ILSAC Multigrade Motor Oil | ILSAC Definition | What is ILSAC Motor Oil?

What is the Meaning of ILSAC Multigrade Motor Oil?

Most people are familiar with the general meaning of motor oil.  It's a lubricant and its used in things like cars, lawnmowers, motorcycles, and much more.  What some people may not be familiar with is the term ILSAC multigrade motor oil.  What is ILSAC multigrade motor oil?

To better understand what it means, you should first understand the four basic types of oils - conventional, high-mileage, synthetic blends and synthetic.


This is your primary motor oil with a range of quality levels and viscosity grades.  Basic engines and standard driving styles are appropriate for this kind of lubricant.


For vehicles that have a high degree of miles, over 75,000, or for vehicles that are older, this lubricant is what's recommended. Its formulation helps to eliminate oil burn-off and helps to reduce oil leaks.

Synthetic Blend

This is a lubricant that employs both synthetic and primary base oils.  This sort of mixture is designed to resist oxidation better than conventional oils.


This kind of lubricant is chemically engineered.  There are fewer impurities than those found in conventional oil.  The user will find a superior high temperature and low-temperature performance.

Understanding the various types of oils, however, is just the first step.  Not all lubricants for vehicles are up to grade, and only quality oil, the only kind you should be putting in your cars, etc., is graded.  Quality oil is ranked based on many things including if it's environmentally safe, for instance, or if its viscosity is subpar or up to standard. Classifying viscosity, for example, is determining the thickness and consistency.  How does the lubricant flow?  A rating system was launched by the Society of Automotive Engineers or SAE for the status of grading.   If oil is like water, it gets labeled with a low viscosity.  If it is thick like honey, it gets a high viscosity.

The way the rating appears is with an XW-XX.  The first number before the dash is the oil's flow at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.  The lower the number before the W the less thick the oil gets in the cold.  A rating of 0W to 5W, for example, is an excellent rating for a vehicle that resides in a cold climate.   The second number after the dash is the oil's relation to 212 degrees Fahrenheit.  A score of 30, for example, will get thin at high temperatures faster than a rating of 40.   So a rating of 0W-20, for example, is suitable for vehicles in cold regions.   A rating of 20W-50, for example, is suitable for vehicles in the hot areas.

When you purchase a quality motor oil with a "starburst" symbol, you know that it meets all of the current minimum industry requirements.  The American Petroleum Institute or API stamp of approval is called the  "American Petroleum Institute Certified."  However, to have this symbol, the oil has to meet the requirements of the ILSAC or the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee.

What is the ILSAC?

The International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee is an American and Japanese effort, formed in 1992, to standardize motor oil for the consumer so that the consumer knows what they are buying.  There are various levels of grading beginning with ILSAC GF-1 which was replaced by ILSAC GF-2 in 1996.  (The only acceptable API service classifications today are SJ, SL, SM, and SN.  Anything below SJ is considered obsolete and harmful to a vehicle.)  You can find the classifications in the API Donut which also includes the SAE status.  Classifications for the ILSAC go all the way up to GF-6.

When buying your motor oil, it's critical to look for the symbols that show that the motor oil has met the standards.  Look for the API Donut and make sure that the API Service says SJ, SL, SM or SN.  Otherwise, avoid the motor oil as it can damage your vehicle and is not up to code.  Check the SAE ratings and other ratings of the oil.  

It's always recommended to check the make of your vehicle before you purchase any motor oil.  Today, you can buy motor oil online as well as at a physical location.  If you buy motor oil online, make sure the ratings and descriptions are clearly displayed.