New Oil Viscosity Grade Available – SAE 16

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A new oil grade is coming to an auto parts store near you, SAE 16. And yes, the new oil grade is directly related to the ever popular automotive topic – improving fuel economy. Is it a scam or for real?

Oil Viscosity Grade SAE 16

Is a new oil viscosity grade good for fuel economy or is it akin to snake oil from automakers?

The Society of Automotive Engineers has detailed the new grade in a recent post. It says that it was really a consortium of passenger car manufactures who requested the new oil grade below SAE 20. The thought is that the new engines being built are so much more efficient that they need a lower weight oil that reduces friction resulting in better fuel economy.

“The main driving force for using lower-viscosity oils is to lower hydrodynamic friction, thereby increasing fuel economy,” said Michael Covitch of Lubrizol, Chair of the SAE International Engine Oil Viscosity Classification (EOVC) task force, according to

But why the 16? Why not 15?

Currently, the SAE 20 is the lowest high-temperature grade. And other grades are typically seperated by fives. SAE says the problem with that is two reasons. First, their standrad, J300, addresses both high- and low-temperature grades (the latter use “W” to indicate “winter”). Second, going by fives would have caused confusion with the low-temperature grades out there like SAE 10W, SAE 5W or SAE 0W.

Another big reason?

“The most compelling reason is that one of the most popular SAE viscosity grades for heavy-duty diesel trucks around the world and diesel passenger cars in Europe is SAE 15W-40,” Covitch said. “Our task force was concerned that adopting SAE 15 might be confusing to consumers familiar with SAE 15W-40 oils and might lead to misapplication of the wrong oil in the wrong vehicle, particularly vehicles not designed to operate on such low-viscosity lubricants.”

With the name confusion squared away, this new lower grade could be the ticket to improving passenger cars, but what about trucks? This engines typically have a lot more torque than a passenger car and thus the oil demands are different. This new grade will not have a large impact on them, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if newer trucks with their lighter weight and more efficient gasoline engines start using lighter oils to improve fuel economy. And the fact is that engineers are working on engines that have nano-coatings that lubricate the parts with almost no oil needed. Yet, what impact will these items have on long-term engine durability and reliability?

What do you think? Are new oil viscosity grades a smart way to improve fuel economy or is the long-term durability and reliably a larger issue?

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  • Filed Under: Auto News


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    1. Brian J says:

      I think the question is more about high temperature and high load volatility, and shear strength. If those can hold together as well as other oils, then what’s the real difference. Then again, we already have 0W-20 and 5W-20. Is there really a benefit to going this tiny amount thinner? I would imagine this will be synthetic only?

      I like the low temperature pourability of the thinner oils and the high temperature stability of the syntehtics. Here in KS it can range from the single digits in the winter to triple digits in the summer. I need a good all year round oil to use continuously. 5W-20 hasn’t given me any problems to date. I will need to see some high-temp durability studies to influence me that this 16 wt oil is superior to my current viscosity of choice.

    2. mendonsy says:

      Why not SAE 15-3/8 or some other more useless number. It’s not gonna make any difference, just advertising hype!!

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