Lower viscosity oils provide marked benefits

Lower viscosity oils provide marked benefits

Fuel represents a significant portion of a fleet’s total cost of ownership (TCO). Good driver behaviour, correct tyre pressure, reduced trailer height/load and adjustment of the roof-mounted air deflector to reduce aerodynamic drag can all help to reduce these costs, but the central importance of oils and lubricants can sometimes be overlooked. ROWAN WATT-PRINGLE investigates

The effective use of the correct lubricants can significantly reduce a fleet’s fuel costs and fleet owners should aim to use OEM-approved products. Clinton de Klerk, Fuchs Lubricants South Africa’s sales manager: automotive OEM, explains: “OEM-approved products exceed API or ACEA standards, translating into better fuel consumption and long-term engine protection.”

International market trends continue to move towards lower viscosity lubricant ranges, which have become popular with OEMs for their fuel economy improvements and other benefits. This is also true for both the local commercial vehicle market and our cross-border market as the new Euro V, Euro VI and Euro VI-d engines enter the country. “Today we see the market asking for SAE 10W-30, SAE 5W-30 and even SAE 0W-20 oils,” says De Klerk.

Jacobus Langenhoven, lubricants technical manager at Total SA, says that some users are hesitant to use lower viscosities, due to fuel dilution concerns, but points out that added friction modifiers offer additional protection and supplement the protection of the lower viscosities associated with them.

According to De Klerk, lower viscosity oil grades offer a number of advantages, including a high fuel saving potential, optimal protection of the exhaust aftertreatment system and excellent protection against wear and deposits in the engine. “Despite their low viscosity, they also reduce emissions and oil consumption. This all translates into long-term cost savings,” he says.

The fuel economy retention of oils is another significant factor. Fuchs Lubricants has recorded a 1.2% fuel saving with its Titan Cargo Pro 228.61 SAE 5W-30 compared with the SAE 10W-40. De Klerk says that this improvement represents a substantial cost saving for large fleet operators with high monthly diesel usage.

Langenhoven says that the fuel economy retention of oils is also highly dependent on operating conditions, including driver behaviour. Total SA has found that 1% or more can be saved using a Total Fuel Economy (TFE) engine oil, with some cases reporting as much as 3% savings, depending on the specific engine and other factors. “Increased savings are more commonly achieved when FE transmission oils are used together with FE engine oils,” he says, pointing out that even a 1% saving is substantial, considering that annual fuel expenses represent as much as a third of a fleet’s TCO.

De Klerk believes that most fleet operators appreciate the importance of choosing optimal oils and lubricants: “Our customers have seen extended drain intervals on our Titan Cargo Maxx range, clearly recognising that they gain the full benefit of the oil and reduced servicing costs.”

Langenhoven says that although this is largely true, many operators focus on other variables, while some are not especially knowledgeable about oils. “Operators who have a more comprehensive knowledge of the effects and benefits of various oils will be more likely to make choices based on a TCO approach,” he says.

Staff training and empowerment is another essential component in a fleet operator’s lubrication management, improving fuel consumption and reducing costs. “Education and training go hand-in-hand with lubricant sales,” De Klerk explains. “This is why Fuchs offers free training from workshop to boardroom, allowing operators to upskill and train staff from novice to skilled lubricants level.”

Langenhoven agrees, adding that proper handling techniques can significantly extend equipment and part life. “Very often, improper techniques are applied,” he says, “which results in less than optimal cleanliness and poor stock management, thereby reducing quality. In the worst cases, cross-contamination between products can occur when stock is not properly managed. Oil in-service monitoring goes a long way as a tool to identify problems like fuel dilution, over-idling and any other problems that may occur in service.”

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