It’s a cliché analogy, but oil really is the lifeblood of a vehicle’s powertrain. Without its friction-cutting properties engines would literally grind to a halt, failing in spectacular fashion. Connecting rods would punch holes in blocks, camshafts would pulverize themselves and bearing inserts would spin like the blades of a jet turbine.
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As the impending CAFE 35 mpg standards loom ever closer, automakers are doing everything they can to improve fuel efficiency in their vehicles. One option is to utilize a new type of engine oil.
General Motors will pour Dexos 1 (a version of the new GF-5 or SN), into the crankcase of every engine in it’s 2011 U.S. vehicle fleet. This new oil replaces the previous GF-4 standard and is designed to improve protection and reduce wear, as well as extending intervals between oil changes. According to Mark Ferner, manager of the Lubricants technology group at Shell, “GF-5 and Dexos1 oils have a more robust formulation that should give you better contributions to fuel economy, cleanliness and fuel emissions.”
That robust formulation is also designed to improve heat resistance and reduce the risk of thermal breakdown under high heat situations – i.e. turbocharged and supercharged engines – which GM and other automakers are increasingly adopting in order to maximize power, while at the same enabling smaller displacements to improve fuel economy.
However, what’s interesting is that Dexos 1 and GF-5 use slightly different testing methods, the former using a European standard to gain market approval,while GF-5 was tested by the American Petroleum Institute. Dexos 1, which is a GM licensed brand of oil, is only available as a synthetic oil, whereas GF-5 can be formulated from mineral deposits or synthetically.
GM began work on Dexos 1 back in 2006 and this new oil was conceived as a lube that could meet the requirements of powertrains in all GM vehicles around the world. In addition, the company has also developed Dexos2 an oil designed for light-duty diesel engines, which was launched in Europe earlier this year.