N.C. Stops Sale of City Star Oil


North Carolina officials on Thursday announced a stop-sale order on 5W-30, 10W-30 and 10W-40 grades of City Star brand motor oils after they failed quality tests.

Most of the City Star products produced test results similar to a 20-grade motor oil or less, with some falling into the diesel fuel range. You can shake the bottle, and it almost sounds like water, certainly not like motor oil, a N.C. official pointed out to Lube Report. Thats where the bulk of them were, and it didnt matter whether it was 5W-30 or 10W-40.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stop-sale order applies to all bottles of City Star 5W-30, 10W-30 and 10W-40 motor oil without a date code, with an illegible date code or a date code of 5/24/11 or earlier. More date codes could be added to the list as the departments standards division samples and tests additional products, said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

The agency found a variety of problems. It doesnt meet viscosity standards, and some bottles dont contain required information listing the manufacturer, packager or distributor, Troxler said. In addition, because this oil is recycled from used motor oil, it should state that on its label. Unfortunately, that information is missing too.

Retailers or distributors with this product in stock should return it to their suppliers, the department said. Consumers who have bottles of this motor oil should return it to the place of purchase.

The products are distributed by City Petroleum of Dearborn, Mich. Reached by phone, a company employee told Lube Report it does not distribute outside of Michigan. I dont know who sent that product to North Carolina, said Al, who declined to provide his last name. He described the City Star product as SA oil that has no additives and is basically a top-off oil.

He continued, Weve had this product on the market for over 20 years. According to the American Petroleum Institute, SA is an obsolete category not suitable for use in gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1930.

Stephen Benjamin, director of North Carolinas standards division, said the agency learned about the problems through regular inspections. Weve got 11 field inspectors that are randomly pulling samples, usually on fuels, but as they go into stores, theyll pull motor oils, especially if its a brand they havent seen before, Benjamin told Lube Report. Typically an inspector will bring a couple bottles in for inspection, and the agency may have the product pulled off a particular stores shelves.

Im not going to do a recall or stop-sale based on a couple of bottles, he noted. In the case of the City Star motor oils, I think we ended up with a total of 80 bottles over six to nine months or so. Usually as we start sending these back, we tend to seen an improvement over time – and we have not been seeing that improvement. So we finally issued the stop-sale on that.

According to Benjamin, the May 24, 2011 date was the latest we could read that we know failed. Im comfortable saying anything prior to that date is no good because weve actually tested those samples. He noted that if bottles started showing up with more recent dates such as July, the agency will do some more testing of samples of those to see if revising the stop-sale order date is necessary.

Benjamin said he has made numerous attempts to reach City Petroleum as a courtesy, to notify them of the stop-sale order and give them the opportunity to issue a recall if they chose to do so. If the company did, Id still issue the stop sale but we could say theyre cooperating and indicate what theyre doing, he added. City Petroleum indicated a company in South Carolina bottled the product, but hasnt otherwise responded, he said. The standards division doesnt have jurisdiction outside North Carolina.

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