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T E C H N I C A L S t u dy

A Study of SAE 5W-30


Synthetic Motor Oils
Published May 2013

AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil


Castrol Edge® with Titanium Fluid Strength Technology®
Lucas Synthetic
Mobil 1™ Extended Performance
Pennzoil Ultra™
Petro-Canada SUPREME Synthetic™
Quaker State Ultimate Durability™
Red Line High Performance Motor Oil
Royal Purple High Performance Motor Oil
Valvoline SynPower® Full Synthetic Motor Oil

All trademarks and registered trademarks contained within are the property of the respective owners.
Overview
While conventional motor oil sales remain flat, synthetic motor oils continue to
demonstrate strong annual growth. Motorists now recognize that synthetics
legitimately improve engine performance, particularly in engines that operate
under severe service. Performance cars and many traditional family vehicles
today leave the factory with synthetic oil installed and recommended as the ser-
vice fill, contributing to synthetics’ increased demand. Oil manufacturers have
responded. Many now formulate multiple synthetic motor oils, often led by a
flagship product that represents each company’s most advanced technology.

Objective
Compare the performance in laboratory tests and cost-effectiveness of AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic
Motor Oil to several passenger-car/light-truck synthetic motor oils widely considered by marketers and con-
sumers to be the best available.

Methodology
Laboratory bench testing conducted in accordance with American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM)
procedures examined several important areas of motor oil performance, including resistance to deposit
formation, wear protection, high-temperature stability, resistance to acid formation and cold-temperature
performance. Bench tests are used widely to differentiate between formulations.

Note: Test results published in this Technical Study describe and represent properties of oils that were
acquired on the dates listed in Table 1 (page 3). Results do not apply to any subsequent reformulations of
such oils or to new oils introduced after completion of testing. All oils were available to consumers at the time
of purchase. Testing was completed February 2013 by an independent, third-party lab. Formulations were
coded to eliminate bias, and samples were tested in random order. An appropriate number of trials of each oil
were run to produce results at the 95 percent confidence level when compared to Signature Series Synthetic
Motor Oil.1

ASTM Tests Performed


Each oil was subjected to the following ASTM test methodologies:
• Four-Ball Wear Test (ASTM D 4172 Mod.)
• Total Base Number (ASTM D 2896)
• Cold Cranking Viscosity (ASTM D 5293)
• Thermo-Oxidation Engine Oil Simulation Test (TEOST, ASTM D 6335)
• NOACK Volatility Test (ASTM D 5800)

1
The 95 percent confidence level only applies when comparing AMSOIL Signature Series 5W-30 Synthetic Motor
Oil to the other oils. The 95 percent confidence level does not apply when comparing the other oils to one another.
Page 2
Candidate Oils
The following 10 synthetic motor oils were selected. All oils were 5W-30 and are recommended for the
American Petroleum Institute (API) SN and International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee
(ILSAC) GF-5 performance specifications.

Table 1

Motor Oil Acquired Batch Code API/ILSAC


Specification
AMSOIL Signature Series Nov. 2012 15455 298 SN/GF-5
Synthetic Motor Oil
Castrol Edge with Titanium Fluid Dec. 2012 A1229220921 H1 SN/GF-5
Strength Technology
Lucas Synthetic Nov. 2012 12206 I512:33 SN/GF-5
Mobil 1 Extended Performance Dec. 2012 11012L04A 15 5888 SN/GF-5
Pennzoil Ultra Dec. 2012 10413471 U001 22MAR12 0701 1 SN/GF-5
Petro-Canada SUPREME Synthetic Dec. 2012 121019LX 011137 122163* SN/GF-5
121019LX 011154 122163*
121019LX 011186 122163*
Quaker State Ultimate Durability Dec. 2012 10492378 U002-1 11OCT12 15:13 SN/GF-5
Red Line High Performance Motor Oil Nov. 2012 62286 9343P-003442 SN/GF-5
Royal Purple High Performance Motor Oil Dec. 2012 ICPR33A18201 SN/GF-5
Valvoline SynPower Full Synthetic Dec. 2012 J2212C5 1949 SN/GF-5
Motor Oil

*Individual liters originated from the same case (code 121019LX 00930).
Page 3
Four-Ball Wear Test (ASTM D 4172 Mod.)
According to the ASTM, the Four-Ball Wear Test “can be used to determine the relative wear preventive
properties of lubricating fluids in sliding contact under the prescribed test conditions. No attempt has been
made to correlate this test with balls in rolling contact. The user of this test method should determine to his
own satisfaction whether results of this test procedure correlate with field performance or other bench test
machines.”1
Although not widely used as an engine oil test, the Four-Ball Wear Test provides a means of comparing
relative wear-protection properties of lubricating oils. To better differentiate between lubricants, the severity of
the test was increased with higher rpm and temperature (the test standard allows for running the test under
modified parameters). The size of the scar as a result of the test indicates the level of wear protection the
lubricant provides.

Four-Ball Wear Test (ASTM D 4172 Mod.)


1,800 rpm, 150ºC, 40 kg. 1 hour
Performed by independent, third-party lab February 2013.
The smaller the wear scar, the better the performance in the test.

1.8

1.6

1.4
Average Scar Diameter (mm)

1.2

1.0

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0.6

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Results
Four-Ball Wear Test results indicate significant differences in relative wear protection between oils. The
top four performers limited wear scars to under 0.40 mm. AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil
demonstrated the best wear protection in the Four-Ball Wear Test.

1
http://www.astm.org/Standards/D4172.htm

Page 4
Total Base Number (ASTM D 2896)
Total Base Number (TBN) is the measure of a lubricant’s reserve alkalinity, which aids in the control of acids
formed during the combustion process. TBN can also be used as a measure of lubricant degradation in
service.1 Motor oils that have a high TBN and demonstrate good TBN retention are known to effectively
reduce the corrosive effects of acids over an extended period.

Total Base Number (ASTM D 2896)


Performed by independent, third-party lab February 2013.
The higher the number, the better the performance in the test.

14

12

10
Total Base Number (TBN)

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Results
AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil tested two numbers higher than the nearest competitor.

1
http://www.astm.org/Standards/D2896.htm

Page 5
Cold Cranking Viscosity (ASTM D 5293)
The Cold Crank Simulator Test determines the apparent viscosity of lubricants at low temperatures and
high shear rates. Viscosity of lubricants under these conditions is directly related to low-temperature engine
cranking.1 The test was performed at -30ºC (-22ºF). Results are reported in centipoise (cP), with lower values
reflecting easier cold starts and reduced battery strain. To meet the API SN and ILSAC GF-5 motor oil
specifications, a motor oil’s cold crank viscosity must not exceed 6,600 cP.

Cold Crank Viscosity (ASTM D 5293)


cP @ -30ºC (-22ºF)
Performed by independent, third-party lab February 2013.
The lower the value, the better the performance in the test.

7000
API SN/ILSAC GF-5 Upper Limit

6500

6000
Viscosity @ -30ºC (cP)

5500

5000

4500

4000

3500

3000
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Results
Although synthetic motor oils are known to provide increased low-temperature performance compared
to conventional oils, results suggest performance differences between formulations. AMSOIL Signature
Series Synthetic Motor Oil demonstrated the lowest cold-crank viscosity (3,727 cP).

1
http://www.astm.org/Standards/D5293.htm

Page 6
Thermo-Oxidation Engine Oil Simulation Test (TEOST, ASTM D 6335)
Motor oils can form deposits when exposed to increased heat, reducing efficiency and contributing to poor
overall performance. According to the ASTM, the TEOST test method “is designed to predict the high temper-
ature deposit forming tendencies of an engine oil. This test method can be used to screen oil samples or as a
quality assurance tool.”1 Given the number of vehicles now equipped with direct fuel injection, turbochargers
and other performance-enhancing technologies that increase heat, deposit control has taken on increased
importance. To meet the API SN Resource Conserving and ILSAC GF-5 motor oil specifications, a 5W-30
motor oil must limit total deposit formation to 30 mg or less.

TEOST Test (ASTM D 6335)


Performed by independent, third-party lab February 2013.
The lower the value, the better the performance in the test.

35

API SN Resource Conserving/ILSAC GF-5 Upper Limit


*
30
Total Deposit Weight (mg)

25

20

15

10

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*Results for Red Line High


*Results Performance
for Red Line High ranged from ranged
Performance 29.1 mgfrom
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mg to average
31.4 ofaverage
mg. The the three
of tests run is
the three shown
tests in the
run is
graph. shown in the graph.

Results
Results demonstrate a range of performance differences between oils. Only Castrol Edge with Titanium Fluid
Strength Technology and AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil limited total deposit weight to 5 mg
or less.

1
http://www.astm.org/Standards/D6335.htm

Page 7
NOACK Volatility Test (ASTM D 5800)
The NOACK Volatility Test determines the evaporation loss of lubricants in high-temperature service. Accord-
ing to the ASTM, “Evaporation may contribute to oil consumption in an engine and can lead to a change in the
properties of an oil.”1 As with the TEOST test, low values in the NOACK Volatility Test are of particular benefit
in modern, hot-running engines.
In the NOACK test, a candidate oil is exposed to heat and circulating air. Following 60 minutes, the remaining
oil volume is weighed and compared to the original weight, with the difference reported as the percentage of
weight lost. Results must be limited to 15 percent or less to meet the API SN and ILSAC GF-5 specifications.

NOACK Test (ASTM D 5800)


Performed by independent, third-party lab February 2013.
The lower the value, the better the performance in the test.

16 API SN/ILSAC GF-5 Upper Limit


15
14
13
12
11
10
% Weight Lost

9
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Results
While all oils were below the API SN and ILSAC GF-5 upper limit, results indicate differences in high-
temperature volatility. Half of the oils limited the percentage weight lost from volatility to under 10 percent,
with AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil having the third-best result.

1
http://www.astm.org/Standards/D5800.htm

Page 8
Overall Annual Cost
Although AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil is recommended for 25,000 miles/one year in normal
service1, light-duty vehicles accumulate an average of 11,318 miles a year2 and are generally used in driving
conditions that fall under the severe service3 category. For those reasons, overall annual cost is evaluated at
11,318 miles under severe service driving conditions. Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil carries a drain in-
terval of up to 15,000 miles/one year, whichever comes first, in severe service. Because the other nine oils do
not carry a recommended drain interval, a drain interval of 4,777 miles was used, which represents the aver-
age drain interval of motorists as reported in the 2012 National Oil & Lube News Operator’s Survey. Although
Mobil 1 Extended Performance is recommended for 15,000 miles in out-of-warranty vehicles in certain driving
conditions, its extended drain recommendation does not apply for this evaluation. According to the official
statement on the Mobil 1 Extended Performance label, “Extended service is not recommended in severe
service applications involving racing and commercial use, frequent towing or hauling, extremely dusty or dirty
conditions, or excessive idling.”

Per-quart prices (Table 2) reflect the MSRP where available or average of a cross-section of retail outlets
surveyed January 2013. Costs are based on a five-quart capacity. Overall value represents the cost of the oil
only.

Table 2

Price/ Price/Oil # Oil Changes Overall


Qt. Change Required for Annual
11,318 Miles Cost
AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil (MSRP) $10.15 $50.75 1 $50.75
Castrol Edge with Titanium Fluid Strength Technology $9.52 $47.60 2.37 $112.81
Lucas Synthetic $7.81 $39.05 2.37 $92.55
Mobil 1 Extended Performance $9.51 $47.55 2.37 $112.69
Pennzoil Ultra $9.16 $45.80 2.37 $108.55
Petro-Canada SUPREME Synthetic $10.28 $51.40 2.37 $121.82
Quaker State Ultimate Durability $7.99 $39.95 2.37 $94.68
Red Line High Performance Motor Oil $10.95 $54.75 2.37 $129.76
Royal Purple High Performance Motor Oil $9.80 $49.00 2.37 $116.13
Valvoline SynPower Full Synthetic Motor Oil $9.03 $45.15 2.37 $107.01

1
AMSOIL defines normal service as personal vehicles frequently traveling greater than 10 miles at a time and not
operating under severe service.

2
“Average Vehicle Distance Traveled in Miles and Related Data – 2011 (1) By Highway Category and Vehicle Type”.
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2011/pdf/vm1.pdf.

3
AMSOIL defines gasoline engine severe service as turbo/supercharged engines; commercial or fleet vehicles;
excessive idling; daily short-trip driving less than 10 miles (16km); frequent towing, plowing or hauling; dusty-driving
conditions; or in vehicles with 100,000 or more miles that will be using AMSOIL engine oil for the first time.

Page 9
Annual Cost Per 11,318 Miles in Severe-Service Conditions
Five-quart capacity. Cost of oil only. Based on MSRP where available or a
cross-section of retail outlets surveyed January 2013.

$150
$129.76
$121.82
$116.13
$125 $112.81
$112.69*
$107.01 $108.55

$94.68
$100 $92.55

$75

$50.75
$50

$25

$0

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*Not recommend for extended service in vehicles used in severe-service driving conditions. See official statement on the
*Not recommend for extended service in vehicles used in severe-service driving conditions. See official statement
Mobil 1 Extended Performance label.
on the Mobil 1 Extended Performance label.

Results
Though the retail price per quart of AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil is initially higher, it provides
lower costs compared to the other oils. Overall, Signature Series is the most cost-effective oil.

Page 10
Conclusion
AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil ranked first in four of the six comparisons. In contrast, while
some oils performed well in a few areas, they did not perform as well in others. Different results from one test
to another indicate an emphasis in one area of performance does not correspond to increased performance
in other areas of testing. It also reveals the difficulty inherent in formulating a high-quality motor oil that per-
forms well in tests designed to assess optimum engine protection and life.
As engines continue to evolve and demand more from motor oil, the need for premium lubrication becomes
more critical. Industry-standard testing performed by an independent, third-party laboratory reveals AMSOIL
Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil to be the overall top-performing oil in these tests. When considering the
savings of time and money available due to its 15,000-mile/one-year drain interval in severe service, Signature
Series is also the most economical choice.

Page 11
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