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2011 Model Year Brings New Oils, Longer Change Intervals

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2010 Cadillac CTS-V

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

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The first time you take your new car in for an oil change, beware: Many 2011 models don't use the same oil as the equivalent 2010 models--even if they look virtually identical otherwise.

And accidentally refilling with another oil that costs less could end up costing you big; using a different oil could void your warranty. It's no doubt something that every mechanic is aware of, but if yours isn't used to working on newer cars, it might pay to provide a reminder.

According to Automotive News, all 2011 General Motors vehicles are being filled with next-generation motor oils that promises both higher fuel-efficiency and lower wear. The new oils—called GF-5, SN, or Dexos1—are being phased in this month and officially replace GF-4 and SM motor oils.

The new oils will allow longer oil-change intervals as well, thanks to engineering changes that have been made together with the new standard—which has been in the works since 2006—including larger oil pans, more aluminum in engines, and oil-life-monitoring systems, which calculate intervals with data from driving style and other conditions.

Ford is now specifying oil-change intervals of up to 10,000 miles with the new oil, while GM is relying entirely on driving conditions and its oil-monitor system.

Dexos1 is a proprietary GM oil that's tested to slightly different standards, though some oils already on the market—Pennzoil Platinum and Quaker State Ultimate Durability synthetics are two of them—fully comply with each of these standards.

GF-5 is the designation used by the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC), while SN is the latest in a long list of comparably-named designations from the American Petroleum Institute (API). According to the API, all oils with the SN designation also meet GF-5 standards.

These newer oils can be used in older vehicles, though they're likely to be a bit more expensive at first.
Look to still see plenty of SM oils on the shelf for a while, too. One sign of an SN oil is that most will likely carry a "resource conserving" stamp in packaging.

Here are the API designations you're likely to find in shops, as well as a few you might find in a dusty corner:

SM – Up until this month, the latest standard; better oxidation and deposit resistance; wear protection; and low-temp performance than the oils it replaced
SL – For 2004 and older automotive engines
SJ – For 2001 and older automotive engines
SH, SG, and SF – Each of these is considered obsolete

[Automotive News; API]

 
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Comments (5)
  1. I use syntetic oil in my saturn sl 2002 for 3 years. The engine stars very well during cold morning in the winter. Do i have made a good choice ?
     
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  2. Nice effort but very misleading and potentially harmful. No major manufacturer selling passenger cars in North America accepted API-SM approval as sufficient for their cars. likewise, the new API-SN is not sufficient. ILSAC GF-4 includes API SM as a requiremeny and ILSAC GF-5 includes API SN as a requirement. all ILSAC GF-5 approved products also meet API-SN requirements but many API SN approved products fail to meet ILSAC GF-5 requirements.
    GM dexos1 is a considerably more stringent standard than ILSAC GF-5. Castrol and Valvoline both lacked the technology and/or motivation to meet the older GM 4718M, ACEA A5/B5 and Honda HTO-06 requirements in their best oil products. They now likewise lack the motivation and/or technology to meet requirements for the new GM dexos1 approval and licensing.
     
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  3. So can you use the new oils in older cars?
     
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  4. Valvoline Synpower (Ashland) datasheet shows the current 5w-30 grade SM/GF-4 meeting GM 4718M and ACEA A5. Given current crop of "fully synthetic" labeled oils contain little (if any) traditional synthetic (higher group) basestocks, The ILSC GF-5 or DEXOS1 would be good choices for 95% of the motoring public currently using a more pricey synthetic.
     
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  5. So, will using "sn, GF-5" oils in an older car make the engine last longer? Less wear when oil pressure is low? Less wear when cold starting an engine?
    I may just stick with my Chevron Supreme SM 10w30 in my 1999 Civic, but perhaps SN would be worth it?
    Thanks for the input.
     
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