Will conventional motor oil become obsolete?

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Mar 5, 2003
How will the future G4 motor oils differ from the motor oils we have today? And will conventional motor oil beocme obsolete? Can conventional motor oil of any quality continue to be used much longer in engines?
GF-4 isn't going to kill conventional oils in the US. But gradually, as North American oil specs finally reach the level of the European A3 and A5 specs, you will see the end of conventional oils as factory fill and service fill for new vehicles. It will take Group III/Group IV blends at a minimum to meet such specs, as it does now in Europe.
The new standards may kill off Group I passenger car oils. Group II may be the new baseline, but that does not mean synthetics will take over any time soon, they are still too expensive. Solvent refining (Group I) replaced straight distallation decades ago and hydrotreating (Groups II,III) is now taking over. It is a normal progression of technology. If it kills the Jiffy Lube business model, I'm not shedding a single tear.
This May 14, 2003 Lube Report article sugggests the release of a final GF-4/SM spec may not be as far off as the Babcox article above indicates. Also, the apparant agreement on a 0.08 phosphorous level (down just slightly from the current 0.10 level) should allay fears of engine damage in prior year cars. It's debatable whether to categorize Group-III base oils as "synthetic" or "conventional", but it's a stretch to believe PAOs could ever be produced in sufficient quantities to become the general motor oil base stock. I do see a very strong tendency for more applications of esters, though, since they can be synthesized readily from biological sources. The irony is that up until 1852, virtually all lubricants were raw esters*. Inscriptions dating back to 1,400 BC showed beef and mutton fat (tallow) being applied to chariot axles. The pioneers trekking west across the prairies improved on this when a few discovered that finely grinding up a peculiar black "rock" into the tallow made for considerably better wear characteristics for the axles and wheels. We know this mystery substance today as molydenum. When petroleum lubricants were introduced in 1852, they were not highly regarded since it was essentially raw crude. So, now we may be on the threshold of going back to the future... *ALL vegetable fats, animal fats, and transfatty acids come under the "ester" category. While our forebears used 'em in their raw state, the possibilities for molecularly engineered "designer" lubes are endless using "seed" oils. And, unlike petroleum, the raw material can be endlessly grown on farms. Take THAT, OPEC! [ June 09, 2003, 12:53 PM: Message edited by: Ray H ]
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