California Bans Sale of Obsolete Motor Oils


California this year began prohibiting the sale of engine oils and lubricants considered obsolete by American Petroleum Institute standards. The regulation outlaws sale of several specifications of oil previously permitted by the state, the newest being API SH.

The bill makes amendments to various sections in the California Business and Professions Code regarding the sale and labeling of lubricant products. The law now requires that engine oils and lubricants meet, at minimum, one active API classification, one active sequence of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) or one active original equipment manufacturer specification.

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The current API classifications for gasoline engines are API SJ, SL, SM and SN. The law further states that the API, ACEA or OEM specification and the viscosity grade of the lubricant must be clearly labeled on the product.

The California Department of Food and Agricultures Division of Measurement Standards, which regulates weights and measures and oversees quality and labeling of lubricants, reported that it and the laws author, California assembly member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Calif.), engaged with lubricant stakeholder groups on the impacts of the mandate and received no objections to the final bill.

A spokesman for the CDFA told Lube Report, Outdated specifications will be amended or deleted. He added that the department is currently communicating with lubricant producers, wholesalers and retailers about the products that can no longer be sold in the state.

Two representatives from industry groups gave Lube Report their opinion on the legislation, which went into effect Jan. 1.

Tom Glenn, president of the Petroleum Quality Institute of America,said he supports the legislation. He understands that oils under the API SA classification continue to have a place in the marketplace as compressor oils, jack oils and some small engine oils, but added that applications are limited.

I think there are some applications for SA that are still legitimate, but [SB through SH] are obsolete, and they really have no place in the market now, said Glenn.

Banning the sale of obsolete engine oils in the state represents some issues for lubricant manufacturers that provide specialty oils, said Jeffrey Leiter, legal counsel for the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association, of Leiter & Cramer PLLC. While the legislation specifies the performance standards for engine oils, Leiter noted that it does not detail what standards specialty lubricants must meet.

For example, there are some ILMA member companies that produce specialty lubricants, like racing oils for high-performance cars on tracks and hot rods, where in many instances the oil marketer will overtreat the products with additives, so it doesnt neatly fit within an API [or ACEA] specification, Leiter explained.

According to Leiter, many ILMA members produce and market engine oils deemed obsolete because of consumer requests or because they need to have products that compete with those of other manufacturers. He added that antique car clubs, which prefer to use obsolete classifications on their engines, also expressed concern over this legislation.

But obsolete products, which contain less additives and/or lower quality base stocks, do not protect older engines as well as oils that meet newer specifications, said Glenn, even if it saves the owners some money.

There might be a market for [obsolete motor oils], but that market doesnt really understand that they are accelerating the demise of their vehicles by using these older- spec products, Glenn explained.

Both Leiter and Glenn emphasized that current API classifications are backwards compatible with older engines and in fact may protect them better than the specifications that were developed for them.

They also agreed that obsolete engine oils should have their specs clearly labeled, with Glenn adding that they should not be sold alongside products with current specs, since they can confuse or even deceive consumers. If its obsolete, it shouldnt be on the shelves, he said.

The full text of the bill may be viewed online at the California Legislative Information website at this link.

Related Topics

Regulations    Regulations Specs & Testing