Wear War: Shell/Quaker State Calls Out Competitors

Big oil is prepping for an all-out battle for your oil change maintenance dollars.  You’ve seen the ads – every major oil company touting why their formulations are the best.  You’ve seen sludge dumped on cars in the drive-through lane, engines imploding from a lack of protection, “thermal wear” demonstrations, and trucks pulling large loads with engines failing under the pressure of their inferior motor oil formulations.

But which ad should you believe?  We all know that marketing is a chess match.  Make the wrong move with your product, and it’s “checkmate” for the other brand.  We’re talking billions of dollars in annual sales of motor oil here!

Well, Shell Oil’s subsidiary Quaker State is calling out other major brands.  All oils claim they have superior wear protection, but with all the claims going back and forth, consumers must be confused.  To erase any doubt, Shell/Quaker State President Steve Harman has challenged Mobil 1, Castrol Edge and Valvoline to participate in lab testing to see which lubricant does in fact provide the best wear protection

A letter penned by Harman was sent to presidents of those competitors, giving them a deadline of Friday, March 27 at 5 p.m. Eastern DST to respond to his challenge.

Here’s a copy of the letter:

March 20, 2009

Dear Sirs and Madams:

As the senior executive with responsibility for Quaker State, I am writing to invite you to a motor oil challenge.

In recent months, some companies have generated marketing materials that make claims and comparisons against one another related to engine wear protection via results from the ASTM Sequence IVA test. Interestingly, you did not include Quaker State Q HorsePower® full synthetic motor oil in the war of words about wear protection. Perhaps because you know what the team at Quaker State has always known – that no leading full synthetic SAE 5W-30 motor oil provides better wear protection than Quaker State Q HorsePower – not Castrol, not Valvoline, not Mobil 1.

But with all the claims going back and forth, consumers must be confused. So at Quaker State, we feel the need to erase any doubt. Today, we hereby pledge to bring clarity to this “Wear War,” by making public the scientific data that illustrates for consumers the actual wear rating of each brand’s full synthetic motor oil.

To facilitate this, Quaker State now officially challenges your brands in the Sequence IVA test. We’ll even pay for it. We would be grateful if you could name one ILSAC GF-4, SAE 5W-30 full synthetic motor oils from your brands that is widely available across the US to take part in this challenge against our Quaker State Q HorsePower 5W30 full synthetic motor oil.

In conducting the test, a score of 90 microns of wear is the acceptable threshold for the most
current ILSAC GF‐4 and API SM certifications, and the lower the score in the ASTM Sequence IVA the higher the level of wear protection provided by the motor oil.

Quaker State has already arranged for a respected, third-party applied research and development organization to conduct the one-time, unbiased ASTM Sequence IVA test.

If you accept the challenge, the independent testing firm Test Engineers Inc. will purchase off the shelf at a major national retailer the product that you identify for testing. The products will be marked as blind samples for the test. The results of the test will be analyzed at 95% statistical
confidence level to determine which oil truly performs best on the Sequence IVA wear protection test. The results of the test will be published.

So, if you really believe your product can protect against wear the best, here is your opportunity to prove it.

Please reply to this challenge at the address below by Friday, March 27 at 5 p.m. EST.

Best Regards,
Steve Harman
President Americas

So the “Wear War” is on!  We’ve got our pay-per view tickets to this Royal Rumble, and will keep you posted if the competitors accept the Quaker State challenge.  We may soon have a true “Wear Champion” in the lucrative consumer motor oil market.

Technology ,


  1. My understanding is that only Valvoline has replied to the request to this point, and have only gone as far to state that ‘they make good oil too’.

    No word from the Mobil or Castrol guys – but Castrol Edge still has the best current advertising campaign. Now, their engineers just need to start thinking with THEIR dipsticks… jimmy!

  2. the true is they all make a good product.I would hazard that the vast majority of people have no idea what oil goes into their engines as long as it was put there by a qualified service org. Most do it your selfers will have a preference to one or another brand, but that comes more from years of use and a gut feeling on how well it performs. With todays engines, if you change the oil (and filter)regularly at 3- 5k miles,with a branded oil meeting specs, do the basic recommended maintainence, its a pretty good bet you’ll get 150 to 200k miles out of your engine before it begins to give you signs of wear. I’ve done this for 30 years with my cars from honda,volvo jaguar, saab, nissan, and not one has ever suffered a n lubrication related problem. I keep my cars generally 150 to 225k miles.

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