N.J. Bans 19 Motor Oils


A New Jersey government agency issued a statewide ban Thursday on 19 motor oils, saying a state-contracted lab found each failed to conform to the viscosity promised on its label.

State Office of Weights and Measures Acting Superintendent Howard Pine issued a stop-use and removal order Dec. 4 ordering all New Jersey establishments to immediately remove the 19 banned motor oil products from their store shelves or other product displays, and to stop selling or using them. Businesses that fail to comply are subject to a penalty of no less than $100 per package or container that is sold or offered for sale.

The retailers may not have known that these products are mislabeled and potentially damaging when used with the wrong vehicles, Pine said in a news release. Now that these facts are known, any retailer who fails to remove these products from store shelves will face a penalty far greater than the potential profits to be gained by selling these products.

Motor oil viscosity grades such as 10W-40 are not subjective or arbitrary. They inform consumers about the specific performance qualities of the products they are buying, Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said in an agency news release. Manufacturers who label their motor oil products with misleading viscosity grades are not just deceiving their customers, but potentially compromising the working life of their vehicles.

The ban covers 19 products across eight brands:

  • Auto Club Motor Oil (SAE 5W-30, SAE 10W-30, SAE 10W-40, SAE 20W-50)
  • Black Knight Motor Oil (5-30 and 10-40)
  • LubeState Motor Oil SAE 10W-30
  • MaxiGuard MG (10-30, 10-40, 20-50, SAE30)
  • Orbit Motor Oil (5-20, 10-40)
  • TruStar Motor Oil 10-30
  • U.S. Economy Motor Oil (5-30, 10-40, SAE 10W-40)
  • U.S. Spirit Motor Oil (SAE 10W-30, SAE 10W-40)

Auto Club and Maxiguard are manufactured by Bass Oil and Chemical of Brooklyn, N.Y. Black Knight is a Smittys Supply product. Orbit is listed as a business in Gary, Ind. The U.S. Economy and U.S. Spirit brands are distributed by Great Lakes Lubricants of Franklin Park, Ill. Its unclear who manufactures the Lube State and Trustar products.

By deadline, Lube Report was unable to reach the manufacturers and distributors for comment.

The agency said it dispatched officers in June 2014 to filling station convenience stores across New Jersey to examine and purchase motor oils of various brands. The State Office of Weights and Measures than sent samples of each product to a state-contracted lab for SAE J300 analysis and testing.

Linden-based Saybolt LP subjected each sample to multiple tests of viscosity under various temperatures and conditions of stress. Each of the now-banned products significantly failed at least one of the viscosity measurements required for the viscosity grade specified on the products own label, the agency said. The state used those viscosity results as the basis for its stop-use and removal order.

The agency cited the following examples of its test findings:

  • A sample of U.S. Economy SAE 10W-40 Motor Oil had certain high-temperature viscosity measures 48 percent lower and 26 percent lower, respectively, than the minimum measurements allowed for motor oils classified as 10W-40.
  • A sample of Auto Club Motor Oil SAE 10W-40 had certain cold-temperature viscosity measures that were 181 percent higher and 67 percent higher, respectively, than the maximum allowed for motor oils classified as 10W-40.
  • A sample of MaxiGuard Motor Oil MG10-40 had certain high-temperature viscosity measures that were 51 percent lower and 25 percent lower, respectively, than the minimum allowed for motor oils classified as 10W-40.

Metuchen, N.J.,-based Petroleum Quality Institute of America brought several motor oil brands to the attention of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the State Division of Weights and Measures, and worked with News 12 New Jersey on a 2013 TV report about concerns regarding motor oils for sale at filling stations and convenience stores. In directing the investigation that led to this action by the State of New Jersey, Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve C. Lee publicly thanked the PQIA for its role in calling attention to this issue.

When the state took the action to ban these samples, we do applaud them because some of the stuff is really bad, and it gets served up to the people who can often times least afford to have the maintenance done or get repairs or a new car, PQIA President Tom Glenn told Lube Report. They did what needs to be done, which is try to protect the consumers.

Separate from the states enforcement action and investigation, and as a courtesy to the PQIA, the Office of Weights and Measures also provided samples to the PQIA for the PQIAs own analysis. PQIA analyzed the products for metals, and although that analysis was not used in the states enforcement action, Glenn said it provides additional insights into the nature of these products.

Glenn said that of the 63 blind samples provided to the PQIA, 44 were not labeled as meeting any particular API engine oil standard. Meanwhile, 17 listed obsolete API categories, and only two had a current API category on its bottle.

Of the 63 samples, 57 failed to meet the specifications of SAE J300, he said. The 57 included 34 that failed the test, 21 that failed by a wide enough margin that they would be deemed potentially damaging to an engine, and two that failed marginally.

Glenn pointed out that many of the banned products list their net weight in grams instead of in a liquid measure form, and were much lighter than would be expected for a quart of motor oil. For example, some of the products bottles list a net weight of 740 grams, he said, when the bottle should weigh closer to 1,000 grams.