Shell Rotella rolls out one-size-fits-all oil for trucks, passenger vehicles

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 9/21/2017

For years using an oil formulated for your heavy-duty truck in your personal cars wasn’t the best idea. But those days have ended with the introduction of Shell Rotella T6 5W-30 MV.

The new oil was introduced by Jason Brown, Shell Rotella technical manager of heavy-duty engine oil on Wednesday, Sept. 20, at a media event in Goleta, Calif. 


Brown explained that normal heavy-duty engine oils and passenger car motor oils are relatively the same. They have the same base oil and the same viscosity modifiers. Performance additives are where they begin to vary widely.

In the trek to develop a one-size-fits-all oil, Shell’s development team had to acknowledge part of the challenge has been the oil weight differences between the two vehicles. The average heavy-duty engine oil used in trucks is 15W-40 and passenger cars is 5W-40.

Part of that trend had to do with options for heavy-duty trucks and prevailing misconceptions. However, with the evolution of lower viscosity heavy-duty engine oils and a push toward lower viscosity oils with equivalent and even better engine protection, those hurdles began to fall.

Enter the Environmental Protection Agency’s new greenhouse gas regulations, known as GHG I, in the industry. Engine makers were required to lower emissions even further, while also increasing fuel mileage. That meant everything, including the oil, would need to evolve. Inevitably, lower viscosity oils were going to be part of the solution.

The American Petroleum Institute established a new category of engine oils, and the oil makers went to work to meet the standards. Because of the unique demands of older engines and engines of the future, a split category was established. That resulted in two new types of engine oils, CK-4 and FA-4. Basically CK-4 oils are backward compatible with all trucks on the road, and FA-4 is designed for new engines going forward.

Shell rolled out its CK-4 Rotella T6 5W-30 in December 2016 as part of the new lineup of engine oils. In addition to meeting the new standards for heavy-duty engines, it also cracked the door further open to an oil that could be used in passenger cars.

A second significant hurdle that oil makers faced was the amount of phosphorus allowed in the different oils. Heavy-duty engine oils were allowed 1,200 parts per million while passenger car oils only allowed 800 parts per million.

Before December 2016, heavy-duty engine oils also could license under the American Petroleum Institute standards for passenger cars with a waiver. That allowed them to keep the higher phosphorus content in the passenger car oil.

While running a heavy-duty engine oil in your passenger car engines would not cause an immediate catastrophic engine failure, it posed a long-term threat to catalytic converters. The higher phosphorus content could eventually poison the catalytic converter over time, leading to an expensive replacement.

When the new API standard went into effect in December 2016, that waiver was eliminated for XW-30 oils. That meant if manufacturers of a heavy-duty engine oil, say Shell’s 5W-30, wanted it to be licensed for passenger cars as well, it would have to drop that phosphorus level to 800 parts per million.

To reduce the levels, Shell engineers turned to the final component of engine oils – the additives. The previous requirements and needs had the formulation of additives different for diesel and gasoline engine oils. The engineers were able to unlock the matrix of additives to fit the unique needs of the different engines with one oil – the Rotella T6 5W-30 MV.

That means truckers opting for the lighter weight Rotella T6 5W-30 for fuel economy will no longer be forced to buy a second passenger car-specific oil for their personal vehicles.

The new T6 5W-30 MV (multivehicle) is expected to be available starting in October at retailers such as NAPA, O’Reilly’s and Wal-Mart.

Copyright © OOIDA