Not all oils are created equal, and there's a new product on the market that comes with a pretty bold claim. Mobil 1 Annual Protection promises a life of 20,000 miles or one year, whichever comes first, before the oil needs to be changed.

Intrigued by the claim, chief explainer Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained decided to go behind the scenes and look at the testing Mobil 1 used to make such an assertion in its latest oil blend. It's fascinating because, contrary to popular belief, marketers don't simply slap on some graphics and hope for the best. Market research suggested a consumer desire a product like Annual Protection, and Mobil 1 engineers stepped up to the challenge. 

Jason's video takes a look at the process Mobil 1 used, but it's also much broader in appeal, at least for anyone interested in oil. It delves into the additives in today's oils and the process by which any oil is tested to become certified for use in today's cars. Watch this video and you'll learn more about oil than you ever thought you wanted to know.

Back to Mobil 1 and its testing procedure for Mobil 1 Annual Protection.

The company first looked at various oil additives to choose what will help achieve the 20,000-mile claim. These included:

  • viscosity index improvers: large molecules that prevent the oil from getting too thin when it heats up
  • antioxidants: used to prevent the oil from oxidizing or breaking down
  • anti-wear additives: create a sacrificial layer on metal surfaces that is constantly being removed and replaced
  • ashless dispersants: used to prevent sludge from accumulating
  • detergents: neutralize acids and attach to deposits to keep the engine clean
  • defoamants: prevent oil from foaming

About 10 percent of the oil is composed of additives. Engineers arrived at a formula using these additives and created a test sample. The sample was sent to lab screening to determine if the formula would pass the required tests.

Thus begins the second portion of the video: the tests.

One of the many tests was called TEOST 33C. In the test, oil flows around a stainless steel rod with varying heat cycles above 200 degrees to 480 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the oil also flows through a reactor vessel where it's bubbled with nitrous oxide and oxygen. In the end, engineers clean off the oil on the rod then weigh it against the rod's original weight to see the deposits left on the component. This is an incredibly difficult test for oil blends to pass and one of many intricate parts that goes into oil development.

Next came the Oxidation Stability Test and the Thin Film Oxidation Test. The Oxidation Stability Test ensures that the oil maintains its proper viscosity over its lifetime. The Thin Film Oxidation Test looks at how much oxidation builds up on parts.

Then came the engine tests. A GM turbo test with a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder Ecotec engine certifies that the oil is compatible with GM's engines. It's a 500-hour test that cycles from high to mid rpm. After the test, the turbo was cut apart and examined, and Mobil 1 Annual Protection passed. Another engine test involved a Toyota 2NRFE engine. It's a 200-hour test and it examines the lifter buckets after the engine cycles from idle to 4,300 rpm 24,000 times. Again, the oil passed.

Next up were the MADS (mileage accumulation dynamometer stand) tests. Using a 2015 Lexus NX 200t, a 2016 Ford Fusion SE, and a 2016 Chevy Malibu, all with turbocharged 4-cylinder engines and each given a different weight of oil, Mobile 1 ran the vehicles up to 120,000 miles and performed oil changes at 20,000-mile intervals. Engineers tested the oil every 5,000 miles and simulated various driving conditions. Once the tests were complete, the three engines were torn down and inspected for varnish, sludge, carbon deposits, and wear on the parts.

In addition, the oil that was removed every 5,000 miles was broken down and analyzed to see what metals were in the oil. This determined what components may be wearing too quickly. This process was also used to ensure that the viscosity and other oil properties remained within the oil's requirements during the full 20,000 miles.

Finally, Mobile 1 used the dynamometers to perform a 500,000-mile highway test with a Chevy Silverado. If any component the oil touches failed during the test, it would be game over. However, the Annual Protection survived. Every component remained within SAE specification in the interval tests and at the end of the 500,000 miles. 

There's much more to take in from the video, and after watching it, you'll realize that there's more than meets the eye in a simple bottle of oil.