LUBES 101


90% of most of the lubricants worldwide consist of base oils. It is the main foundation of which all lubricants are made of. The remaining part of the lubricant is made up of a combination of additive packages.
No, base oils are a byproduct from the refining process of crude oils.
During the refining process of crude oil, the light and heavy hydrocarbons are separated. The light hydrocarbons are used to make petrol and other fuels while the heavy hydrocarbons are used to make base oils and bitumen.
There are 5 different types of base oils: Group I, Group II, Group III, Group IV and Group V.
Group I
This is the least refined type of petroleum base oil and it is produced by a process called Solvent Refining. It consists of conventional petroleum base oils.
  • Solvent refining
  • Contains less than 90% saturates
  • Sulfur content is 0.03% or greater
  • Viscosity Index is between 80 and 120
  • Temperature range: 0-65 degrees Celsius
Group II
This is petroleum base oil refined even further by partially using Hydrocracking. This removes all of the impurities in the base oil which leads to the oil having a lighter colour.
  • Partial Hydrocracking
  • Contains 90% saturates or greater
  • Sulfur content is 0.03% or less
  • Viscosity index is between 80 and 120
Group III
This is the best grade available of petroleum base oil. It is produced completely by Hydrocracking.
  • Process is completely done by Hydrocracking
  • Contains 90% or more saturates
  • Sulfur content is 0.03% or less
  • Viscosity index 120 or greater

Group IV
These are what the industry refers to as Synthetic base oils which are made of Polyalphaolefins (PAO) through a process called synthesizing. These oils are much more stable in the extreme heat and in the extreme cold conditions. They have very stable chemical compositions and highly uniform molecular chains. Group IV base oils are becoming more common in synthetic and synthetic-blend products for automotive and industrial applications.

Group V
Any other type of base oils that is not a part of group I to group IV is considered a group V base oil. This includes naphthenic oils, polyalkylene glycol (PAG), biolubes and esters. These base oils are also synthetic.
You can measure lubricants quality by checking the viscosity and Total Base Number (TBN) which indicates it's thickness and effectiveness against shear and acid and sludge formation.
  • Viscosity
Viscosity is the most important characteristic of almost any lubrication product. It is the measure of the fluidity (flowability) at definite temperatures. If the viscosity is too thin, the lubricant film will be squeezed out from between the moving metal surfaces allowing them to come into contact. If the viscosity is too thick, it will not travel into the small areas where it is needed. It will require excessive pumping force, causing undue wear on pumps and excessive heat built-up, and it will not permit easy cranking of any engine. Viscosity of base oils is most commonly stated in terms of Saybolt Viscosity. This states the time in seconds it takes 60 milliliters of oil to flow through a small diameter tube at a certain temperature. This is expressed in Saybolt Universal Seconds (SUS) at either 37.70 Celsius (= 1000 F) or 98.80 Celsius (= 2100 F), such as 200 SUS @ 37.70 Celsius or 45 SUS @ 98.80 Celsius. The metric system expresses viscosity in centistokes (cSt) or in SI units  (mm2/s) at Celsius temperature. The exception in the measurement of oil viscosity is at low temperatures. In this case, a ‘Cold Crank Simulator’ (CCS) is used to determine the viscosity which is usually reported in centipoises at -10 to -350 Celsius.
 
  • Viscosity Index
All lubricants change viscosity with temperature change. Lubricants become thinner as temperature increases and thicker as temperature decreases. Oil that was 100 cSt @ 40 Celsius will have a lower viscosity at 100 Celsius and even lower viscosity again at 150 Celsius. Different types of oil results in this viscosity change at varying temperatures. This rate of change is referred to as the Viscosity Index. In short, the oil is said to be of a certain ‘VI’. The Viscosity Index scale is an entirely arbitrary one. By measuring the amount of VI change from 40 Celsius to 100 Celsius, an oil’s VI is determined. When the scale was established, the very best oil (the one that changed the least) was assigned a viscosity index value of 100. While the oil that changed the most was given the value of 0. It was thought that all other oils would fall between these two limits. However today with improved refining techniques and ‘VI Improver’ chemistry it is now possible to make oils considerably above 100 VI. It is worth nothing that, the viscosity index of base oil is directly related to the type of crude oil and the refining methods used. In general, the lower VI base oils will be from 15 to 30 VI, intermediate VI base oils from 30 to 85; and high VI base oils from 85 to 100 VI.
The TBN is the Total Base Number of a lubricant.
I) Pour point is the lowest temperature at which the oil will pour. This is very important for engine oils and other lubricants operating at low and extremely low temperatures. The pour point is directly related to the type of crude used and it’s wax content.
 
II) The flash point is the temperature at which approximately 70ml of oil will “flash” when exposed to an open flame. This can be anywhere from 1320C to 3270C. This is usually an indicator to the volatility of the oil and is a very important factor in engine oils and their consumption rate.
This is the right way to describe any specific automotive lubricant product. SAE and API both indicate that the chemical and physical properties are defined by standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers and the American Petroleum Institute. So basically the product in question is the 20w/50 with standards set by the SAE and the grade is SL with standards set by the API. The first part ‘20w’ indicates that this lubricant has the viscosity range of SAE 20 in winter conditions, and the second part ‘50’ indicates that the lubricant has the viscosity range of SAE 50 in 100 degrees Celsius. The ‘W’ simply stands for winter and it’s placed after the first number to indicate that the first number is the one for the winter conditions.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) have an established numerical coding system that allows us to grade motor oils according to their viscosity characteristics. It simply means that the product is manufactured having the specifications set by the SAE.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) have also established certain specifications for given grades. This API grade gets updated after a certain period in a similar way to how cars have a new model for each year. The specifications are enhanced with every update thanks to the most recent research & development breakthroughs worldwide.
Any API grade that starts with the letter S signifies that the lubricant is for gasoline engines and any API grade that starts with the letter C signifies that the lubricant is for diesel engines. With every new updated API grade, the second letter of the API grade descends a letter in most cases. For example: In gasoline engine vehicles, the grade SG was introduced in 1989. SH was then introduced 1993. SJ in 1996, SL in 2001 and SM in 2004. The latest grade is the SN grade that has been introduced in 2010. In diesel engine vehicles, the grade CD was introduced in 1955. CE was then introduced 1984. CF4 in 1990, CF and CF2 in 1994, CH4 in 1998. The latest grade is the CK4 grade that has been introduced in 2017.
Gasoline Engines
The current and previous API Service Categories are listed here. Vehicle owners should refer to their owner’s manuals before consulting these charts. Oils may have more than one performance level. For automotive gasoline engines, the latest API Service Category includes the performance properties of each earlier category and can be used to service older engines where earlier category oils were recommended.
Category Status Service
SN Current Introduced in October 2010, designed to provide improved high temperature deposit protection for pistons, more stringent sludge control, and seal compatibility. API SN with Resource Conserving matches ILSAC GF-5 by combining API SN performance with improved fuel economy, turbocharger protection, emission control system compatibility, and protection of engines operating on ethanol-containing fuels up to E85.
SM Current For 2010 and older automotive engines.
SL Current For 2004 and older automotive engines.
SJ Current For 2001 and older automotive engines.
SH Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1996. May not provide adequate protection against build-up of engine sludge, oxidation, or wear.
SG Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1993. May not provide adequate protection against build-up of engine sludge, oxidation, or wear.
SF Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1988. May not provide adequate protection against build-up of engine sludge.
SE Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1979.
SD Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1971. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.
SC Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1967. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.
SB Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1951. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.
SA Obsolete CAUTION: Contains no additives. Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1930. Use in modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.

Diesel Engines
(Follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations on oil performance levels)
Category Status Service
CK-4 Current API Service Category CK-4 describes oils for use in high-speed four-stroke cycle diesel engines designed to meet 2017 model year on-highway and Tier 4 non-road exhaust emission standards as well as for previous model year diesel engines. These oils are formulated for use in all applications with diesel fuels ranging in sulfur content up to 500 ppm (0.05% by weight). However, the use of these oils with greater than 15 ppm (0.0015% by weight) sulfur fuel may impact exhaust aftertreatment system durability and/or oil drain interval. These oils are especially effective at sustaining emission control system durability where particulate filters and other advanced aftertreatment systems are used. API CK-4 oils are designed to provide enhanced protection against oil oxidation, viscosity loss due to shear, and oil aeration as well as protection against catalyst poisoning, particulate filter blocking, engine wear, piston deposits, degradation of low- and high-temperature properties, and soot-related viscosity increase. API CK-4 oils exceed the performance criteria of API CJ-4, CI-4 with CI-4 PLUS, CI-4, and CH-4 and can effectively lubricate engines calling for those API Service Categories. When using CK-4 oil with higher than 15 ppm sulfur fuel, consult the engine manufacturer for service interval recommendations.
CJ-4 Current For high-speed four-stroke cycle diesel engines designed to meet 2010 model year on-highway and Tier 4 non-road exhaust emission standards as well as for previous model year diesel engines. These oils are formulated for use in all applications with diesel fuels ranging in sulfur content up to 500 ppm (0.05% by weight). However, the use of these oils with greater than 15 ppm (0.0015% by weight) sulfur fuel may impact exhaust aftertreatment system durability and/or drain interval. API CJ-4 oils exceed the performance criteria of API CI-4 with CI-4 PLUS, CI-4, CH-4, CG-4 and CF-4 and can effectively lubricate engines calling for those API Service Categories. When using CJ-4 oil with higher than 15 ppm sulfur fuel, consult the engine manufacturer for service interval.
CI-4 Current Introduced in 2002. For high-speed, four-stroke engines designed to meet 2004 exhaust emission standards implemented in 2002. CI-4 oils are formulated to sustain engine durability where exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) is used and are intended for use with diesel fuels ranging in sulfur content up to 0.5% weight. Can be used in place of CD, CE, CF-4, CG-4, and CH-4 oils. Some CI-4 oils may also qualify for the CI-4 PLUS designation.
CH-4 Current Introduced in 1998. For high-speed, four-stroke engines designed to meet 1998 exhaust emission standards. CH-4 oils are specifically compounded for use with diesel fuels ranging in sulfur content up to 0.5% weight. Can be used in place of CD, CE, CF-4, and CG-4 oils.
CG-4 Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered automotive engines built after 2009.
CF-4 Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered automotive engines built after 2009.
CF-2 Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered automotive engines built after 2009. Two-stroke cycle engines may have different lubrication requirements than four-stroke engines, so the manufacturer should be contacted for current lubrication recommendations.
CF Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered automotive engines built after 2009. Later “C” category oils are usually suitable or preferred for diesel automotive engines for which “CF” oils were specified. Older equipment and/or two-stroke diesel engines, especially those calling for monograde products, may however require “CF” category oil.
CE Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered automotive engines built after 1994.
CD-II Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered automotive engines built after 1994.
CD Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered automotive engines built after 1994.
CC Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered engines built after 1990.
CB Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered engines built after 1961.
CA Obsolete  CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most diesel-powered engines built after 1959.
A monograde lubricant, SAE 40 for example, is one that performs well in moderate to hot temperatures but not at low and cold temperatures. A multigrade lubricant, SAE 20w50 API SN for example, is one that has additives such as the viscosity index improver and pour point depressant which leads to a better and effective performance in cold climates and low temperatures as well as warm climates and high temperatures. These additives basically prevent formation of large crystals in lube oil molecules which makes the oil more fluid at low temperatures. This allows the oil to perform optimally in both winter and summer conditions.
Some additives in motor oil are more susceptible to darkening in the presence of heat than others. Additionally, normal oxidation can darken oil too. Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules interact with oil molecules and cause a chemical breakdown, just like how oxygen causes a sliced apple to change to a darker color. Oil can be very, very dark (black even) and still be effective. However, as a general rule: New, clean oil is amber in color. As engine oil gets darker, it can indicate a) high heat, b) contaminants, or c) the presence of additives that cause the oil to darken during normal use.
Your oil shouldn't need topping up until it's at the lowest mark on the dipstick. This usually represents the minimum amount of oil you can safely run your engine with. If your oil level is below this, then you should top your engine’s oil up immediately.
The most common issue is that the parts in your engine will become too hot due to the friction taking places between the parts. This makes the engine run less efficiently and wears out the engine’s components over time. If the oil is not changed at all, the entire engine will shut down and have to be replaced. Replacing your oil at the right time will extend the life of your vehicle or asset.
Choosing the correct motor oil for your car might seem daunting but the best way to start is to find the suggested oil weight and viscosity by checking the owner’s manual of your car manufacturer. Then find a brand that has Quality Approvals and certifications such as SAE and API.
Synthetic oil is a lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made. Synthetic lubricants can be manufactured using chemically modified petroleum components rather than refined crude oil. They can also be synthesized from other raw materials. Synthetic oils are a blend of fluids and additives that accentuate certain properties (anti-wear, anti-pollution, anti-corrosion) and are appropriate for the most demanding high-performance engines in extreme conditions (high temperatures, high pressures for example).
These are oils that have synthetic oil mixed with regular mineral oil. In some cases it’s split equally 50%-50% and in other cases it’s not. Semi-synthetic oils are formulated to provide protection for heavier loads and high temperatures. They are less expensive than fully synthetic oils.
Use of additives is another approach to improving and maintaining oil performance. Certain elements are added to the blend to improve certain characteristics. It is not easy for engines to deal with the combination of high temperatures, moisture, combustion of products, rust, corrosion, oxygen and even the formation of sludge and varnish. The additive packages help the oils in dealing with all these issues.
Here are the categories of key additive ingredients and why they're important:
  1. Viscosity-index improvers: Reduce the oil's tendency to thin with increasing temperatures
  2. Detergents: Unlike the household type, they don't scrub engine surfaces. They do remove some deposits, primarily solids. But their main purpose is to keep the surfaces clean by inhibiting the formation of high-temperature deposits, rust and corrosion.
  3. Dispersants: Disperse solid particles, keeping them in solution, so they don't come together to form sludge, varnish and acids. Some additives work both as detergents and dispersants.
  4. Anti wear agents: There are times when the lubricating film breaks down, so the anti wear agents have to protect the metal surfaces. A zinc and phosphorus compound called ZDDP (zinc diakyldithiophosphate) is a long-used favorite, along with other phosphorus (and sulphur) compounds
  5. Friction modifiers: These aren't the same as anti-wear agents. They reduce engine friction and therefore improving fuel economy. Graphite, molybdenum and other compounds are used.
  6. Pour-point depressants PPD: Just because the 0° F viscosity rating is low doesn't mean the oil will flow readily at low temperatures. Oil contains wax particles that can congeal and reduce flow, so these additives are used to prevent it.
  7. Antioxidants: With engine temperatures being pushed up for better emissions control, the antioxidants are needed to prevent oxidation (and, therefore, thickening) of oil. Some of the additives that perform other functions also serve this purpose, such as the antiwear agents.
  8. Foam inhibitors: The crankshaft whipping through the oil in the pan causes foaming. Oil foam is not as effective a lubricant as a full-liquid stream, so the inhibitors are used to cause the foam bubbles to collapse.
  9. Rust/corrosion inhibitors: Protect metal parts from acids and moisture
Recycled oil is used oil that has been run through a process of filtration that removes particulate and insoluble impurities. Although filtration removes physical impurities in the form of particulate matter from the oil, it does not remove chemical impurities and contaminants. This allows the oil to be reused in the form of fuel or as lubrication in non-critical systems. Reconditioned oil is a subset of recycled oil that is produced by mixing recycled oil with key additives to prolong the oil’s usage. Reconditioned oil is generally one-time-use and is not high enough in purity to be used in cars or trucks.
Re-refined oil is recycled oil that goes through extensive processing, filtration, distillation and dehydration to remove both soluble and insoluble contaminants. With re-refined oils, additives are removed through chemical processing, which creates an additive-less base oil that can then be distilled to remove any remaining water or additional impurities. A dehydrating process removes residual light fuel and ethylene glycol while a vacuum distillation step removes the fraction of oil suitable for reuse as a lubricating oil. This fraction of oil undergoes hydrotreating that further removes remaining polymers and chemicals. From here the oil is fractionated into grades: light viscosity, low viscosity and high viscosity which each have different applications. The re-refined base oils (RRBL) are then blended with additives to produce finished products with optimal detergent and anti-friction capabilities. Re-refined oil must be qualified by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to maintain the same base oil ratings as virgin oils. Unfortunately there aren’t many refineries in the Middle East that can re-refine used oils to an acceptable standard. Most of the refineries in the region produce very low grade recycled oil that is not suitable for the environment or for the consumer.
  1. Appearance: Virgin oil should be clear and consistent in nature.
  2. Smell: Recycled oil tends to have a strong smell of either sulfur or perfume. The sulfur is generally present in most recycled products and the perfume is usually used to disguise the smell of sulfur. Virgin oils shouldn’t have any smell of sulfur or perfume.
  3. Color: Usually virgin base oils are very light in color while recycled base oils are dark in color. This is not always the case though.
  4. Precipitations: Virgin oils will not have any residue at the bottom of the bottle while recycled oils can have some residue at the bottom of the bottle
In our region, car dealerships tend to also own a lubricants brand that belongs to the same dealer. They tell their customers that if they use a lubricant that is not from their brand, the warrantee will be void and therefore the customers will always use the recommended lubricant, even when there are better lubricants for your engines available elsewhere. In 2017, Saudi Arabia passed a new law that forbids car dealerships to void warrantee if their customers use a different lubricant. We are hopeful that the other countries can follow suit to allow customers to be in control of what they want to use for their vehicles and not have other products from the same dealer forced upon them.
Recycled lubricants represent about 70% of the global market’s demand while Virgin lubricants only account for 30%. There is more than one reason for this. One of the main reasons recycled lubricants is more common is because they are cheaper to buy for all of the garages and service centers and they are sold at a price very close to the virgin lubricants. Basically, the owners of the garages and services center will push products that are more profitable for them, and the recycled products are the most profitable for garage and service center owners despite being bad for the actual consumer. They tend to refuse to buy virgin products because they create lower margins for them, and those who already have virgin lubricants at their shelves tend to market the recycled lubricants to their customers to earn more. You must be wondering how they could get away with this. Well it’s quite simple because there is no accurate test to prove whether a product is recycled or virgin, and here in Kuwait there is no minimum specification requirement for lubricant products to be imported to Kuwait. On top of that, recycled lubricants (especially from the UAE) falsely label their products as 100% virgin even though they are not virgin at all. As a factory, we know the global market prices of the raw materials and we have our own state-of-the-art laboratory at our factory to test certain specifications, so it is easy for us to get indications which brands are recycled, mixed or purely 100% virgin. Concluding, the main reason that recycled lubricants are more common is because the consumer isn’t aware of what lubricant he needs to use for his car because the dealerships or garages will make that decision on behalf of the consumer. They will choose what is more profitable for themselves instead of giving the consumer information and options to choose from.
Recycled engine oil oxidizes earlier than virgin based engine oils. Some impurities will also still be present in recycled engine oils which might cause damage to the engine on the long run if recycled engine oils is used for a long period of time. Therefore the life span for recycled engine oils is shorter than virgin based engine oils.
Synthetic base oils are produced through chemical synthesis of certain chemicals going through chemical reactions and many other steps to produce synthetic base oil which makes it more costly to produce than the mineral oils.


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