Even if you’ve only been in the automotive repair industry for a short time, you’ve no doubt heard about technical fluids (motor oil, brake fluid, etc.) that “meet specifications”, fluids that are “recommended”, and fluids that have “approvals”.
What you may not know is that these terms mean different things. To complicate matters, not every brand uses the same language in their performance claims.
As discussed in the video, an OEM Approval is the highest level of endorsement. Pentosin’s Pento SP III SAE 5W-30 motor oil (CRP Part # 8078106 1L / 8078206 5L) has approvals from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and VW. This means that each of these car manufacturers has signed a letter confirming that the product meets their demands and has passed all of their system testing — which often takes years to complete.
Often in the case of transmission fluids, it’s not the carmaker who grants the approval, but the Tier 1 manufacturer. An example of a Tier 1 manufacturer would be ZF or Getrag. These manufacturers often supply a gearbox that comes to the car assembly line pre-filled (known as a “wet” transmission). So the OEM is not purchasing any transmission fluid for production but a preassembled, prefilled transmission.
In some instances, where a carmaker hasn’t given an approval, an oil can be referred to as a “Recommendation” by the oil maker. Pentosin Pento SP III SAE5W-30 is considered a “Recommendation” for a Porsche C30 approval.
There are any number of reasons why a perfectly appropriate fluid may not get an approval, but a recommendation — especially one from a company as trusted as Pentosin — can be considered a very strong endorsement.
Which brings us to “Specifications”. All this means is that this particular fluid also meets some additional OE specifications. API and ACEA are specifications, not car manufacturer approvals. Meeting a specification is just one requirement needed to gain an OEM’s approval.
It is important to note that some oil manufacturers can meet a specification but never apply for what can be a lengthy and time-consuming approval process. Instead they’ll use the spec as a marketing message as if it is an approval.
Rest assured that Pentosin, which CRP helped launch in the NAFTA aftermarket years ago, is very transparent about what is meant by each term.