Building oil understanding

Jan. 1, 2020
Oil is the most popular topic on my weekly GearHeads radio show here in Denver. Why is such a mundane topic so popular?

Oil is — hands down — the most popular topic on my weekly GearHeads radio show here in Denver. Why is such a mundane topic so popular? Because nobody understands it.

Why is such a mundane topic so popular? Because nobody understands it. The wrong engine oil can destroy some engines in a matter of days. The right oil can be responsible for 200K+ engine life. It’s not about who makes the oil, either. It is all about what is in the bottle. This is where both sides of our industry are very much in need of help.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to sit through an oil class presented by Kevin McCartney. It was cathartic because it removed all my preconceived notions about what made a good oil, and what did not. I am not going to use this space to attempt to teach about oil. I want to ask some questions about packaging, and hope there are some answers out there.

Let’s start with my favorite, and this seems to apply to many lubricants. Where the heck is the part number on the bottle so I can reorder the product? Or, even if there is a part number on the label, many jobbers tend to apply their own number to lubricants so you can’t just go to the website or search even if you do have a part number. I don’t see this with other parts, so I wonder why? The examples I have shown are not intended to reflect negatively on the supplier of the part or the jobber, only to illustrate the point. I could have demonstrated this problem in several, similar electronic cataloging situations.

Secondly, product labels need to show vehicles the product is “approved for use” in. Many oil manufacturers use terms like “exceeds engine protection requirements” but I have come to learn that this does not necessarily mean it meets all requirements for a particular manufacturer. Manufacturers have specification numbers for their oils. Not that many technicians are aware of that because they use bulk oil and are not called upon to determine if the oil is appropriate for the vehicle. However, there are high temperature/ high shear 5w30s, thick and thin 5w30 oil specs and some companies who are just happy you are changing the oil.

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The problem is when a tech has to find a product data sheet and the OE spec each time a new car winds up in the bay. If this information were on the label, techs and consumers would be able to know that an oil is “approved for use” in a 2000 BMW series without risking valve train failure.

Next, many shops are working hard to reduce their waste. It is good business, the right thing to do and popular with customers. In our shop we carry around 27 different oils for engines and transmissions. I can safely say that every vehicle we work on holds a gallon or more of oil. It would be very nice to be able to buy some of these oils in quantities less than 55 gallons and more than a quart to reduce the plastic bottles you have to deal with and streamline the refill of the vehicle where bulk oil is not appropriate or cost effective.

Lastly, I’d like to discuss product data sheets and MSD sheets. Is there a way to generate these on the first purchase or when the sheet is updated by the manufacturer and have them included with the product? This would be a great customer service for shops who do not have a full-time compliance officer to make sure they have the right information for the products they service. I am sure it is a challenge, but I had to ask.

Oil is — hands down — the most popular topic on my weekly GearHeads radio show here in Denver. Why is such a mundane topic so popular? Because nobody understands it.

Why is such a mundane topic so popular? Because nobody understands it. The wrong engine oil can destroy some engines in a matter of days. The right oil can be responsible for 200K+ engine life. It’s not about who makes the oil, either. It is all about what is in the bottle. This is where both sides of our industry are very much in need of help.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to sit through an oil class presented by Kevin McCartney. It was cathartic because it removed all my preconceived notions about what made a good oil, and what did not. I am not going to use this space to attempt to teach about oil. I want to ask some questions about packaging, and hope there are some answers out there.

Let’s start with my favorite, and this seems to apply to many lubricants. Where the heck is the part number on the bottle so I can reorder the product? Or, even if there is a part number on the label, many jobbers tend to apply their own number to lubricants so you can’t just go to the website or search even if you do have a part number. I don’t see this with other parts, so I wonder why? The examples I have shown are not intended to reflect negatively on the supplier of the part or the jobber, only to illustrate the point. I could have demonstrated this problem in several, similar electronic cataloging situations.

Secondly, product labels need to show vehicles the product is “approved for use” in. Many oil manufacturers use terms like “exceeds engine protection requirements” but I have come to learn that this does not necessarily mean it meets all requirements for a particular manufacturer. Manufacturers have specification numbers for their oils. Not that many technicians are aware of that because they use bulk oil and are not called upon to determine if the oil is appropriate for the vehicle. However, there are high temperature/ high shear 5w30s, thick and thin 5w30 oil specs and some companies who are just happy you are changing the oil.

PAGE 2

The problem is when a tech has to find a product data sheet and the OE spec each time a new car winds up in the bay. If this information were on the label, techs and consumers would be able to know that an oil is “approved for use” in a 2000 BMW series without risking valve train failure.

Next, many shops are working hard to reduce their waste. It is good business, the right thing to do and popular with customers. In our shop we carry around 27 different oils for engines and transmissions. I can safely say that every vehicle we work on holds a gallon or more of oil. It would be very nice to be able to buy some of these oils in quantities less than 55 gallons and more than a quart to reduce the plastic bottles you have to deal with and streamline the refill of the vehicle where bulk oil is not appropriate or cost effective.

Lastly, I’d like to discuss product data sheets and MSD sheets. Is there a way to generate these on the first purchase or when the sheet is updated by the manufacturer and have them included with the product? This would be a great customer service for shops who do not have a full-time compliance officer to make sure they have the right information for the products they service. I am sure it is a challenge, but I had to ask.