With no unifying specification system, ATF specs vary widely and have unique demands.
Transmission fluids are complex lubricants responsible for a number of different functions, including dissipating heat, protecting against wear, protecting against corrosion and ensuring shift quality. In addition, automatic transmission fluids are not governed by a sanctioning body the way engine oils are governed by the American Petroleum Institute (API) or the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC), so there is no universal specification that meets the needs of several applications. Instead, ATF specifications are set individually by each vehicle/transmission original equipment manufacturer (OEM), and each OEM specification has unique requirements. In some cases, a manufacturer may reference an existing ATF specification for use in its equipment. A few common examples of OEM specifications include General Motors DEXRON VI®, Ford MERCON V® and Chrysler ATF+4®. Each has evolved over time to accommodate new transmission and lubricant technology.
Manufacturers designate specific requirements for the fluid to ensure transmissions perform as advertised for the designated warranty period. Fluids designed to meet an OEM specification must first pass specific minimum criteria. Test parameters include seal performance, wear protection, cold-temperature performance, deposit resistance and longevity/clutch performance. Additionally, friction durability is extremely important for automatic transmission fluids; strong frictional properties ensure proper clutch operation.
In order to be used in an application, a transmission fluid must meet the minimum requirements outlined in the OEM’s fluid specification. OEMs develop their specifications to ensure any transmission fluid used in their applications is designed to provide acceptable performance and wear protection over the transmission/ drivetrain warranty period.
Alternatively, AMSOIL designed its automatic transmission fluids with customers and businesses in mind, using a multivehicle design to reduce the complexity and cost of managing multiple fluid inventories. AMSOIL builds its fluids with a more robust design platform compared to OEM fluids, providing improved wear protection, better cold-temperature performance, superior deposit protection and greater shift performance over time.
This multi-vehicle design platform requires detailed knowledge of OEM tests and specifications and a large commitment to expensive testing. Designing a fluid to meet multiple OEM transmission fluid specifications naturally results in a more robust ATF. For example, OEM fluid 1 must meet the minimum specifications outlined in Figure 1. OEM fluid 2 must meet a different level of performance for the main parameters outlined in Figure 2. When these are laid over the top of each other, it’s clear that the two OEM fluids are designed to meet slightly different levels of performance.
AMSOIL ATFs must then meet the most stringent criteria of each specification to perform well in each application (Figure 3). Because AMSOIL ATFs must meet the most demanding levels of each OEM specification, they exceed the performance of OEM transmission fluids by design, resulting in noticeable performance and protection benefits for users.
On the surface, it seems difficult to understand how AMSOIL ATFs can meet the requirements of multiple vehicle/transmission fluid specifications. When you dig in and do your homework, it becomes clear how to attack this problem: by pushing the boundaries for each specific test to the point where the fluid meets and exceeds multiple OEM specifications. Achieving this goal has been difficult, but worthwhile. It helps all of us save money, it reduces complexity for our valued customers and it keeps our cars running longer.