N. Carolina Recalls Coastal’s Oil


The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a stop sale order late last month on an undetermined quantity of 5W-30 motor oil packaged by Coastal Unilube Inc. The product in question, which was being sold through Advance Auto Parts and AutoZone stores, failed to meet cold crank requirements.

Officials at Coastal, which is cooperating with the recall, said it accidentally packaged 10W-30 oil in containers labeled 5W-30. The West Memphis, Ark., company said it believed this to be the first time any of its motor oil has been recalled.

Were just trying to ensure that anything that hasnt been sold gets pulled off the shelf, said R. Kent Farmer, president of Coastal, which was purchased last week by Warren Oil, of Dunn, N.C. We dont want product out there that is not what it claims to be.

The stop sale order applies to certain batch numbers of 5W-30 motor oil sold under the Coastal and Advance Auto brand names. Samples of those products failed cold crank tests conducted by the Motor Fuel Inspection Program, which is run by the Standards Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Program Director Steven Benjamin said the department contacted Coastal after the samples failed the tests in late November and that Coastal quickly contacted the two store chains. It appeared, however, that some stores were slow to pull affected oil from shelves, prompting the department to issue a news release announcing the stop sale order Dec. 31.

It took AutoZone almost a month to get the word out, so we thought this would be the quickest way to inform consumers, Benjamin said. Some amount had already been sold. We still dont know how much product was involved, but I suspect this is a pretty big recall.

Benjamin said the cold crank tests run by the Motor Fuels Inspection have a tolerance of 10 percent, meaning that Coastals samples failed by at least that much. He confirmed, however, that the samples did meet cold crank requirements for 10W-30 oils.

While emphasizing that Coastal is cooperating with the recall, Farmer said the off-spec product poses no real threat to vehicles.

Any vehicle that uses 5W-30 oil can also use 10W-30, he said. The cold crank test for 10W oils is run at minus 25 degree [F]. I dont think it gets that cold in North Carolina very often, so it shouldnt be a problem.

North Carolina is one of the few states in nation that tests motor oils for compliance with industry standards. The Motor Fuels Inspection Program conducts only viscosity tests. Benjamin said the program issues an average of one or two recalls per year, with Coastal being the only recall in 2003. The program condemned 55 of the 3,700 samples it tested last year, or 1.5 percent.

Coastals new parent, Warren Oil, has been the subject of two North Carolina recalls, one in May 2001, the other in April 2000.

Benjamin said some stores are dumping recovered Coastal oil into recycling tanks, while others are collecting quarts that may end up being reblended.

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