Manufacturers reformulate to meet new passenger car motor oil (PCMO) standards.


If your preferred passenger car motor oil isn’t yet arriving in a new package, it probably will be soon. What’s inspiring this mass move for a new look? Updated GF-6 motor oil standards for cars and light trucks.

Vehicle Makers Lead the Change

Car manufacturer associations from across the globe, including the US, Europe, and Japan, requested the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC), the governing body that defines international fuel and oil standards, to update lubricant standards to accommodate the needs of today’s lighter cars.

The GF-5 standard, adopted in 2011, were established for a different type of vehicle. Modern engines are designed to be more fuel efficient. They are smaller and lighter and are more likely to incorporate turbo technology and low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI) systems, which increases pressure within the engine’s cylinders.

Vehicle manufacturers found that the extra pressure from LSPI was causing increased damage to engine models incorporating new technologies. Particular damage occurred to cylinder walls, pistons, piston rings, connecting rods and spark plugs, as well as to the timing system. This damage could be catastrophic, leading to engine failure, and the GF-5 lubricants did not offer sufficient protection.

What’s Different about the GF-6 Formulation?

PCMO GF-6 vs GF-5 specifications


GF-6 motor oil standards will be divided into two categories: GF6-A and GF-6B. GF-6A contains traditional SAE viscosity grades of 0W-20, 5W-20, 5W-30, and 10W-30. The GF-6 formulations are required to meet the old GF-5 benchmarks, and then some, making them backwards compatible with GF1-5 standards.

GF-6B, on the other hand, is designated for new viscosity grades of SAE 0W-16, which should only be used in recommended applications. For engines requiring it, GF-6B oil is required to meet benchmarks that protect turbo-charged engines:

  1. Improve fuel economy & fuel economy retention
  2. Increase engine durability
  3. Protect engine wear during idle-stop
  4. Minimize LSPI damage
  5. Improve piston cleanliness
  6. Protect chain from wear

To avoid confusion between GF-6A and GF6-B, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has released a new API seal for the GF6-B category. While GF-6A will keep the recognizable API starburst badge, GF-6B will carry a shield mark.

When will the GF-6 motor oil standards take effect?

Three API Seals for PCMO Explained

They’ve already started. The new standards began to roll out in May and manufacturers have up to one year to complete the transition. Carson carries PCMO lines by Valvoline, Havoline, Peak, Motorcraft and Renewable Lubricants. Most vendors are clearing out their existing inventory of GF-5 and making the switch to GF-6 equivalents once those inventories run out.

Havoline's Good Better Best Chart describes the differences in their new GF-6 line.

Recommendations for GF-6B engines & bulk tanks

Tip for bulk tanksThere is no change to older engines requiring traditional PCMO SAE viscosity grades. Continue using the OEM suggested lubricant for your vehicle and mileage. You’ll see the new GF-6 labels once the manufacturer rolls it out for your product.

If your vehicle would benefit with the new, lighter GF-6B lubricants, you probably won’t see it reflected in your model’s OEM manual until the 2021. If you are expecting an oil change before then and want confirm whether your vehicle would benefit from GF-6B, inquire directly with your dealer and/or auto-service provider.

For bulk lubricant tanks with existing GF-5 product, oil manufacturers and Carson recommend you drain tanks to no more than 10% of GF-5 before filling with GF-6 motor oil. Allowing tanks to drain will ensure the integrity of any added benefits to the GF-6 formulations.

Carson is a leading provider of lubricants to Pacific Northwest businesses. We carry the most trusted lubricant brands, carefully curated for every budget. With a wide range of package options, you’ll find the lubricants your business and equipment need.

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