When it comes to oil, knowing is half the battle

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Updated Mar 18, 2016

oilIf I learned nothing else from watching Saturday morning cartoons in my youth it’s that “knowledge is power” and “knowing is half the battle.”

But with maintenance schedules to adhere to, and being short on either technicians or drivers (or both), arming yourself with that knowledge can be challenging.

A surprising number of respondents to the 2016 CCJ Reader Profile survey weren’t familiar with PC-11, the first new engine oil category trotted out in nearly a decade.

The balance – a whopping 92.5 percent – fell somewhere between not knowing what it is to knowing about it, but not sure how PC-11 would impact their business.

Maybe you don’t follow breaking news in the engine oil segment closely. That’s understandable. Oil is something you rarely think about until it’s time to change it, but it’s important to understand the engine oil you rely on daily is about to undergo a change.

Only 7.5 percent of respondents said they knew enough about PC-11 to determine “how we will manage it for our business.”

According to the Profile, a fleet’s level of alarm closely followed its understanding of what is coming.

Just more than 19 percent of respondents to the CCJ Reader Profile survey said they were not concerned at all with how the upcoming API PC-11 lubricant specification might impact their business.

A tick above 4 percent said they were “very” concerned.

If your fleet is made up of trucks mixed from model years pre-2007 to current, you may be in that 4-plus percent. If you’re not sure why, you’re definitely in the more than 92 percent.

And all of this is going to hit you in December.

Emissions regulations have affected practically every component on the truck in the past 10 years, and it was only a matter of time before engine oils were called to the principal’s office.

For the panic-stricken 4 percent, I don’t think you have anything to really worry about. Some of the smartest chemists and engineers in the world have been plugging away on this for a long time, and these formulations have tens of millions of test miles behind them.

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At the Technology and Maintenance Council’s annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn. last month, I spent some time with Dan Arcy, global OEM technical manager for Shell Lubricants, and Shawn Whitacre, senior staff engineer of engine oil technology for Chevron Lubricants.

These two guys have forgotten more about engine oils than most of us will ever know, and both were excited and confident that these new formulations perform to a higher standard of excellence while providing additional benefits in engine efficiency.

From a maintenance perspective, the only thing you really need to concern yourself with is understanding the difference between categories CK-4 and FA-4.

The forced marriage of letters and numbers has long been the downfall of high school students nationwide, but this is a lot simpler than anything Mrs. Smith ever threw at me in Algebra class.

CK-4 oils will replace today’s lubricants and will be backward compatible with all current vehicles, and Arcy says they will improve oxidation resistance, shear stability and aeration control. Improved oxidation control, Whitacre adds, could ultimately lead to longer oil-change intervals.

If you have some brand new trucks on order, you might want to look into the benefits of FA-4.

The good news is Shell, Chevron, and each of their counterparts have invested a lot of time and effort into educating their retail partners on how they can help you.

Arming yourself with knowledge will go a long way in easing your mind when CK-4 and FA-4 are made available later this year.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].