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Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536


Automotive tribology overview of current advances and challenges

for the future
Simon C. Tung , Michael L. McMillan
General Motors Research and Development Center, USA

Received 3 April 2003; received in revised form 26 December 2003; accepted 7 January 2004


This keynote address will provide a comprehensive overview of various lubrication aspects of a typical powertrain system
including the engine, transmission, driveline, and other components, as well as the integration of these lubrication and surface
engineering concepts into a unified automotive powertrain system. In addition, this presentation will focus on the current status
and future trends in automotive lubricants including discussion of current and anticipated future requirements of automotive
engine oils. This presentation will also review the current standard ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) test
methods for engine lubricants and other compilations of automotive standards. In addition to engine oil test development, indus-
trial researchers are developing light-weight materials such as non-ferrous materials (Al, Mg) for engine and drivetrain materials
to replace the current heavy-weight cast iron blocks. Recent industrial developments include high strength and high density of
composite materials, high volume liquid molding and hydroforming technology, structural adhesive boding, and the ability to
mold large structural components. Industrial researchers have also developed processing improvements for forming more complex
stamped aluminum parts or panels, more robust stamping, and improved casting techniques. In this paper, our insights and
perspectives on future trends in light-weight tribological material and nonotribology will also be reviewed.
# 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction ings, pistons, transmissions, clutches, to gears and dri-

vetrain components. The application of tribological
The petroleum and automotive industries are facing principles is essential for the reliability of the motor
tough international competition, government regula- vehicle, and in the area of powertrain technology has
tions, and rapid technological changes [1–3]. Ever
led to enormous advances in the field of tribology.
increasing government regulations require improved
For the purpose of classifying the tribological com-
fuel economy and lower emissions from the automotive
ponents, we can divide the motor vehicle into engine,
fuel and lubricant systems. Higher energy-conserving
transmission, traction drive, continuously variable
engine oils and better fuel-efficient vehicles will become
transmission (CVT), drive train, joints, and ancillaries.
increasingly important in the face of both the saving of
In the following sections, each automotive component
natural resources and the lowering of engine friction
is discussed in detail. Required lubricants used with
[4–7]. The United States Department of Energy has
conducted a workshop [8] in which the focus was on these automotive tribological components are described
industry research needs for reducing friction and wear in the last section of this review paper.
in transportation. Reducing friction and wear in engine
and drive train components could save the US econ-
omy as much as US$ 120 billion per year. There are 2. Automotive tribology
many hundreds of tribological components, from bear-
2.1. Engine

Corresponding author. The reciprocating internal combustion engine as
E-mail address: simon.c.tung@gm.com (S.C. Tung). shown in Fig. 1 is the most important component in
0301-679X/$ - see front matter # 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
518 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

With such large numbers of reciprocating internal

combustion engines in service, even the smallest
improvements in engine efficiency, emission levels and
durability can have a major effect on the world fuel
economy and the environment in a long-term.
The energy derived from combustion of the fuel is
distributed in an engine and a powertrain system. In a
recent published paper by Andersson [1] showed the
distribution of fuel energy for a medium size passenger
car during an urban cycle. Only 12% of the available
energy in the fuel is available to drive the wheels, with
some 15% being dissipated as mechanical, mainly fric-
tional, losses. Based on the fuel consumption data in
his publication, a 10% reduction in mechanical losses
Fig. 1. Main engine components in an internal combustion engine. would lead to a 1.5% reduction in fuel consumption.
Concerning energy consumption within the engine as
the motor vehicle, as well as in many ground and sea shown in Fig. 2, friction loss is the major portion
transportation devices including motorcycles, scooters, (48%) of the energy consumption developed in an
engine [24]. The other portions are the acceleration
mopeds, vans, trucks, buses, agricultural vehicles, con-
resistance (35%) and the cruising resistance (17%). If
struction vehicles, trains, boats and ships. The popu-
we look into the entire friction loss portion as shown in
larity of the reciprocating internal combustion engine is the right pie chart of Fig. 3 [34], engine friction loss
due to its performance, reliability and versatility. How- including piston skirt friction, piston rings, and bear-
ever, there are also some major drawbacks. Thermal ings is 66% of the total friction loss, and the valve
and mechanical efficiencies are relatively low, with train, crankshaft, transmission, and gears are approxi-
much of the energy of the fuel dissipated as heat loss mately 34%. Concerning powertrain friction loss only,
and friction. sliding of the piston rings and piston skirt against the
The internal combustion engine is also a contributor cylinder wall is undoubtedly the largest contribution to
to atmospheric pollution through hydrocarbon, par-
ticulate and NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions and to
the greenhouse effect via carbon dioxide emissions. A
viable alternative with the required portfolio of attri-
butes including versatility and cost, however, has yet to
be found, and hence the reciprocating internal combus-
tion engine will still dominate the road vehicle market
for the foreseeable future.

2.1.1. Importance of engine tribology

The engine tribologist is required to achieve effective
lubrication of all moving engine components. In order Fig. 2. Energy consumption developed in an engine.
to reduce friction and wear, with a minimum adverse
impact on the environment. This task is particularly
tough given the wide range of operating conditions of
speed, load, and temperature in an engine.
Improvements in the tribological performance of
engines can generate the following benefits:

. Reduced fuel consumption,

. Increased engine power output,
. Reduced oil consumption,
. A reduction in harmful exhaust emissions,
. Improved durability, reliability and engine life,
. Reduced maintenance requirements and longer Fig. 3. Distribution of energy consumption in a light-duty vehicle
service intervals. [34].
S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 519

friction in a powertrain system. Frictional losses arising separates the surfaces, and between these two extremes
from the rotating engine bearings (notably the crank- partial or intermittent contact occurs. The curved line
shaft and camshaft journal bearings) are the next most below the lubrication regimes indicates the relationship
significant, followed by the valve train (principally at between the friction coefficient and the Summerfield
the cam and follower interface), and the auxiliaries number. Different automotive components rely upon
such as the oil pump, water pump and alternator. The different modes of lubrication to achieve acceptable
relative proportions of these losses, and their total, performance, and each may experience more than one
vary with engine type, component design, operating regime of lubrication during a single cycle. Generally,
conditions, choice of engine lubricant and the service journal and thrust bearings are designed to operate in
history of the vehicle, i.e. worn condition of the com- the hydrodynamic lubrication regime in which bearing
ponents. Auxiliaries should not be overlooked, as they surfaces are separated by a lubricant film. Actual
can account for 20% or more of the mechanical friction metal-to-metal contact is expected to take place only at
losses. low speeds and high loads and with low-viscosity lubri-
cants. In contrast, valve train, piston ring assembly and
2.1.2. Lubrication regimes in the engine transmission clutch sliding generally take place under
Any powertrain system designed to operate with a mixed or boundary lubrication conditions; surface con-
liquid lubricant; the key operating tribological para- tact occurs, and chemical films or reaction products
meter in a powertrain system is the lubricant film thick- may be an important means of surface protection. In
ness separating the interacting component surfaces. addition, the importance of different lubrication
More precisely, it is the relative magnitude of the lubri- regimes for each engine component may change with
cant film compared to the combined surface roughness the surface roughness at the interface, wear of critical
of the two surfaces, the so-called film thickness ratio, interacting surfaces, and lubricant degradation.
or parameter, k,
h 2.1.3. Engine bearings
k¼ ð1Þ In an operating engine, rotating journal bearings are
ðr2surface 1 þ r2surface 2 Þ1=2 used to support the camshaft, the crankshaft and the
Where h is the film thickness calculated through the connecting rod. The basic configuration is a split half-
application of classical thin film analysis taking the sur- shell bearing fitted into a bore and incorporating some
faces to be smooth, and r is the root mean square form of locating notch. The shells are formed from a
(rms) surface roughness. A related version of this equa- steel backing strip to give strength and tight dimen-
tion uses the center line average surface roughness sional tolerance and overlaid with a relatively soft
values, ðRasurface 1 þ Rasurface 2 Þ, in the denominator in bearing material such as tin–aluminum or lead–bronze.
place of the root mean square term. A further thin soft overlay is then coated onto the
Fig. 4 shows a plot of the relationship between the bearing material to ensure a degree of initial conform-
coefficient of friction and the oil film thickness ratio or ability [22]. Shafts designed for running against engine
Summerfield number (¼ viscosity  speed=load). The bearings are generally made of heat-treated steels or
diagrams at the top of the figure provide a visual spheroidal graphite irons, with hardness approximately
example of the lubrication of two surfaces that are in three times that of the principal bearing material.
relative motion to each other and that are separated by Lubricant is directed to the bearings either by jet
an oil film. At the box on the top left side there is sur- impingement or by passing through the bore of a hol-
face contact; at the box on the bottom left a fluid film low shaft.
If the bearings are adequately lubricated, bearing
wear is low after an initial stage of running in period.
However, shaft misalignment or particulate contami-
nation of the lubricant supply can lead to excessive
wear. An additional failure mechanism is bearing cor-
The tribology of journal bearings is complicated by
issues such as lubricant supply, thermal effects,
dynamic loading and elasticity of the bounding solids.
The mobility technique for the analysis of dynamically
loaded engine bearings was established some 30 years
ago and remains the most common approach [3,4]. The
technique is robust and has proved a simple computer
Fig. 4. Lubrication regimes for engine components and their rela- analysis. It can calculate the cyclic minimum film thick-
tionships to friction. ness between the journal and the bearing, which is an
520 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

important design parameter. However, it is important

to note that many simplifying assumptions are implicit
in the use of the mobility method, which means that
the predictions can only be used as a benchmark. The
mobility method and many other alternative methods
of solution assume that engine bearings operate
entirely in the hydrodynamic lubrication regime. For a
satisfactory minimum lubricant film thickness in an
engine, the benchmark prediction was used to be
approximately 2.5 lm. Today, minimum film thickness Fig. 5. Piston assembly and piston ring function from an internal
predictions in the range 0.5–1.0 lm have made for combustion engine.
engine bearings in passenger cars, suggesting that
asperity interaction may occur between the journal and ring is the major gas seal and encounters the highest
bearing for part of the engine cycle. To design engine loads and temperatures as the ring nearest the combus-
bearings operated in the mixed lubrication regime will tion chamber. The top compression ring usually has a
be a critical and significant approach to improve engine barrel-faced profile with a wear resistant coating such
performance. ([29, 43]). as flame-sprayed molybdenum on the periphery and
occasionally on the flanks. The second compression
2.1.4. Piston assembly ring, which is sometimes referred to as the scraper ring,
The heart of the reciprocating internal combustion is designed to assist in limiting upward oil flow in
engine is the piston assembly, forming a critical linkage addition to providing a secondary gas seal. The right
in transforming the energy generated by combustion of side of Fig. 5 illustrates how the second compression
the fuel and air mixture into useful kinetic energy. The ring scrapes surplus oil from cylinder walls and how
piston assembly includes the ring pack, which is essen- the ring rides on a film of oil and presents a lower edge
tially a series of metallic rings, the primary role of to cylinder wall. Because of these functions, the second
which is to maintain an effective gas seal between the compression ring has a taper-faced, downward scrap-
combustion chamber and the crankcase. The rings of ing profile that is not normally coated.
the piston assembly, which form a labyrinth seal, The bottom ring in the ring assembly is the oil-
achieve this function by closely conforming to their control ring, which has two running faces, or lands,
grooves in the piston and to the cylinder wall. A sec- and a spring element to enhance radial load. As its
ondary role of the piston ring is to transfer heat from name defines, the role of this ring is to limit the
the piston into the cylinder wall, and thence into the amount of oil transported from the crankcase to the
coolant, and to limit the amount of oil that is trans- combustion chamber, and it has no gas sealing ability.
ported from the crankcase to the combustion chamber. The periphery of the lands and, occasionally, the flanks
This flow path is probably the largest contributor to are often chromium plated. There are a large number
engine oil consumption and leads to an increase in of configurations in the basic ring design, a good sum-
harmful exhaust emissions as the oil mixes and reacts mary of which may be referenced from the paper
with the other contents of the combustion chamber. published by Neale [25]. Some practical examples are
The objectives to extend engine service intervals and the compression ring with tapered sides designed to
minimize harmful exhaust emissions for meeting more prevent ring sticking due to deposit formation in the
stringent legislative requirements are to reduce the per- piston ring grooves of diesel engines, the internally
missible oil consumption to a low level compared to stepped compression ring, which imposes a dishing
their predecessors of 20 years ago. on the ring when fitted to improve oil control, and
The left side of Fig. 5 is a schematic representation the multi-piece, steel rail, oil-control ring. In contrast
of a piston assembly from a modern automotive to the one-piece oil-control ring, the multi-piece oil-
engine. From a tribological perspective, the main pis- control ring has smaller land heights, which increases
ton features are the grooves, which hold the piston conformability to the cylinder wall, and hence oil con-
rings, and the region of the piston below the ring pack trol, with reduced spring force.
(the piston skirt), which transmits the transverse loads The piston ring is the most complicated tribological
on the piston to the cylinder wall. The top two piston component in the internal combustion engine to ana-
rings are referred to as the compression rings. As lyze because of large variations of load, speed, tem-
shown in the right side of Fig. 5, firing pressure pushes perature and lubricant availability. In one single stroke
these rings out until the entire ring face engages the of the piston, the piston ring interface with the cylinder
cylinder wall. Gas pressure is provided to supplement wall may experience boundary, mixed and full fluid
the inherent elasticity of the ring and maintain an effec- film lubrication [30]. Elastohydrodynamic lubrication
tive combustion chamber seal. The top compression of piston rings is also feasible in both gasoline and
S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 521

diesel engines on the highly loaded expansion stroke cylinder liner coatings, piston skirt coatings are gener-
after firing. A typical prediction from a mathematical ally intended to reduce friction rather than wear.
model for the cyclic variation of minimum film thick- Controlling friction and wear of the piston assembly
ness between a piston ring and cylinder wall, where is crucial to successful engine performance as shown in
zero degrees of crank angle is top dead center firing has Fig. 6. Several research opportunities in piston ring/
been made by Ruddy et al. [30]. The prediction is cylinder bore contact can be explored by investigating
assuming a plentiful supply of lubricant for the top low friction coatings, wear resistant coatings for alumi-
compression ring of a four-stroke gasoline engine. In num bores, surface texture control, and better surface
this case, the combined surface roughness of the piston finish or treatments. Manufacturers have come to rely
ring and cylinder wall was approximately 0.1 lm. The upon early life wear of the piston rings and cylinder
solution exhibits a characteristic curve with small film wall to modify the profile and roughness of the inter-
thickness around the dead center positions where the acting surfaces to achieve acceptable performance as
sliding velocity and lubricant entrainment velocity are part of the running-in process. However, a clear under-
low. In his analysis, a large film thickness was observed standing of the complex interactions between lubri-
at the mid-stroke positions where the sliding and cation and wear of these components is important for
entrainment velocities are large. During the engine lubrication engineers. In addition to wear as a conse-
cycle the piston itself exhibits a complex secondary quence of mechanical interactions, corrosive wear may
motion, transverse movement toward the cylinder wall occur in the upper cylinder region during short-trip
and tilting about the main piston pin axis [20]. This service in a winter climate.
movement results in fluid film or mixed lubrication Manufactured surface finish of piston rings and
between the piston skirt and the cylinder wall. Modern, cylinders can have a major influence on wear behavior
light-weight pistons have skirts that may deflect elasti- and thereby the success or failure of an engine. Despite
cally during interaction with the cylinder wall, leading of a wide range of surface finishing techniques has
to the application of elastohydrodynamic lubrication evolved for both piston rings and cylinder liners, the
theory to these components [27,28]. Frictional losses objectives of these processes appear to be the same: to
between the skirt and the cylinder wall are significant, improve oil retention at or within the surface, to mini-
estimating for about 30% of total piston assembly fric- mize scuffing and to promote ring profile formation
tion. The piston skirt interaction with the cylinder wall during the running-in period. Plain cast iron piston
can lead to noise generation, so-called piston slap. rings are often used in a fine turned condition and elec-
Gray cast iron, malleable/nodular iron and car- troplated; flame sprayed and plasma sprayed rings are
bides/malleable iron are the most common base mate- generally ground to the desired finish. The poor wet-
rials for all types of compression piston rings and ability by oil of chromium plated piston rings can be
single piece oil-control rings. However, steel is getting overcome by etching a network of cracks and pores
popular as a piston ring material due to its high into the surface by reversing the plating current, chemi-
strength and fatigue properties. Steel is used for top cal etching, grit blasting, lapping or depositing the
compression rings and the rails of multi-piece oil con- plate over a surface with fine turned circumferential
trol rings. There are a variety of surface treatments and grooves. Cylinder bores can be honed with ceramic
coatings for piston ring running-in processes. Chro- stones, diamond hones, rubber tools, cork tools or
mium plating and flame sprayed molybdenum are the composite stones of cork or diamond. Piston skirt tex-
most common wear resistant coatings, although plasma tures using a turned finish have been proved to give
sprayed molybdenum, metal matrix composites, cer- outstanding fuel economy and reduced risk of scuffing.
mets and ceramics are getting their popularity as their
technology progresses.
Cylinder bores are generally manufactured from gray
cast iron, either plain or with the addition of alloying
elements or an aluminum alloy. The surface treatment
and coating of cylinder walls is less common than with
piston rings in industry but a lot of wear resistant coat-
ings such as Nikasil plating or thermal sprayed coat-
ings [38] are applied to aluminum bores.
Aluminum–silicon alloy is the major material used
for automotive pistons, with additions of other ele-
ments to enhance particular properties, e.g. copper to
increase fatigue strength. Piston skirt coatings, based
on materials such as polytetrafluroethylene (PTFE), or Fig. 6. Research opportunities for improving friction and wear
graphite, are applied. In contrast to piston ring and reduction in an engine design.
522 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

2.1.5. Valve train rotary valve. In a valve train system, the poppet valve
A modern valve train system should include valves, configuration is the most popular and is used by vir-
valve springs, valve spring retainers, valve keys, rocker tually all the major automobile manufacturers for the
arms, piston rods, lifter/tappets, and a camshaft, as inlet and exhaust valves of reciprocating internal com-
shown in Figs. 7 & 8. The major function of the valve bustion engines. A cam driven from the crankshaft to
train system is to transform rotary camshaft motion ensure synchronization of the valve motion with the
into linear valve motion in order to control fluid flow combustion cycle and piston movement invariably con-
into and out of the combustion chamber. The second- trols the opening and closing of the valves. Common
ary function is to drive ancillary devices such as dis- mechanisms are generally classified and referred to
tributors, fuel pumps, water pumps and power steering throughout the automotive industry as Type 1 through
pumps. Many different styles of valve train mechanisms Type 5 [26]. The basic mechanisms for Type 1 through
have been used on engines. Three basic valve train sys- Type 5 include the following: (1) direct acting bucket
tems are (1) poppet valve; (2) sleeve valve; and (3) valve train; (2) end pivot valve train; (3) center pivot;
(4) center pivot with cam follower; (5) overhead (OHV)
pushrod. These types may be designed using either
roller or sliding friction at each contact interface. How-
ever, there is a large range of mechanisms in use to
transmit the motion of the cam to the valve. These
include push-rod operated, center-pivoted rocker, fin-
ger follower, direct acting bucket follower, and roller
follower. Other designs such as rotary or sleeve valves
have proved difficult to lubricate, cause excessive oil
consumption, have poor sealing properties and gener-
ate excessive friction.
A comparison of the friction, effective mass or valve
weight, maximum engine speed, and overall engine
package among these different types of valve train sys-
Fig. 7. Valvetrain system. tems is shown in Table 1. Friction also plays an impor-
tant role in valve train type selection. The best
configuration is roller follower, which can significantly
reduce valve train friction. This is because the coef-
ficient of friction at the camshaft/follower interface is
less by an order of magnitude for rolling compared to
sliding friction. The direct acting system has poor fric-
tional characteristics because it is not equipped with
roller followers. The most important characteristics for
friction control of rollers are a function of the lowest
mass, least number of components, and the lowest
number of friction interfaces. The friction associated
with the valve train is generally considered to be a
small component of the mechanical losses, typically
10% compared to the 50% linked to the piston assem-
blies. However, valve train friction is seen to rise sig-
nificantly to 20%–25% at low engine speeds and for
larger, slower running engines associated with the pres-
tige car market. To introduce friction modifier addi-
tives such as molybdenum dithiocarbamate (MoDTC)
into the engine oil has been one of the main drivers
behind which strive to reduce boundary friction [19].
The valve train presents a wide spectrum of potential
problems to the tribologist in relation to the cam and
follower, valve guides, valve stem seals, valve seats,
hydraulic lash adjusters, lifter guides, pivots, camshaft
bearings, belt drives and chain drives. The most critical
Fig. 8. Cross-section through a V6 engine with a valvetrain mech- interface in the valve train is that between the cam and
anism of center pivot rocker arm or center pivot rocker with a lifter. follower, a contact that has proved difficult to lubricate
S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 523

Table 1
Comparison of effective mass, engine speed. Friction, and overall engine package among these five types of valvetrain systems

Direct acting End pivot Center pivot Center pivot rocker Push rod
rocker arm rocker arm arm with lifter
Effective mass valve 140–160 80–120 120–160 130–170 240–290
weight (gr.)
Maximum RPM 6500++ 6500++ 6000+ 6000+ 4000–6000
Friction (A–E) E A B C–D C–D
Overall engine package D–E D–E B C A
A, best; E, worst.

effectively with all designs of valve train. Traditional per minute) under the action of the cam on the bucket.
design philosophy assumed that the cam and follower To reduce wear an insert of hardened steel is shrunk fit
operated entirely in the boundary lubrication regime. into the head. Valve and seat materials should have
Therefore a lot of attentions have been limited to the high strength, wear resistance, high temperature stab-
materials and surface treatments of the components ility, and corrosion resistance. In general, inlet valves
and the lubricant additives intended to produce wear are made from hardened low alloy martensitic steel for
resistant surface films by chemical reaction, e.g. zinc good wear resistance and strength. The exhaust valves
dialkyl dithiophosphates (ZDDP or ZDTP). Tribologi- are subjected to higher temperatures and are often
cal investigations over the last 20 years or so, however, made from precipitation-hardened, austenitic stainless
have shown that mixed and elastohydrodynamic lubri- steel for corrosion resistance and hot hardness. The
cation have a significant role to play in the tribological valve seats are made from cast or sintered high carbon
performance of cams and followers [31,35]. steel. In some high performance engines, the seat is
The most popular materials for cams and followers formed by the induction hardening of the cylinder head
are irons and steels with a variety of metallurgies and material.
surface treatments to assist running-in and prevent
early life failure. Ceramic followers are, however, 2.2. Transmission and drive line
becoming more common, especially in direct acting
2.2.1. Transmission
valve trains, in an attempt to reduce frictional losses
The tribological characteristics of the transmission
clutch and band are crucial because they control trans-
Wear has been a problem with cams and followers
mission shift performance and clutch and band dura-
for many years, especially with finger follower config-
bility. From a tribological standpoint, an automatic
urations. Recent technology advances in our under-
transmission clutch consists of two basic elements: the
standing of the link between kinematics, lubrication friction lined clutch plates and the steel reaction plates.
and wear of valve trains are now helping to overcome The clutch plate assembly consists of three major com-
these difficulties [2], as is the trend toward direct acting ponents: a steel core, an adhesive coating, and the fric-
and roller follower systems. The failure modes of cams tion facings.
and followers are pitting, polishing and scuffing, all of In most US automotive clutches, the steel core is a
which are influenced by materials, lubrication, design part onto which the friction facings are bonded. The
and operating conditions. The durability and type of core is blanked from medium carbon steel with a
failure can vary considerably depending on the combi- Rockwell C hardness of 24 minimum. The core hard-
nation of materials chosen, their surface treatment and ness ensures maximum tooth contact area. The mini-
the lubricant and its additive package. Wear is also a mum compressive load requirement can reduce the
persistent problem at the valve seat interface; the valve potential for wear or fretting on both spline surfaces.
‘recesses’ into the seat and results in loss of engine tim- The friction facing is bonded to one or both sides of
ing. Loading is from a combination of the dynamic the steel core with an adhesive. The adhesive, a ther-
closing of the valve under cam action and the appli- mosetting organic resin, is selected to withstand high
cation of the firing pressure on the closed valve face, shear forces and a wide range of operating tempera-
and therefore the seat is subjected to both high static tures. The friction material must have the required fric-
and dynamic stresses. Temperatures in the region of tion characteristics for effective engagement, a pleasing
the valve are high (typically 300–500 C), and lubri- (to the customers) shifting of gears and durability. It
cation tends to be from small quantities of oil that flow also must withstand a broad range of operating tem-
past the valve guide. The valve may be allowed to peratures as well as high shear forces and compressive
rotate (usually slowly at about one to two revolutions loads. Friction material is produced from a variety of
524 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

unsatisfactory to the vehicle’s passengers. Objectionable

shift-feel is a major cause of customer complaints about
vehicle/transmission performance. The most desirable
friction characteristics [41] for smooth clutch engage-
ment are those described by a low static friction coef-
ficient and followed by a high and stable dynamic
friction coefficient [33]. High dynamic friction promotes
a rapid clutch engagement, and static friction that is
lower than dynamic friction provides a smooth tran-
sition to clutch lock-up. However, the static friction
Fig. 9. Transmission torque converter clutch assembly. coefficient must be high enough to provide good static
clutch torque holding capacity. Friction modifier addi-
fibers, particle fillers, and friction modifiers. These tives can produce low static and high stable friction
characteristics. Clutch torque capacity is reduced under
materials, with properly blended composition, can pro-
both dynamic and static conditions [33].
vide the necessary material strength, bulk uniformity
During clutch engagement, the amount of clutch
for successful manufacturing, as well as provide a heat
energy dissipated can affect both transmission fluid and
resistant material with the required friction properties.
clutch friction material life. In a transmission power
The porosity of the friction material allows the trans-
shifting clutch or band, torque capacity must be great
mission fluid to be stored near the friction interface as
enough to produce a rapid clutch or band engagement.
a lubricant reservoir, and the resilience of the friction
Otherwise, the energy dissipated as heat can produce
material permits it to conform to transmission mating
clutch surface temperatures that contribute to the
deterioration of both clutch materials and transmission
In automatic transmissions such as shown in Fig. 9,
fluids. Typical clutch surface temperatures have been
multiple plate clutches, band clutches, and the torque v
measured and found to be on the order of 95 C above
converter clutches are used either to transmit torque or
sump fluid temperatures for wide-open-throttle con-
to restrain a reaction member from rotating. The func- ditions [33]. A good transmission fluid can help the
tion of an automatic transmission clutch and band is to transmission clutch to shift satisfactorily and provide a
serve as a lubricated brake, e.g., for a planetary gear long clutch life. If an excessive clutch slippage results
element, to transmit torque between transmission ele- from an inability of the clutch to transmit sufficient
ments and the torque converter pump (input) and tur- torque to lock up the clutch in a reasonable time, the
bine (output). Dynamic and static band and clutch transmission will lose its function. If the energy can
friction torque levels, and the difference between static produce dynamic torques higher than the clutch can
and dynamic friction torque are important clutch per- transmit, the clutch will not lock up, and the resulting
formance criteria. They are closely dependent upon energy will be so high that cellulose clutch materials
transmission fluid characteristics. The transmission are likely to burn or char. Such deterioration can occur
fluid can have a deep impact on shift-feel, chatter, sta- in only a few severe clutch engagements. A surface
tic holding capacity, and the friction interaction v
temperature as high as 230 C above sump temperature
between the transmission fluid and clutch material. has been reported for automatic transmission power
All automatic transmission fluids recommended by shifts [33]. High clutch surface temperatures will
vehicle manufacturers are formulated using a base deteriorate clutch durability due to severe energy dissi-
stock plus a variety of additives, including friction- pation.
modifying additives to produce the desired transmission In summary, clutch and band friction characteristics,
operation. Friction characteristics of the friction modi- transmission fluid viscosity, fluid oxidation, fluid shear
fiers are described. Clutch friction characteristics for a stability, and wear properties of friction materials all
base stock containing no friction-modifying additives play a crucial role in the overall performance and dura-
are undesirable. Although a high static coefficient of bility of the transmission. Because of the important
friction is desirable for good clutch holding capacity, characteristics of automatic transmission fluids in con-
smooth engagement is difficult to achieve when static trolling transmission shift performance and long-term
friction is greater than dynamic friction. As the clutch durability, the requirements for transmission fluid are
engagement approaches lock up (decreasing sliding described in greater detail in the section on automotive
speed) with such friction characteristics, the increasing lubricants.
coefficient of friction tends to produce unstable stick-
slip action between the rubbing surfaces and create 2.2.2. Traction drive
abrupt and harsh clutch lock-ups. If these undesirable The development of the CVT by vehicle manu-
friction characteristics are too severe, shift-feel can be facturers has increased dramatically to take advantage
S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 525

Fig. 10. Diagrams for the typical 4 speed automatic transmission

and the generic CVT design.

Fig. 12. Traction CVT design concepts.

of the fuel economy and better drivability benefits that
can be achieved with traction drive components. An
advantage of the traction CVT [14] compared with the efficient rolling motion that operates in the elastohy-
current automatic transmission is that it can replace drodynamic regime [7].
gears, clutches, bands, etc., with ‘‘a variator’’, permit- The current traction drive transmission transmits
ting a smooth and continuous ratio change over the power through a rolling contact via forces that are var-
entire range of operation as shown in Fig. 10. A unique ied with the radius at which the traction force is
advantage of the CVT is that it allows an engine to applied. Thus, power is transmitted in a continuous
operate over a range of speeds and loads independent manner. This concept relies on two rolling elements
of the torque requirements that are placed on the that place a thin film of lubricant into an extreme
wheels by the vehicle and the driver [11]. Traction drive shearing condition. The thin film between the two roll-
CVT was applied to vehicles in the 1930s and was star- ing bodies experiences high load and extreme shearing
ted by the Toric transmission [15]. Three basic types of force, which produces complex elastohydrodynamic
commercial CVTs [18] have been developed as shown phenomena. The viscosity of the traction fluid increases
in Fig. 11, as follows: (1) belt (steel, fabric, push, and significantly as a consequence of the high pressure, and
pulley type) [42]; (2) chain type, (3) half or full toroidal the fluid becomes almost glass-like. The tangential
traction. The two commercial CVTs (belt-pulley and force that is transmitted between the driving and driven
chain) are the most common CVT drive units. Pro- elements is greatly enhanced by the traction fluid. The
duction vehicles equipped with steel belt-pulley CVTs surface contact area between the two rolling elements is
have been in the automotive market for more than 10 a finite area whose orthographic projection is an ellipse
years. However, the full potential for reduction of fuel [18]. Within the ellipse, fluid is trapped between the
consumption could not be realized until the fully inte- rollers and is subjected to high compressive stresses of
grated electronic control system became available. The 0.7–3.5 GPa (100,000–500,000 psi). These stresses
belt-pulley CVT relies on a metal link belt developed increase the instantaneous viscosity of the fluid by sev-
by Van Doorne’s transmission and is typically limited eral orders of magnitude. This semi-solid lubricant can
to use with engines of 2.0 liter displacement or smaller then transmit torque through the drive.
[13]. Around 1990, a full toroidal traction drive device Basic research was conducted with application to dif-
as shown in Fig. 12 was developed to supplement the ferent traction drive units [11]. However, a traction
belt-pulley type because of the traction drive’s ability drive CVT was not applied in practical use until 1990
to handle larger engines. The toroidal traction drive due to three major barriers [21]:
provides better mechanical efficiency because of a very
. The traction drive rolling element materials were not
sufficiently reliable due to high temperature and high
pressure at the traction contact point.
. There were no bearings that could support high
speed and large axial load.
. There were no traction fluids that could meet all
traction component requirements.

A traction drive requires not only higher traction

coefficient to meet power transmission requirements
Fig. 11. Belt and chain continuously variable transmission (CVT) but also better lubrication and hydraulic lubricity
systems. requirements. Traction elements are generally made of
526 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

materials similar to those used for ball or roller bear- rolling elements are stationary. When the shafts are
ings for which the surface must withstand high loading misaligned, the rolling elements undergo a low oscil-
and long duty cycles. This requirement also demands lation reciprocating motion. The load on the ball race
hardened steel or hardened materials for the contact contact is high, and the entrainment velocity is low.
surfaces. Since the traction drive operates at high Since the surfaces tend to be relatively rough, bound-
speeds, it therefore provides high input and output ary lubrication is the dominant lubrication regime.
ratios. Advanced tribological materials in the rolling In general, the most common failure mode in the
element have made the life of the traction contact point field is by damage to the boot. This results in loss of
long enough for use in high power automotive trans- lubricating grease and failure by gross damage to the
missions. joint components. However, contact fatigue is also
The efficiency of the traction drive depends greatly observed. Cracks can initiate at the surface and propa-
on the lubricant that is used. A high traction coefficient gate to form spalls in the near surface region. Extended
is required even at high contact temperatures. The use of the joint will result in wear of the balls and race-
temperature of a typical traction drive can rise to over ways leading to loss of dimensional accuracy.
140 C. Besides the traction requirements at high tem-
peratures, traction fluids must not deteriorate when 2.2.4. Wheel bearings
subjected to repeated shear or oxidation conditions. It Traditional rolling element bearings are commonly
has been indicated by traction fluid researchers used in the wheel hubs. These standard manufactured
([10,36]) that naphthenic base compounds and several components are hardened high carbon steel, machined
types of synthetic fluids have better traction character- and ground to a high tolerance and surface finish. In
istics than paraffinic or aromatic compounds. Research
general deep groove bearings or a back-to-back angu-
on traction fluids has also indicated that naphthenic
lar contact bearing assembly are used. The bearings are
compounds provide a higher rotational barrier and
packed with grease on assembly and sealed with elasto-
stronger molecular stiffness compared to paraffinic or
meric lip seals. The most common wheel bearing failure
aromatic compounds [21]. Other variables affecting
mode is by damage to the surface caused during incor-
traction properties include rolling speeds, lubricant
rect fitting or following impact during operation (the
temperature range, quality of the roller surface finish,
wheel striking a curb). The surface damage can gener-
Hertzian contact pressure, degree of spinning, and the
ate an initiation site for rolling contact fatigue failure
geometry of the rolling bodies. A substantial amount
to propagate.
of CVT research is focused on traction fluid formu-
lation and evaluation to determine whether the fluid
can meet traction drive system performance require- 2.2.5. Drive chains
ments. Future research will be focused on traction fluid Some automotive engine designs use chain drives for
formulation to optimize overall system performance timing and driving ancillary components. Chains have
and to apply the traction fluids to more automotive the advantage of a high capacity, increased durability,
applications. and are relatively cheap and simple. The basic compo-
nents of a chain drive are the chain, sprockets, chain
2.2.3. Universal and constant velocity joints guides, and tensioners. There are two main types of
Universal joints and constant velocity joints [26] are drive chain: the roller chains consist of link plates with
used to transmit power from the main driveshaft to the a pin, bush, and roller assembly; silent chains consist of
vehicle’s wheels). There are several different designs for an array of shaped link plates and pivot pins. The
joints. All have the ability to transmit power between chain is lubricated by two means, firstly by splash as it
two shafts with some degree of axial misalignment. The dips into the sump during its travel and secondly
joints may be of the fixed or plunging type. The plung- through jets which impinge onto the sprocket/chain
ing type incorporates a spline coupling to allow axial entry.
approach of the shafts. Typically the joints consist of The rollers in the case of a roller chain, and the link
an array of rolling elements held by a retaining cage plates in the case of a silent chain, locate in the teeth of
between two raceways. The whole assembly is packed the sprockets. In the roller chain the pin slides inside
with grease and sealed inside a rubber boot. the bush during articulation, while the roller rolls
The contacts within the joint are between the rolling across the sprocket tooth. The pin bush contact can
elements (balls, needles, or rollers), the raceway therefore undergo excessive wear causing chain elonga-
grooves and the cage. The rolling elements are usually tion. For this reason the pins and bushes are usually
made from high carbon steel which is through har- case hardened and ground smooth, while the link
dened. The raceways are made from medium carbon plates are usually unhardened steel. With silent chain
steel, and the load bearing areas are induction har- the link plate slides across the sprocket tooth; this can
dened or carburized. When the shafts are aligned, the result in wear of the link plate surface.
S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 527

The chain drive is subjected to dynamic loading. . Develop a quantitative understanding of failure
Chain guides and tensioners are incorporated to reduce mechanisms such as wear, scuffing, and fatigue. This
the associated vibration. The guides are generally made is important both for developing improved compu-
of a polymer (typically Nylon 66) and either bolted in tational design codes and for developing bench tests
place or loaded against the chain by a spring or to predict accurately and reliably the tribological
hydraulic tensioner. The chain tension and impact behavior of full-scale automotive components.
forces between the chain and guides can result in wear . Develop a variety of affordable surface modification
of the guide faces. Wear debris or dust in engine oil technologies [39] that are suitable for various vehicle
components that are used with different fuels or
can become embedded in a polymeric tensioner and
lubricants under a variety of operating conditions.
can act as an abrasive agent on the timing chain. Fuel
. Develop a better understanding of the chemistry of
components or fuel reaction products may enter engine
lubricants and how additives affect the interactions
oil and may soften a polymeric tensioner. Wear occurs between lubricants and rubbing surfaces. This will
on the guide face where it contacts the link plate edge, provide a foundation for developing new lubricants
forming ‘tramlines’. In some cases, this continues until that will be longer-lasting, environmentally friendly,
the grooves formed are deep enough that the rollers capable of handling increased soot and acid loading
make contact with the guide; the load is then dis- from EGR (exhaust gas recirculation), compatible
tributed to a greater extent and wear is reduced. with catalysts, and compatible with new, light-
weight non-ferrous materials.
2.3. Future development trends
Stringent federal legislation calling for better fuel
2.3.1. Automotive tribology economy and reduced emissions is the driving force for
Future recommendations for automotive tribology improved fuel efficiency and development of new
development and desirable areas for future develop- engine technology. Among the various approaches for
ment trends including advanced technical development, improving fuel efficiency as shown in Fig. 13, the use of
and research goals related to fuel efficiency, emissions, energy conserving engine oil is the most economic way
durability, and profitability of powertrain systems are in the automotive industry to acquire the necessary
as follows: gains, compared to complicated hardware changes [38].

Fig. 13. Powertrain components and applications for minimizing total energy power loss, achieving fuel efficiency, and engine reliability are
closely related to friction and wear issues.
528 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

In addition, design and legislative pressures for cleaner,

more efficient engines with higher specific power out-
puts is forcing tribological engine components to be
operated with generally thinner oil films. One notable
trend is the move toward lower viscosity engine oils,
e.g. SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) 5W-20 and
0W-20, in an effort to improve fuel economy. While
this helps to reduce friction losses, it also leads to
potential durability problems and a more critical role
for the surface topography of engine components [29].
In addition, there is a drive to extend engine service
Fig. 14. Comparison of density of materials.
intervals. The engine has therefore to withstand an
increasingly contaminated and degraded lubricant.
The ability to incorporate more and more aspects of
present, researchers are developing wear and scuffing
the physical behavior of lubricants into analytical mod-
resistant coatings on piston skirts or aluminum cylin-
eling is an important and a fast developing field [5].
der bores for alternatives. In addition, a new class of
Uppermost in this regard are the reduction in viscosity
at high shear rate, particularly with polymer-containing amorphous carbon coatings with exceptional low fric-
multi-grade lubricants, the rise in viscosity at elevated tion and wear properties was developed for reducing
pressure and the boundary friction and wear behavior wear and improving durability of engine components
in the mixed and boundary lubrication regimes. Models (Erdemir et al. 2000, 2001).
of the rate of degradation of oil additives are also Light-weight materials have been widely used in
becoming available. One of the biggest challenges vehicles. Vehicle weight has been dramatically reduced
facing the engine tribology community is to make an in recent years as shown in Figs. 14 and 15. In North
effective link between the physical tribology of the American vehicles including those produced by the big
components [40] and the complex chemical behavior three the aluminum and magnesium content has
and degradation of engine lubricants, both in the bulk increased in the last few years. General Motors has the
fluid [17,23] and at the surface [19]. The engine oils are highest Al and Mg content in vehicles. In addition, the
expected to last longer and simultaneously reduce density of light-weight materials is always a big con-
engine losses. cern for material strength. The general trend is as
shown in Fig. 15, which illustrates the lower density
2.3.2. Light-weight materials development associated with the light-weight materials. Recent
Industrial researchers are developing light-weight industrial developments include high strength and high
materials such as non-ferrous materials (Al, Mg) for density of composite materials, high volume liquid
engine and drivetrain materials to replace the current molding and hydroforming technology, structural
heavy-weight cast iron blocks. Over the last few years
adhesive boding, and the ability to mold large structur-
many automotive applications were focused on thermal
al components. Researchers have also developed pro-
sprayed aluminum liners, or metal-matrix composites
cessing improvements for forming more complex
to replace cast iron blocks [38–40]. However, the cur-
rent automotive engine lubricant formulations are stamped aluminum parts or panels, more robust
designed for cast iron blocks, not for aluminum blocks. stamping, and improved casting techniques. Recently,
Based on several bench and engine test results [38,39], USCAR participants are developing light-weight Al
aluminum blocks have poor wear resistance. The cur- and Mg materials for auto parts and car bodies. Over
rent aluminum surface or coatings are not compatible the years, several industrial-academic consortia have
with engine oil formulation. The aluminum cylinder been formed to develop new generation vehicles utiliz-
bores require cast iron sleeves inside the cylinder bores. ing advanced powertrains, lighter, stronger materials,
These are expensive to manufacture, however. At and environmentally friendly lubricants.

Fig. 15. Trends of average vehicle weight in pounds.

S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 529

2.3.3. Nanotribology development and industrial needs separated. In other cases, the lubricant provides wear
The automotive components in lubricated contacts, protection by forming a chemical film on a surface, to
as the component scale moves from macro to micro to generate boundary lubrication protection. Automotive
nano, are dominated by surface adhesion forces that lubricants protect against corrosion by virtue of alka-
normally are not well-understood by mechanical line agents to neutralize acids that form in hot spots.
means. Therefore, nanolubrication needs to be taken The lubricant transports protective chemicals to the
into account to determine unique mechanisms which sites where they are needed and transports waste pro-
are different from those in conventional lubrication. ducts away from the sites where they are generated.
Recently, Stephen Hsu of NIST organized a nano- This diversity of function strongly influences the choice
tribology workshop to discuss this nanotribology of chemical composition and physical properties for a
approach and compare this new concept with the tra- given type of lubricant and dictates that a variety of
ditional lubrication methods [16]. In addition, several lubricants are required to perform the various lubri-
researchers have proposed various nanometer scale cation functions in a vehicle. That is, different engine
lubricating film designs as a means to control the components require substantially different kinds of
properties of surfaces at nano/micro scales. As the protection. Transmission fluid must withstand high tem-
scale of the device becomes smaller and smaller, peratures and loads. Engine oil must remain effective
the need to lubricate and protect the surfaces of such despite the fact that fuel and combustion products can
components increases. The authors also conducted a enter the oil under all driving conditions. In particular,
literature search in an effort to identify the industrial during short-trip cold-start conditions, fuel and water
needs for nanotribology or nanolubrication technology may be present in oil at concentrations greater than 5%.
development. The following needs were identified: During high temperature operation engine oil must not
1 Nanostructured materials ‘‘by design’’ with stronger, evaporate or degrade excessively. Various types of bear-
harder, self-repairing, and safer characteristics: ings require the presence of a fluid film that separates a
. Structural carbon and ceramic materials 10 times rotating shaft from its opposing bearing surface. Brake
stronger than conventional steel. fluid must remain in place and continue to function,
. Polymer materials three times stronger than con- even if the vehicle drives through pouring rain or
ventional materials and which will not melt above encounters puddles of slush on the road.
100 C. Under highly loaded, high temperature conditions,
. Multi-functional materials to reduce friction, fluid film lubrication may not be sufficient to provide
wear, and corrosion. complete wear protection such as those experienced by
. Addition of nanoparticles to convert aluminum piston rings at the top of the cylinder under the influ-
alloys to wear and scuffing resistant materials. ence of the burning fuel. In such cases, the lubricant
. Nanocoatings on metallic surfaces to achieve must contain additives that interact with rubbing sur-
super-hardening, and low friction. faces to form antiwear films. These chemical films form
. Nanoparticle-reinforced materials that can replace on hot iron surfaces during vehicle operation as long as
metallic components in cars. the lubricant has not degraded excessively. However,
. Models/simulations incorporating multi-scale these chemical films may be partially scraped away
computation and leading to materials by design. during severe engine service. Once the additives that
provide this chemical film (typically, zinc dialkyl
2 For efficient energy conversion and storage dithiophosphate, ZDP, and other antioxidant/antiwear
. Catalysts for fuel cells, such as zeolites with pore agents) are sufficiently degraded, the engine oil needs to
sizes in the nanometer range, which can serve to be changed, otherwise engine wear will accelerate dur-
more efficiently break down or crack large hydro- ing use.
carbon molecules to form gasoline or synthetic Automotive lubricants must also inhibit corrosion in
lubricants. addition to providing a fluid film and a chemical sur-
. Thermoelectric energy-conversion devices and face film, since partially burned fuel can be acidic.
hydrogen storage devices for future fuel cells. Engine oil itself, when exposed to hot spots in the pres-
ence of oxygen, can form acids that promote engine
corrosion, especially if the oil’s alkaline anticorrosion
2.4. Automotive lubricants additives have been degraded as a consequence of
extended use without an oil change.
2.4.1. Introduction of automotive lubricants A lubricant typically reduces friction, but in some
The lubricant must protect the automotive compo- cases an automotive lubricant is designed to provide a
nent that it lubricates. In some cases this protection is desired amount of traction, as is the case with traction
in the form of a fluid film that keeps opposing surfaces fluids in some CVTs as described earlier. Traction
530 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

fluids have a chemical structure that, under stress, 2.4.3. Automotive engine oils
forms a three-dimensional network that resists flow. Introduction. One of the most difficult chal-
A mixture of lubricant and air-conditioning fluid lenges facing automobile and lubricant manufacturers
must have sufficient lubricating properties to protect is to identifying appropriate test methods for represent-
the air-conditioning pump, but the fluid/lubricant com- ing evaluation of engine oils. The reason for the dif-
bination must not become aggressive to hoses or to ficulty is not because of any inherent characteristics of
other materials in the air-conditioning system. engine oil. The challenges in the development of engine
These examples illustrate the complexity of the issues oil arise because the environment in which engine oils
that must be addressed when attempting to provide must operate is particularly harsh. Combustion gases,
adequate automotive lubrication. In some cases, stan- fuel and water in the oil, and outside contaminants
dard test methods document whether a lubricant pro- (dirt, sand, other airborne materials) accelerate oil
vides appropriate protection to the hardware. In other degradation, cause unique filtration problems, and
cases, vehicle, component, or lubricant manufacturers result in much shorter change intervals compared to
designate the lubricant that, in their estimation, best other typical automotive lubricants. Engine oil proper-
fits a given application. ties and composition also influence vehicle fuel econ-
omy (as is the case for transmission fluids and rear axle
lubricants), and engine oil even influences vehicle emis-
2.4.2. Standard test methods for automotive lubricants
sions, as a consequence of emission system contami-
A variety of standard tests are needed to guarantee
nation and catalyst poisoning effects.
that a given automotive lubricant performs as it
A lot of attention has been focused on lubricant
should. Those tests include: engine tests that mimic
properties and performance tests in the technical litera-
various driving styles under a variety of test conditions,
ture as well as in the standard test-development arena.
physical and chemical characterization of the lubricant,
The following discussions describe engine oil perform-
corrosivity of a used lubricant, wear protection pro-
ance designations (from both a historical and a current
vided by the lubricant, and remaining effectiveness of
perspective) and standard test methods for evaluating
the lubricant’s additive package. Additional desired
engine oil performance, including both engine and
information with regard to lubricant characterization
bench tests. The discussions are limited primarily to
includes: tendency to form deposits, extent of oil oxi-
performance designations and associated test methods
dation, fuel efficiency, and emission system protection commonly used in North America.
(including limits on phosphorus in engine oil, since
phosphorus can adversely affect catalyst performance). Engine oil performance designations—past and
For some lubrication functions, standard test methods present. Many organizations have contributed to the
are available to ensure that the various products in the development of engine oil performance standards
marketplace provide the desired protection. For other over the years. Among these organizations is the
lubrication functions, there are no standard tests, but a American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM),
vehicle manufacturer may require that the lubricant of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Engine
choice must pass the manufacturer’s (or some other) Manufacturers Association (EMA), the Coordinating
designated tests [32]. European Council (CEC), the Japan Automobile Man-
Each different type of automotive lubricant has its ufacturers Association (JAMA), and the International
own unique test methods that address the issues rel- Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee
evant to the service needs of that particular lubricant. (ILSAC). ILSAC includes automotive and engine
For example, engine tests are used to determine whe- builders JAMA, EMA, and the former American
ther a new candidate engine oil formulation meets cur- Automobile Manufacturers Association (AAMA,
rent certification requirements. Bench tests can often be whose members were General Motors, Ford, and
used to indicate whether certain fundamental lubricant Chrysler). When AAMA was dissolved in 1999, it was
properties are within a desired range (for example, tests replaced by a new organization—the Alliance of Auto-
for viscosity, pour point, volatility, shear stability, wear mobile Manufacturers (the Alliance), which includes
rate, wear depth, wear mechanism, etc.). Chemical and the former members of AAMA plus six other manu-
physical tests measure the composition and properties facturers. The Alliance, however, is not actively
of a lubricant, the changes that occur as the lubricant involved in development of automotive lubricant stan-
ages, and the characteristics of any contaminants or dards.
wear debris that may have entered the lubricant. The designation of engine oil on the basis of per-
The following sections describe major issues relative formance began in 1947. Prior to that time, oils were
to various types of automotive lubricants and the test differentiated only on the basis of viscosity. In 1947,
methods that have been developed to address those API (American Petroleum Institute) adopted a classi-
issues [32,37]. fication system based on the intended use of the oil.
S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 531

Three types of oil were defined: regular (termed ML), available in North America between 1900 and 1930.
Premium (MM), and Heavy Duty (MS). Regular oils These oils contained no performance additives. Such
generally were straight mineral oils, Premium oils con- oils had previously been designated as ‘‘Regular’’ or
tained some oxidation inhibitor (but no other perform- ‘‘ML.’’ SA oils can still be found in some retail estab-
ance additives), and Heavy Duty oils were blended lishments that sell quarts of oil for make-up purposes.
with oxidation inhibitors and detergents/dispersants. API category SB was adopted to describe oils gener-
This system was modified in 1952 to create different ally available in North America between 1931 and
performance requirements for diesel oils than those for 1963. These oils were comparable in performance to
gasoline engine oils and to rank the severity of the ser- oils known as ‘‘Premium’’ or ‘‘MM’’ prior to 1971.
vice. They contained a minimal level of performance addi-
However, many vehicle and engine manufacturers tives. API category SC described oils typically available
found it necessary to add additional performance between 1964 and 1967 in North America. These oils
requirements to ensure adequate protection for their were probably the first oils to contain a full range of
engines even with the ML, MM, and MS designations performance additives, and were designated ‘‘MS’’
indicating the quality of the engine oil. This led to the prior to 1971. API category SD described oils of the
development of lubricants tailored to a given manufac- performance level generally available in 1971. Although
turer, and complicated the manner in which engine these oils were also described as ‘‘MS’’ prior to 1971,
manufacturers informed their customers which oils they generally contained a higher additive treatment
were currently recommended. Finally in 1969 three level than API SC oils. Table 1 shows the historical
organizations—API (American Petroleum Institute), development of these engine oil categories.
ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) API ‘‘S’’ categories (SE through SL) were developed
and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers, now called as needs arose for greater engine protection. API SE
SAE International)—cooperated to establish a per- oils addressed high temperature engine oil thickening
formance designation system that is still being used. In problems in the field. API SF oils addressed customer
this system, two series of engine oil performance and concerns related to engine wear. API SG oils addressed
service categories were established—the ‘‘S’’ series (for oxidation and sludge formation concerns which had
use with gasoline-fueled, 4-stroke-cycle, spark ignition arisen in the field. Throughout this period (1972–1992),
engines) and the ‘‘C’’ series (intended for use in com- automotive engines had undergone tremendous chan-
pression–ignition diesel engines, both 2-stroke-cycle ges to accommodate increasingly more stringent emis-
and 4-stroke-cycle). sion control requirements, both nationwide and in
Table 2 shows the evolution of light-duty gasoline California beginning in 1972, and US Corporate Aver-
engine oil performance designations. A similar evol- age Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements originating in
ution occurred for heavy-duty diesel engine oil per- 1978.
formance. A detailed description of the history of both The desire of vehicle manufacturers to specify oils
gasoline and diesel engine oil performance categories which might help them address these requirements, as
can be found in SAE Standard J183, ‘‘Engine oil per- well as their desire to have a greater voice in establish-
formance and engine service classification’’. ing engine oil performance specifications, led to the
The SA through SD designations listed in Table 2 formation of ILSAC (International Lubricant Standar-
were adopted in 1971 to describe oils which had been dization and Approval Committee) in 1987. Originally
available previously and which were available in 1971. a union between the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers
API category SA was adopted to describe oils generally Association (MVMA) and the Japan Automobile Man-
ufacturers Association (JAMA) for the purposes of
establishing lubricant standards, ILSAC has expanded
Table 2
to include the EMA. MVMA later became the AAMA,
A brief history of engine oil performance designations
and subsequently became the Alliance of Automobile
Performance designation Period of use Manufacturers (the Alliance) in 1999. However, only
ML, MM, MS 1950s and later the original three members of AAMA (General
SA 1900–1930 Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler) retained member-
SB 1931–1964 ship in ILSAC when AAMA was dissolved.
SC 1964–1967
The first ILSAC engine oil standard (ILSAC GF-1)
SD 1968–1971
SE 1972–1979 was published in 1993, as indicated in Table 2. ILSAC
SF 1980–1988 standards apply only to certain viscosity grades,
SG 1988–1992 namely SAE 0W-XX, 5W-XX, and 10W-XX viscosity
SH/ILSAC GF-1 1993–1996 grades, in which ‘‘XX’’ represents a viscosity desig-
SJ/ILSAC GF-2 1996–2001
nation such as 20, 30, 40, etc. ILSAC standards also
SL/ILSAC GF-3 2001 and beyond
include minimum levels of fuel economy performance
532 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

and contain other requirements (most notably a methods developed for new lubricant performance
maximum phosphorus level) to address emission sys- categories into ASTM Standards.
tem compatibility and other issues. Even though API
categories apply to all viscosity grades and do not Issues addressed in test method development.
include fuel economy requirements, an ILSAC GF-1 Examples of the types of questions that need to be
oil is roughly equivalent to an API SH quality oil, but addressed to ensure that a given engine oil will protect
in addition the GF-1 engine oil also meets require- an engine in various types of service are as follows:
ments allowing the GF-1 oil to be classified as energy
conserving. This means that a GF-1 engine oil prob- . If the engine is run at high engine speed and high oil
ably provides slightly better fuel economy than an temperature,
SH-quality engine oil. The ILSAC GF-2 standard is – Will the engine oil thicken excessively?
similar to API SJ, and has somewhat stricter fuel econ- – Will there be sufficient wear protection?
omy requirements than GF-1 oils. The ILSAC GF-3 – Will harmful deposits form?
standard is similar to API SL, but again, GF-3 oils must . If the engine is driven in city service, will the oil pro-
provide better fuel economy than GF-2 engine oils. vide sufficient sludge protection?
The ML, MM and MS Categories, as well as API . If the engine is driven in extreme short trips in a
SA through API SG, have been declared technically winter climate, will the oil provide adequate cor-
obsolete by SAE. This was done because many of the rosion protection when fuel, water, and fuel reaction
engine tests necessary to demonstrate that oils meet the products condense in the engine oil?
performance requirements of these categories cannot be
conducted, since reference fuels, reference oils, and Each bulleted item in the previous paragraph repre-
engine parts for these tests are no longer available. sents a different driving style: high temperature high-
Because API SH, SJ, and SL oils can be used in appli- load, city service with oil fully warm, and extreme
cations in which oils having the earlier designations short trip service in which the engine oil never warms
were required, SAE made the decision to declare these completely. Each of these driving styles is associated
earlier categories technically obsolete. API SH, while with a specific ASTM standard test method to ensure
not technically obsolete, is generally not used except in that an engine oil provides sufficient protection for that
combination with a ‘‘C’’ category, to describe oils particular type of service. An engine oil must pass all
intended for mixed fleet (i.e., diesel and gasoline) ser- of these tests before its manufacturers are allowed to
display a label indicating that the oil meets current spe-
vice. In such cases, the ‘‘C’’ category designation
cifications. Easy freeway driving (an additional driving
usually precedes the SH designation.
style) is not represented in a standard test, since it is
assumed that the tests representing the other driving Engine oil performance tests. Beginning with styles are sufficient to characterize lubricant properties.
oils designated as API SB, all of the oil performance In addition to measuring the effects of different driv-
categories described in Table 2 were or are defined by a ing styles, an engine-oil test method must create a test
series of engine dynamometer performance tests environment such that changes in the test fluids and
(usually termed engine sequence tests) and bench tests. test hardware are generated via the same fundamental
The complete description of each of these performance mechanisms as occur under the real-world operating
categories (both the current categories and those conditions that the test is designed to emulate. A given
declared technically obsolete) is provided in SAE Stan- engine test environment should be related to a real-
dard J183, ‘‘engine oil performance and engine service world driving condition in at least three ways:
classification’’. Only the tests used to define the per-
formance categories which became effective in 1996 . The chemical changes that take place in the test
(API SJ and ILSAC GF-2) and the tests used in the should be comparable to those that occur in the real
categories effective in 2001 (API SL and ILSAC GF-3) world.
are discussed in this section. Some of these tests have . The materials used in the test should be equivalent
been developed into ASTM Standard test methods; or identical to those in an engine.
others are in the process of being developed into . The temperatures and loads of the test should be
ASTM Standards. It is not a requirement that all tests appropriate for the type of service being emulated.
used to define an engine performance category be
ASTM Standards. However, those tests which are not For a given test method, a desired chemical environ-
ASTM Standards are usually advanced to ASTM Stan- ment is created by utilizing an appropriate fuel (includ-
dards during the lifetime of a given category. ASTM ing its degradation products) and generating oil
Subcommittee D02.B0 on automotive lubricants main- degradation products that are of the same type as those
tains a section devoted exclusively to converting test generated in the driving style of interest. A desired
S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 533

material environment is created by using engine and The appropriate test methods for engine oils must be
hardware materials that are representative of the conducted in accordance with the requirements out-
engines that the test method is designed to protect. In lined in the American Chemistry Council (ACC) Pro-
addition, hardware should be chosen for the test duct Approval Code of Practice. These requirements
method such that surface reactions (catalytic reactions include test registration of all tests, use of only cali-
and varnish or deposit formation) are chemically similar brated equipment and facilities, and guidelines for
to those that are generated in an engine environment. A acceptable modifications during program development.
desired thermal environment means that test tempera- These requirements were implemented when API SH
tures, even if they are severe, are not so severe that fun- and ILSAC GF-1 designations for engine oil were
damental mechanisms of damage have changed. adopted in 1993.
Creating an appropriate test environment, but also
finding test conditions such that the test does not Current diesel engine oil performance categories
require an inordinate amount of test time, is often diffi- and associated ASTM Standard test methods. When
cult to achieve. An example of this difficulty is as fol- diesel engines are operated at high temperature, the
lows. If a lubricant test method is designed to viscosity of the engine oil can increase due to oil
determine the corrosive effects of fuel degradation pro- oxidation and nitration, evaporation of the lighter ends
ducts on engine materials, the test must be conducted of the oil, and accumulation of soot in the oil. As was
at a temperature such that those corrosive fuel reaction the case for gasoline-fueled vehicles, engine oil addi-
products will not boil off, but will remain in the engine tives can degrade during long-term use. In addition,
oil to create corrosive conditions. If a test temperature soot accumulation can adversely affect engine wear by
differs significantly from operating temperatures, an two fundamentally different mechanisms: by interacting
investigator must determine whether or not any appar- with and sequestering an engine oil’s antioxidant/
ent correlation is accidental. In addition, leaded fuel antiwear agent so that the antiwear capability of the
typically contains chlorine and bromine compounds engine oil becomes diminished or by abrading a protec-
that can contribute to engine corrosion. If leaded fuel tive antiwear film that has formed on heavily loaded
is used in an engine test that simulates a given type of regions of an iron surface. These oil-related concerns
vehicle operation, but current vehicle operation uses are addressed using various standard tests.
unleaded fuel, one must determine whether any correla- At the time of this writing, there were five active API
tions observed between the leaded-fuel test and real- diesel engine oil performance categories, designated as
world operation are real or accidental and whether the API CF, CF-2, CF-4, CG-4 and CH-4. (Note: a new
chemical environment in the engine test simulates that category, API CI-4, is in the final stage of approval.)
in the real world. Such correlation is often difficult to Each of these categories has at least two engine per-
prove. formance tests which must be conducted to demon-
In other words, chemical, thermal, and material strate compliance with category requirements. Various
effects influence the outcome of a test. Therefore, for a bench-tests are also included. A complete description
given test method, it is essential to ensure that the of each of these categories, including engine and bench
observed chemical, thermal, and material effects are tests, as well as associated test limits for each require-
appropriate and that the test method correlates to cur- ment, is documented in ASTM D 4485, standard speci-
rent real-world conditions. When bench tests are used fication for performance of engine oils and in SAE
in place of engine tests to measure a given performance J183, engine oil performance and service classification.
parameter, great care must be taken to ensure corre- It is anticipated that these five categories will be
lation. reduced to three: CF-2, CG-4, and CH-4. Thus, CF
and CG-4 will no longer be used. Engine sludge and oil Current gasoline engine oil performance cate- filter plugging tendency are measured. The engine oil
gories and associated ASTM test methods. As of the aeration test (EOAT), mentioned in the CG-4 specifi-
year 2002, only four designations are widely used to cation, is also conducted.
describe light-duty, gasoline engine oil performance:
API SJ and SL, and ILSAC GF-2 and GF-3. As stated 2.4.4. Transmission fluids
previously, the engine test and bench test performance Introduction. Composition and performance of
requirements for API SJ and ILSAC GF-2 are similar transmission fluids. Transmission fluids lubricate a vehi-
with regard to engine test methods, but in addition cle’s transmission. They may be composed of synthetic
ILSAC GF-2 oils must also meet stricter energy con- or mineral oil. Synthetic oil typically shows enhanced
serving II requirements. Similarly, API SL require- resistance to deterioration from exposure to heat.
ments as well as energy conserving requirements must However, synthetic and mineral oil both contain addi-
be passed before an engine oil can be designated as tives that help maintain the desired friction properties,
ILSAC GF-3. minimize wear, and provide corrosion inhibition to the
534 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

transmission components. In addition, antioxidant 2.4.5. Gear lubricants

additives are required to prolong the life of the trans- Gears must be designed to withstand high loads that
mission fluid. are concentrated on gear surfaces. As a consequence,
Maintaining stable frictional properties is highly high temperatures may be generated at the point of
important, since any change in shift characteristics, or contact. Despite the harsh environment, the gear lubri-
generation of shudder after prolonged or severe use, is cant must provide sufficient wear and extreme pressure
sure to be noticed by a vehicle owner. To provide the protection to prevent material failure of the gears, and
desired shift properties, one of the additives present in the gear lubricant must remain functional for extended
the oil is typically a long-chain hydrocarbon that has a periods of time.
polar group on one end. The long chain hydrocarbon If the gear materials are not sufficiently robust and
portion permits the additive to dissolve in oil, and the the lubricant is not sufficiently protective, irreversible
polar group on the end is attracted to a metal surface damage may occur to the gear, which typically means
and provides the desired amount of friction. If too that the equipment in which the gear is located will not
much friction is generated, the transmission may not perform as designed. Performance criteria for gear
shift smoothly. If too little friction occurs, the trans- lubricants include such factors as ability to withstand
mission may slip. Thus, great care must be taken to the required loads and continuing ability to transmit
ensure that an appropriate additive is chosen for this power. Gear surface finish and gear contour must not
important function. deteriorate. In addition, the properties of the gear
In addition to appropriate friction characteristics, it lubricant must remain stable, including oxidative stab-
is also essential to reduce wear and promote long ility, antiwear protection, maintenance of appropriate
transmission life. If suitable antiwear additives are not friction characteristics, low-temperature viscosity, cor-
present, there will likely be excessive wear of the trans- rosion protection, and resistance to foam formation.
mission under harsh operating conditions. Various standard tests address these concerns.
In summary, fluid degradation during prolonged ser- Other test methods for gear oils are also available
vice should not be extensive enough to compromise from CRC (coordinating research council). The CRC
transmission performance, and wear rates must remain L-37 method is a 24-h dynamometer test that is con-
low so that excessive loss of material does not cause ducted at high torque and low speed and that assesses
shift characteristics to deteriorate. gear distress. CRC L 42 is a 24-h dynamometer test
Various standard test methods are available to incorporating high speed shock loading, designed to
ensure sustained transmission performance. Tests for measure resistance to gear scoring. CRC L-33 is a
automatic transmission fluids include measurement of 7-day motored rust test in which gears are exposed to
physical and chemical properties: viscosity, flash point, humidity in an oven. CRC L-60-1 is a test for oxi-
pour point, corrosion resistance, wear resistance, fric- dation and deposits, using motored gears over a period
tion characteristics, and resistance to foaming. of 50 h.
Greases provide a great number of highly specialized
functions in an automobile, such as lubrication of door 2.4.6. Axle lubricants
locks, electrical connections, various types of bearings, Requirements for axle lubricants are described in the
gears, and levers. Greases typically are composed of oil American Petroleum Institute API-GL-5 requirements
(synthetic or mineral, representing 70% or more of the for gear lubricants. However, two of the gear tests
total composition of the grease), a thickening agent, (CRC L-37 and CRC L-32) are not required. Desirable
and various additives to provide wear protection, cor- properties for axle lubricants include viscosity in an
rosion protection, and stability. Thus, test methods for appropriate range (for example, near 14 or 15 cen-
automotive greases focus on such parameters as separ- tistokes at 100 C). Viscosity stability is measured
ation of the thickener from the oil, oxidation resist- according to ASTM D 445, standard test method for
ance, wear protection, and ability to withstand high kinematic viscosity of transparent and opaque liquids
temperature. (the calculation of dynamic viscosity), as described
under the section on engine oils. Low temperature vis-
. Standard test methods. cosity is measured using ASTM D 2983, standard test
. Physical and chemical properties. method for low-temperature viscosity of automotive
. Chemical properties, stability, and contamination. fluid lubricants measured by Brookfield Viscometer. In
this test, viscosity is measured in the temperature range
A number of tests are available to ensure that a from 5 to 40 C, using a rotating spindle. The refer-
grease has the appropriate composition and that its enced document in ASTM D 2983 is ASTM D 341,
properties have not deteriorated excessively during viscosity–temperature charts for liquid petroleum
service. products.
S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536 535

Performance of the axle lubricant should not conditions (materials, lubricants) that were used in the
degrade excessively during service. The axle lubricant test of interest.
should not damage metal components, nor should the
metal components accelerate axle lubricant degradati-
3. Summary and conclusion
on. In addition, axle lubricants must not damage seals.
Seal performance can be measured using ASTM D (1) This paper has provided a comprehensive overview
5662, standard test method for determining automotive of various lubrication aspects of a typical power-
gear oil compatibility with typical oil seal elastomers, train system including the engine, transmission, dri-
as described previously under gear lubricants. Desir- veline, and other components. We can realize that
able axle-lubricant properties include fuel efficiency, a lot of outstanding contributions in automotive
thermal stability, long life, and appropriate limited slip tribology and lubricants areas have made to
differential performance. improve the efficiency and productivity of power-
train and manufacturing systems. As we face this
new century, the tribological issues will be more
2.4.7. Solid lubricants complex than ever. Stringent federal legislation is
Solid lubricants are used where it is important for calling for better fuel economy and reduced emis-
sions. In addition, design and legislative pressures
the lubricant to stay in place. Solid lubricants are typi-
for cleaner, more efficient engines with higher
cally composed of a solid, a binder, and additives such
specific power outputs is forcing tribological
as corrosion inhibitors or solvents. Examples of com-
engine components to be operated with generally
mon solid lubricants include molybdenum disulfide,
thinner oil films. Then, we need to address the issues
graphite, and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or other
of wear resistance and durability of our tribological
fluorine-containing polymers. Molybdenum disulfide
and graphite have a chemical structure that is like flat
(2) Industrial researchers are developing light-weight
plates such that an upper plate can easily slip along the
materials such as non-ferrous materials (Al, Mg)
surface of the next plate beneath it. PTFE has a chemi-
for engine and drivetrain materials to replace the
cal structure that does not attract or hold a variety of
current heavy-weight cast iron blocks. This keynote
common fluids such as water or oil. paper has described the current status and future
Solid lubricants typically have a temperature range trends in automotive light-weight materials to meet
over which they are effective. Above the optimum their tribological requirements.
range, they may degrade chemically or physically. For (3) This paper has discussed the current automotive
example, according to the Tribology Data Handbook lubricant development including discussion of cur-
(R. M. Gresham, pp. 600–607, CRC Press, 1997), mol- rent and anticipated future requirements of auto-
ybdenum disulfide has an upper temperature limit in motive engine oils. This paper has also reviewed
the range of 400 C, but it can withstand high loads. the current standard ASTM test methods for all
Graphite can withstand 650 C and moderate loads. automotive lubricants and other compilations of
PTFE cannot withstand high temperatures or high automotive standards.
loads, but it provides useful friction characteristics for (4) The automotive components in lubricated contacts,
such automotive components as fasteners. as the component scale moves from macro to micro
ASTM D 2714, standard test method for calibration to nano, are dominated by surface adhesion forces
and operation of the Falex block-on-ring friction and that normally are not well-understood by mechan-
wear testing machine, provides a test method for deter- ical means. Therefore, nanolubrication needs to be
mination of friction coefficient of a solid lubricant. taken into account to determine unique mechan-
Friction coefficient is defined as the ratio of the friction isms which are different from those in conventional
force, F, that resists movement to the normal force, N, lubrication. In this paper, our insights and perspec-
that presses the two bodies together. A steel test ring tives on the current development and future trends
rotates against a steel test block. The specimen in nonotribology have been shared.
assembly is immersed in the lubricant. A normal load
of 65 kg is applied. The velocity of the test ring is 7.9
m/min. The test method contains the warning that the Acknowledgements
user must determine whether the test results mean any-
thing for the particular application of interest. Since The authors thank James Spearot, Shirley Schwartz,
any given application may have different materials, dif- Robert Olree, Coleman Jones, and Dennis Meyers of
ferent speeds, different loads, and different tempera- General Motors for their suggestions and recommenda-
tures, an investigator would be wise not to extend any tions for the key development areas. The authors also
conclusions beyond those directly obtained for the test acknowledge their reviews of this paper.
536 S.C. Tung, M.L. McMillan / Tribology International 37 (2004) 517–536

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