Low Viscosity Oil – What Are the Advantages to Switching?

low viscosity oil

Low Viscosity Oil


If managing a fleet of trucks is part of your business, then fuel is more than likely your primary operating expense. When oil and gas prices are on the decline, businesses tend to be less concerned with policing their expenditures, but what happens when the cost of oil and gas inevitably increase? Will your organization be able to  weather a rise in fuel costs and the ever-increasing variable expenditures that accompany operating a fleet of trucks? By transitioning to a low viscosity oil or synthetic lubricant, fleet operators have the potential to save anywhere from  1-2% on their fuel economy as well as extending drain intervals up to 50% annually.

How will running a low viscosity oil affect your engine?

Running a low viscosity oil or synthetic lubricant in your engine decreases energy loss, reduces viscous drag and increases the overall efficiency of your truck while also extending drain intervals. Lower viscosity formulations flow faster and smoother through the oil pump, requiring less energy to transfer lubrication throughout the engine. They reduce friction between the piston compression rings and the cylinder walls, minimizing metal-to-metal contact and prolonging the life of your engine components. Synthetic or synthetic blends of lower viscosity lubricants have excellent shear, hydrolytic and thermal stability and enhanced cold start performance. They can also maintain optimal viscosity in a wide range of ambient temperatures.

“Running a low viscosity oil or synthetic lubricant in your engine decreases energy loss, reduces viscous drag and increases the overall efficiency of your truck while also extending drain intervals.” 

How will transitioning to a lower viscosity lubricant affect your bottom line?

With a low viscosity oil or synthetic lubricant your engine will do more with less, completing more work cycles between longer drain intervals. This keeps your fleet on the road longer, saving you money by reducing costly downtime. A potential savings of 1-2% on fuel economy and drain interval extensions averaging 50% can add up to thousands of dollars annually. According to a 2015 study by the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), the average annual vehicle miles for a class 8 truck were nearly 70,000, with annual gallons consumed per truck at roughly 12,889, and by December of 2016 the median price for diesel was $2.51 per gallon according to the Energy Administration Association (EIA).

5 things to consider when choosing a lower viscosity or synthetic lubricant

  1. Know your fleet. How old are your truck engines and can they handle a lower viscosity oil? Decreasing viscosity on an older engine may increase wear, which decreases engine performance and ultimately leads to a reduction in fuel economy as engine components are compromised.
  2. Understand your operating environment and the ambient climate conditions your trucks will be performing under, whether they be extreme winter lows or the scorching heat of a desert highway.
  3. Understand your fleet’s driving pattern and how your trucks are being used. Are you long-haul towing cross-country or staying local, making frequent stops within city limits?
  4. Consider performing an oil analysis test as part of your preventative maintenance schedule before and after implementing a new lubricant product. Begin with a benchmark test of how your engine currently processes oil, checking for signs of wear in the presence of metals and soot and then do a follow-up analysis to assess your engine’s response to the new product. For business owners that are skeptical about making the transition to a lower viscosity product, an oil analysis will provide the proof.
  5. Transition slowly. With a large fleet it can seem overwhelming and cost prohibitive at the onset to move to a more expensive lubricant product, so start slowly by performing a trial on a small batch sample of trucks.

The bottom line on switching to a lower viscosity grade of oil

A fleet manager’s number one priority is keeping costs down as much as possible while maximizing payback when switching a heavy-duty fleet to an alternative product. As EPA regulations and CAFE standards increase to achieve higher levels of fuel economy while reducing GHG and NOx emissions, managers and business owners are more concerned than ever about how increased regulations will lead to significantly higher operating costs alongside the cost of new truck purchases.

In the study, An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking: 2016 Update conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), fuel costs are consistently the largest marginal cost line-item expense and generally account for 30-40% of a motor carrier’s cost per mile. It’s difficult to predict future trends in fuel prices, but the cost of additional related operating expenses will inevitably continue to rise. According to the ATRI study, the average fleet age increased in 2015 to 8.7 years compared to 7.4 years in 2014, suggesting that carriers are now holding onto equipment for longer periods of time. Transitioning to a lower viscosity or synthetic oil can help fleet managers maintain their trucks longer while  keeping them running at optimal levels.

Contact an SCL Consultant today

In a wide range of industrial sectors, if there’s metal touching metal, oil is involved. At SCL, we’re here to protect and optimize the machines that keep our country moving and we pride ourselves on providing superior logistics and solutions, extensive product and industry knowledge and total performance satisfaction for our customers. As a cost savings strategy, consider converting your fleet to a lower viscosity oil to help your organization meet its 2017 budgetary goals. For more information on how to transition your fleet to a more fuel efficient, lower viscosity or synthetic oil contact one of our SCL consultants today.


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