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Motor Oils Day in Court


ome of you no doubt saw the recent commercial from BP Castrol, claiming that Castrol Edge motor oil is superior to ExxonMobils Mobil 1 motor oil. The National Advertising Division saw it too, and after a thorough review, is urging Castrol to drop it, saying the ad falsely disparages Mobil 1 on the basis of a torture test that lacks consumer relevance. In Castrols video advertisement, two Dodge

Challengers are shown in a torture test, both loaded with 1,600 pounds and run on a dynamometer at 75 miles per hour on a 7 percent incline. After five days of this punishment, the car using Castrol Edge continues to run perfectly while the Mobil 1-equipped engine begins smoking and shooting sparks. Citing the test as evidence, BP Castrol stated that Castrol Edge is stronger than Mobil 1. Stung, ExxonMobil went to NAD to challenge the

accuracy of Castrols torture test and question whether it had any relevance to everyday drivers. Castrol fired back, saying that the advertising industrys system of self-regulation has never explicitly set rules about whether torture testing must be consumer-relevant. NAD didnt buy the Castrol argument. Previous NAD cases have made clear that all advertising must be consumerrelevant, the reviewers said. They also noted, Torture tests can be used to support product claims, but only if they represent conditions which have realworld experience, adding that ExxonMobil and Castrol both agree that consumers would never subject a cars engine to the conditions depicted in the test. If youve never heard of the NAD, a little background is in order. The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus serves as the dispute resolution mechanism for U.S. advertisers. Disputes often break out over advertising or rather truth in advertising so NADs function is to review factual claims
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made in national advertisements and where necessary, resolve disputes between the parties. In such cases, NAD typically reaches a conclusion within 90 days of a filing. Lest you think this is an easy way to complain about an ad that you dont like, youll find there are some basic requirements which include pretty hefty filing fees: $5,000 and up, depending on company size. (Companies with revenues over $1 billion will pay four times that.) Compliance with NADs findings is voluntary, and its decisions can be appealed (after paying another fee). Castrol planned to appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board, according to a company spokesperson. Its position is that consumers have to be the final judges of whether these product attributes are important to them. It looks like a chance to define relevance in an advertising setting. Meanwhile ExxonMobil says it will continue to defend Mobil 1s performance. They also complimented NAD for its careful and thoughtful analysis of the situation. As this exchange shows, the contests that play out before NAD and federal courts show motor oil marketing at its most combative. Long before I became

aware of the NAD, and after I went to work at Pennzoil, an issue came up between Pennzoil and Castrol. (These wrangles can be habit-forming, as youll see later.) In this 1980 case the bone of contention was an ad series by Castrol in which three cars are shown driving across the television screen on what looks like graph paper. The Castrol car follows a line that goes straight across the screen. The other two cars, representing Pennzoil and Quaker State (this was before their merger) start curving down towards the bottom edge and are soon off screen. Why was that so important? At the time, Castrol was promoting its use of shear-stable viscosity index improvers, and claiming superiority on that basis versus Pennzoil and Quaker State. In point of fact, all three oils met industry limits for shear-stability stayin-grade viscosity. Naturally, those at Pennzoil were none too pleased with this and took it up with Castrol. After a series of terse letters and some counter-testing on Pennzoils part, and an injunction obtained by Quaker State, Castrol dropped the ads (which had probably run their course anyway). Since that time, Ive been keenly aware of the motor oil battles at the NAD, plus a few that have gone beyond to the court system. Most of these will involve either Pennzoil (now a division of Shell) or Castrol. Sure there are oth-

ers, but these two seem to show up most often. At any rate, Ill share a few cases and comment on what I think this all means. 1992 brought about another Castrol/Pennzoil dispute and this time it was Castrol challenging shear-stability claims made by Pennzoil. This case was settled in court after Castrol filed suit against Pennzoil claiming false and misleading representations of facts; specifically, a Pennzoil television and print advertising campaign that stated it outperforms any leading motor oil against viscosity breakdown. Pennzoils claims further referred to engine failure and premature engine wear, longer engine life and better engine protection. The court determined that Pennzoil was wrong and was required to remove the advertising from both television and print media. At this point, I guess you could say that the two companies were even. In March 1999, NAD came to one of its most far-reaching decisions ever. Castrol was challenged by Mobil Oil Corp. (now ExxonMobil) over statements that Castrol Syntec Engine Oil was both superior and synthetic. Previously, Castrol had used polyalphaolefin base stock in Syntec, but of late it had switched to hydroisomerized mineral base stocks. These, Castrols experts argued, could be labeled synthetic because hydroisomerization changes the oils linear paraffin into a branched-chain one, through the use of an
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intended chemical process and a solid catalyst. To Mobils dismay, NAD found this persuasive. While NAD rejected Castrols claims of superiority for Syntec, it concluded that the oil marketer had a reasonable basis for asserting that hydroisomerized base stocks are synthetics. This one decision has resulted in significant formulation changes and upgrades as well as the wholesale introduction of synthetic and partial synthetic motor oils into the global marketplace. As Car and Driver columnist Patrick Bedard put it in 2000, Most guys know two things about synthetic oils. First, the price is three to four times that of conventional oils. Second, theyre not real oil, not made from crude. News flash: Scratch that second part. Now motor oils derived from crude may be labeled synthetic. But they still cost over four bucks a quart. Moving now to 2000, it was back to a New Jersey federal court with a lawsuit filed by Castrol over a sludging claim made by Pennzoil based on a double-length Sequence IIIE engine test. (By then I was working for an additive company.) Some of you may remember the ad, in which quarterback Brett Favre took some sludge from the pan of a test engine (containing used Castrol motor oil) and smeared it below his eye while suggesting that the products only useful pur-

pose was as black greasepaint to reduce the glare of sunlight during football games. That October, after revealing testimony by several industry experts, the presiding judge called the ad repugnant and found it violated federal advertising laws. Among other things, the judge enjoined Pennzoil from making any claim (1) that its oil is in any way superior to Castrol or any other leading motor oil, and (2) that its oil provides better protection against engine wear or engine failure than Castrol or any other leading motor oil. The injunction applied to all forms of advertising, including television, cable television, print, the Internet and the World Wide Web. Pennzoil appealed but lost again. Castrol 2, Pennzoil 1. In 2009 came Round 4 between Castrol and Pennzoil, as sludge-protection claims in Castrol GTX motor oil advertisements triggered a war of words between the two. Pennzoil objected to the claim that Castrol was 57% better than other leading oils. This time they decided that NAD should make the call and this time Pennzoil emerged on top. Pointedly, NAD said Castrol should discontinue claiming that its sludge protection is 57% better in television commercials. For website claims and technical bulletins, the organization said BP America should either discontinue the 57% better claims or modify them to expressly limit the superiority claim to the motor oils performance in

certain European Mercedes-Benz vehicles, as measured by that automakers proprietary testing. The call on the Mercedes-Benz vehicles was due to the fact that Castrol had used an M-B engine test to make its sludge control superiority claim. Pennzoil was satisfied with the decision, but Castrol argued that M-B testing should be relevant to the global market since, essentially, sludge is sludge no matter how it is generated. It said the test results are relevant for North American drivers, given the many similarities between the North American and European markets, and that European sludge standards are more demanding than North American standards. Castrol agreed to withdraw this challenged advertising after a National Advertising Review Board panel recommended it do so, in all media. After four rounds, its Castrol 2, Pennzoil 2. As 2009 rolled along, Castrol returned to the NAD to contest advertising from Royal Purple (now part of Calumet Specialty Products). Porter, Texasbased Royal Purple had compared its synthetic motor oils performance to Castrol, Shell, Amsoil and other brands. NAD examined these claims, and recommended that Royal Purple modify or discontinue a number of them. To start, NAD pressed Royal Purple to discontinue its use of consumer testimonials without reliable
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independent evidence (data) showing performance capability. In other words, testimonials, while comforting, are not a substitute for hard numbers. Castrol had stated as much in its challenge when it said, If industry-standard tests or tests with carefully documented controls were abandoned, there would be no basis whatsoever for making any meaningful claims about the relative efficacy of motor oils. (Compare that to Castrols stance in the case that opened this column.)

By the way, Royal Purple also was claiming that its motor oil was API Certified. As Castrol pointed out, only products that are licensed by the American Petroleum Institute can display the trademarked donut Service Symbol or its starburst Certification Mark. Oil buyers may or may not rely on the starburst but the logo does clearly signify that the oil meets current industry standards. In fact, no Royal Purple products were certified to current API starburst standards, so NAD recommended that the company discontinue saying that its synthetic oils are generally API/ILSAC Certified.

In 2012 Pennzoil and Valvoline went to the NARB (the NAD appeals body) over Valvolines engine warranty program. Valvoline said its program guaranteed engines for up to 300,000 miles if the customer uses its oil and changes it regularly. Not surprisingly, Pennzoil has a similar warranty program in place. Initially, NAD agreed with Valvoline that its claims were OK for advertising purposes. Pennzoil appealed on the basis that it has a similar program so Valvoline couldnt claim first and/or only engine guarantee, nor that only Valvoline guarantees engines for up to 300,000 miles. After reviewing all of the


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intricate details about how to tell whether or not an engine had failed for lubricant related reasons, NARB recommended Valvoline cease making those claims for its motor oil and also concluded that very few consumer claims would be covered under either Valvolines or Pennzoil-Quaker States engine guarantees. So what have we learned from our ringside seat at these matches? First, big oil marketers have more to defend and are more likely to challenge advertising that either denigrates them directly or through guilt-byassociation. Second, you better have reliable data using proper test methodologies and

good statistical analyses before you try to use comparative advertising. Testimonials and meaningless torture tests just wont cut it. Third, API can be zealous in guarding its donut and starburst trademarks. You shouldnt even think about putting either on a container without having a current license in place to back it up. Last, dont underestimate what impact NAD rulings have on the marketplace. Just look at the synthetic decision. Theres no question that advertising plays an important role in the battle for motor oil sales. All the more reason to make sure its right.

Industry consultant Steve Swedberg has over 40 years experience in lubricants, most notably with Pennzoil and Chevron Oronite. He is a longtime member of the American Chemical Society and SAE International, where he was chairman of Technical Committee 1 on automotive engine oils. He can be reached at steveswedberg



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Why, How, How Much?
Todays engine oils do a great job, thanks in part to the workhorse additive ZDDP . But whats in ZDDP? And why do some drivers and engine rebuilders insist they need more of this good thing? First of two parts.
Wear is as inevitable as the rising and the setting of the sun. It is universal in that everything that moves or doesnt wears. The ultimate expression of wear is entropy, that thermodynamic law which says that all matter and energy eventually runs down and becomes increasingly disorganized. Given that wear occurs, the challenge is to delay it as long as possible. In an automotive engine that means retarding cam and lifter wear, ring and liner wear, rod and main bearing wear and so on. Most of the wear which occurs is in the ring and liner area since that is the largest surface in terms of square inches. However, the wear on cams and lifters often is more worrisome since the pressure between the surfaces is much greater. Engine design can do much to reduce wear, but the most significant influence during operation is the engine lubricant. There are different facets to the antiwear properties of an engine lubricant and how they protect the engine. The first factor is the oils viscosity. Viscosity is the thickness of the oil and is the result of the internal friction between oil molecules. It is temperature related so as the oil becomes hotter the viscosity decreases. At some point, the oil becomes too thin to prevent metal-to-metal contact, and wear results. The oil property which most clearly reflects this is the high-temperature, high-shear viscosity of the oil. HTHS viscosity is measured under high-shear conditions at 150 degrees C and represents the absolute viscosity of the oil while discounting all additive effects. Thats a good start but there is much more that needs to be done to protect the engine. This burden is carried out by the additive package used in the engine oil composition. In addition to wear protection, additive packages contain a number of components which provide protection from sludge and varnish formation, oil foaming, as well as oil thickening. Over the years, wear protection has




been provided by a truly amazing component, a reactive chemical compound called metallic dithiophosphate. The metal used most commonly has been zinc, as in ZDDP or the variant ZDTP . Along with zinc, ZDDP brings both sulfur (thio) and phosphorus into the oil in a form which lends itself to relatively low-temperature reaction with metal surfaces. This creates complex iron sul-



fide and iron Table 1. How Alcohol Selection Affects ZDTP phosphide layers Alcohol Type on top of metal Secondary Alkyl Primary Alkyl Aryl parts moving Wear Protection Excellent Good Average against each other Oxidation Average Good Excellent within the engine. Resistance These chemical layers wear away with very little loss of Within the chemical structure of the surface area and without interrupting ZDDP molecule, the relative ratio of the the operation of the engine. key elements of sulfur/phosphorus/zinc is 2/1/1. Roughly speaking then, there is twice as much sulfur as there is zinc and phosphorus. (In actual calculations, there may be about 6 percent more zinc than phosphorus.) Of this trio, the element attracting the most attention is phosphorus. Together with the sulfur, it is believed to bring the most antiwear functionality to the oil. For that reason, the level of phosphorus is watched most closely. ZDDP comes in three distinct chemical structures, based on the type of alcohol used in the reaction process for making the finished product. Depending on the alcohol type selected, the finished ZDDP will have varying levels of wear protection and antioxidant performance (Table 1). In earlier times, ZDDP was used at levels of up to 0.16 wt. percent in engine oils, and measured as zinc. This is because it originally was (and still is) viewed as a multipurpose additive in formulations, acting not only as an antiwear agent but also as a corrosion TRIED IT inhibitor and antioxidant. The earliest known applications in formulated WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR engine oils date from 1941, when ZDDP was used as a corrosion inhibitor. No one type of ZDDP can solve all LUCANT TM offers high shear stability as well as problems though, so the choice of the excellent heat and oxidation stability. Available in viscosities (cSt at 100C) of 40, 100, 150, 600, 1100 proper material depends on what per& 2000. formance property is most important. For most passenger car and light-truck formulations, secondary alkyl ZDDP is Phone: 914.251.4202 the choice. It provides the best wear Email: protection in spark-ignited gasoline fueled engines, where any shortfall in oxidation protection can be made up for with other types of antioxidants. It accomplishes all of this at levels of about 0.08 percent phosphorus. By contrast, diesel engines rely on

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Table 2. Putting a Lid on Phosphorus Year Introduced Pre-1993 1993 1996 2001 2004 2010 2017 Engine Oil Designation Phosphorus, wt% Service Category ILSAC Specification min. max. API SG and prior API SH GF-1 API SJ GF-2 0.10 API SL GF-3 0.10 API SM GF-4 0.06 0.08 API SN GF-5 0.06 0.08 API SP GF-6 0.06 0.08 er category. Given that the average age of cars and light trucks in the U.S. fleet at this time is pushing 11 years, it is almost certain that newer category oils are finding their way into older engines. Looking at that aging fleet, it seems fair to say that the latest oils do a good job of controlling wear for the vast majority of vehicles on the road today. However, there is a small and vocal body of end users who have another concern: those who build and drive high-performance vehicles or collectible cars. Their concerns center on the amount of wear protection needed for their engines, given that many of them are much older designs. Lower phosphorus engine oils can be harmful to older engines, one enthusiast and rebuilder insisted to LubesnGreases. The worst-case scenario is engine break-in, as the cam and lifters polish each other, or tear each other up. In fact, this source pointed out, the Engine Rebuilders Association recommends the use of diesel engine oil during engine break-in due to its higher ZDDP content. An advisory bulletin can be seen at bulletins/TB2008/Q1-2008/TB2333R.pdf. Other cautionary advice has come from the cam manufacturers Crane ( Q4-2013/TB2623.pdf) and Crower ( .pdf). Each warns that modern PCMOs are inadequate for engine break-in. Is it possible for current, low-ZDDP engine oils to service these older vehicles and rebuilt engines, or is there a limit to what backward compatibility can do? More in part two, next month.

compression ignition, and their oil formulations usually employ a primary alkyl ZDDP with possibly some secondary alkyl mixed in. While loads are higher in diesel engines, the design is much more robust and doesnt need the high level of antiwear found only in secondary alkyl types. In addition, diesel engine oil formulations typically have a higher level of ZDDP , about 0.12 percent as phosphorus in the finished oil. Engine expert Dick Kabel, formerly with General Motors Research, tells LubesnGreases another element was at work in engines from the early 1920s until the mid-1970s: tetraethyl lead. Adding lead to gasoline boosted its octane and allowed engines to be built with higher compression ratios and hence better performance. But in order to prevent the buildup of lead and lead oxides in the engine, so-called lead scavengers were incorporated in the fuel. Usually these were ethylene chloride or ethylene bromide. The drawback, Kabel reminded, was these reactive materials created highly acidic byproducts in the crankcase and tended to reduce the effectiveness of ZDDP . To counteract that, higher ZDDP dosages were used, often into the phosphorus range of 0.14 percent to 0.16 percent. When lead was phased out from gasoline, he explained, it allowed some ZDDP reduction to take place. At the same time, engine metallurgy was improving to where parts could be manufactured with lower surface roughness. Both events led to more additive package optimization to get just the right alcohol type and level of ZDDP . Base stock refining improvements also allowed for more optimization, Kabel added. The next logical step was to control ZDDP levels in engine oils. For one thing, automakers found that ZDDP decomposition products which got into the exhaust were being deposited onto cars catalytic converters. One of these decomposition products, a compound called zinc pyrophosphate, formed a glass-like deposit on the cata20
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lyst, effectively blocking it from doing its job of converting exhaust gases into non-polluting materials. Phosphorus reduction in engine oil wasnt an immediate hit however, with many worrying that too little would lead to increased rates of wear. Not all ZDDPs are alike, adds Don Smolenski, who is now the OEM liaison for Evonik Oil Additives after his own career with General Motors. In the 1980s, Smolenski managed taxi-fleet engine oil testing programs at GM. As GM and other automakers pressed for lower phosphorus and zinc levels, he recalls, formulators found progressively more effective ZDDPs to maintain the wear protection. He believes that the ASTM Sequence IV engine test, which measures scuffing and wear protection, gave pretty good insight into cam and lifter wear in particular. Smolenski pointed out that the question of catalyst poisoning came to the fore in the late 80s, as todays ILSAC GF-series of engine oil specifications and the API Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System were being developed. From that point forward, phosphorus has remained a hot-button issue, with concerns raised both about higher levels and lower levels. For some perspective, a look at the phosphorus limits in the API Service categories and ILSAC specifications makes it clear how the levels of phosphorus have been handled (Table 2). One of the fundamentals of the API engine oil system has been the concept of backwards compatibility. Simply stated, newer oil categories are required to be capable of servicing older engines even engines designed around an earli-