What's in a label?

How well do you understand the labels on the engine oils that you use? Most of us look up the type of oil we are supposed to use in our vehicle manual. The manual tells us which oil is best for our engine and that is the one we use. But how do we know that’s the right oil? Will it protect the engine best?

Choosing the right oil for your engine is more complicated than simply following the manual instructions. You need to take into account the type of vehicle you drive, how you drive, in what conditions, and what kind of engine you have. Most of that information may not be in your manual. There are different oil formulations for almost every type of engine condition. Picking the right one starts with knowing how to read the label.

There are two labels you need to pay attention to, the API Donut and the API Starburst. These certifications don’t just end up on any bottle of engine oil. The API certification process has gone through a variety of changes throughout the years. In 1911, the API was known as the Society of Automotive Engineers. They started an early system of classifying engine oil based on viscosity. The current system is a much more comprehensive and focuses on ensuring that developers properly produce, test, and label their products to provide the best quality for consumers. The two label certifications, the API donut and the API starburst label, are the standard in the industry.

 The API donut has two halves. The top half indicates the motor oil performance standard determined by API. This standard suggests the level of testing the oil has gone through, and what engine to use the oil in. The bottom half of the donut indicates if the oil has resource-conserving properties. In the center of the donut is the viscosity grade.
 The starburst label indicates if the oil meets the International Lubrication Specification Advisory Committee (ISLAC) standards. This group is made up of engine manufacturers, oil and additive companies, vehicle manufacturers, and industry trade associations. This testing is for the protection the oil provides to the engine, fuel economy and emissions.

To earn these labels, manufacturers must apply for licensing. This process is complicated and expensive. Companies may spend millions of dollars to permit an oil. The product goes through rigorous testing, including elemental analysis, finished oil physical properties, additive and base oil information, engine test information, and product traceability code data. Manufacturers must provide samples of their product for testing at any time.

To ensure that companies don’t change formulas after testing, the API also maintains an audit check program. They buy oils and test them against the license formulas that are on file. Every oil is tested for cranking, pumpability, volatility, gelation, foaming, filterability, flash point, and shear stability to earn certification. The results of the previous testing must match up. Minor differences in the formulas will have to be corrected by the manufacturer. If the problem is more significant than that, the company could lose their licensing, and be asked to remove the product from the marketplace. There are many oils out there that are fraudulently labelled. The API maintains a website with the details of offenders. Manufacturers that claim to be endorsed by the API are lying as producers are not allowed to use endorsement language when referring to the API.

The oil classification process is continually evolving, with the development of new testing methods and engine technology. Categories that are no longer used are labelled as obsolete. There are three current API service categories: Gasoline, Diesel C, and Diesel F. Each category has different classifications to help consumers choose which oil is best for their needs.

To help consumers, the API has developed a program called Motor Oil Matters or MOM. This program is designed to help consumers choose high-quality motor oil. Distributors and oil changes locations may apply for licensing to ensure that they meet API standards and follow the API chain of custody. They must also submit to an auditing process. This program protects consumers and helps to educate them on the importance of engine oil quality standards.

As a fuel supplier, we make sure to keep updated on all the changes happening in the oil world. Closely monitoring the labeling and certification process of the API is part of our job. Choosing the right product is about more than following the manufacturer’s instructions. We take into account the condition of your engine, how you drive, where and when. All of these factors affect performance and we make sure to recommend the products that will keep your engine running well for years to come. If you have any questions about what products to use, please reach out. We are always here to help.

About Us:

If you need additional information, please know that the team at Greg’s Petro is here to help. As your lubricants supplier in Bakersfield, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clarita or Ventura, California areas, we are available to help answer any questions you might have. Visit us online or give us a call to learn more.