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NJ bans motor oil products after lab tests reveal false promises

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures today issued a statewide ban on 19 motor oil products after tests revealed that each failed to conform to the viscosity promised on the product label.

The products bearthe brand names “Auto Club Motor Oil,” “Black Knight Motor Oil,” “Lube State Motor Oil,” “MaxiGuard MG,” “Orbit Motor Oil,” “TruStar Motor Oil,” “U.S. Economy Motor Oil,” and “U.S. Spirit Motor Oil.”

“Many of these allegedly mislabeled motor oils are sold at cheap prices, thereby luring those consumers who can least afford the extra maintenance costs or early engine failure that may result from using the wrong type of motor oil,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.

“We are rightly removing these potentially harmful products from New Jersey’s marketplace, and will penalize retailers who continue to sell them,” Hoffman said.

Any businesses that continue to sell them will be subject to a civil penalty of at least $100 per package — much more than the $3 to $4 per quart bottle for which many are sold, he said.

“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 announcing the ban this morning at the state Weights and Measures office in Avenel.. “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 banned products:

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

In state-sponsored laboratory tests, motor oils labeled 10W-40 had viscosity measures that were “widely and unacceptably at variance with the universally defined characteristics of 10W-40 motor oil,” authorities said.

“The products therefore allegedly bear misleading labels that do not inform consumers about their appropriateness for specific motor vehicle engines,” they said.

Viscosity is a measure of a liquid’s tendency to flow. High viscosity fluids are considered “thick” and have slower flow rates, while low viscosity fluids are considered “thin” and have faster flow rates.

The use of a motor oil with viscosity levels that are either too high or too low for a vehicle’s engine specifications may lead to engine failure, excess engine wear and/or decreased fuel efficiency.

Examples of the State’s findings include:

• Testing revealed that a sample of “U.S. Economy SAE 10W-40 Motor Oil” had certain high-temperature viscosity measures that were 48 percent lower and 26 percent lower, respectively, than the minimum measurements allowed for motor oils classified as 10W-40.

• Testing revealed that 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.

• Testing revealed that a sample of “MaxiGuard Motor Oil MG 10-40” 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.

The universal standards for 10W-40 and other grades of motor oil are established by SAE International (formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers) and are published in that organization’s “SAE J300 Engine Oil Viscosity Classification” document.

If a motor oil product’s actual viscosity fails to conform to the viscosity grade specification on its label, the packaging is deemed to be misleading under New Jersey’s Weights and Measures Act and its supporting regulations.

According to state authorities:

“Acting to ensure that motor oils sold in New Jersey are correctly labeled for the benefit and safety of consumers, the State Office of Weights and Measures in June 2014 dispatched officers to gas station convenience stores across New Jersey to examine and purchase motor oils of various brands.

“The State Office of Weights and Measures then 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 product’s own label.

“New Jersey State Office of Weights and Measures Enforcement Supervisor John McGuire and Officers James Logothetis, Richard Pluymers, and Administrative Assistant Brigita Singh, and State Division of Consumer Affairs Investigators Michael Bruch, Vincent Buonanno, Jared O’Cone, and Raquel Williams, conducted or assisted in this investigation. Deputy Attorney General Neil Magnus, within the Division of Law, is representing the State in this action.

“Lee acknowledged the Petroleum Quality Institute of America (PQIA), an independent organization that tests and reports on the quality and integrity of lubricants in the marketplace, for calling attention to this issue.”

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