Oil changes and modern specifications

The consequences of slipping up…

Although performing oil changes is reasonably elementary, the lubricant itself is immensely complex. Therefore, Rob Marshall looks into the latest developments affecting the engine lubrication market and the consequences of technicians not keeping up-to-date.

While the main engine oil functions are well-understood by technicians, it is still quite magical that they maintain their cooling and lubrication properties within the environments of low viscosities, higher temperatures and extended drain intervals. Yet, the oil’s protective properties extend beyond the power unit. Certain anti-wear additives may be life saviours for the engine but they can be fatal for the catalytic converter, or DPF. As an example, Lucas Oil blends its engine oil in 10w-30, 10w-40 & 20w-50 viscosities, which contain high levels of zinc, molybdenum, and phosphorus to offer maximum engine protection for muscle, showroom, classic and trophy cars. As Lucas Oil admits, these formulations are more specialised applications, making them unsuitable for modern vehicles equipped with catalytic converters, or DPFs. In addition, some of the latest engines may be prone to specific issues, such as intake coking, and the car manufacturer may specify a particular engine oil additive formulation to minimise the effect. These are reasons why engine oil has become increasingly bespoke and why both owners and technicians have to be sure that they make the right choice.

Consequences of owner neglect…

Many technicians remain surprised about how badly certain owners neglect their cars, many of whom cannot even be bothered to check their levels. Even oil companies are trying to communicate this to the public. As an example, Castrol’s Oil Check Challenge seeks to raise awareness and encourage workshop visits.

Getting the oil right is not easy for newer vehicles. Prioritise manufacturer specifications over viscosity and API/ACEA ratings.

Deteriorated oil produces a sludgy deposit that can cause blockages. Should the crankcase breather be restricted, the crankcase can pressurise and cause oil leaks.

While physical oil leaks are certainly not intentional, all engines burn oil – although some of them do so more than others. Morris Lubricants explains that oil consumption is not necessarily a sign of excessive wear; it tends to be a consequence of efficiency technologies. An example is a relatively recent piston design, where the ring packs are moved closer to the crown to enhance swirl and optimise fuel and air mixing prior to combustion. However, moving the uppermost ring further up the piston exposes it to higher temperatures, but it still requires lubricating. This is a popular area in which oil is burnt. Millers concurs, stating that some manufacturers maintain that oil consumption should be expected.

Morris Lubricants adds that, should the owner not replenish the lost lubricant and the level falls, the remaining sump content faces increased stress and premature deterioration. The result is accelerated engine wear, poor engine cleanliness, corrosion and, possibly, overheating. The latter point is relevant, because oil has a major influence on crankcase temperatures. Millers explains that, should the level fall to the minimum allowed quantity, the remaining oil would have to work harder and, therefore, suffer a reduction in its lifespan and require draining sooner.

Aside from low oil levels, neglected oil change intervals present further problems. MOTUL reminds us that engine oils are formulated with set drain intervals in mind, because the additive packs are consumed over time. In addition, the engine oil becomes polluted by metals and solid dirt particles, unburned fuel and moisture. Therefore, it is logical that the consequences of neglected oil changes include enhanced wear and tear, corrosion and deposits accumulations, including sludge. The VLS adds also that the increased viscosity can raise fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

Importantly, Motul emphasises that OEM handbooks state oil change intervals should be reduced according to operating conditions. As AT detailed in our 2020/1 lockdown editorials, multiple short journeys are tough on oil, not only because of the extra contaminations that it must suspend and extra acids that require neutralising, but also due to it not reaching its optimum operating temperature. Due to the oil deteriorating faster under these low-mileage conditions, you should insist that it is drained at least once annually. As many active DPF regeneration algorithms consider oil quality, neglecting drain intervals can cause aborted active cycles and, therefore, particulate blockages. The DPF Doctor, Darren Darling, finds that not resetting the on-board indicator post-service on some vehicles can hinder successful regeneration, because the car thinks that the sump’s contents is older than it really is.

Why ‘That’ll do’, won’t…

According to Euro Car Parts, technicians will turn often to a ‘one size fits all’ solution, such as stocking a 5w-30 C3 engine oil, theorising incorrectly that it can be used in most cars. Yet, a handful of engine lubricants will not suffice for every vehicle that enters your workshop. Selecting the correct engine oil requires additional research and the selection process has matured, too. Motul highlights that the viscosity grade is not a quality indicator; the correct marker is the OEM specification. Especially on turbocharged GDI models, low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI) is a continuing challenge and both Morris Lubricants and Motul highlight this engine-killing phenomenon as one reason that justifies the importance of choosing oil by prioritising OEM approvals, because a major contributor to LSPI is a calcium anti-wear additive contained within the oil. Yet, LSPI is not the only issue that is promoted by engine oil. Intake coking is another example, caused not by calcium but by viscosity improvers. OEMs will, therefore, formulate engine oils to reduce these issues as much as possible. Should garages choose to use the wrong oil, then the rate at which these issues occur will increase.

Choosing engine oils for modern applications starts neither with the viscosity, nor whether the lubricant is mineral, part, or fully synthetic. Checking whether, or not, the lubricant meets the car maker’s specification for that model must be the priority. Yet, should you be working on a classic model with no manufacturer recommendation, then the aforementioned specifications have more relevance. AT plans to investigate lubricants for historic vehicles in a future issue.


We are grateful to the Verification of Lubrication Specifications, the independent UK organisation that ensures claims made by oil companies are true, for informing us of the most up-to-date changes. While many aftermarket garages are unlikely to be affected immediately by the most recent developments, forewarned is forearmed…

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has announced its 2021 sequences for light duty vehicles, catching-up finally with the American Petroleum Institute (API). The latest sequences can be claimed alongside the ACEA 2016 light-duty engine oil categories until next year. The new standards seek to address the challenges posed by the latest engine developments. Yet, the VLS comments that they represent evolution, rather than revolution.

Since AT covered this topic last year, the sequences tackle some of the existing technical challenges. These include new A7/B7 and C6 categories that address the impact of Low-Speed Pre-Ignition (LSPI) that affects turbocharged GDI engines primarily. Yet, it is worth noting that the ACEA sequences for heavy-duty diesel engines has been delayed, although the release of which is expected by the end of the year.

Interestingly, the introduction of new engine tests modernises the sequences to consider lower viscosity (i.e. thinner) lubricants, used in some of the newest engine designs. The VLS theorises that, given the transition of passenger cars and even light commercial vehicles to electrification, the ACEA engine oil sequences for light-duty engine oil will not be updated so frequently in future.

In terms of enforcement, the most common issues that the VLS encounters involve oil blenders over-claiming. This takes several forms – one of which involves companies claiming to meet certain specifications on their engine oil packaging but lacking any supporting evidence, when challenged. A further issue involves some products stating incorrectly that they are ‘officially approved’ by an OEM.

Should you be uncertain that claims, made by your oil blender(s), are untrue, you can request that the VLS investigates, by contacting it on 01442 875922 or visiting www.ukla-vls.org.uk


As we are told that oil packs for modern engines are so carefully balanced, one would have thought that topping- up the additive packs would upset the chemistry. This appears not to be the case entirely but much depends on your aim. Opinions, therefore, differ. Motul told AT that using an ‘on-top’ additive generally can have a negative impact. The company reasons that all components within the oil formulation, the additives particularly, are balanced, which can be prejudiced by an unknown additive. Increased wear and tear, corrosion, deposits, accelerated oxidation and a viscosity increase can be the consequences. It also adds that you risk prejudicing the OEM warranty, by using them.

Meanwhile, BG Products views that, despite becoming ever more bespoke, engine oils are still formulated to a set budget and specification, meaning that oil producers have to balance price with top performance in normal operating conditions. Where ‘severe’ conditions are encountered, BG Products reasons that it provides customers with a choice to upgrade the oil with an additive package. As mentioned earlier, much depends on what you wish to achieve. Engine oil that is subjected to the severe conditions of not being able to reach its optimum temperature constantly may well benefit from extra detergents, for instance. BG Products also highlights that higher oil temperatures, such as those experienced with high-speed motorway driving, can also break down the engine oil faster and so extra fortification can be of use to help it retain its stability.

JLM Lubricants also offers garages the chance to upsell. Aside from its cleaning functions, the company told AT that its Bortec additive performs particularly well in areas of the engine subject to high temperatures, pressures and friction. In addition, the antioxidant in boron provides the engine oil with better protection against ageing, enabling it to maintain optimal performance for longer. JLM Lubricants insists that, since Bortec is based upon low viscosity base oil and, since a treatment consists of approximately 250ml, it is compatible with modern, low viscosity engine lubricants. This may not be the case for a relatively thick ‘stop smoke’ type of additive, however. As with any professional product, BG Products reminds us not to overdose, commenting that adding more than the recommended dose of a “top-treat” oil fortifier risks unbalancing the oil which can destabilise it.

Hailing from North America but available in the UK, Lucas Oil is another well-established quality brand that sells a variety of engine oil treatments but, again, much depends on the application. It reasons that engine oil additives are especially important in today’s engines that are smaller and more powerful than those of the past, which stresses vital engine components and the oil that protects them. One of its best-known products is the Heavy Duty Oil Stabiliser, which has been updated for today’s low viscosity engine oils, even up to 0w-8. While enhanced dispersancy and oxidisation resistance are advantages, Lucas Oil highlights that it is not lost focus on dry-start protection, which remains the primary cause of wear.


Morris Lubricants views engine flush additives as especially useful in scenarios where the vehicle possesses an unknown service history, the incorrect oil has been used, or the sump is contaminated by another engine fluid. Motul emphasises that lubricants, exposed to extended oil drain intervals, while operating under severe conditions, can be overwhelmed by solid and liquid contaminations. Consequently, these deposits can remain within the crankcase after draining, which will impact the detergency and dispersancy performance of the fresh oil. A flush, therefore, is beneficial. JLM lubricants agrees, stating that its Engine Oil Flush Pro is formulated to dissolve old oil residues and accumulated dirt in the lubrication system, plus the cylinder walls, pistons, piston rings, valves, guides and the combustion chamber. The net advantage is that it extends the new oil’s lifespan. Using such flushes, including Motul’s ‘Engine Clean’, Millers ‘Engine Oil Flush’ and BG Product’s ‘EPR’, also help to clean and free the low-tension piston rings, used most commonly in GDI applications. This helps to restore compression, therefore minimising the quantity of unburnt fuel entering the crankcase, which has the extra advantage of not degrading the engine oil prematurely.


While this feature focusses on engine lubricant and supplementary products, customers are querying garages about whether they should use E10 95 RON petrol with an additive, or the more expensive Super Unleaded E5 97+ RON grade.

To summarise, E10 petrol presents several technical challenges over E5. The extra ethanol corrodes certain metals faster. It also attacks the structure of certain plastics and rubbers. Even if the car’s fuel system does not contain such materials, it cannot escape other complications. E10 petrol absorbs moisture more readily, which tends to originate from condensation in the petrol tank. This incombustible ethanol/moisture mix then phase-separates from the fossil-fuel element and falls to the bottom of the tank. This leaves fuel above it with an octane rating below 95RON. E10 also oxidises, becomes more acidic and, therefore, ages faster than E5. Yet, even when fresh, E10 is an effective solvent, which risks fuel system blockages – further details about which can be found in our separate filtration editorial. For more information on E10, AT’s previous analysis on the topic can be accessed here: https://autotechnician.co.uk/forewarned-is-forearmed-e10-petrol/

You and your customers may have come across various fuel additives that claim to combat the negative effects of ethanol. Yet, as E10 presents several separate technical challenges, we questioned various additive producers about how their products could address them all. Unfortunately, some companies did not answer our questions; others revealed that their products only addressed certain issues and not others. At this point, therefore, AT’s examination of E10 fuel additives is inconclusive, meaning that we cannot make any firm recommendations at this stage.

Should you be queried by an unsure customer about E10, you can advise that the fuel can be used if the motorcar in question is both materially compatible (which can be verified by this link https://www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-e10-petrol ) AND the driver fills the tank at least once every six weeks. Should the car be incompatible materially with E10 (such as many early GDI engines, or those fitted to Historic vehicles), or the car covers a low mileage, use E5 super unleaded instead of an additive. We hope to update this advice in the future, once we receive answers that are sufficiently convincing.

Avoiding a crisis: selecting the correct oil

Choice is not necessarily a good thing, especially when it causes confusion. Rob Marshall looks into the complex issue of selecting the correct engine lubricant, while providing updates on specifications that occurred earlier this year, while our attentions were diverted.

Not using the correct engine lubricant can have catastrophic consequences, for which you can be liable. The problem is that the later the engine, the fussier its lubrication needs, meaning that the ‘that’ll do’ approach must be an attitude that any technician must consign to the scrap bin.

According to Castrol’s Expert Technologist at its Pangbourne Research Centre, thinner engine oils can help reduce friction and boost fuel economy but, as the lubricant becomes ever thinner, there is an increased danger of metal-to-metal contact. This situation dictates that oil additives are ever more precision formulated to protect not only the engine but also emissions hardware. Proven by today’s lowest specifications not even existing five years ago, the rate of change in the engine lube field is accelerating and it is not easy for aftermarket technicians to keep up-to-date with the latest developments.

An overall trend has seen engine oil move from being defined solely by its viscosity to API (American Petroleum Institute) and/or ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association) specifications and, now, manufacturer-set standards. Perhaps the most obvious consequence noticed by garages is the explosion of different 5W-30 varieties. In most cases, this is because the API/ACEA standards have become the base-line, to which manufacturers add their engine-specific requirements. While this has proven challenging for certain workshops’ stock levels, producing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ oil might be possible technically but is economically unviable. The result has seen some oil blenders, including companies that work with the OEMs, consolidate their ranges to help workshops. Total Lubrifiants (the company that sells Total Lubricants) told us that it covers the majority of the UK’s vehicle parc with five or six oil grades. Another OEM suppler, Castrol, highlights its range of ‘combi-products’, which also combine many of the key industry and OEM specifications. It advises that garages can contact the Castrol Workshop Team with specific queries if they are unsure.


While no formal blame has been directed at either engine manufacturers, or their lubrication partners, for not addressing these issues in the pre production stages, GDI engines suffer from particular ailments. These include LSPI (Low-Speed Pre Ignition) and timing chain wear. To temporarily address these issues, the API introduced its ‘SN Plus’ classification in May 2018, as an update to the pre-existing ‘SN’ specification to give the organisation sufficient time to develop a better solution. API SP was the result, introduced formally in May 2020.

Aside from the correct lubricant, ensure that you replenish the sump with the correct quantity. Consider that, on many diesel engines with particulate filters, some space is required in the sump for diesel fuel contamination that is a consequence of the active regeneration process.

Yet, API standards are not intended for the European and British markets. That role falls to the ACEA, which has not been as reactive. We contacted the ACEA about why it has not developed a Euro standard yet, equivalent to API SP, but did not receive an explanation before going to press. Therefore, when confronted with a modern GDI engine, technicians must select a lubricant that complies with the OEM recommendations.

Alternatively, you might notice oil recommendations from the International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee (ILSAC) for latest engines, especially hybrids. ILSAC GF-6A is backward-compatible and boasts superior performance over API SN Plus. ILSAC GF-6B relates to 0W-16 oils only. Both specifications are for the latest engines, which focus mainly on extra protection for timing chains and LSPI avoidance.


The Verification of Lubricant Specifications (VLS) advises that checking the vehicle owner’s manual should always be the place to start your search for the right engine oil. You might find an ACEA rating quoted, followed by a manufacturer specification, such as ACEA C3 VW 504 00/507 00. In that example, the manufacturer uses ACEA as the base quality standard but requires enhancements to safeguard the performance of the vehicle. As such, technicians should prioritise the manufacturer specification, not just the ACEA specification. The VLS recommends that you consult with your PatFluid ad 130 x 92 new_Pat Fluid ad 130 x 92 17/02/2020 17:46 Page 1 lubricant retailer, or use one of the comprehensive online oil databases to help you make the right selection.


Technicians are told repeatedly that the lubrication requirements of modern engines are increasingly discerning. Therefore, filling the sump with an incorrect lubricant is not an option, because it can have serious consequences and can even void manufacturer warranties. Getting your oil choice correct, therefore, has become ever more critical.

In practice, not every technician is comfortable rifling through an owner’s glovebox, even if the handbook is present and correct. Yet, virtually many major lubricant blender/retailer hosts an accessible online database, where entering the car registration brings-up oil that complies with the relevant technical specification. These databases are not simply made-up by marketing departments but are powered by the expertise of respected organisations, such as OATS (based in the UK), or Olyslager (of the Netherlands), both of which spend many thousands of hours ploughing through service documentation to identify the right products.

We should be unsurprised, therefore, that quality oil blenders have paid increasing attention to ensure that their products meet the technical requirements but are their online databases all the same and sufficiently clear? To find out, AT conducted a brief experiment. We entered the registration number of a three years-old Suzuki Baleno 1.0-litre BoosterJet GDI, after Suzuki GB revealed the two oil specifications it recommends for the UK, and compared it to the results suggested by several popular databases:

1. Powered by Morris Lubricants, the OATS lubricant advisor www.whatoildoineed.com was the clearest checker we found, recommending one product, with a single alternative.

2. Shell’s Lubematch www.shell.co.uk/motorist/oils-lubricants/lubematch.html offered a single offering that matched Suzuki GB’s requirements.

3. Fuchs’ oil chooser www.fuchs.com/de/en/products/ service-links/oil-chooser was not quite as succinct. Its three main options included the two recommended by Suzuki GB, with a further six (many with different viscosities) suggested on a drop-down menu. A Fuchs representative explained why: “There are some vehicles that can list a large number of specification/viscosity options so, whilst confusing, this is correct. To simplify this, on the FUCHS website, we initially state three results but also include a drop-down box where other suitable grades are listed. The latter is less common now than a few years ago and we would expect this to become even less common in the future.”

4. Castrol’s lubricant adviser is accessed via a link on the
Race Group’s website: https://castrol-ambassador. lubricantadvisor.com. For our example, it listed twenty options, including two recommended by the OEM. The Race Group, the UK’s first Castrol Ambassador Distributor, could not explain why our finding might cause confusion but Castrol told us, while it cannot comment on individual car manufacturer requirements, the extra choice can be helpful, because: “Most OEMs want to ensure that consumers can readily obtain an oil for their vehicles, so provide for a range of specifications and viscosity grades. Tools like the selector will often throw-up every product that meets any of the specs, or viscosities, required by the OEM.”

5. LIQUI MOLY’s oil guide www.liqui-moly.com/en/service/oil-guide.html listed 25 options. The company explained why the extra choice can be positive, rather than confusing: “All of the oils listed in the oil guide are perfectly suited for your car. There are specifications suited only for a small number of models and there are specifications required by many models from many makes. If your car rather belongs to the latter category, then we have several oils, and all of them are good to use. Facing such a long list of search results allows you to further narrow down your selection. For instance, if it is an older car with a higher oil consumption, you may pick a higher viscosity oil from the list to reduce oil consumption.

“Some specifications can be combined with other specifications. Other specifications are rather unique and cannot be combined. We carry many different oils with different sets of specifications. This allows us to create individual selection of engine oils for garages according to their customer base. This reduces the number of different oils required, which facilitates purchasing and storage.”


Burning deteriorated fuel hastens engine oil deterioration. As petrol and diesel ‘go off’ within weeks, BG Products recommends that its in-tank additives, BG Ethanol Defender and Diesel Fuel Conditioner, are dosed into brimmed tanks of cars that are not used regularly. Kalimex (the UK distributor of JLM products) recalls reports of excessive DPF soot levels during the first lockdown, which obviously affects engine oil condition, and it recommends JLM’s DPF Cleaner fuel additive for all but the most severe of blockages. Lucas Oil reported that not only did sales of its fuel stabiliser increase but also fleet operators turned to the company’s ‘Heavy Duty Engine Oil Stabiliser’, sales of which also increased through motor factors and online channels. The main advantage of the oil stabiliser is to reduce dry-starts and keep oil covering the vital parts, to prevent corrosion that is caused by condensation. This is more likely, should we experience lockdown situations during the autumn and winter months.


BG Products has performed research on how modern engines are affected in the real world; a chief problem is a loss of compression from deposits building behind their low tension piston rings, a consequence of which is reduced oil longevity. It sees a decent engine flush (such as its EPR product) as key to removing these products and restoring combustion in a non invasive way. The company cites data from fleets that have experienced a decrease in DPF problems (among other benefits), since treating their vehicles with additives to protect the integrity of the piston rings. At the time of writing,

Castrol has just announced its new ‘shampoo’ oil flush, in part developed due to the company not recommending the use of solvent-based flushes, on the grounds that the company alleges that they can damage oil seals.

Choose oil fortifiers with care. Some companies insist that they complement the oil’s chemistry, others state that it upsets the delicate balance. Apply judgement, based on the car owners and the vehicle’s usage patterns. For example, as certain oil drain plugs can be positioned above the base of the sump, the remaining old oil will contaminate and reduce the life of the fresh lubricant. In such cases, a supplement may be the ideal solution.

New oil for Jaguar and Land Rover – Special Tec LR 0W-20 by LIQUI MOLY

The trend for ever less viscous motor oils as a contribution to lower fuel consumption and emissions can be found in all car markets. The German oil and additive specialist LIQUI MOLY has developed a new oil just for Jaguar and Land Rover: Special Tec LR 0W-20.

Special Tec LR 0W-20 is officially approved by Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. This STJLR 51.5122 approval is required in the latest petrol engines in Jaguars and Land Rovers. “0W-20 is a particularly low viscosity motor oil,” says Oliver Kuhn, assistant laboratory manager at LIQUI MOLY. The engineers at Jaguar and Land Rover use this as one of many adjust screws to reduce consumption and minimize emissions. After all, a thin oil can be more easily pumped and has less inside resistance. This means the engine loses less performance. Oliver Kuhn: “The challenge is for such a thin oil to still reliably lubricate the engine even under extreme load.”

Special Tec LR 0W-20 is a special development exclusively for Jaguar and Land Rover. “The two brands used to simply follow the oil specifications of the former owner Ford, but since 2014 they have gone their own way here, which takes them ever further away from Ford,” says Oliver Kuhn. That’s why Special Tec LR 0W-20 is not suitable for any other models.

Alongside ever more viscous oils, this is the second trend: Ever more specialized oils with ever smaller areas of use. In other words: The variety of oil types will continue to rise and therefore it will become more and more difficult for garages and car drivers to keep an overview. The free online oil guide by LIQUI MOLY at www.liqui-moly.com offers light in the dark. Just enter the make, model and engine to immediately view a list of the right oils.

Should Automatic Transmission oil be changed?

Whether or not to change the oil in the latest automatic transmissions is an ongoing cause of confusion among vehicle owners and independent workshops alike, says Wayne McCluskey, Technical Training Manager at ZF Services. Particularly when described as ‘filled for life’, the transmission and oil are often presumed to perform reliably without intervention. However, improved understanding of the oil’s functions is leading a number of car manufacturers to rethink this position and recommend automatic transmission oil servicing at regular intervals to benefit performance and longevity. Although the details here refer to ZF transmissions, the advice can be viewed as best practice guidelines for any car equipped with an automatic gearbox.

The reliability of a modern automatic transmission depends on original equipment oils and filters to protect the complex internals.

While ZF’s newer transmissions are simpler in design, in terms of number of component parts, technological improvements demand that the oil itself is recognised as a highly engineered, multifunctional component. Aside from lubricating,

it acts as a coolant, enables hydraulic operation of transmission brakes and clutch packs, and transfers power to the remainder of the drivetrain via the torque converter. Overlapping application of clutch packs instead of freewheels, and controlled slip of the torque converter lock-up clutch, raise operating efficiency and deliver smoother gear changes, but also place greater stresses on the oil.


Under normal operating conditions, automatic transmission oil suffers some degradation with use and age. Friction materials and load bearing surfaces wear and the oil endures repeated temperature cycling, potentially leading to judder, abnormal noise and deterioration in gear change quality. ZF recommends carrying out transmission oil and filter changes after 50,000 to 75,000 miles. Increasingly critical demands on the oil mean that only a single product is developed, tested and approved for each new range of ZF transmissions. The result is a range of ZF-branded ‘Lifeguard’ part-synthetic oils to suit its five, six and eight-speed automatic transmissions. These oils are also packaged and marketed under alternative references by vehicle manufacturers using the transmission. Reference list TE-ML 11, available at www.zf.com/lubricants, is regularly updated – any oil not on the list has not been tested and approved by ZF.

ZF oil change kits are available for all ZF 5, 6 and 8-speed automatic transmissions.


The quality of the automatic transmission oil filter is equally important. Inadequate filtration or poor sealing can leave particulate contaminants circulating, which accelerate wear and increase the risk of seizure for parts operating within close tolerances, such as the pistons in the mechatronic unit. Conversely, over-filtration can lead to vital additives being excluded from circulating with the oil, and blockage of the filter.


For simplicity, all the parts required to carry out an oil change for any ZF five, six or eight-speed car automatic transmission are now available from ZF Services UK in an oil change kit. Oils, filters, sump pans and other spares can also be purchased individually.

Keeping lubes in-check – By Rob Marshall

Parts quality is an ongoing issue in the motor trade but how can you be sure that the lubricants you are using are not causing major damage to your customer’s cars? Rob Marshall looks at the current policing situation affecting engine oils.

The makers of sub-standard parts are out there…and thriving. In 1994, the Institute of Trading Standards stated that the counterfeit car parts industry was valued at £300m. Five years ago, the illicit market’s worth had ballooned to £26bn. While it can be very difficult to identify the difference between a poor quality component and the genuine item by a quick glance alone, oil presents an even trickier proposition. Like the retail buyer, the average auto technician professional is not a chemist and considerable faith is placed upon the specification claims on the label. So, how do you know that they are true?


This was the issue facing the United Kingdom Lubricants Association (UKLA), when it established the Verification of Lubricant Specifications (VLS) in 2013, after reacting to concerns raised by its members about products being sold on the open market at less than the raw material price. So, obviously, the VLS is a cartel that prevents new entrants entering the UK market, especially as many of its board members hold lofty positions within established British oil blenders…

“Absolutely not”, emphasised the UKLA’s Director General, David Wright, who revealed that: “Far from being a closed group looking after the vested interests of a select few, the VLS is an independent body and its members welcome new entrants actively to the UK lubricants scene. Yet, there has to be a level playing field and open competition. This is why we investigate complaints that are based purely on the performance claims and technical specifications of products. This is good for us, our members, independent garages and the end-user.”

Wright also emphasised that independence is vital to uphold the VLS’s credibility and the structure of its complaints and testing procedures are designed to be completely anonymous, as he explained: “While it is true that the VLS technical panel comprises of specialists from its membership, as well as additive companies and base oil suppliers, this is required because of their niche expertise. However, only the nature of the complaint is revealed to them. Details of the complainant, the product and the manufacturer are not disclosed and all cases are handled anonymously. In some situations, we have had technical panel members passing judgement on their own products without knowing it.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 19.27.04David Wright combines his past experience of working within the petroleum industry and enforcing standards within the regulator, the Department of Education, in his current role as Company Secretary within VLS.


Unless the issue is caused by a simple labelling error, the oil might require laboratory testing, but such specialist facilities tend to belong to the UK oil blenders, something that might affect the VLS’s impartiality.

“This is why we do not use them,” clarified Mr Wright, “We engage the services of an external testing house, SGS of Ellesmere Port, which is independent and has no relationship with either us, or UK oil blenders. SGS obtains test samples on our behalf but the nature of the complaint is not passed-on, only an instruction of which technical characteristics are to be evaluated and which products will be tested.”

Once the laboratory has reached a conclusion, the technical panel makes its recommendations to the VLS Supervisory Board. Subsequent decisions and advice are passed to the oil’s maker, including requests that the product is modified to make it comply with the required specification, or performance claims. Any responses involving formulation changes are referred back to the technical panel and sanctioned.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 19.24.18Many of the technical issues that the VLS uncovers include higher than specified levels of sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulphur (SAPS) in ACEA C-graded oils, which cause premature blockage of the diesel particulate filter monolith.





Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 19.24.28Trusting a well-established quality brand is not a bad idea, all of which have strict internal quality-control policies in place.







While credible lubricant blenders rush to correct accidental errors, why should the less scrupulous businesses care? While the VLS publishes each case’s details and conclusions on its website, see next page, thereby lifting the cloak of anonymity, each PDF resides online for eight weeks, prior to being archived, which hardly presents the same publicity deterrent as a full-page warning in the national press. While Mr Wright admitted that people were unsure just how much muscle the VLS could wield, when it was established, it has demonstrated influence, as he recalled,  “We suspended a member from the UKLA until the appropriate product changes were made to our satisfaction and the company was allowed to re-join. Yet, when it comes to active enforcement, we have found Trading Standard bodies to be immensely proactive when presented with our evidence.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 19.24.51Additionally, the VLS sees its role as being more than investigatory. Informing both the motor trade and end- user about oil specifications and changes within the lubricants industry is an important remit that it is growing. Yet, it views that its current procedures should continue to be prompted by third-party complaints and the need to be proactive and seek-out non-compliant lubricants is unnecessary, because this is undertaken in Europe already by the Technical Association for the European Lubricants Industry (Atiel).


If you have concerns that an oil is making spurious, incompatible, or unbelievable claims, you can report it. Yet, to meet the high costs of conducting technically-led investigations, the VLS makes a charge but it justifies the stance as helping to ensure that claims are genuine. While the cost per case varies from £500 to £2,500, the charges are slashed considerably for VLS members. Should your supplier have membership, for example, it would be worth having it proceed with the claim, especially as it can be argued that supplying compliant lubricants is more in a wholesaler’s interests. http://ukla-vls.org.uk/case-outcomes

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 19.33.43Official certification may mean that either a technical partnership exists between the blender and the carmaker, or that the oil blender applied for official approval, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.



Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 19.33.54Instead of obtaining official motor manufacturer compliance, some oils are blended to the same specification as the official oils and it is not unusual to have the same additive and base oil suppliers as those that are sanctioned officially.



The days of holding a drum each of 20W50 and 10W40 is long gone, with the gradual move towards manufacturer-specific engine oils. From an all-makes aftermarket garage perspective, apart from ensuring that the oil you order meets the standards claimed, the more bespoke requirements of modern drivetrains mean that the wrong choice could result in severe long-term mechanical damage. Speaking to Autotechnician, a spokesman from battery and lubricants supplier, Platinum International, explained that it aids its trade customers with a VRM portal available on its website; inputting a registration number into which yields the correct engine oil specifications. Yet, Platinum International also revealed that,

“Any supplier should be sensitive about garage lubricants stock tying-up not only cash but also valuable storage space. This means that greater flexibility is key. We have neither a minimum order, nor value, policies and deliver the following day.”

Verification of Lubrication Specifications (UK) Ltd.

EMAIL: admin@ukla-vls.org.uk
WEB: http://ukla-vls.org.uk


Wynn’s automatic flush & fill machine

In the United States, it’s common practice to increase the longevity of automatic gearboxes by flushing the gearbox oil. Stuart White of Car Care Maintenance in Surrey has been looking to add this ‘while you wait’ service as he sees an increasing number of these transmissions into the workshop in vehicles such as the VW Touareg, Land Rover Discovery 3, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. Having seen a couple of examples of transmission flushing equipment in action, one of which was £500 to buy outright on eBay and another was a pay-as-you-go arrangement, Stuart was keen to see what Wynn’s had to offer with the TRANSERV® machine.
“It changes almost 100% of the oil in the automatic gearbox. Normally, if you drop the sump plug and drain the oil and refill it, you’ll only get 40-50% of the oil out – a lot of it is contained within areas of the gearbox that don’t naturally drain. The TranSERV® does an oil transfer so you break into the cooler lines normally, so as the fluid comes to the cooler, it passes into the machine, is measured and puts the same amount back in. It has a gear pump that can only transfer an equal amount. It’s a very safe way of doing it. You put a flush in it first, so it operates while the engine is running and flush it through the gears, then you go the refill cycle and fill the gearbox up with the fresh oil and you should get 98-99% replacement of oil.”
This is a vast improvement over the traditional draining method in terms of efficiency but Stuart also points out
the cost and labour implications… “I had a Porsche in the week before I received the TranSERV ® machine. There was a problem that wasn’t related to the gearbox but we wanted to change the oil while it was here and I think we did 3 oil changes. Instead of 10 litres of fluid, I think we used 16 or 18 and it’s about £21 a litre.”
“People have to be realistic, if you have a major gearbox problem it’s not going to fix it, it really needs to be a service item. If you speak to most people who know anything about it, they’ll say the oil in the gearbox needs to be changed around 60-80,000 miles. What you should see is less wear so you should increase the life of the gearbox, you’ll also help prevent problems with gear shifting, give a smoother gear change, also helping to keep the gearbox cool – because the oil breaks down and picks up the wear particles. In the U.S., they have the kit to measure the amount of contamination in the gear oil  in the workshop. The 2006 Porsche we had in, it had done

about 80,000 miles and been well looked after – it belongs to a friend of mine so I know the history of it. when you looked at the oil, I wouldn’t have said it looked that bad.
When we connected it to the machine, we used a piece of clear tube so you could clearly see the change in colour and it was quite a difference. The vehicle had a slight gear shifting issue, Porsche Cayenne’s are known for this. The cost of repair on that would be somewhere between £3-4,500. They are difficult for parts, there’s a limit to the supply so they’re expensive to do. He had thought about getting rid of it but decided to keep it and repair if he had to, so we decided to do this as an experiment.
“I drove it and saw an improvement. We also reset the adaptions to start from as much as a fresh slate as we
could. Initially it was a bit jerky, which is quite usual after the reset. I probably did about 100 miles in it and I found it better by the time I drove it back to the workshop.
“I’d like to promote this as a service item, it’s really what people should be doing. I don’t want to be taking a gearbox out and stripping it down, I’d much rather be changing the oil and making sure it’s good. Ideally, we’d be
doing a filter change on the gearbox at the same time – that’s going to depend on the customer because with the
cost of the oil, on a big SUV, you’d be talking £300-400 cost for an oil service, although we’ve heard rumours that the manufacturers are charging up to £1,200 to do this.
“If you look at a transmission repair, you can easily be looking upwards of £4-5,000. The oil in an automatic
transmission is not just lubricant, it’s also cooling and hydraulically operates the system. Especially with the modern gearboxes, it’s complicated, where there’s a mechatronic unit in the gearbox. Any contamination is going to cause problems – tiny little valves, all the electronics… A lot of people aren’t aware of how these systems work, it’s a series of wet clutches and those clutches do wear and this contaminates the oil, even at a low mileage you see signs of wear.”
Stuart say’s it’s not uncommon to see mileages of 150,000 plus on the SUVs that utilise these transmissions and they will still have a value of around £10,000, so he sees this as a beneficial service for his customers, to maintain these systems and prevent potential problems.
“There’s bit of work to do in educating customers, but I think the sales pitch is, you’re only going to do it once in the time you own that vehicle. If you are the second owner of that vehicle and its done between 40,000 and 80,000 miles the chances are it won’t have been done and if you do, there’s a good chance that transmission will see you through the time you own it.”
“We’ll search on our customer database for the target vehicles, we’ll write to them with an offer and brief explanation as to why we think they should have it done, with the cost and benefits.”
“The unit costs around £3,800. Once you know what you are doing, I think you could get the work time down to an hour. It takes a certain amount of time for the machine to do what it needs to, like an zircon machine, but you don’t have to be standing over it. You’d probably want to be working on that vehicle, doing the brakes or the tyres.  We think you should be charging between £350-400 judging on what other people are selling it for, I would guess your costs would be less than £100 for oil, automatic transmission flush, filters and gasket – if you did the full lot. I reckon the return on the machine would be 20-30 jobs. For most people, I’d expect that to take around 18 months.”
“I really like it and I’m not often that impressed. It’s a very simple machine and Wynn’s are obviously a big company with plenty of backup and they were great to deal with. They’re constantly looking ate the development of their tools – you need different connectors for different vehicles and that’s the bit that could cause problems. The machine came with two kits and they have people working in the UK that use the machine and patent additional connectors as an ongoing process.
“I can’t see how they could have made it any simpler to use, I was surprised how easy it was. It wasn’t much more complicated than doing an aircon service, which is now run of the mill. The process is automated and will get to a certain phase and then stop and will be safe to leave until you are ready for the next.”
For more information on TRANSERV®, call Wynn’s on 02476 472 634.

Will oil save or kill your turbo?

The right oils and additives will reduce emissions, enhance fuel economy and prevent premature wear – the incorrect oil will cause all sorts of problems, which will result in a damaged reputation!

Oil problems are the main cause of turbocharger failure. BTN Turbo – the world’s largest independent turbo distributor – explains what goes wrong and how to avoid it…
Today’s turbos are complex, but they’re still inherently reliable. Less than 1% of turbo failures are due to a fault with the turbo itself, over 90% are oil-related. Correct, clean oil is vital for turbos. A turbine shaft spins up to 6,000 times every second (an amazing 360,000 rpm), in temperatures of up to 950°C, and is protected by just a thin film of oil on the shaft bearings. Any problem with the oil will damage the bearings or oil seals, inevitably leading to turbo failure.
For over 40 years, BTN Turbo has examined countless dead turbos and this experience has clearly identified
three oil-related turbo killers: oil leaks, oil starvation and oil contamination. Any leak that cuts off or drastically reduces the supply of oil to the turbo bearings will cause problems. Running a turbo without oil for five seconds is as harmful as running an engine without oil for five minutes.
Oil starvation can be the result of leaks or other faults, such as blocked or kinked oil feed pipes, but the cause can also be outside the oil system. The oil seals at either end of the turbo bearing shaft rely on positive air pressure to keep them in place. A faulty or missing air filter, or insufficient exhaust back pressure, will result in either too much or too little air pressure, the oil seals start to leak and the bearings are starved of oil. The turbo will be damaged and ultimately fail.
Then there’s oil contamination. This isn’t simply about dirty oil. Certainly, old oil with carbon, sludge, or tiny particles of silicon gasket sealer will score the turbo shaft bearings and shorten turbo life, but contamination can also occur because the wrong oil has been used.
Revive boasts extensive knowledge in vehicle emissions systems, like turbos, intercoolers, exhaust gas recycling (EGR) valves, diesel particulate filters (DPF), and environmentally-friendly performance chemicals designed
to clean the turbo and improve efficiency. Revive treatments are water-based, non-toxic, non-corrosive and
non-flammable fluids, which clean engine systems that are experiencing problems caused by soot and oil
build-up. The treatment is sprayed into the vehicle’s intake system before the turbo inlet, whilst the engine is
running. As the fluid passes through the engine system it locks on to built-up, oily/carbon deposits and strips away a surface layer. These carbonated particles are carried away out through the exhaust system, without blocking catalysts and filters.
Three doses of the treatment cleans the turbo and other engine internal components, helping to restore fuel
economy, regain lost power and reduce emissions. Variable nozzle/vane technology can be a major cause of turbo problems due to sticking vanes; Revive helps remove soot and oil from the mechanism to restore normal treatment. The Revive cleaning process can be performed before a service, which allows a vehicle to be checked over and filled with clean oil.
01225 701 920
Engine lubricants play a significant role in achieving the EU emission standard regulations, currently EURO 6, which became mandatory for all new vehicles produced from 2014 onwards. Comma has introduced two new low viscosity VAG-specific oils, Eco-VG and Pro-VLL, which contribute to fuel saving and emissions reduction.
The fully synthetic Eco-VG 0W-30 has a lower viscosity, flowing more readily at low temperatures, and circulates faster around the engine for quicker protection of moving parts. It provides enhanced protection for catalytic converters and Diesel Particulate filters, fitted as standard on EURO 6 compliant vehicles. It is designed to provide exceptional piston cleaning to reduce blow-by gases passing the piston ring pack and degrading the oil.
New Comma Pro-VLL 0W-30 is a very specific, fully synthetic engine oil, suitable only for Volkswagen group vehicles requiring the VW 506 01, 506 00 and 503 00 specifications. It has been specially developed for vehicles with Pumpeduese engines running on LongLife service regimes, predominantly VW Touareg and LCVs, such as VW Transporters.
It maximises the oil change intervals according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, while the low viscosity helps to reduce friction, which enhances fuel economy and reduces CO2 emissions. These latest introductions once more emphasise the need for technicians to select precisely the right engine-specific oil for every application.
LUKOIL Lubricants is one of the largest lubricant and gas production companies worldwide, supplying a wide range of products that meet the advanced operating requirements and specifications of vehicle manufacturers. Vehicle approvals include BMW, VW Audi Group, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Renault. A VRM Oil finder tool is available on its website to ensure the correct oil is used. Call Platinum International to find your nearest stockist:
0161 876 3374

March PPP Competition – Win Performance Motor Oil

One lucky PPP member will win 200 litres of Performance Motor Oil products of their choice (10 cases of 5L stock packs)

With 16 engine oils in the range, Comma Performance Motor Oils (PMO) now provide 99% coverage of the total UK passenger and light commercial vehicle parc – all you need to support your vehicle servicing business.

If you haven’t already entered the March competition, click here to enter. 

It is simple to find the right engine oil, using our PPP enhanced application guide at www.CommaOil.com/ppp. What’s more, the online application guide is supported by our 100% Compatibility Guarantee, giving you complete confidence to use Comma’s application data to specify the correct oil for every vehicle you service.

Congratulations to Ainsley McEwan of McEwans Garage, Derby; winner of last month’s prize draw.

Best regards

The Comma Team

P.S Don’t forget, you can earn fantastic gifts when servicing with Comma Performance Motor Oil with the NEW Comma StickerSmart rewards, click here to start earning today.