UPDATED: GF What? A New Interim Passenger Car Category – API SN Plus

On July 20th 2017, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) from North America and Asia concerned with delays in the finalization of the next generation ILSAC GF-6 (Gas Formulation #6) specification, sent a letter to the industry requesting an interim specification coined "GF-5 Plus" to deal immediately with potential field issues.


The development of ILSAC GF-6 (and its sister category API SP) is by far the most challenging category to be developed for Passenger Car Motor Oil (PCMO). It involves the development and validation of a record 6 tests (4 replacement and 2 new) proposed to be included in the specification. The relevant industry bodies have been working on this specification since 2013. The development of the engine tests has encountered obstacles causing delays.

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The purpose of ILSAC GF-6 is to protect new engine designs that the OEMs are using to meet emissions and fuel efficiency legislation. These include:

  • Protection against low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI) – Preventing extreme engine 'knocking' in gasoline direct-injected (GDI) engines
  • Enhanced oil robustness – Engines are working harder and running hotter
  • Adequate wear protection for frequently started engines – Protecting engines with START-STOP system
  • Increased fuel economy, maintained throughout the oil change interval – Enhancing fuel economy for current ILSAC viscosity grades
  • Addition of an SAE 0W-16 grade - Better fuel economy

Oils designed to meet ILSAC GF-6 and new hardware must be capable of sufficiently protecting new engines as well as existing engines on the road for many years to come.

After several discussions, Oil Marketers, OEMs and API (American Petroleum Institute) decided the ILSAC GF-5 Plus request would be covered under a supplemental API service called API SN Plus. A new ‘donut’ has been created to distinguish this specification from API SN for both Energy Conversing and non-Energy Conserving Oils. Sample images of the new ‘donuts’ are below. After the first licensing date, these new ‘donuts’ will be displayed on all API licensed oils where current donuts exist today.


API SN Plus Sample Donuts

API SN Plus will include all the benefits of API SN with additional protection against LSPI (low speed pre-ignition).

LSPI stands for Low Speed Pre-Ignition. It is a phenomenon associated with GDI (gasoline direct injection) and TGDI (turbocharged gasoline direct-injection) engines under certain conditions of low speed and high load. It is caused when the combustion of gasoline occurs at the wrong time in the combustion cycle. Mild LSPI is most recognizable as 'engine knocking', but in severe cases, catastrophic engine failure may occur.

The original request from the OEMs was for a first licensing date of January 1, 2018. This date was deemed unrealistic for the level of change required. The first license date for API SN Plus is May 1, 2018. After this date, Oil Marketers who have qualified and licensed their oils through API may display the new donuts including the API SN Plus logo.

  • Passenger car motor oil products will need to be reformulated and validated against the new specification.
  • A new 'donut', developed by API (American Petroleum Institute), will be included on product labels so customers can clearly distinguish product meeting API SN or the new API SN Plus. (see section above “What will the new interim specification be called?” for the new ‘donut’ images)
  • The API certification mark 'starburst' will not change and will continue to be displayed on the label of oils licenced against the ILSAC GF-5 category.
  • The SAE 0W-16 viscosity grade will be API SN Plus only, since it is not an ILSAC GF-5 viscosity grade.

Even with the inclusion of the interim specification, API SN Plus, work will continue with the development and validation of the new engine tests required. No official first licensing date has been established at this time.

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