API "SF" verses new "SM"

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Mar 21, 2005
Elderly County, Florida
Howdy fellow oilers
I just picked up several cases of API "SF" oil at our local dollar store, (they are changing their prices and the old stuff was priced the old price - I couldn't resist).
Obviously, this oil is cheaper than even the "Supertech" brand at Walmart, (current price in these parts $1.07).
My question is really basic - what's so "bad" about this oil. I know the newer stuff has more additives, but if I understand what I read, less ZDDP. Is this correct?
If that is the case, doesn't that kind of balance things out so to speak? I mean, we're not talking something ancient like "SB" or "SC." "SF" oil additive package isn't that long ago.
Every automobile I have is old with the exception of my wife's automobile, so I don't mind putting el cheapo oil in everything but her car. I'm just wondering what the big difference is between "SF" and "SM".
One thing I have noticed is that it does not have the "starburst" seal or logo anywhere on the bottle. Now this is just an assumption, but since this oil is "outdated," API no longer wants to put their stamp on it. However, I'm a thinking that it still qualifies for the SF rating due to base stock and additive package. I have over 100 quarts of this stuff, as well as (hold onto your hat), 75 quarts of "Freds non-detergent 40w SA" motor oil. The back of the bottle says: "Pure oil with no additives." I can't decide if I should drink it, put it on my salad or pour it in my car. Oh, the possibilities!
I wouldn't put that fred's junk in my engine.
Why would you buy 75 quarts of that junk? The only thing I would use it for is bar and chain oil. Maybe oiling hinges. But not any engine. Anything made by FRED can't be good.
What do you mean - I want "pure oil," not any of that stuff with all those additives in it!
No brothers, have no fear - I do all the maintence for my Dad. He has a couple of Detroit Diesel's with oil bath air cleaners. Each one uses 2 gallons of oil in the air cleaner. Hence, the reason for the el cheapo SA oil. They had it on sale and I picked it up for 40 cents a quart, (And I had gone to Fred's that day to buy a pair of shoes).
Slightly off topic, I'm looking to use M1 EP in my auto, but it appears to only be available as API SL, not SM.

Is there much difference in the SL vs. SM rating for this oil? I know that the EP is supposed to have more cleaning additives, but anything else?

Originally posted by gsnod:
Slightly off topic, I'm looking to use M1 EP in my auto, but it appears to only be available as API SL, not SM.

Is there much difference in the SL vs. SM rating for this oil? I know that the EP is supposed to have more cleaning additives, but anything else?

As far as I am concerned, SL is better than SM because SL has more of the zinc and phosphorus anti wear additives. I have a 177 quart stash of SL motor oil. SM only came out early this year.

Originally posted by GROUCHO MARX:
The M1 EP is probably SM equivalent with a SL label.

Just my speculation.

Good point, and my guess is it meets SM for engine wear but has SL level additives, and that would be a great combination.
If it means much, I've seen SF oil run in car made in 1999 to 3,000 miles. Things didn't look worse from the looks of what can be seen under the oil cap and the oil didn't come out any darker than it normally did. I don't beleive the "If it's made before 19xx it's okay to run Sx oil because there is nothing incredibly different that would made that statement true, because the advantages of a new SL/SM oil in a car made in 1930 is most likely going to be happier than with an SA/SB/SC/SD/SF oil, but that goes with newer cars, it will work but it could be a better oil in there. I wouldn't worry about it but keep in mind, it would probably not be a good idea to go over 3,000 miles. I don't know if you are the UOA type but if you felt like checking you could see how it's doing, but I doubt it really matters as long as it's 3,000 or under.
The **minimum** antiwear protection always goes up with every new API standard. However - limitations of additive levels can often mean the **maximum** theoretical antiwear protection is reduced to some level with a newer standard.

If emissions compatibility isn't a big issue, it might be possible to make an API SF oil with modern base oils that protects better/longer than a typical API SM. It would simply have to be loaded up with levels of antiwear additives (i.e. ZDDP) that wouldn't be allowed in API SM. With an off brand, you just don't know. And it's not as if the API makes the manufacturer run a full series of API SF compliancy tests on an unlicensed oil for an outdated standard.

Here are some Lube Report articles on such unlicensed oils:

Thanks a million YPW - that's exactly what I was looking for! I'm still in the learning process on all this oil stuff, but it seems to me I heard that enviromental issues have changed the make up of oil and like so many other things, what we have, while better in some areas, is not as good as it used to be in others. Reference TallPaul's stash of SL. Thanks again everyone for the replies.
It was often assumed that the "premium" brands were formulated to exceed the API performance requirements by a bunch back in the days of API SF and SG. BTW - API SF was current from 1980 to 1988. My folk's 1982 Olds Cutlass Ciera was spec'ed to use API SF or SE.

Just as an example, there are some lawnmower-specific motor oils that only claim to meet API SG. They're actually rather expensive - maybe $2.50 for an 18 oz bottle of Craftsman SAE 30. My guess is that they do load it up with antiwear additive levels beyond even what was allowed in API SH. You've got a air-cooled, carbureted engine with no emissions control system that runs awfully hot and would benefit from "almost illegal" levels of ZDDP. With modern high-quality base oils, it could be formulated to be considerably better than an API SG oil of 1990.

I plan on using cheapie Chevron SAE 30 that I got at Kragen for 49 cents/quart after rebate after I use up the starter bottle of lawnmower oil that came with the mower.

Which reminds me - I've got to change the lawnmower oil. It was smoking heavily on Mobil Drive Clean Blend 10W-30 semi-syn.
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