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What’s with these low-viscosity engine oils?

Case Study

Typically, engine designs go through phases where the OE vehicle manufacturer builds their engine operational requirements around the vehicle performance expectations. These expectations are usually driven by the needs of the market they are competing within. 

In 2023, passenger cars and light commercial vehicles must be appealing in all aspects but seriously deliver on key criteria such as fuel efficiency, power, and torque output in relation to vehicle weight, size, and the work they will do. 

The buyer market is looking for exceptional fuel economy, drivability, responsiveness, and enough under-the-accelerator pedal to get about nimbly in all traffic densities and pass safely on the open road, combined with the expectation of best-in-class ratings for the cost of maintenance of the vehicles. Nowadays, the maintenance costs come from both the car manufacturer and the car owner. The car manufacturer in any free/fixed cost servicing period and the vehicle owner from new, but primarily once out of warranty, are being looked after by the ever-growing aftermarket repairer community. 

Everyone wants a vehicle that is frugal to run and maintain. The threat posed by electric and hybrid vehicles is their growing appeal and market share on the fronts of running cost, environmental impact, and greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles, albeit yet to be fully tested for veracity over an extended period of time, pose a challenge for vehicle makers to deliver a low-cost fossil fuel-powered machine with all the bells and whistles that match the demands of the consumer market.

Where does the 0W-20 oil fit in, then?

A reasonable question! Given all we have discussed so far, the engines must be small, light, have decent longevity, and put out more power per cubic litre. They must also make great torque to couple up with a DSG gearbox, a CVT or a multi-speed (as many as ten gears) conventional auto transmission to produce the fuel economy and drivability the driver demands. 

The 0W-20 oil now plays the role that 5W-30, 10W-40, 15W-40 and 20W-50 viscosity engine oils have played previously. Its main role will be maximising fuel efficiency with excellent lubricity. Effectively, lubricity translates over time to low engine wear and long engine life.

To enable a long engine life, the oil must: 

  • Be compatible with catalytic converters for petrol and LPG/CNG fuelled vehicles. 
  • Be compatible with light diesel exhaust after treatment – namely Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) and Diesel Particulate Diffuser (DPDs).
  • Enable trouble-free action of EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) valves for petrol and diesel engines.
  • Have the correct viscosity characteristics to suit the engine design regarding internal clearances plus minimum and maximum tolerances.
  • Have the correct friction reduction characteristics, which stimulate power production, reduce heat build-up and require minimum effort to pump around the motor constantly. In other words, have excellent fluid dynamics.
  • Resist evaporation and combustion burn-off to meet the OEM’s oil consumption expectations. From the consumer’s point of view, reduce oil top-ups between services.
  • Have the correct additive chemistry and base oil characteristics to minimise combustion chamber deposits, leading to the new LSPI or Low-Speed Pre-Ignition phenomenon. This phenomenon occurs in new technology down-sized turbocharged petrol engines with direct fuel injection. 
  • Protect the timing chain and other engine components from premature wear. 

What is LSPI? How can you prevent it?

LSPI is a discussion point all on its own. It is, however, very relevant to 0W-20 viscosity PCMO’s. So what is LSPI and how do 0W-20 engine oils help to defeat it? LSPI is Low-Speed Pre-Ignition. Pre-ignition appears to the driver as a knocking noise coming from the engine under instantaneous acceleration from a low road speed situation. The vehicles that are most prone to LSPI are petrol engines in the 1000cc capacity range that are highly turbocharged and have direct fuel injection. 

The root causes of LSPI are not fully understood and remain somewhat of a mystery; however, it is thought that it is, in part, oil-related. The source of the knock is thought to be a combination of soot accumulation, combustion chamber hotspots and/or combustible material fuel and/or engine oil igniting within the combustion chamber, igniting prior to the sparkplug firing. High pressure and high-temperature conditions also need to be present for it to occur.

Contributing factors are fuel quality, engine oil formulation, engine design, valve timing and effectiveness of devices such as knock sensors and similar. These provide data to the vehicle’s ECU to vary ignition, fuel injection timing and valve timing in order to stave off LSPI and other forms of pre-ignition and detonation before it can do damage and, of course, lack of scheduled maintenance. The confounding part of LSPI is that it appears to be largely unpredictable and occurs randomly.

When we look specifically at engine lubricating oils that contribute to LSPI, it is microscopic droplets of oil sourced from the cylinder wall, piston rings and inlet valve areas of the engine combined directly with injected fuel and air under high temperatures and pressures. Oil is known at least to be a contributing factor in LSPI and thought to be a reason behind its random nature. Again, LSPI is yet to be fully explained, but we know the when, where and why. The hows are under continued investigation.   

Damage from LSPI is quite catastrophic. It can result in broken and/or melted spark plugs, holes in pistons and damage to cylinder walls. Piston-related damage from excess pressure and uncontrolled combustion may include broken rings, connecting rod damage and bearing damage. Total engine failure is also a real possibility. The potential consequences of unchecked LSPI are significant and costly to repair; however, there are some solutions.

These include:

  • Always use high-quality, higher octane (RON) fuels – they are more stable and less likely to self-combust.
  • Use an LSPI-compliant formulation engine oil. 
  • Use fuel systems and injector cleaners regularly – they reduce deposit formation in the upper cylinder area.
  • Keep up scheduled maintenance at all times. 

Workshops should be on the lookout for anything that is likely to affect the normal and most efficient operation of the engine. 

TriTech’s 0W-20s are LSPI compliant!

Speaking of engine oil and how it has needed to evolve to cope with mitigating LSPI, proactive oil manufacturers like us are constantly evolving our products to meet the demands of the newest vehicles. We collaborate with base oil refiners and additive manufacturers to bring the latest technology engine lubricants into our range, enabling us to serve the newest makes and models as they are released. 

Utilising the best base oil options is a given. Having best-in-class base oil ensures that the most fundamental lubricant function and boundary lubrication (where an oil film separates sliding surfaces or those that may touch together) are well covered. The next ingredient, the performance additive, has been fully researched, tested and proven for LSPI protection.

To help defeat LSPI, we have selected the best-credentialed low-calcium formulation additive concentrates from major manufacturers who have proof of performance concerning LSPI.

As well as the many other criteria a state-of-the-art engine oil must meet. Rounding out the equation are our blending processes, QA requirements and pre-sale laboratory testing. “Near enough is not good enough”.

TriTech’s 0W-20 range explained.

We have three high-performance 0W-20 synthetic engine oils in our range.

Code # 9168 Synergy 0W-20 SP is our universal passenger car motor oil. It offers a wide range of coverage with the most makes and models listed of all three products available. Utilising full synthetic base oil, Synergy 0W-20 SP is an energy-conserving, high-performance motor oil that meets and exceeds user expectations. It is highly suited for and recommended for turbocharged gasoline engines using direct fuel injections (TGDI) technology and provides excellent protection against LSPI. It may also be used in Hybrid vehicle engines to ease automatic STOP/START.

Code # 9264 Synergy Euro 0W-20 SP, C5 is amongst our next-level universal passenger car motor oils. It offers a wider range of coverage, covering those makes and models that take ACEA C5 or API SP performance engine oil. Utilising full synthetic base oil Synergy 0W-20 SP, C5 is orientated to European vehicle makes and models, offering peak energy-conserving performance. It is a very high-performance motor oil that meets and exceeds user expectations. It is suited for use in the latest small-capacity high-output diesel engines with after-treatment devices such as diesel particulate filters (DPFs). It is also suited and recommended for turbocharged gasoline engines using direct fuel injections (TGDI) technology. It, therefore, offers protection against LSPI and other highly fuel-efficient engines requiring a mid-SAPS lower viscosity engine oil.

Code # 9171 Synergy Euro 0W-20 VAG 508/509 sits in our highest-level universal passenger car motor oils. It offers a very specific range of coverage, catering for Volkswagen 508/509 and Porsche C20 performance requirements. It is dyed blue for easy identification by the user. Utilising ultra-level, full synthetic base oil Synergy 0W-20 508 (Gasoline engines)/509 (High-output, high speed, light diesel engines), it is oriented towards those vehicles in the VAG range requiring these latest service specifications. It is a very high-performance class motor oil that meets and exceeds user expectations. It is suited and recommended for the longest of service intervals required by VAG and will assist in realising the fuel economy gains demanded by VW 508/509 qualified engine lubricants.

NOTE: Synergy Euro 0W-20 508/509 is NOT backwards compatible for use where VW 504/507 is required. TriTech code 9287 Synergy Euro 5W-30 VW 504/507 must be used in this case.

As seen by the exceptional coverage and variety, we have the 0W-20 segment covered. We also range complementary and allied products for key consumables to maintain other types of TGDI engines.

These include:

  • Fuel system cleaners and supplements
  • Oil system flush

For more detailed make and model information, refer to our vehicle look-up Take advantage of our new Registration number-based look-up. Rego Link takes you straight into the information you are seeking. 

TriTech Lubricants sells nearly all passenger car motor oils in a full range of pack sizes. 1L, 5L, 10L, 20L, 60L, 205L and 1000L are common pack sizes for those operations servicing cars and light commercial vehicles.

Currently, TriTech Lubricants offers 14 full synthetic passenger car motor oils to cater for later, late and latest model passenger cars and light commercial vehicles using all available fuels in the Australian market. This vast range offers an excellent choice with accessibility and availability for all professional workshops, self-repairers and fleet operators alike. 

All Australian-made TriTech Lubricants products are manufactured under the ISO 9001:2015 quality assurance system and are supported by our comprehensive lab testing program. 

See for a complete range of technical documents, including our Synergy and Synergy Euro 0W-20 products.

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