Simon Michell guides us through how to avoid costly mistakes when choosing motor oil

Here’s a teaser for you… What is the similarity between daytime TV and VM oil specifications?

The answer is that they both mess with your mind! But in different ways. The big difference with getting oil specifications wrong, is the repercussions on your wallet. Recently new specifications for oil have grown significantly.

There are a lot of oils on the market… but how to chose the right one

The Mercedes Benz 229.71 is a good example, the chemistry is designed for the new low viscosity 0W-20 oil and specifically to meet the ever-tightening European emissions regulation in 2021 and beyond. This Mercedes Benz oil specification is based on the new ACEA Low SAPS C5, which is the fastest growing engine oil category in Europe.

High on the list of desired oil performance, is the ability to deal with sludge, oxidation, wear and Low Speed Pre Ignition (LSPI).

 This LSPI phenomenon occurs in modern Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI). The resultant detonation can have disastrous consequences – not least putting a hole in the piston. The cause of LSPI can be traced back to certain additives used in the engine oil.


The vehicle handbook is the definitive source of specific oil information. And with the Vauxhall handbooks now available online, I took the opportunity to have a look at the 2020 Vauxhall Insignia.

The first thing I noticed was the oil change intervals. European service intervals are 20,000 miles. Whilst international service intervals are 10,000 miles.


What was interesting is that Vauxhall and therefore Stellantis which now owns Vauxhall/Opel clearly states: 

 “the quality of the oil is more important than the viscosity when selecting which engine oil to use”. Good point, well made.


Vauxhall go on to say the engine quality ensures

“engine cleanliness, wear protection and oil aging control”

Turning the page, brings us to the Vauxhall oil recommendations. A clear head is needed here!


Vauxhall Insignia 2020 owner’s handbook

Vauxhall Insignia handbook

The take here is that GM Dexos1 Gen2 is not to be confused with GM Dexos2….and definitely not be confused with OVO401547!


The 2020 Mokka handbook spices things up, because it has moved onto the PSA oil specifications – PSA B71 2010 and B71 2312.

Vauxhall Mokka owners’ handbook

Vauxhall Mokka handbook


It all gets a bit complex……. How to ensure the right oil is used?

Firstly, don’t take chances with modern engines. It isn’t worth it

Give your local motor factor the registration number and let them sort it out – or use a manufacturer lookup – for example here’s the one at the company I work for:

Top tip: don’t use one lookup site and cross reference across to another brand.

Interestingly, 20 litre automotive oil sales are booming. The days of a one-barrel oil solution has disappeared the same way of the CD collection.


In the spirit of understanding what is going on – Here is a quick way of nailing the essential oil information without needing a PHD in oil engineering!


The four-question approach really does work – every time 

Think of a bottle of oil having four questions that need answering – in the right order. 

The first and second questions are straightforward. The third and fourth questions is where it is easy to get into a muddle. 

Oh, and it’s really important question three and four are answered in the right order.


This method removes the likelihood of car manufacturer warranty rejects because the wrong oil was used. 

And it’s good to know the reasons why you are pouring in high quality golden liquid into an expensive piece of engineering excellence.

Also – you have the oil knowledge – and that feels good!


Image 3

Four questions to ask yourself Example answer
How is the engine oil made?

Mineral, semi synthetic or fully synthetic? 

Fully synthetic
What is the viscosity? 0W-20
What is the ACEA specification? ACEA C5
What is the manufacturer oil specification? Mercedes Benz 229.71


Let’s start with the first question.

How is the engine oil made? 

Is the oil mineral, semi synthetic, or fully synthetic? Modern engine oil is fully synthetic. 

If the bottle doesn’t state it, look on the specification sheet.


Second question.

What is the viscosity?

This is the simple one – It will be clearly stated on the bottle. For the past 10 years, it has been variations of the 5W-30 theme. 

However, as Bob put it so well ….The Times They Are A Changing.

0W-16, 0W-20, 5W-20, 0W-30 are all gaining traction with 2021 car engines. In case you were wondering, the three 0W-30 oils are BMW, Ford, and PSA.


The 0W-16 is the latest attempt by the oil chemists to extract extra fuel economy and a 0W-12 grade, is rumoured to be on its way.


Question three – this is where things can get a bit tricky.

What is the ACEA specification?

With 2021 oils, it is all about the Low SAPS “C”….The sequence being C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6

The action in 2021 oils revolves around the C5 oils (C6 is new this year)

Occasionally there will be an ILSAC specification, instead of ACEA. That’s fine. The handbook will state this. An example being ILSAC GF-6A or GF-6B

And in the spirit of keeping you up to date, ACEA C1 is being made obsolete (and ACEA A7/B7 is being introduced)


Which leads us nicely onto question four.

What is the manufacturer oil specification?

This the warranty reject zone. Get this wrong and your wallet will feel it

Put bluntly, the car manufacturers are frankly not interested in questions 1,2,3….They will assume these are correct. 

The pass or fail, is question four. Was the correct manufacturer oil specification used? And the specifications can be bewildering. 


As an aside: Why are there so many new and different oils?

A cynical view is that it helps direct the car owners back to the dealer, clutching their handbooks, requesting the latest oil specification for their cherished car.

An alternative view is that modern engines are exquisitely designed and have very specific demands on engine oil – hence the proliferation of engine oil specifications. You decide!


Deep breath time and let’s have a look at the six Valvoline 0W-20 oils and how the manufacturer oil specifications fit in.


First up is the new VW long-life oil VW 507.00/508.00

Image 4

  • SynPower™ XL-IV C5 SAE 0W-20
Question 1 – fully synthetic
Question 2 – 0W-20
Question 3 – ACEA C5
Question 4 – VW 508.00/509.00

This is the new VW long-life oil 

Not backwards compatible. Usually coloured green

Manufacturer approved


Volvo also have a dedicated oil 

Image 5

  • SynPower™ FE Motor Oil SAE 0W-20
Question 1 – fully synthetic
Question 2 – 0W-20
Question 3 – ACEA C5
Question 4 – Volvo RBSO 2AE

Manufacturer approved


Below is an example of several manufacturers oil demands being incorporated into a new oil when the oil chemistry is compatible. The oil is approved by all parties involved.

Image 6

  • SynPower™ MST C5 Motor Oil SAE 0W-20
Question 1 – fully synthetic
Question 2 – 0W-20
Question 3 – ACEA C5
Question 4 – In this instance there are four manufacturer approved specifications

BMW LL-17 FE+ – Latest BMW specification

BMW LL-14 FE+ – superseded to LL-17 FE+

Mercedes Benz 229.71 

Latest Mercedes Benz – the OM 654 diesel and 256, 265 petrol


Opel Vauxhall OVO 401547

Latest Vauxhall specification

We came this specification in the Vauxhall Insignia handbook


Jaguar Land Rover oil specifications share similar chemistry and is therefore compatible with Mercedes Benz specifications

Image 7

  • SynPower™ JL C5 0W20
Question 1 – fully synthetic
Question 2 – 0W-20
Question 3 – ACEA C5
Question 4 – STJLR 51.5122 

Mercedes Benz 229.71 

Manufacturer approved


GM/ Vauxhall (PSA) also have a dedicated oil

See how question 3 is answered by a new ILSAC GF-6A specification 

Image 9

  • Synpower™ DX1 SAE 0W-20
Question 1 – fully synthetic
Question 2 – 0W-20
Question 3 – ILSAC GF-6A 
Question 4 – GM dexos1 Gen2 (D13037BL103) approved 

Designed to combat Low Speed Pre Ignition protection (LSPI)


0W-20 dedicated hybrid oil 

Image 8

Valvoline Hybrid C5 0W-20 
Question 1 – fully synthetic
Question 2 – 0W-20
Question 3 – ACEA C5 
Question 4 –Often hybrid engines do not state this level. It’s all about question 3


Wrapping things up

Most car manufacturers in 2021 demand their own oil specification. However, the Japanese constructors tend to stick with just question 1,2,3

An example being Mazda CX5 2018 handbook

Image 10

Mazda CX5 2.2l  2018
Question 1 – Fully synthetic
Question 2 – 5W-30
Question 3 – ACEA C3
Question 4 – No Mazda specification


Finally: remember when life was simple, and we all used 10W-40?

Let’s have a look at the three Valvoline offerings of the much loved 10W-40 – Car, truck, and motorcycle.  

I have received a few calls in my time. “I’ve put motorcycle oil in a car engine – what do I do?”… answer, take it out, quickly!

……The motorcycle image on the bottle should have given a clue!


Using the four-question approach:


Car: Valvoline Synpower 10W-40
Q1. Semi synthetic
Q2. 10W-40
Q3.  ACEA A3/B4
Q4. Mercedes Benz car approved – back in the day


Image 12

Truck: Valvoline Profleet LS 10W-40
Q1. Fully synthetic
Q2. 10W-40
Q3.  ACEA E6 – truck Low SAPS
Q4. – Current truck manufacturer approvals


Image 13

Motorcycle: Valvoline Synpower 4T 10W-40
Q1. Fully synthetic
Q2. 10W-40
Q3.  JASO MA2 – Motorcycle oil specification
Q4. – Not applicable for motorcycle oil


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