• Oct 2nd 2010 at 12:00AM
  • 187
General Motor's engine oil logo, Dexos 1. GM

If you're thinking about buying a 2011 General Motors vehicle, you'll be getting more than just a new car, crossover, SUV or truck. The oil in your new vehicle's engine will be new as well, meeting a recently unveiled specification called "dexos 1."

Oils that meet the dexos 1 (yes, with a lowercase “d”) standard provide some real benefits. However, when it comes time for that first oil change, expect a 25-30 percent cost increase -- which could be about the same as choosing pure synthetic oil.

Further, GM says that if a customer has an engine failure that is traced to oil or lubrication issues, and if the customer does not use dexos 1 oil in their gasoline-powered GM vehicle, that act alone could void the warranty. The same goes for GM vehicles with diesel engines, which use a diesel-specific “dexos 2” oil blend.

Not Just GM

But let’s not be too quick to admonish GM for requiring this new oil or speculate that this is bound to drive away potential customers. The reality is that the cost for an oil change will be going up for everyone. That’s because we're in the launch period for a new-and-improved oil standard, which will eventually be commonplace across the industry.

Superseding the current standard, called “GF-4,” will be oils made to the new “GF-5” specification. These are beginning to show up in auto parts stores and oil change shops across the country this fall. Manufacturers other than GM are expected to begin factory-filling vehicles with GF-5 oils starting with 2012 models.

The new GF-5 performance specification was developed by the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) with input from automakers, oil refiners, and oil additive manufacturers. Like the GM-specific dexos 1 oil, GF-5 oils deliver better performance but cost more. Expect to pay about 15-20 percent over comparable GF-4 oils.

The new GF-5 and GM dexos oils are superior to most non-synthetic oils. The new formulations are also backwards compatible, meaning they will work in engines that have used older oil formulations.

How More Expensive Oils Can Save Money

Dexos and GF-5 oils are more expensive than prior oil formulations because these new oils deliver superior performance. Oil makers start with higher-quality base oil and then add more additives, which make them more expensive. Additives can make up as much as 30 percent of a typical quart of oil.

These high-performance oils can pay for themselves, but not how you might think. Many of these oils will advertise the benefit of "higher fuel economy." The claim isn't false because dexos and GF-5 oils do reduce internal engine friction that will improve fuel efficiency. Unfortunately the gains will be so small -- less than one percent -- that the average driver will never notice.

The real payback comes from extending the time and mileage between oil changes. Dexos and GF-5 oils allow drivers to drive more miles between oil changes without needing to worry about a loss of lubrication qualities, the buildup of sludge, or damage to sensitive emission control devices. Depending on driving habits, oil changes could extend beyond 10,000 miles.

While that may be heresy compared to the 3,000-mile oil change interval your local shop recommends, it’s the new reality of oil change intervals. Thanks to the use of in-vehicle oil life monitoring and these new oil formulations, there’s no longer one specific mileage interval to adhere to. In other words, changing your oil every 3,000 miles will likely lead to wasting oil by replacing it before it is actually necessary.

Both dexos 1 and GF-5 oil specifications also offer more comprehensive protection for engines, including the latest generation of turbocharged engines and those that run on ethanol (E85). Turbochargers and E85 each demand specific characteristics from engine oils. Resistance to heat is especially important for turbo engines, while protection against rust is critical for vehicles running on E85. In other words, running the right oil might mean the difference between an engine that lasts hundreds of thousands of miles, and one that doesn't.

The dexos oil also has some unique properties that General Motors engineers required. One characteristic is better resistance to aeration (the whipping of air bubbles into the oil). Some GM engines with variable camshaft timing use engine oil as a hydraulic fluid to move components within the engine. If air bubbles are in the oil, components actuated by engine oil will not move as they were designed to, limiting engine performance and efficiency.

ILSAC vs. API vs. GM dexos Classifications

Golden Globes, Emmys, The People's Choice, The Academy Awards: Just like the multiple shows that bestow honors upon the entertainment industry, there are multiple organizations that promote oil standards.

This, of course, can completely confuse consumers. But here's some help: Many drivers are aware of the American Petroleum Institute's (API) grading of oils. Their trademarked "star burst" graphic is on most quarts of oil. The graphic advertises that the oil is licensed by the API and shows the grade of oil you're buying. The API is a consumer-directed organization.

The ILSAC, on the other hand, is a trade organization that works primarily with vehicle manufacturers and those who commercially produce engine oil. The API and ILSAC have worked cooperatively for years, and their ratings track on a parallel path.

The API "SM" certification has been the standard since 2005. "SM" is the equivalent of the ILSAC GF-4. To keep up with the new GF-5 specification, the API revised their certification with the new "SN" rating. So SN = GF-5. The official rollout for SN oils begins later this year.

Got that? Here’s the bottom line: use the oil recommended for your vehicle and you won’t have a problem.


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  • 187 Comments
      • 8 Months Ago
      Have a 92' blazer, bought new. Never planned to keep it this long, ******** been the best car ever. Always have used Pennz 10-30 and never had an oil leak until about a year ago and it was the housing where the filter screws on that cracked. Only 180,00 mi. but it has never been off the full mark for oil. Do change every 3,000 mi. Very hot and dry environment in So. Nv. Very good 4.3 L engine.
      dx75
      • 8 Months Ago
      I see this new "standard" has the mouse milk dealers all upset. On the other hand, it is a pretty good reason NOT to buy a new car if you can help it, and a very good reason to stay away from Government Motors for a coupla a years, anyway 'till they finish their development using customers cars. BTW you won't find a better discussion of oil and ratings than at "Bob is the Oil Guy" which you can Google. A lot of old wives tales bite the dust there. Keep in mind that the temperature engine designers base their oil requirement upon is the engine OPERATING temperature, which (funny thing) in liquid cooled engines is held by the cooling system to about 200 degrees, plus or minus, tundra or desert. For decades, engineers designed around 30 wt oil at 200 degrees, now with better tolerances, 20 wt oil at 200 degrees is common. The "other" number in a multigrade,- that just tells you how the stuff flows when COLD, which may be for a short time in with a well designed cooling system but where most of the wear occurs, and it may matter very little in Florida or SoCal. "Regular" multigrade oils are 5s or 10s with "stuff" added to make them work as 30wt at 200 degrees, as that "stuff breaks down the oil first gets thinner, then if you are unwise enough to keep it in a really long time the thin components start to boil off and the oil actually starts getting THICKER again. Synthetic oils are naturally a 20 or 30 but DON't get thicker until well below zero. Nor does it boil off easily. The only way to make a "regular" oil "multigrade" is to start THIN and thicken it up to 20 or 30, yo can't take a 30 wt regular oil and make it flow like a 5 or 10 when cold unless it is thinned so much that it is NO LONGER a 30 wt where the engineers want it to be 30wt. Leave a "regular" oil in too long, FIRST it gets too THIN, and THEN it starts turning to SLUDGE. It is a tribute to modern engine design that engines will tolerate such abuse.
      JOHNTYKIE
      • 8 Months Ago
      CHECK WITH ANY MOTOR POOL SERGEANT AND HE WILL TELL YOU THAT THEY (THE MILITARY) REMOVE THE OIL FROM THEIR VEHICLES AND REPLACE IT WITH OILS THAT HAVE BEEN CLEANED FROM OTHER VEHICLES. THE REMOVED OIL IS ANALYSED AND IF IT STILL HAS THE PROPER LUBRICITY AND VISCOSITY, IT IS PASSED THROUGH A SERIES OF FILTRATIONS AND RETURNED TO THE FLEET. DON'T BELIEVE ME, CALL A RESERVE UNIT IN YOUR HOMETOWN.
      barendsje
      • 8 Months Ago
      There are several eason the car manufacturers are going to this standard. First, that extra 1% fuel economy matters to them with the new standard. That will at 0.34 mpg to the fleet at the new standard which will be very difficult to meet. Second, the better quality oils have lower emissions issues since they will burn less in the engine. Again saving money for the car maker. Third, GM is cheating with their variable timing cam shaft to safe money. Using engine oil as hydraulic oil saves them money, development cost, manufacturing cost (no hydraulic system), and milage. A small hydraulic unit could draw 0.5 mpg of load and it makes that new governement target that much harder. Finally, calling for a new standard will let GM and all the manufacturers weasel out of warrentee claims since the consumer will have to maintain the records and receipts for their oil changes. Will the new oil make a difference? That depends on a number of things. First how you drive and where really is what determines how often you should change the oil. Oil changes should be based on operating hous for the engine, not milage, but not many cars have enginer hour gauges. Infrequent use allows water to collect in the oil which will impact your GM variabble timing systems as well. Dry dusty climates collect dirt in the oil which is abrasive to parts. Cold climates require proper warming and oils that flow quickly to the parts or they are running metal to metal. The resulting fragments will buildup in the oil and abraid parts. Interestingly, though, GM and others will not say whether the synthetics will meet the new standards when in fact Mobil 1 and the other true 100% synthetics already exceed the new standards. However, the synthetic blends will probably not. GM is first for one reason: the feds own them and they have ordered them to march to the cliff and jump hoping their parachute will work. Previously, the oil changes were more gradual and in fact the engines were tolerant of the old standard in case the wrong oil was used.
      • 8 Months Ago
      my 06 GMC truck was in for more repairs then on the road. 25 months, 25k miles and in the shop over 8 months for different reasons. mostly engine head failureS of their Atlas motor 2.8L and used THEIR filters and Mobil 1 every 3k miles. i will never buy a GM product again. i bought a US ASSEMBLED Toyota Tacoma and have not had any issues where my GM had failed already. Now you have to buy this oil? even though i run synthetic in all my new vehicles, this is anyother reason GM will not survive and hopefully we wont bail them out again.
      frank1946
      • 8 Months Ago
      Hey, Boss, let's raise the prices on stupid customers ?
      • 8 Months Ago
      2011 Cadillacs now have 4 yr 50000 mile maintence included with all purchases, which include, obviously, oil changes..lets chalk this article up to, once again, the cool aid drinking american liberal medias ********, going after american companies while their liberal elitist politicans line their pockets from foreign companies and foreign governments so they can do business in our country. COMMUNISTS!!!!!!!!!!!!
      DavidB
      • 8 Months Ago
      chucki42; Did you report that dealership to GM Coorperate Headquaters? You should have!!
      Steve
      • 8 Months Ago
      The UAW co-sponsored the Washington DC rally held today with the Communist Party USA and a handful of other communist organizations who favor "people over profits ". If you don't believe me Google it ! I would never buy a car from any company whose employees fraternize with communist organization that support communism over capitalism.
      Louis
      • 8 Months Ago
      The translation is that since you are going to go 10,000 miles between oil changes we need to charge more for the oil to make up in the dollars lost on the oil changes every 3000 miles. While the new oils may have more additives, I seriously doubt that is should have to be more expensive. They are still selling millions and millions of quarts of oil across the USA and the world, so I don't quite buy the idea that we should have to pay 10 to 15% more. I think it's just a ploy to earn more money. All the more reason for me to continue to drive my Toyota Camry!
      comisar
      • 8 Months Ago
      Next year it will be this: YOU must use Obama Oil, since he Owns GM, the Banks, Freddi and Fanny may, he controls health care, and the drug companies along with ALL the insurance companies. So, if you DO NOT buy HIS oil, you will not get health car, a bank loan, a Free House, welfare, a chicken in every pot.............
      • 8 Months Ago
      I use AMSOIL syntheic oil. Don't have to worry about warranties because AMSOIL provides me with thier own warranty. Also that 3,000 mile oil change is a bunch of crap, just oil companies trying to make even more money off of the consumer. I gained 2-3 mpg just by switching to AMSOIL. Also I don't have to change my oil every 3,000 miles either. I change my oil at 25,000 miles, which is recomended, with the full backing of AMSOIL. If you want more information e-mail me @ repairman964@yahoo.com or just try looking on AMSOIL'S website. www.AMSOIL.com Please use reference number 1299805. You are also supporting an AMERICAN company by using AMSOIL.
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