Following the rollout of BIZOL, we have been getting a lot of questions about quality and comparisons. It turns out there are a lot of people out there that really know their oil, and are very specific about what they are interested in. Up until now, we have only been able to answer them based on things we knew at the time. The base stocks are a very high quality Group III and Group IV Synthetic, refined out of industry benchmark North Sea Crude. The additives are very carefully designed, and the specifications on the bottle are far exceeded in nearly all cases. But what does that mean? Now, I believe you have all waited enough for some more information, here is….
BIZOL – The Technical Post
Alright, so you asked for it. I will try to explain this as simply as possible, but don’t be afraid of brain melt. It happens. Let’s start out with something simple like, oh.. how about.. a graph. This one is sort of an overview of what is coming in the next few pages. This describes the base stocks and specifications used in the various types and grades of BIZOL oil. It is a great reference when you are shopping for oil, so be sure to remember where it is! I will do my best to update as more specifications are approved by car manufacturers.
With that right up front and out of the way, it’s time to go over exactly what goes into BIZOL, including a description of base stocks and the process in which to get them, the ever important additive packages and how they affect a final product. Also, a description of common specifications that need to be referenced when shopping for your next oil change, and what line of BIZOL is best for your European car. Let’s start with the basics.
What Makes ‘Synthetic’ Oil?
Synthetic oil, for all of our intensive purposes, was all at one point pulled out of the ground. The level of refining, or conditioning, that goes into the final base stocks is what determines the level of synthetic processing. Ultimately, the base stock makes up a good majority of the finished product, but with room for around 15-30% of proprietary additive that makes an oil a BIZOL, or Mobil 1, or Pennzoil etc. I want to share this graph on the actual refining process of different types of base stocks for the nerdiest of us to sink our teeth into. If you don’t want to go in detail of how oil is made (and thus synthetic oil) skip below to Oil Specifications and Standards which should not be skipped.
Refining Base Stocks
If you’ve ever driven past an oil refinery, you will notice it is a large series of towers and smoke stacks. The tallest towers are called distillation towers, and they are used to separate out the different types of oil after basic crude oil is pumped in. The smoke stacks commonly are for the boilers that heat it all up to start the process. As the pressurized heat vapor condenses, it separates out in the distillation towers and those levels are skimmed off for the various purposes. What we are looking for is the heavier oil towards the bottom to send to the next step.
Standard basic Group I oils are referred to as ‘Solvent Refined’, which is an effective and cheap way to get a viable engine oil. Group II (not pictured) are Group I oils that go through a basic hydrocracking step called ‘hydrotreating’ to help even out those molecules and remove impurities, but are still considered basic dino oil, just a little better. They have regular aging resistance, high evaporative loss, and poor resistance to low temperatures.
Where we want to focus on is in the Group III and Group IV oils that BIZOL offers. Group III Hydrocracked oils are heavily refined using a fluid catalytic cracker, which creates a highly effective engine oil (as well as gasoline, jet fuel, diesel etc). The process uses high temperatures and pressures, along with very active catalysts to crack the basic long chain hydrocarbons into lighter, smoother, smaller and more uniform molecules. The idea behind the additional refining (after standard crude is converted into Group I mineral oil) is to process the lubricating molecules all to the same size. This ensures maximum lubrication and cooling ability, while at the same time resisting shearing, or friction breakdown. Group III hydrocracked oils have high aging resistance, low evaporative loss, good cold-start characteristics, and have performance very close to Group IV. Group III oils are considered ‘synthetic’ after the molecules are modified and changed using this process, and are only exceeded in specification by Group IV crazyness.
Group IV oils are the top of the food chain when it comes to lubricative base stocks, which are actually refined out of gasoline. They are often called “Fully Synthetic” (lets remind that it still started in the ground) and offer the highest aging resistance, lowest evaporation loss, and excellent cold-start characteristics. As you can see from the oil making chart above, this type of base stock has several extra steps to make it as pure, clean, stable, and nothing like the Group I or II oils that are below it. Alright, base stocks are out of the way, now I wanted to bring up the other 15-30% of the makeup of retail engine oils…
Almost all German OEM Synthetic oils are Group III hydrocrack oils with the few remaining being Group IV fully synthetic oils. The latest hydrocrack oils perform very close to the performance levels of Group IV ‘fully synthetic’ oils.
Starting with a solid base stock is important in manufacturing a quality engine oil. If you are going to make an excellent beer (I used the ‘BIZOL is the craft beer of motor oil’ analogy in the last article) you have to start with the best ingredients. But to truly make it special, that’s in the extra things you add in. A little bit of tangerine rind, maybe some coriander. Oil is the same way, except instead of a hint of cocoa, you are using different detergents, friction modifiers, metal deactivators, anti-foam and corrosion inhibitors, anti-oxydants etc. The list goes on, and that’s where buying the right brand of oil really makes the difference. BIZOL is obsessed with their additive formulas, and a superior mixture is what they pride themselves on being the best at. It’s what differentiates the Green Oil from the Allround, and the Protect from the Technology. The additives are what allow these engine oils to fall into the lines of several important specifications that you need to pay attention to when buying oil.
If you want to follow along, get out your car user manual and go to the oil specification section. In the user manual for my 2003 SAAB 9-5, it specifies API – SH/CD/CF or SJ/CD/CF. It also specifies ACEA A3/B3. The viscosity being a 5w-30 or 5W-40. You generally go with the thicker oil (5w-40) in the hotter months, but it’s not required. So what do those mean, and why are they important? That’s actually next.
Oil Specifications and Standards
Ok, above I mentioned you can skip that whole section above about oil refining. This section is very important to the well-being of your engine, especially if you are driving a modern, tight tolerance vehicle. Here’s a generalized chart of the API standards used for American oil specifications. You can get more detailed info on their website: HERE
As you can see, the specification laid out for my 2003 SAAB is pretty not-great. The severely vague and basic API-SH was getting old even by turn-of-the-century standards. It also calls out use of a semi-synthetic oil as OK, which is basically a mix of Group I or II, with some group III for good measure. As it turned out, the 9-5 had a severe engine problem with oil sludge. This caused a huge debacle related to premature engine failures. It’s safe to say we can do better for that one. Let’s see what the ACEA European spec chart looks like.
A3/B3 gives a little more confidence, and it’s important to know that Europe, especially Germany, is far more strict on what goes into engine oil than American standards. If you have a European car, it’s better to use the European ACEA oil classifications when choosing an oil. Generally these oils are backwards compatible (A4 can go into A3 spec) but not the other way around. Don’t put an A3 spec oil into something that demands A4 or you can see problems down the road.
Let’s Get Technical
We have reached the top of the roller coaster, folks. You asked for details, and here they come. Before moving on I want to introduce you to the spider graph. The spider graph is a way of looking at the different qualities of an oil specification, as optimized for:
Soot Thickening – Resistance to unburned carbons (soot) thickening an oil, reducing its ability to lubricate. Most important in diesels, this is often combated with dispersants.
Wear (shear) – Resistance to the molecules shearing apart and breaking down. Highly applicable to new, tight tolerance engines with a lot of moving parts (like high pressure fuel pumps, or Vanos). Primarily optimized with ZDP’s.
Sludge – Resistance to oil/water separation and buildup and accumulation in oil passageways. Like soot thickening, this is also controlled with dispersants.
Piston Deposits – Resistance to buildup and tarnishing of pistons and rings, reducing their ability to seal. Controlled with detergents.
Oxidative Thickening – Like sludge and soot thickening, this is the crumming up of the oil due to oxygen bonding (rust is a type of oxidation). Anti-oxidants are used to help with this.
Fuel Economy – Better fuel economy lowers emissions, and this is achieved by using friction modifiers to make the oil more slippery without sacrificing protection.
Aftertreatment Compatibility – This is in reference to exhaust aftertreatment, a common system on modern diesels. The filters and catalysts in these systems are very sensitive. To help with aftertreatment compatibility, sulfur and phosphorous are added, as well as chemistry to lead to high sulfated ash content.
Here is a spider graph for a couple API and ACEA basic specifications. As you can see, the ACEA graph is much more inclusive than the API graph. This means that engine manufacturers that specify the API-SN standard are saying their engines are generally basic, lower tolerance, and lacking any high tech systems. The ACEA approval is much more demanding to achieve.
Mercedes made the new 229.51 oil specification with their new high efficiency diesel engines for the world market. You can tell they focused heavily in the soot and oxy thickening categories, while simultaneously being very demanding on wear and sludge to maintain high oil change intervals. This is shown next to Porsche’s C30 specification, which favors wear resistance and sludge characteristics for their high-performance VW based engines (identical to the VW 507 Spec for a reason).
If you want to play around with checking out all the different spider graphs to get a feel for how all these car builders spec their engines, check out THIS LINK. I probably spent way too much time on this page playing around with the different overlays. It’s interesting to see that the BMW LL-04 spec is nearly the same as LL-01, except with the addition of extra aftertreatment compatibility for their new diesels.
Basically, what these specs mean is that, when shopping for oil, you must pay attention to these things. The specs are all very precise and are laid out with minimums that must be met for the engine to run properly. Now, just because an oil has a spec on it, doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Every oil manufacturer has their little big of extra added on in one way or another, so next I want to show you some lab tests pitting BIZOL against other leading brands on terms of performance (which I will describe in a moment). If you are still reading, congrats! You will have the best conversations starters for the next party you are at.
BIZOL, and YOU!
Most of the following graphs and figures were taken from the data sheets provided by the specific OEM manufacturers. When graphs and figures were not available from a specific oil manufacturer, the oil was tested by Blackstone and the results used on the charts.”
Blackstone laps will run a number of ASTM based tests to give you results in the fields that you are interested in. Most often you send used oil at the end of an oil change interval, and they will tell you how much it has broken down, resisted soot thickening, and how much of your precious main bearings have vacated the premises. You can all so send them new oil to get a number of tests run, so here are the results of those, along with some general descriptions of the Bizol product lines that we offer. We are focusing on a few key factors for our purposes.
TBN: Total Base Number – As oil wears down, it naturally becomes acidic. The TBN is a basic function of the ability to combat this acidity, and extend your oil change intervals.
Viscosity Index – This is a complex measurement that defines the ability of the oil to retain a stable viscocity at a wide range of temperatures. The higher the number, the more thermally stable an oil is, and the better it will stay in the target range when very cold or very hot.
HSHT (High Shear High Temperature) Viscosity – This test is designed to check for breakdown in high shear and high temperature situations. The higher the number, the better the protection. This number is generally balancing protection with fuel economy.
Evaporative Loss – Quite simply the likelihood of an oil to evaporate out of the system when subjected to normal operating situations.
Bizol Green Oil
First up under the microscope is the critically acclaimed Green Oil. The additive package of this is specifically designed to extend oil change intervals in high traffic situations that involve a lot of idling and stop-and-go. It features a Group III Hydrocracked synthetic base stock. Notice the High TBN and Viscosity index to protect best against the fluctuating temperatures in heavy city driving.
Green “exceeds,” all of the OEM specifications and for that reason does not have formal approval. In order to gain OEM approval the oil has to meet the exact specification of the OEM oil. However Green oil will not void the warranties of any vehicle if a customer chooses to use the oil.
Protect is the oil that many of our customers will choose, offering high-performance and low friction. It is compatible with both diesel and gasoline engines with or without turbochargers. the 0W40 is actually a full Group IV synthetic oil that is perfect for higher performance engines that might have higher mileage. The charts below are for the 5W40.
BIZOL Allround is exactly what it sounds like. It is a great bet for nearly every application (be sure to check the specs). This is especially recommended for gasoline engines with TWC and diesel engines with particulate filters (aftertreatment).
Technology is a top of the line, modern high-performance oil designed for extended oil change intervals and reduced ash content. It is universally formulated in compliance with VW specs, and is backwards compatible to all previous generations of engines. The 10W60 is another Group IV synthetic that we consider perfect for our turbo Saab race car, Norma. Pushing a lot of turbo pressure, as well as a ton of heat, so far this oil has done a fantastic job. In one particular instance we spilled some on the very hot exhaust manifold, and it manged to stay oily and not burn off. We’re sold on its ability to resist crazy heat and still stay viable.
If you have any questions about BIZOL, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll do my best to answer anything you throw my way, and since we are direct to the manufacturer, anything I don’t know can go to an engineer with BIZOL. Here are a few main takeaways from all this, and we can call it a wrap!
Know the difference between the different base stocks
Understand the importance of proprietary additive blends
Look up your oil specifications! Only then can you really make an educated guess on where to go from there. Happy motoring!