It’s a sign of performance–the API Certification Mark, or as it’s commonly called, the “Starburst.” The mark is familiar to many in our industry–but which oils get marked? What performance standards does the mark confirm? How are these standards defined? And developed?

In simple terms, the mark means that a given lubricant meets current fuel economy and engine protection requirements defined within the current International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) GF oil specification. These requirements are proposed by ILSAC, worked within the Auto/Oil Advisory Panel (AOAP), and then adopted by the American Petroleum Institute (API). It’s a stringent process that is a result of an industry collaboration between auto manufacturers, oil marketers, additive makers, independent testing laboratories, technical societies and more.

The mark applies to a majority of lubricants in North America but can be found globally when manufacturer recommend an API approved lubricant. For consumers/end users, the Starburst signifies confidence that the oil they’re purchasing meets a rigid set of credentials that automobile manufacturers recommend as indicated by the presence of the Starburst in the owner’s manual.

How does it all come together?

It starts with the AOAP, a group consisting of OEMs (Auto) and oil marketers/ additive makers/ base oils suppliers (Oil), who determine a need for a specification upgrade, the specification criteria, and the time frame over which it will be developed. This group votes to reach consensus on which testing requirements must be met to receive the mark; a two-thirds consensus is necessary to move forward. Some questions that are commonly considered throughout this process are:

  • What is the proposed change, and why was it requested?
  • Does evidence support the request?
  • When is it needed in the marketplace?
  • What are the potential impacts on engines, consumers and the environment?
  • Will the change affect existing API categories, and how?
  • What tests are necessary to evaluate performance?

A draft specification will follow this process, then a period of review, and then finalization by AOAP and adoption by the API Lubricants Group. Once the new final specification is put in place, any company wishing to market an oil meeting the new standard has one year to license with API for permission to use the Certification Mark. The license must be renewed each year.

Because the Certification Mark does not change when a newer version of the specification is adopted, not only is the older specification retired, but the new specification must be suitable to protect older cars along with cars with newer engine technologies. In the industry, this is referred to as “backwards compatible.” Currently, the proposed GF-6 specification is under development. Once finalized, the GF-6 specification will be fully backwards compatible and can be used in applications that recommend GF-5 or earlier specified lubricants. One year after launch of GF-6, the GF-5 specification will become obsolete and only GF-6 lubricants will be licensed.

Lubrizol Additives has been involved in the AOAP process for many years–it’s part of our commitment to the industry, and our commitment to keeping our partners informed and updated on the latest developments in our industry.

For more information about the API Certification, please contact your Lubrizol account representative.