European Vehicles Require High End Oils

Many popular North American engine oils may actually be harmful to European engines. European automobile manufacturers design vehicles to use specific high quality lubricants with specific properties and additives. Most motor oils offered in America do not meet the demanding specifications, and the European lubricants are not readily available. As a result, problems such as premature wear and engine sludge develop.

"Europeans build their cars and impose higher requirements on the type of oil than we are used to here in North America," said an oil industry source. "They have more of a multi-tier system within their specifications, whereas the API uses the lowest common denominator as a guideline. It is by its own admission, within API 1509, a minimum spec."

While the American Petroleum Institute (API) sets oil standards in America, the Automotive Manufacturers Association (ACEA) sets them in Europe. According to industry sources, ACEA standards reflect a wider complexity of the offering of engines on the market right now. Furthermore, manufacturers have introduced their own standards, most of which start with the ACEA standards, and go further in specific tests to solve specific problems and address specific issues.

In the U.S., the API adopts one standard for all engine oils. "For example they are working on ILSAC GF-4, and the problems they are running into is that this oil will be too thin for a lot of older engines," explains Blanquart. "In Europe, they decided from the beginning that they would not adopt a linear standard - rather a standard for each type of application - gas, diesel, turbo, etc."

European vehicle manufacturers keep tight control over which lubricants they allow to be used in their vehicles. Inner-company bureaucracies are in charge of keeping the approved lubricant lists up-to-date with the latest requirements, and a few companies apply some of the regulations to North America. European aftermarket service stations must stock different lubricants for different automobile brands. Sometimes different models put out by the same manufacturer require different lubricants.

Do-it-yourselfers are less prevalent in Europe. Qualified repair shops, franchised or tightly controlled by the vehicle manufacturers in order to dictate the type of oil being used, typically perform most of the oil changes.

The high quality oils used in Europe allow Europeans to enjoy longer drain interval. However, when European vehicles are exported to the United States, the concept becomes distorted.

"There is in general a longer drain associated with the higher tier oils in the European system," remarks the oil industry source, "so the thought process is - if we don't allow the longer drain in North America, consumers should be able to get by with API spec oils - but it leaves manufacturers open to the type of problems Mercedes-Benz recently experienced."

A recent class-action lawsuit brought forward by owners of certain 1998 through 2001 Mercedes-Benz vehicles claimed they weren't informed that synthetic motor oil was required in order to take advantage of the extended drain intervals afforded through the use of the vehicles' Flexible Service System (FSS). Many using conventional oils experienced premature wear problems, and the settlement will cost the company over $32 million.

"The long drain indicator used by Mercedes is predicated on using Mercedes-Benz-approved oil, which is a very top quality synthetic oil," explains the oil company source. "When those vehicles came to the States, somehow dealerships weren't impressing upon the consumer the need to use the right oil. And whether or not the dealers were doing so, some consumers were putting in regular API-spec oil, resulting in problems."

Although synthetic motor oils are generally of higher quality than conventional oils, not all synthetics can meet the stringent European specifications. "A good quality synthetic could solve the problem," says the source, "but in the case of Mercedes-Benz, for example, you're dealing with an extremely high-spec oil. Not every synthetic is going to meet that spec. Some only meet the baseline API specs. Just because it's a synthetic doesn't mean it's a top tier product."

Formulated with top-of-the-line synthetic base stocks and robust additive packages, AMSOIL synthetic motor oils provide superior protection and performance over competing synthetic and conventional motor oils and meet or exceed the most stringent European oil specifications. AMSOIL synthetic motor oils provide superior protection and performance in both foreign and domestic automobiles for extended drain intervals.

AMSOIL manufactures a complete line of synthetic lubricants and automotive products that meet or exceed the most stringent industry specifications.


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