May 2, 2012


Bad Engine Oils are Not Hard to Find

The Petroleum Quality Institute of America receives calls from time-to-time from those in the lubricants business saying some of the off-spec products we have reported on represent a minor volume in the market. As such, there is little chance consumers will find it, let alone use it and harm their engines.

Whereas you can be sure PQIA would like this to be true, it clearly is not. To the contrary, we often find that some of the brands we test with serious deficiencies and labeling issues are the predominate brands on the shelf. One example is shown below. As seen by the black quart bottles on the shelf at this convenience store in Connecticut, one brand comprises 21 facing at this store. And it's the only choice a consumer has if it walks into this store along a heavily traveled road.

March 2012, Connecticut

The lack of choice would be of no concern if not for the fact that the Petroleum Quality Institute of America issued a Consumer Alert in February of this year on a sample it tested of the brand on this shelf;  U.S. Economy Motor Oil.

At issue; the front of the label on the bottle tested states in large print "5-30", which may mislead an average consumer to believe that the oil meets the "SAE 5W-30 viscosity specifications.  PQIA's test results show this oil is not a 5W-30.


Further, whereas the front label implies it's a 5W-30, the back label states "5-30 means the viscosity range from 5 to 30" but does not define the units, and at the bottom of the back label says "This is not a 5W-30 oil."  Therefore the labels give the consumer no clue as to the actual viscosity or viscosity grade of this oil, other than it is not a 5W-30.

In addition, the back label states "Always consult your owner's manual for proper service requirement," but does not say what service requirement or viscosity grade this oil meets.  While the labels state "For older cars" and "for top off only," many consumers may not understand these vague and undefined terms.  In addition, the analysis of this oil shows unusually high levels of silicon, potassium, and iron which may indicate contamination with anti-freeze or used oil.


But there is more... In addition to the "5-30" engine oil labels that can easily be misleading, U.S. Economy has similarly misleading labels on its other engine oils and transmission fluid. See examples below.   


So whereas PQIA would like to say that some of the seriously off-spec engine oils and those with misleading labels it has issued Consumer Alerts on are dusty quart bottles tucked away in the back room at service stations no one visits, this is clearly not the case. As such, BUYERS BEWARE and READ THE LABELS.  





 See below: Motor Oil or ATF, or neither?






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