Starbrite Not Right; State Recalls Quarts


In early January the Standards Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a stop sale order on Starbrite SAE 10W-30, 10W-40 and 20W-50 engine oil sold at Bi-Lo Food Stores. During the first two weeks of January about 10,000 quarts of this oil were removed from Bi-Lo stores in four states: North and South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.

North Carolina officials stated that Bi-Lo Food Stores cooperated with them in the recall. Bi-Lo Food Stores did not respond to several calls seeking comment.

The oil was manufactured by Kinpak, Inc. in Montgomery, Ala.,and sold by sister company Starbriteof Fort Lauderdale, Fla.Starbrite oil is not API licensed nor is its manufacturer, Kinpak, Inc. recorded in APIs list of licensees. However, the labels of each of the three viscosity grades displayed the API starburst.

The SAE 10W-30 and 10W-40 grades were identified on the label as multi-grade non-detergent and recommended for high-temperature use and for cars requiring SA, SB non-detergent protection. The label also says that this product provides a high level of protection against wear, rust and corrosion, piston scuffing, combustion chamber deposits, high temperature oxidation and valve train wear, and meets or surpasses API Service SA, SB.

In addition to the API starburst the SAE 20W-50 Starbrite label displayed the API donut with API Service SJ/SH, Energy Conserving. The label stated that it meets or exceeds North American Warranty requirements for worldwide car manufacturers including European, Japanese and the U.S.”

Peter Dornau, President of Starbrite/Kinpak, Inc., told Lube Report on Monday, The pour point was borderline off spec for a small portion of the oil, but we pulled it all off the shelf and replaced it with good material. We corrected the problem as fast as possible. A Starbrite/Kinpak sales employee added, Were not sure what happened with this product but were looking at the base oil now.”

Dornau was aware that the product displayed APIs marks although it was unlicensed. He noted, We have the licensing paperwork in process now. Apprised of the fact the API SA and SB categories havent been warranty oils for at least 35 years, he responded, The product and labeling was ordered by Bi-Lo. We gave them a price and blended what they asked for.”

North Carolinas Standards Division recalled these products, it said, because laboratory tests indicated that the SAE 10W-30 and 10W-40 did not meet SAE cold cranking specifications for a 10Wx motor oil. In addition, the 10W-40 failed to meet the kinematic viscosity specifications as well. Both products appear to be a mixed viscosity SAE 15W-30 motor oil with a cold crank value of up to 5,782 centiPoise at -20 C. The maximum allowed for a 10Wx motor oil is 3,500 centiPoise at -20 C. The SAE 20W-50 failed to meet both cold cranking and kinematic viscosity specifications and appears to be a 15W-40 motor oil.”

Since 1933 North Carolina has employed fuel technicians to inspect fuel when its Gasoline and Oil Inspection Law was enacted. In 1992 the program was expanded to include bulk engine oil and a year later quart containers were included. Oil samples are picked up daily by oil inspectors operating from state supplied mobile laboratories based in 11 sites. Samples are couriered, usually within 48 hours, and never less frequently than weekly, to the state lab in Raleigh for testing. Tests include determination of viscosity at 100 degrees C and 40 C (ASTM D445), Viscosity Index (ASTM D2270), cold cranking (SAE J300) as well as visual and reflux distillation testing to monitor water content. Testing is done within 24 to 48 hours of sample receipt; test results are provided to inspectors within 24 hours of actual testing.

If an oil is suspect for any reason, test results can be provided to the oil inspector the day after the sample pickup. Faced with a problem oil, the oil inspector, in consultation with the Program Director, can recommend that the Standards Division issue an order to seal a bulk tank that very day or issue a recall of quart bottles of product in any facility. Thats what happened with the Starbrite product.

In 2001, North Carolina inspectors collected 3,562 samples.Seven hundredretail quarts were removed from shelves and 3,500 gallons of bulk oil did not meet industry specifications. In 2002, 3,420 samples were collected, there was one major recall with 7,536 quarts of SAE 20W-50 oil (also manufactured by Kinpak, Inc.) removed from shelves and approximately 6,857 gallons of bulk oil were out of spec.

North Carolina is the only state with an oil inspection program; it is supported by part of the state gasoline tax.

While North Carolinas audit program is limited to the state, the American Petroleum Institutes Aftermarket Audit Program is worldwide. API selects up to 600 licensed oils annually and submits them to an extensive battery of physical and chemical tests to ensure that the product meets its licensing and labeling claims. Engine tests are conducted on a few oils – in 2001-2002, 17 engine tests were conducted. The program is supported by Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System licensing fees.

Each API physical and chemical sample costs about $500 per sample; the full cost of providing the North Carolina oil inspection service is about $80 per sample, for a more limited test battery. API does not audit unlicensed oils, even when, as in the case ofStarbrite,both of APIs legal marks are displayed. Samples are picked up worldwide for API and tested throughout a calendar year.

API’s interaction with a company that fails part of a test batterymay extendover a number of months. Although it will hammer a company, API prefers information, education and cooperation rather than punitive action.

For example, in the 1999 sample, when a total of 546 oils were tested,API came down hard on only one licensees audited product, which had a high cold crank and low additive treat rate. API cancelled the license, forced a product recall (the licensee and quantity were not revealed) and ordered a suspension ofthe company’sother licensed products. Three other oils tested that year had high pumping readings but as of May 30, 2000, five months after the close of the audit year, API had not finalized action against those licensees. API noted at the time that all three companies were cooperating with it in resolving the problem.

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