Low Viscosity Oils

SAE Adds Two New Low Viscosity Oils To The SAE J300 High Temperature Engine Oil Viscosity Grade Classification System

The SAE J300 standard classifies motor oils as either low temperature or high temperature.  The low temperature classification covers 0w, 5W, 10W, 15W, 20W, and 25W.  For years, oils in the high temperature classification were 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60.  In December 1999 the high temperature 40 classifications was further defined by the oils characteristics in the High Temperature / High Shear test.  Those meeting a minimum high temperature high shear rate viscosity of 2.9 mPa·s @ 150°C were for use in 0W40, 5W40, and 10W40 viscosity grades while those meeting a minimum high temperature high shear rate viscosity of 3.7 mPa·s @ 150°C were for use in 15W40, 20W40, 25W40, and straight SAE 40 mono-grade oils.

In April 2013, at the request of automotive manufacturers, SAE added oils with a viscosity of 16 to the high temperature category.  Since it takes oil manufacturers several years to develop, test, and get approval for new formulations, I don’t believe there are currently any vehicle manufacturers specifying 0W16 or 5W16 oil viscosity.  I do however expect to see it on the shelves by 2016 or 2017 at the latest.  (SLS Note: AMSOIL added 0W16 to the OE product line in October 2018.  At this time the only car I know of that takes it is the 2018 Toyota Camry but, I haven’t seen oil specs for 2019 yet.)

In January 2015 SAE added two more high temperature, low viscosity oils to the list.  SAE 8 and SAE 12.  These low viscosity oils are for use in fuel efficient engines specifically designed to operate on these very low viscosity oils.  For those of you who think that you can’t successfully operate an engine on such low viscosity oils, think again.  Honda, who requested the two new classifications, has for years successfully lubricated a number of ultra-fuel-efficient passenger car models in Japan with a Honda-approved engine oil that sports SAE 8’s characteristics.

So, while we haven’t yet seen vehicles calling for the SAE 16 viscosity grade, how long do you think it will take to see vehicles specifying SAE 12 or even SAE 8 viscosity?  They are coming.  It is just a matter of how soon.

SLS Update: As of the 2018 Model Year both Honda and Toyota are specifying and AMSOIL has 0W16 for several of their engines. SAE 8 oils are being tested in Japan.

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