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PC-11 engine oils are coming: get ready

This December will see the introduction of the PC-11 engine oils, the largest overhaul in industry specifications witnessed in North America in a decade

The new industry regulations for engine oils by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are designed to drive improvements in fuel economy and emissions as well as greater engine performance, but with just seven months until these new oils are available, now is the time for heavy equipment operators to prepare for the transition.

Despite the impending deadline, we have seen that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the new regulations and that there is a knowledge gap in how PC-11 products will differ from their predecessors, the technology behind them, and the implications for both on-road and offroad operators.

What is different about PC-11 oils?

By December 1, 2016, there will be two new categories of heavy-duty engine oil: API CK-4 will replace API CJ-4 and deliver higher performance levels but will also be backwards compatible for older engines; and API FA-4, an even more advanced version that will deliver better fuel economy in advanced diesel engines.

Some PC-11 oils are notably thinner, or lower viscosity (specifically FA-4 category oils) compared to those being used in the market at present. This reduces the amount of viscous drag from the oil in the engine, allowing them to run more efficiently and use less fuel. PC-11 oils will also offer greater levels of protection, which will reduce vehicle downtime – a major source of financial drain in the commercial equipment sector.

This will also be supported by better oxidation stability, resistance to aeration and increased shear stability, which will all provide enhanced performance and greater hardware protection over time.

Understanding the impact on your business

While every construction business will be affected by the introduction of PC-11 specifications, the impact will vary depending on the size and type of the fleet.

Many construction fleets are comprised of a range of models of varying ages, and so there may not be a uniform oil solution for all vehicles. Managers will need to understand what the best solutions are across their operations to witness the true benefit of the new specifications.

However, while multiple solutions may be required, upgrading oils can be achieved at relatively low cost and in a short timeframe, offering greater fuel efficiency and providing a faster return on investment than purchasing new vehicles.

As the API FA-4 category oils have been specially designed to cope with the pressures of hotter-burning, more fuel efficient and low emissions diesel engines currently in development, this category is less likely to have an immediate impact on the majority of operators. However, for those managers planning to overhaul their heavy equipment fleet and adopt newer models in coming years, it is important to consider how to maximize return on investment – something that FA-4 will certainly contribute to. It is expected that offroad OEMs will lag behind in the adoption of FA-4 oils since lower viscosity oils and increased fuel economy was initially requested by the on-road OEMs.

It is recommended that fleet operators monitor and regularly analyze used oil to understand the optimal oil drain intervals for their specific vehicles and operating conditions to ensure that the best possible efficiency is achieved. OEMs will be providing recommendations on operating range ahead of the first license date of December 1, 2016, but first-hand analysis will offer invaluable insight.

Time to prepare

While OEMs are currently working on their own specifications associated with CK-4 and FA-4, which will be revealed in the coming months, it is essential that construction operators begin preparations now to ensure that they are suitably equipped ahead of the December 2016 deadline.

This change is not only an opportunity to improve the efficiency and carbon footprint of their business but also a chance to recognize the potential to cut costs and increase the profitability of fleet operations. A clear understanding and early adoption could result in a genuine competitive edge.

For more information and for answers to common questions about the introduction of PC-11 specification oils, visit www.herecomespc11.com and sign up for updates.

Brian Humphrey is OEM Technical Liaison, Petro-Canada Lubricants, Suncor