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More on MaxLife ATF

PQIA received a number of calls and emails following the update it published last week on the assessment of the Valvoline MaxLife DEX/MERC ATF. Understandably, due to the label on the product prominently stating “DEX/MERC,” and the Product Information sheet stating “Suitable for use in: Ford MERCON®” most of the questions were directed at asking if the Valvoline MaxLife DEX/MERC ATF did in fact meet the DEXRON® III/MERCON® specification.

img4[1]The answer is no, the MaxLife ATF tested does not meet the MERCON® specification. This is because the viscosity specification for MERCON® is 6.8 cSt minimum @ 100°C and the MaxLife sample tested at 6.0 cSt. To this point, Valvoline responded to PQIA with a technical explanation regarding the use of synthetic base oils in the product, its shear stability, and why the product is suitable (click here for letter) saying MaxLife ATF will provide acceptable “even superior” performance in MERCON® applications and is “suitable for use” in these applications.

PQIA understands Valvoline’s position with regards to this issue and appreciates the company reaching out to us to explain it and to assure consumers the product is perfectly acceptable in MERCON® applications. PQIA does, however, remain concerned that the practice of referring to a specification where the data is not consistent with that specification opens the door for abuse.

If it’s acceptable for a supplier to say its product is suitable for use in applications where it does not meet the specifications for that application, how can a consumer really be assured that the product will perform similar or better than the original specification?

With the propensity of products on the market, and the harsh reality that there are some suppliers that place products on the market that do not meet implied and/or even stated performance requirements, PQIA’s position is that we cannot condone the reference to a specification when the product does not adhere to all aspects of that specification.

PQIA does, however, welcome suppliers to explain why they believe their failure to strictly comply with a specification does not adversely impact performance requirements.

Let us know what you think. Post a REPLY below

7 Responses

  1. Product specifications are just that… specific. Although I don’t recall any other Valvoline products being on PQIA’s list of concerns, why would Valvoline – with its highly respected name brand product line – be willing to potentially compromise its reputation by dabbling in dubious practices? My contention is major brand suppliers should be beyond reproach in this regard. Suppliers should lead the way with uncompromising integrity. As a petroleum products marketing company, we place a very high value on the integrity of our suppliers. So do our customers.

    • Bravo Valvoline.

      Exceeding the performance requirements is the right thing to do. Trying to adhere to an obsolete spec is foolish. This is an example of working for the consumer.

  2. Is Valvoline setting a precedent whereby lubricant manufacturers are free to interpret specifications and unilaterally determine if their products are suitable for use in a given application? If so, where does it stop and who draws the lines to separate the good from the bad?
    ATF specifications are an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed by industry stakeholders. Because if we don’t address them, someone else might as we are already seeing signs of it in CA.

  3. I firmly believe that “suitable for use” when used to define performance characteristics is okay, but it should not be used to imply that it “meets the specifications of” a certain product or standard. THat is misleading and should only be allowed as a general statement and should be made clear on the label that it actually doues NOT meet the specifications.

  4. If you read the label it also is recommended for GM dexron VI. Valvoline has an approved ATF Dex VI on the market, why not approve this product with GM and they would not have had to explain everything in a letter. This product is listed as a higher mileage oil, most GM owners using DEX VI would be getting their first ATF service till around the 75,000 – 100,000 mile mark. This product should be marketed as a multi vehicle ATF and not focused on the confusing Dex/Mercon spec. Lets also change the label from recommended for use in, to, can be used in the following applications, or, suitable for the following applications. Don’t confuse the consumer that the vehicle manufacturer is recommending this type of product.

  5. I’m a bit disappointed that PQIA changed their opinion on the Valvoline rating, based upon the letter from Valvoline. Regardless of whether or not the competitor’s products are more likely to shear than Maxlife (due to its alleged “superior” synthetic base stock), it simply does not meet the specifications.

    There may be a very valid reason why some users of certain products experience slipping transmissions and other problems with some products and not with others. One would think that, if all Dex/Merc were equal, this would not be the case. Many older transmissions, from what I have seen, are intolerant of Dextron VI in spite of it being allegedly backwards-compatible.

    Ashland’s letter is blatantly wrong. This 6.8 cSt standard was not determined in the 1980s. It is a minimum of 6.4 cSt at 100°C for Dexron VI (2005). Any way you look at it, they are simply marketing a Dextron VI-spec product as being compatible with an old spec that can no longer be licensed (hence the name Dex/Merc to get around this loophole).

    The lowest-permitted final viscosity of either spec is 5.5 cSt, but bear in mind that is throughout the normal service life of the fluid. One of my cars still calls for Dextron III even with an 80k service life on the fluid.

    But the fact of the matter remains that there is now an outdated spec and products can no longer be licensed for an old spec. Manufacturers are selling unlicensed products with relatively similar forumations to Dextron VI.

    Why is it, though, that Maxlife is the only product in the tests that do not meet the specifications? Is Valvoline implying that their iterpretation of the spec is more accurate than everyone else? There is a problem here.

  6. Many of the comments have involved obsolete specifications but not much has been said regarding current specifications such as MERCON® V which appears on the Valvoline product data sheet. According to the Southwest Research Institute site, the minimum viscosity allowed is 6.8 cSt @ 100°C. The Valvoline ATF would not meet this requirement. This and other specifications for the most part have not been made interchangeable by the OEMs. Ford still holds MERCON® V, MERCON® SP, MERCON® LV as separate fluids. Toyota to my knowledge holds the T-IV and WS ATFs as not fully interchangeable nor does Hyundai/Kia for SPH-IV with SP-III or the Nissan Matic ATFs. Allison TES 389 is based on GM DEXRON®-III(H) plus additional requirements and has a very specific approval process with the Valvoline ATF not being approved. Historically Allison excluded GM DEXRON®-VI ATFs though that might change in the future.

    These are all current specifications with vehicles that could still be in warranty which does raise concern for consumers. Valvoline has made use of General Motors backward compatibility of DEXRON®-VI to DEXRON®-III as a basis for suitability in other applications. The additive companies historically have qualified claims around their additive systems as “when blended to the proper viscosity.” Valvoline and several others making multi-vehicle ATFs have taken liberties with these performance claims.

    As groups such as the state of California and even OEMs and consumers have challenged some of their claims, viscosities have been modified and claims slowly reduced to comply with a specific challenge. Unfortunately these companies only address the specific challenge and not every specification that is at issue.

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