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Some Engine Oils Currently on the Shelves Can Harm Your Engine - Read the Lables!

There are engine oils currently on the shelves at auto parts stores, gas station convenience stores, food stores, and other retail outlets that can cause harm to your cars engine. Yes, you heard correctly - Cause harm to your cars engine. These are obsolete engine oils formulated for use in cars built prior to the 1930s! Know how to read the labels on the front and back of the bottles of oil you buy or you may be using product that can cause unsatisfactory performance or harm to your engine. 

The service rating of passenger car and commercial automotive motor oils is classified by the American Petroleum Institute (API). The program certifies that engine oil meets certain Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) quality and performance standards. The service rating is shown in the API "Service Symbol Donut" on the product label. As shown in the illustration below, engine oils with an API SA Service Classification were formulated for use in cars built prior to 1930, and are now obsolete. Yet, there are still not hard to find in retail outlets. Read on about what you need to read on the labels. 

The current API Service Classification is SN

The labels include two important pieces of information to determine if an engine oil is appropriate for use in your vehicle. The first piece of information speaks to viscosity grade. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines a numerical system for grading motor oils according to viscosity. The suffixes (0, 5, 10, 15 and 25) followed by the letter W designate the engine oil's "winter" grade.

Look to your owner's manual. It specifies the viscosity grade required for your car's engine. Today, the most common grades are 5W-30.

Watch for the "W"

Whereas the labeling on the bottle of engine oil may suggest the product is a 5W-30, note, if there is no "W" between the 5 and the 30 it may not be a 5W-30. As an example, a SAE 5-30 is not the same as an SAE 5W-30.

So if you buy an engine oil meeting only API SA, it's an engine oil formulated for use in vehicles built in the 1920s. And SA is not hard to find mixed in with SM on the shelves at c-stores and others. Furthermore, it's also not hard to find SF, SJ and other API Service Categories on the shelves. Also, don't let price guide you. Engine oils with a Service Classification prior to SN (including SA) are often priced close to that of API SN. 

The service rating of passenger car and commercial automotive motor oils is classified by the American Petroleum Institute (API). The program certifies that an oil meets certain Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) quality and performance standards. The service rating is shown in the API "Service Symbol Donut" on the product label.

The labels include two important pieces of information to determine if an engine oil is appropriate for use in your vehicle. The first piece of information speaks to viscosity grade. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines a numerical system for grading motor oils according to viscosity. The suffixes (0, 5, 10, 15 and 25) followed by the letter W designate the engine oil's "winter" grade.

Look to your owner's manual. It specifies the viscosity grade required for your car's engine. Today, the most common grades are 5W-30 and 10W-30.

 

Watch for the "W"

Whereas the labeling on the bottle of engine oil may suggest the product is a 10W-30, note, if there is no "W" between the 10 and the 30 it may not be a 10W-30. As an example, a SAE 10-30 is not the same as an SAE 10W30.

The next 'code" to look for is the API Service Classification. Although it might appear complicated to understand at the start, it is really a simple system to get your arms around. Think of it this way, when cars were first built, the oil they required needed an API SA Service Classification. From there, it moved to SB, SC, SD, and so on (skipping only SI). The current API Service Classification is SM.

So if you are buying an SA oil, it's an engine oil formulated for use in vehicles built in the 1920s. And SA is not hard to find mixed in with SM on the shelves at c-stores and others. Furthermore, it's also not hard to find SF, SJ and other API Service Categories on the shelves. Also, don't let price guide you. Engine oils with a Service Classification prior to SM (including SA) are often priced close to that of SM. 

Always consult your vehicle owner's manual to determine what motor oil you should use, and READ THE LABELS ON THE OIL YOU BUY.

 

American Petroleum Institute
Gasoline Engine Oil Service Classifications
Category Status Service
SN Current Introduced in October 2010 for 2011 and older vehicles, 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  
SG Obsolete  
SF Obsolete  
SE Obsolete CAUTION - Not suitable for use in gasoline-powered automobile engines built after 1979.
SD Obsolete CAUTION - Not suitable for use in gasoline-powered automobile engines built after 1971. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.
SC Obsolete CAUTION - Not suitable for use in gasoline-powered automobile engines built after 1967. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.
SB Obsolete CAUTION - Not suitable for use in gasoline-powered automobile engines built after 1951. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.
SA Obsolete CAUTION - Not suitable for use in gasoline-powered automobile engines built after 1930. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.

 

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