ASTM Tackles Tractor Fluid Spec


Adding its weight to recent efforts to rid the tractor lubricant market of poor quality products, ASTM International announced last week that it will develop a minimum performance standard for tractor hydraulic fluids.

The standards writing organization announced its undertaking in an Aug. 1 press release, disclosing that it has already named the standard WK68882. The organization did not give a timeline for the project but invited representatives from tractor manufacturers, lubricant marketers and chemical additive suppliers to participate.

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“In order to remove poor quality fluids from the marketplace and to ensure that customers purchase fluids that really work, a minimum performance specification is necessary,” said Dow Chemical Co.‘s Lauren Huffman, technical contact for the initiative.

Tractor hydraulic fluids have become a hot-button issue the past couple years as elements from various parts of the industry complained about the number of substandard tractor hydraulic fluids on the market. Most of the contention has focused on economy fluids marketed as 303 or J303 products. Those terms allude to a specification developed by tractor manufacturer John Deere in the mid-1900s, but the specification has been obsolete for more than four decades, and no performance verification is required of products so labeled.

Several states have issued stop-sale orders of 303 fluids, alleging that they do not adequately protect tractors. In April consumers reached a preliminary settlement in a class action lawsuit against two companies over the manufacture and sale of 303 fluids. The plaintiffs said the companies misled them by implying that the products met a standard that in fact no longer exists – a claim that the companies still deny.

Last month the National Conference on Weights and Measures adopted a rule that tractor hydraulic fluids not meeting current specifications must be clearly labeled obsolete. Tractor manufacturers maintain their own specifications for fluids that they recommend be used in their equipment, but the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association has called for development of an industry standard. ASTM cited ILMA’s advocacy in announcing its initiative.