July/August 2020

JULY/AUGUST 2020 AFTERMARKET 33 www.aftermarketonline.net oil specifications. This makes it a good choice for workshops: they only need to stock a single oil to cover a range of different car models. “Nowadays, engine oil is like a liquid spare part that has to fit the engine exactly,” added Oliver. “Putting in oil with the wrong specification is like fitting the wrong spare part.” Sophisticated On the importance of using the right oil, Andrew Goddard, Chairman of the Verification of Lubricants Specifications (VLS), observed: “Today’s sophisticated engines require a delicate balance of complex chemistry to deliver the improved fuel economy and lower emission levels that motorists now expect. Gone are the days when a few drums of 10w40 in the workshop would do. “This increase in the number of lubricants available creates a real problem for mechanics who don’t have the space to keep vast quantities of different lubricants for the many vehicles they service. Deciding which oil a vehicle requires has also become more complex. Vehicle handbooks are a good place to start to identify the oil required. But handbooks don’t always give clear or helpful recommendations. “Online lubricant databases can help workshops confirm the right oil for each vehicle. These databases are powered by the technical knowledge and expertise of large companies such as Olyslager based in the Netherlands or OATS based in the United Kingdom. These databases sometimes offer a choice of brands so that garages can make their own selection, depending on local availability or their personal preference.” The age of the vehicle has an impact: “While oil companies may be keen to promote their latest, ultralow viscosity formulations, the average age of vehicles on UK roads is actually increasing. These older vehicles may require different engine oils to the latest models, so it’s always worth checking the exact requirement for each and every vehicle. If in doubt, contact the OEM for assistance.” Then there are fake oils: “Counterfeiting is affecting many parts of the aftermarket and engine oil is no exception. If a product sounds too good to be true, then it’s important to double check.” Andrew concluded: “You can report a product you have concerns about to VLS who will independently investigate it to confirm if it really can deliver what it claims.” Adapt Oil manufacturers are endeavouring to develop new products for hybrid and electric cars. Andy Brown, UK Automotive Technical Manager at FUCHS Lubricants, observed that as hybrids and EVs evolve and become more prevalent, the oil industry will have to adapt as well: “At the moment OEMs are just selecting a standard engine from their range and adapting them within a hybrid system, but engines specifically made for hybrids will come – and probably in the next year or two. Some will require new technology in terms of oil. “The main challenge in a hybrid is Stop/Start and cold-start. You could be driving through the city for half an hour before you start the engine. The engine might then cool for a bit before then being restarted. “This means that there has to be enhanced anti-wear protection to the engine on start-up, particularly for things like piston rings, Cams and bearings, just purely because it is happening so much more often. “You also have slightly different reactions with the air. For most standard engines, you’re thinking about oxidation. With hybrids, you might be looking at reactions with other components within the air such as nitrogen. “Additive systems will have to be changed to deal with the different reactions that might take place. Products might look quite similar but, really, they are going to be quite different. It is critical that you use the right products in cars.” Challenge Andy continued: “At FUCHS were fortunate to have a technology centre in Mannheim, Germany, where a dedicated team is looking at hybridisation and electrification. It’s a challenge because there will undoubtedly be specific products required for different cars as each OEM will have different power outputs and so demands on oil will be slightly different.” “For EVs, we’re looking at mainly transmission oils, gear oils and coolants. EVs create a lot of heat so one of the main functions any product will need is to act as a coolant. You don’t want to change a coolant every six months so they will need to be long-lasting.” Andy concluded by observing that FUCHS constantly monitors the market to work out when hybrids and EVs will become more widespread – and he speculated that the Covid-19 crisis could speed up progress: “Take-up is still low, and hybrids and EVs are still very expensive, but we’re now seeing major OEMs pushing hybrid and EV products much more fervently. “Maybe the environmental benefits we are seeing as a result of COVID-19 will push governments to accelerate the move away from ICEs by offering greater incentives to both drivers and manufacturers.” Right: Top Tec 4200 now comes with the new specification API SP