PM Dilemma?

Of every 'big, bad wolf' of 2007, the new low ash heavy duty engine oil formula, CJ-4, has gotten the least attention: with all of the emphasis on engine changes and ULSD, many fleet maintenance managers have been willfully ignoring this potential budget threat, lurking in the woods. But the major lubricant companies are saying it's because there is nothing to fear. Are they right?

There are a lot of fleets that are so unconcerned about CJ-4 that they have already moved all of their vehicles onto one product—operating pre-2007 engines on CJ-4 oil, even though it is not required.

According to Mark Betner, heavy duty lubricant manager for Citgo, there are manifold reasons for this broad-stroke implementation. One is purely pragmatic—cutting the potential for confusing your techs and the possible resulting errors that could mean big problems for your 2007 engines. This ties into another reason, according to Betner, which is economic.

Despite the fact that CJ-4 comes with a price premium of five to ten percent over previous CI-4 Plus standards, it might be more practical for your efforts to carry the new standard over both.

ECONOMICS 101

"Here's the economic equation," Betner says. " Let's say you've got a hundred power units, and you're going to be buying 6,000 gallons a year to fulfill your service requirements. Remember, there could be as high as a ten percent price increase. Let's just say that amounts to 50 cents a gallon. Here's the bottom line: you're buying 6,000 gallons of engine oil a year, at 50 cents more a gallon. You've got $3,000 to chew over."

Adds Betner: " You've got to decide, 'Is that $3,000 worth me having to mess with two products—having my service technicians go over to drums, possibly, and pull oil just for those ten trucks? Just to save $3,000, am I going to play with drums, or am I going to be buying a new bulk tank for that?' I think simplicity is good, and I think we're going to see people—who are going to be paying up to $10,000 more for one truck—say 'am I going to jump through a bunch of hoops just to save $3,000?'"

DEAL OR NO DEAL

Some lubricant companies, like Shell, are moving their entire related product line to 2007 compliancy. Others, ConocoPhillips included, have decided to maintain two products, citing the likelihood that many fleets will not operate any 2007-spec' engines in the coming year.

According to Reginald Dias, director, commercial products, ConocoPhillips, Conoco brand, " The CJ-4 products are actually backwards compatible; they can be used in place of CI-4 Plus (in pre-'07 engines). But the demand for the CJ-4 is not going to be as high. Given that, Conoco Phillips has made a decision to continue supplying CI-4 Plus lubricants, in addition to the three products we've produced for the CJ-4 emissions standards."

ADDED VALUE

Fortunately for fleets, the fact that it is easier to carry one product than two is not the only reason to switch pre-2007 trucks to the new oil. Petro Canada Lubricants' category manager, commercial transportation lubricants, Colleen Flanagan, explains the way CJ-4 was a good fit for her company, as well as for their customers: " The new CJ-4 line fits pretty well with our base stock, most of which are hydrotreated base stock. We started at a 99.9 percent level, and the benefit of that is that we have lower levels of sulfur and sulfated ash, versus most of our competitor's base stocks."

Dan Arcy, technical marketing manager, Shell Lubricants, is also confident in the added value of Shell's new CJ-4-compliant heavy duty engine oil, Rotella T Triple Protection.

"It meets the API CJ-4, but we also enhanced it in a number of areas that, after talking to our customers, we found were extremely important to them," Arcy says. " One of the questions I get a lot is, is the CJ-4 product going to be as good as CI-4 Plus? And the answer to that is, yes, absolutely. In fact, it's not only going to be as good, it's substantially better than API CI-4 Plus. Some of the areas of improvement are in the area of improved wear protection, improved deposit control and improved soot handling."

PREMIUM PRICE

If you're looking for someone to blame for the added cost of the new standard, the lubricant companies will point the finger at the required testing measures. Citgo's Betner explains the differences in the pricing between petroleum-based products—just because gas prices have recently dropped, it doesn't mean your oil is going to cost you less in 2007:

" Fuel and gasoline so often gets attached to lubricants, and really, they're different animals. I think the reasons that need to be communicated (behind the CJ-4 price premium) are not just your to everyday oil perceptions," Betner says. " Not only do you have a lot of chemicals in lubricants, you have extreme levels of testing requirements that you don't even have near involved with fuels. If you think back to 1972, we could license a heavy duty engine oil for about 1.5 million dollars. Today it's going to be well over 30 million dollars—possibly we'll top over 50 million before it's all said and done."

Shell dealt with the same, expensive regimen, but Arcy is quick to point out that the numbers don't lie about the quality of the new product line. " There was a lot of cost in the testing that had to go into the development of these new products. Some of the tests you have to run are pretty substantial tests," he explains.

" If you take the average (laboratory) wear test, we saw a 50 percent reduction in wear with the CJ-4 product over the CI-4 Plus product. That would be one of the reasons you'd want to go to it, even though you may not have a 2007 engine," Arcy adds. " What we've seen in the on-highway testing of this product is upwards of 38 percent reduction in wear versus CI-4 Plus."

VOCATIONAL PROTECTION

That rigorous testing pays big dividends for medium-duty fleets, according to Jim McGeehan, global manager, diesel engine oil technology for Chevron Products Company.

"All the tests we run (on CJ-4) are more severe than the tests we run on CI-4 Plus," McGeehan says. " Demands in light and medium-duty fleets can be more severe than in line-haul fleets. A line-haul truck stays at a constant speed normally, whereas the vocational vehicle goes through these cycles of idle to full power to stop-and-go. Because of that you can get more soot in the engine oil, which we need to disperse in terms of preventing viscosity increase. We have to ensure that it doesn't cause any wear during this cycling.

"There's a new test in this category, called the Cummins ISB, which develops a relatively high soot amount in the oil—three and a half percent—then for the next 300 hours it cycles 32,000 times," McGeehan explains. " That's going from idle to full power to peak torque, and it does this to put stress on the cam system and the follower. The turbocharger can hardly keep up with it; it's a very severe test. And it reminds me of a vocational vehicle, where there's a lot more stop-and-go issues going on, a lot more cycling going on. So, from that point of view, I think CJ-4 will perform equal to or better than CI-4 Plus, because of the severity of some of the new tests. It will definitely give medium-duty fleets the same protection they've always had, and hopefully some enhanced protection.

"We also have the Cummins ISM, which is a test for what we call cross-head wear," he continues. " You have four valves—two intake, two exhaust—and there's a crosslink that the rocker arm hits and presses them down. Then there's an injector screw, which sets the injector time and position. In this test, in terms of wear, you have to protect the overhead system from wear and the injector screw from wear, with a high soot level; six and a half percent soot in the oil.

"Beyond that, we have a Mack T-12 test that mainly looks at bearing wear control under high oxidation conditions," he says. "So, there are three particular wear tests that the CJ-4 oils have to go through, so I do not see an issue if the oils clearly pass CJ-4. We should actually have better protection than the previous oils."

KEEP TESTING

Once the oil is out of the manufacturers' hands, the testing regimen shouldn't end. With the availability of increasingly sophisticated oil analysis procedures, many lubricant companies are stressing the critical role it should play in your overall engine maintenance program.

"Especially with the '07 product line, it's important that you go back and make sure you're using good analysis," Petro Canada's Flanagan says. " We have a program, Lubri-Test, and it uses viscosity, inductively coupled plasma emissions, titration, and infra-red analyses to determine the condition of your oil. Not only would someone want to use oil analysis to help determine their extended drain capabilities, it also helps overall when minor mechanical problem coming up can be fixed early on to prevent them from becoming more serious."

Adds Conoco's Dias, " Because we are dealing with a new technology, it is important to monitor your oil; to determine an oil 'fingerprint,'" he says. " With Conoco, it's a hand in hand program so the customer can monitor the quality of the oil."

SLICK OIL

And for the question on every maintenance manager's mind: " It will have the same oil drain intervals as the CI-4 lubricant," Conoco's Dias says. Dias and others have continued to stress the fact that this new lubricant will require little or no change in maintenance, however, there could be big problems if you don't use it on '07 trucks.

"Mainly it's going to affect the life of the DPF," says Shell's Arcy. " On the other side, you're not going to be getting the best wear protection that's available because CI-4 Plus doesn't have the wear protection of CJ-4. If it's a matter of running low on oil, versus running CJ-4 Plus, run CI-4 Plus. Don't run low, but get it changed as soon as you can afterwards."

Adds Citgo's Betner, " You can get away with (topping off an '07 with non-compliant oil) for an undefined period of time, but at the end of the day, you're going to lead yourself into a path where you're going to have to maintain that filter more often," he says. " If you totally violated this and said 'I'm not going to pay a penny more for oil; the oil I've got worked fine in the past,' you could get into a warranty issue."

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