At the heart of heavy-duty equipment is its engine oil, the lifeblood that ensures it runs smoothly and reliably. Protecting the internal components of the engine and helping it run efficiently, heavy-duty engine oil is nothing less than essential.
But, how have heavy-duty engine oils evolved to meet the needs of today’s hard-wearing fleets, and what can we expect from lubricants in the future?
The Role of Engine Oils
Before exploring advances in modern lubricant technology, it’s important to consider the role of heavy-duty engine oils in today’s engines. Engine oils play a vital role in maintaining the efficiency and operation of work truck engines. High-quality lubricants help minimize metal-to-metal contact between moving components, reducing pumping and rotational losses, and therefore improving the engine’s efficiency.
Lubricants also provide essential protection to the engine’s inner workings, helping to prevent wear that can result in unplanned maintenance and downtime. This ultimately means that the right choice of lubricant saves fleet managers and operators time and money.
The Needs of Modern Engine Technology
Throughout recent decades, lubricants have evolved considerably to address the challenges of modern trucks and their engines. Newer engines require lubricants that are more durable to help prevent wear as today’s engines run at higher temperatures, which can stress conventional lubricants.
Relatively newer engine operations, such as stop/start technology can also mean additional burdens for an engine oil.
To address these challenges, the most recent oils standards – API CK-4 and FA-4 – offer greater resistance to oxidation as well as improved aeration control and shear stability. Lubricants that meet these standards provide modern engine technology with enhance protection, improved fuel economy as well as the potential to safely extend oil drain intervals. (Note: Extending drain intervals should always be undertaken in conjunction with an oil analysis program.) This not only ensures that equipment can be operational for longer between oil drains but also reduces scheduled maintenance costs – resulting in a direct and positive impact on the company’s bottom line.
The Future of Lubricants
Looking ahead to the future, the trend toward lower viscosity engine oils is set to continue, not only within the latest API CK-4 category but also due to the ongoing transition toward API FA-4 lubricants.
The trend can be seen quite clearly when looking to the passenger car industry, where engines are becoming more efficient due to legislation and consumer demand to drive greater fuel efficiency. In turn, engine oils have a lower viscosity to maximize the engine power output with no compromise on performance.
Although several years ahead of the heavy-duty sector, our pathway to low viscosity engine oils is currently being forged and the benefits of these latest innovative products are clear as we head toward 0W-20 and SAE 20 lubricants – following in the footsteps of the passenger car industry.
Despite the transition to PC-11 only coming into effect in 2016, PC-12 is already on the horizon. PC-12 will be developed based on Phase 3 of the Greenhouse Gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB). This will provide further justification for the development of PC-12 and allow it to be timetabled for 2027.
The EPA and CARB announcement is yet to be made; however we can assume that we can expect even lower viscosity grades such as 5W-30 and 5W-20 as we continue the trend towards lower viscosity.
The heavy-duty engine oil industry has been in a period of transition for several years – moving toward lower viscosity lubricants, and with the continuing technological advancement of engine hardware architecture. The roadmap to lower viscosity engine oils and further improvements is marked out – and although only on the horizon it will be here sooner than we all think.
About the Author: Darryl Purificati is the OEM Technical Liason for Petro-Canada Lubricants, a HollyFrontier business. This article was authored and edited according to our editorial standards and style to provide useful information to our readers.