How to choose the right motor oil?
We live in a changing world. This is also true as the automotive industry is concerned. New powertrains are coming to the market all the time, spurred both by internal competition and by ever tightening fuel efficiency and emissions standards. Common sense tells us that, for each individual engine model, the best performing oil is the one which had been specifically optimized and tested for that particular engine. This drives product segregation, with numerous – often self-conflicting – OEM requirements. Going this way would create a tremendous challenge for lubricant companies as they would be forced to maintain a myriad of different products which would drive up manufacturing costs and complicate logistics. This explains why the lubricant industry leans towards product unification, trying to maintain as few products as possible with as broad individual OEMs coverage as possible.
In America, the service rating of passenger car and commercial automotive motor oils is performed by the American Petroleum Institute (API). When motor oil is assigned a certain service category, it means that the oil meets certain OEM quality and performance standards.
In Europe, this task is performed by Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobiles (ACEA), an organization representing all major European motor vehicle manufacturers, which defines specifications for engine oils. Based on oil test sequences developed by ACEA, lubricant manufacturers make performance claims for their products. For obvious reason, ACEA performance claims are more relevant for European cars, and in many cases, ACEA claims are more restrictive and supersede API claims. However, since ACEA and API claims are based on different test sequences, they are not directly comparable. In general, both ACEA and API claims – such as ACEA C3, or API SN – guarantee no more than an adequate baseline performance level, which may or may not be sufficient for your particular car. Here come individual OEM specifications which supersede both ACEA and API claims. For instance, Daimler new MB229.52 specification exceeds the baseline ACEA C3 specification in nearly all respects. In other words, an oil meeting MB229.52 standard can safely be used in any car where owner’s manual lists ACEA C3 as suitable motor oil. But not any ACEA C3 oil is safe to use in your new Mercedes! Of course, it is highly unlikely that an oil claiming ACEA C3 performance level only will ruin your Mercedes engine instantly. Probably, it won’t. However, to be on a safe side, it is highly recommended to respect the individual OEM requirements, and it is only in this case that you are covered by the manufacturer warranty.