Q. Why aren't all AMSOIL motor oils API licensed?
A. Good question. Let us address API licensing in depth, as well as
the issue of warranties. Some AMSOIL motor oils are API licensed, some
are not. If you're concerned about your warranty and feel pressures to
use an API licensed oil, even after reading this answer, then the XL
5W-20 (XLM), 5W-30 (XLF), 10W-30 (XLT) and 10W-40 (XLO) or our 15W-40
(PCO) API licensed oils should be your choice. If you are looking for
an alternative to frequent oil changes or just want the best
performing oil for your car, then one of our top tier non-API licensed
synthetic oils are for you. Read on, and decide for yourself.
API Licensing - Passenger Cars - What is it?
An API (American Petroleum Institute) license indicates that a
specific motor oil formulation has passed the minimum performance
standards as defined by a series of laboratory bench, physical,
chemical and engine tests. These tests were selected and minimum
performance standards were set by the API Lubricants Committee to
address specific areas such as engine wear, deposits, fuel economy,
emissions, etc. The committee is comprised of representatives from
automobile, oil and additive companies. The current specification is
SM/GF-4 for gasoline engines and CI-4 Plus for severe-duty diesel
engine service and CF for indirect injected diesel engine service.
The cost for running a test program for a single fuel efficient
passenger car motor oil formulation is from $230,000 to $350,000,
depending on if the formula passes the tests the first time through or
requires multiple test runs or formula modifications to achieve a
passing average (testing costs for heavy-duty diesel are running from
$750,000 to $1,000,000). Once that testing is complete and the formula
has passed all of the minimum requirements, it can be licensed for
$1050 per year for non-members and $850 per year for members. There is
also a royalty fee per gallon sold for all gallons over one million.
The length of time between new specifications is now approximately 2
to 3 years, which does not allow a great deal of time to recover
Who Licenses What Formulas?
Additive companies, such as Lubrizol, Afton, Infineum and Oronite,
develop licensed formulas that they offer to oil companies to
re-license. It is inexpensive to re-license one of these formulas, and
the majority of oil companies choose to do this to avoid the costs
associated with testing. This lowers the value of engines oils as the
same chemistry is being sold under many brand names. Some of the major
oil companies do have their own proprietary formulas developed, tested
and licensed. All lubricant formulas from AMSOIL INC. are unique and
Flexibility In Manufacturing An API Licensed Formula
API licensing was originally developed for mineral based oils, and it
affords these oils more flexibility than synthetic oils.
Mineral oils comprised of Group I and Group II petroleum basestocks
may use a simple program called base stock interchange for added
flexibility in manufacturing and purchasing. Interchange means that by
completing the proper paperwork and running a few minor tests an oil
company can choose to buy these petroleum basestocks from many
different suppliers. This ensures adequate supply and competitive
pricing. However, Group III and Group V base stocks are supplier
specific and base stock interchange is not allowed. For example, if a
formula was tested with an ester (Group V) base stock from a specific
supplier, then only that suppliers ester can be used. Complete
engine testing would be required to use that exact same ester from
another supplier and is not performed because of the associated costs.
This inflexibility makes price negotiations with synthetic base stock
suppliers very difficult and it increases business risk. Supply
disruptions from only one source could shut down production.
There is also something called viscosity grade read-across.
Fortunately, this applies to both petroleum and synthetic basestocks
although the better cold temperature performance of synthetics makes
it more difficult to achieve in some situations. (That's another whole
story). What this means is that if you properly formulate the
lubricant for which you have run all of the API tests, there are
guidelines that allow you to use that same basic formula to make
5W-20, 5W-30, 10W-30, etc. viscosity motor oil.
Finally, there is a rule for substitutions in the CMA (Chemical
Manufacturers Association) code of practice that allows a small degree
of flexibility for all formulas. It allows a company to make changes
of certain components in the formula with limited testing and
paperwork requirements, provided the additives are at the same or
Key Limitations For API Licensed Formulas
Phosphorous content - .06% minimum to .08% maximum
(API SM; 0W-20, 5W-20, 0W-30, 5W-30, 10W-30 viscosity grades,
NOACK volatility - 15% maximum
Click HERE for an explanation of NOACK Volatility
The prevalent sources of phosphorous in motor oils are additives
called zinc dithiophosphates (ZDPs). These versatile additives
contribute to reduced oxidation, corrosion and wear. The automobile
manufacturers, however, have demanded that lubricants contain a
maximum of only .08% phosphorous. Their reason is some manufacturers
believe higher phosphorous content levels will poison the catalytic
converters on their cars before they reach 120,000 miles, which is the
number of miles that vehicles are required to pass EPA emission
standards. There is not total agreement within the automotive and
lubrication industry about whether phosphorous levels over .08%
actually do harm catalytic converters in the long run. What they have
failed to make allowances for is the NOACK volatility of an oil, the
volatility of the phosphorus itself, or the oil drain intervals.
The maximum allowable NOACK volatility percentage for the SM/GF-4
passenger car motor oil specification is 15%. Most of AMSOIL motor
oils are in the 5% to 8% NOACK volatility range. There is a
correlation between NOACK volatility and oil consumption, which ends
up in the exhaust gasses. Therefore, higher phosphorous, low
volatility oils present no more risk to catalytic converters than low
phosphorous oils with higher volatility. This has also been
demonstrated for years in actual application through state mandated
exhaust gas testing on our Dealers' and customers' high mileage
vehicles using AMSOIL synthetic motor oils. State inspectors are
continually amazed at the low emissions levels generated by vehicles
using AMSOIL products. So much for poisoning catalytic converters.
Why Some AMSOIL Synthetic Motor Oils Are API Licensed And Some Are Not
1. Full API licensing puts AMSOIL INC. in an inflexible position. Not
only would we find it necessary to buy formula components from
specific vendors and be at the mercy of their pricing and
availability, we would not be able to make any major improvements to
the lubricant formulas for 2 to 3 years without new testing and the
associated costs. To solve this problem, the API must establish base
stock interchange guidelines for synthetic basestocks just as they
have for other basestocks, as well as develop interchange guidelines
for other components too.
2. Full API licensing would impose strict phosphorous limitations on
our motor oils. AMSOIL INC. disagrees with this limitation and feels
strongly that consumers benefit from long drain, low volatility oils
that pose no threat to catalytic converters. To solve this issue, the
API and vehicle manufacturers must develop tests and make exceptions
for high phosphorus, long drain interval, low volatility oils.
Warranties And API Licensed Motor Oils
Fortunately, the law does not allow manufacturers to "void your
warranty" simply because of the brand of oil you use, the
specifications it meets or the miles you drive between oil changes. To
be specific, they cannot deny fixing your broken radio, faulty valve
or cracked piston because you used an AMSOIL non-API licensed motor
oil, or because you've gone more than 3000 miles since your last oil
change. Denial of warranty coverage must be specifically due to an oil
related failure. Courts of law will find against any manufacturer or
dealership that tries these warranty shenanigans. If any automobile
dealership insinuates that your warranty will be void if you use
AMSOIL products or utilize extended drain intervals, let AMSOIL INC.
know the name of the Dealership, the address, the owner's name and the
name of the employee that made this statement.
Attention: Technical Services Department
Superior, WI 54880
or e-mail to email@example.com.
They will almost never put it in writing, but if they do, please send
us a copy of that, too. Either way, we will send them a letter
informing them to cease the intimidation of our customers. Click HERE
to read a sample letter.
Only if the oil is determined to be the direct cause of the engine
problem can a manufacturer or dealership deny warranty coverage for
that specific problem. In this situation the AMSOIL warranty would
apply, and the AMSOIL Technical Services Department would assist you
in processing your claim and in getting the vehicle repaired. That's
our pledge to you. AMSOIL INC. sells millions of gallons of oil per
year and warranty claims are a rare occurrence. If you ever have a
warranty problem with an automobile manufacturer or dealership, AMSOIL
will assist you by analyzing the problem and providing data supporting
the fact that repairs should be made under the vehicle manufacturer's
warranty. If this does not resolve the problem, AMSOIL will submit a
claim with our insurance company and request that an adjuster have the
vehicle repaired and pursue legal settlement later if necessary.
How Does AMSOIL INC. Ensure Their Products Meet Or Exceed The Minimum
Specifications Of The Tests Required For API Licensing?
First, AMSOIL INC. works closely with major additive companies to
select the top performing, and usually most expensive, passenger car
and heavy-duty diesel motor oil additives. These additives have
already passed all of the API licensing requirements in a petroleum or
synthetic based formulation. Then we work with the additive company to
maximize the amount of additive used and to boost the additive package
in selected performance areas to achieve an optimum performing
additive package for reduced wear and extended drain intervals. This
is unlike other oil companies who, because additives are expensive,
use the minimum amount of the least expensive additives required to
meet the minimum API requirements.
We then utilize a blend of synthetic basestocks with known performance
characteristics as a replacement for the petroleum basestocks to
optimize performance in areas of lubricity, volatility, viscosity
index, oxidation and nitration resistance, pour points, flash points,
deposit control, soot handling, emissions, etc. We also will utilize a
high quality V.I. improver with better viscosity and cleanliness
properties. This replaces the inexpensive, low quality V.I. improver
used in the API licensed petroleum formula. We do laboratory bench
tests before running field tests to verify the superiority of the
synthetic formula in actual use. We also continue to monitor the
performance of the oil through close scrutiny of tens of thousands of
oil analysis tests per year across a wide variety of vehicles all
around North America and the World. AMSOIL INC. has been collecting
used synthetic oil samples from passenger cars since 1982. No other
oil company has such a vast database of the performance of synthetic
lubricants over extended drain intervals.
AMSOIL INC.'s products and formulations outperform API licensed oils.
They're engineered that way. Period.
AMSOIL INC. takes pride in never having conformed to industry norms or
standards when those standards are contrary to peak performance. We
introduced synthetics to the automotive world in 1972 with the first
synthetic motor oil to exceed API performance specifications. At that
time other manufacturers refused to recognize the superior performance
of synthetic motor oils. Now, however, most companies sell synthetic
lubricants, vehicles are factory filled with synthetic motor oils and
gear lubes, and some manufacturers even offer extended warranties if
you use synthetics. AMSOIL has always offered extended drain intervals
because the oil was capable of performing for extended drains, and it
was the right thing to do for the consumer. Now the entire industry is
moving in that direction. Ironically, GM is now extending drain
intervals (as much as 12,000+ miles) through the use of their oil life
monitoring system, and some foreign automakers recommend 10,000 mile
and longer oil drain intervals. Additionally, competitive oil
companies are now extending drain intervals and even Mobil is
recommending 15,000-mile oil drains for oils that are not API SM
AMSOIL is a company of firsts. That doesn't happen by always
conforming to industry norms and standards.
API licensing of lubricants is voluntary, and it ensures automobile
manufacturers and consumers that the product meets a set of minimum
standards. Should these standards, in the future, be raised to a level
consistent with AMSOIL's standards for motor oil performance, AMSOIL
will consider licensing all oils. For those that feel pressured to use
an API licensed product, we have them and encourage you to use them
(XLM, XLF, XLT, XLO and PCO). AMSOIL does offer better performing
motor oils that are not API licensed for all of the reasons explained
in this response. They provide our customers with alternatives to the
commodity products typically available in the market today. If you
want the convenience of extended drain intervals or the top
performance from your vehicle, AMSOIL has taken time to engineer the
very best money can buy.