Who really makes John Deere and Case tractor oil?

Who really makes John Deere oil?
So who really makes this stuff?

I get asked who makes John Deere oil and Case oil all the time, and the truth is it depends on the year, or sometimes the month. John Deere simply hires the lowest bidder that can meet the spec they specify. For most common non specialty tractor engine oils, this usually means Northland Oil in Waterloo, IA. For specialty oils it could be Chevron, Mobil, Shell, Exxon or any other of the big brands, depending on who won the low bid that month. Case is exactly the same way.

You’ve probably heard through the grapevine that John Deere doesn’t make their own oil so there is no point in paying a premium for their logo on the jug. While this seems logical, you have to understand how oils are made to make your own decision.

  1. All oils are made by blending a base oil (synthetic or conventional) with additives to change the weight of the oil and give it different properties (like detergents and anti friction molecules).
  2. Base oils are pretty much the same from company to company. If you take straight base oil from Northland and Exxon and compare them, there’s no way to tell the difference.
  3. The differences in come from the additives put in the base oil. John Deere specifies the exact additive package they want in their branded oil down to a molecular level. Case does the same, along with Cat, Kubota the list goes on. Every manufacturer thinks that the additive package they specify is the best for their engines.
  4. The companies who can meet the exact performance and additives spec that John Deere or Case requires, for the lowest price, gets the rights to put the John Deere or CNH sticker on the jug.

To summarize, we know that A. The base oils are nearly identical between companies, and B. The additives and specs are set by the tractor manufacturer. This means that just because Mobil or Shell is currently making a certain John Deere oil, it does NOT mean a jug of Mobil off the shelf at Walmart is the same oil.

Now that we have this info it makes it easier to make an informed decision on what you want to put in your tractor. The real question becomes; “Is the spec that John Deere or CNH set for their oil good enough?” In my opinion, the answer is “probably”. If probably isn’t good enough for you, then we start to look for oils that actually exceed John Deere spec.


Alternative oils that exceed John Deere spec

To get a better oil than John Deere offers, we need to look at smaller brands that offer full synthetic oils.  Smaller brands are known to use different base oil and additive packages that will boost wear protection and molecule breakdown, but they come with added cost.

John Deere oil is a good oil, and if you are happy with it by all means keep using it.  But don’t buy the dealership salesman line that there isn’t a better oil out there for your tractor.  But is the added cost of these premium oils worth it?  If you trade tractors every couple of years, absolutely not. But if you have a tractor you want to last many hours or years then it can be a wise investment.

There are 2 major brands that have oils that test as good or slightly better than John Deere oil, Rotella T6 and Mobil Delovac 1 ESP.  That being said, depending on which oil wear test result you look at, those 2 are nearly identical with JD oil.  Because of this I’d just stick to John Deere, but if you are in a pinch either would work just fine.

Royal Purple Oil for John Deere

The 2 oils that actually hold up significantly better than John Deere oil are Royal Purple Duralec 15w40 Diesel Oil and Schaeffer’s SynShield 15W-40 Diesel Oil They aren’t cheap, you will likely pay $5-10 more a gallon than John Deere oil, but the performance is unmatched.  Amsoil marketing likes to use their own testing methods to boost their own oil to higher ratings. When full independent tests are done (and there are many on the internet) you will see it doesn’t perform that great compared to Royal Purple Duralec or Schaeffer’s SynShield.

The truth is, there is a lot of smoke and mirrors in the tractor oil world.  All the major brand oils are very similar, and you have to get into the smaller labels to find a slightly better product.  The key to all this is to do your research and don’t take what the dealership oil salesman tells you as gospel. TAKEAWAYS: Is John Deere oil good? YES.  Is it better than what you can buy at Walmart? PROBABLY.  Is it the absolute best? NO, there are higher performing small label oils out there for a slightly higher price.