Don’t be fooled!




…And the reason it should be NO is because the labels on this fictitious product include techniques and language that is sometimes used by unscrupulous companies to mislead consumers into believing the product is good stuff, when IT’S NOT.

Click on the image to ENLARGE and let us know what you KNOW about reading the labels on motor oils and why these labels should send a consumer running



Silogram – Trouble in the Drum

silo234[1]In response to numerous calls received on the PQIA HOTLINE coming from the NY metro area where Silogram is sold, the Petroleum Quality Institute of America arranged for the purchase of Silogram 5W-30 API SN, GF-5 motor oil in drums, and we cracked the bung to see what was inside. In doing so, we understand why buyers were concerned.

The product tested did not meet the labeled requirements, and because of this, we are issuing a Consumer Alert on Silogram 5W-30 motor oil. Understanding, however, that consumers rarely purchase motor oils in drums, this alert is directed at automotive repair garages, fast lubes, and other installers in the New York metro area where this product is sold.

The label on this drum claims the oil is an SAE 5W-30 meeting the API SN and ILSAC GF-5 specifications. PQIA’s analysis on this drum sample, however, showed the oil is not a 5W-30, but in fact is a 15W or 20W-30. In addition, the test results show the oil contains more than twice the maximum limit of phosphorus allowed by the API and ILSAC specifications, and the TBN is well below the range typically seen in SN/GF-5 oils. The high level of silicon is also concerning and may be indicative of abrasive contamination. Because of the high CCS viscosity, this oil may cause harm to engines operating at low temperatures where a 5W-30 oil is required. CLICK FOR DETAILS

It should be noted that Silogram had other serious quality issues which resulted in the company filing suit against its alleged supplier, Everclear of Ohio, LTD. The label on the Silogram product tested by PQIA, however, showed it was filled 10/2012, well after the suit was filed.


PQIA is pleased to report that RelaDyne has taken swift action to recall defective motor oil sold in quart bottles under the “Bullet” brand name.

On March 27, PQIA issued a Consumer Alert on Bullet 5W-30 motor oil when test results showed the product PQIA sampled did not meet the requirements of the obsolete SC/CC specification it claims, or any other industry recognized specification for motor oils. Further, the extremely low viscosity of the product tested, together with the lack of vital additives, would likely result in damage to automobile engines.bulletsmal[2]

Bullet motor oil is distributed by Oil Distributing Co, Cincinnati, OH (a Reladyne company)

RelaDyne was quick to respond

PQIA received a call from Tony Garera, Director of Supply Chain for Oil Distributing Co, within a few hours of the announced Consumer Alert on Bullet. Garera assured PQIA they were looking into it and would take action.

Action Taken

On March 28, Garera contacted PQIA to advise that they identified the products affected and were issuing a Product Recall. The recall is on Bullet 5W-20, 5W-30, 10W-30, 10W-40 grades. “The product involved in the recall is identified with RED caps, (black caps are not affected). if these cases do not have red strips then they are recalled.”

In addition, Larry Stoddard, the CEO of RelaDyne contacted PQIA today with the the following comments:

“Last year we had two suppliers of this product. We source this and do not blend it ourselves. We were given written confirmations of the specifications it was to meet. The particular manufacturer of this recalled product in no longer in business and we purchased product from them only for a very brief time. We have identified all of the product that was sold and to what customers. We believe it is less than 150 cases. We have contacted each customer, instructed them to pull the product off the shelf, and we are currently in the process of replacing it with product that meets the specifications as claimed on the packaging.

This product was sold exclusively to the C-store market and not to lubricant professionals. It was sold and positioned only as an entry level, lowest price point product, and one that does not meet todays’ specifications for the customer looking for that level of product. Additionally it was only sold in our Cincinnati primary area of responsibility.

We are extremely serious and committed to providing the best products and services to our customers in all markets that we serve. This was an isolated and unfortunate occurrence in which we have taken every reasonable step to rectify.”

Larry J. Stoddard
Chief Executive Officer

Round Three – Spotlight on Synthetics

r3syn[1]The results of the third round of synthetic motor oils examined by PQIA are in.

Each of these brands meets the requirements of an API SN, ILSAC GF-5, SAE 5W-30 engine oil. Read on to view the most recent test results on synthetics and to view the results of those previously tested. Click here for the most recent test results.

Click HERE for all test results currently published by PQIA on synthetic motor oils.


Spotlight on Synthetics

ScreenHunter_151%20Mar.%2006%2008.52[1]The first round of synthetic motor oils examined by PQIA is brands offered by major oil companies. The results of the tests conducted on each of these brands meet the requirements of an API SN, ILSAC GF-5, SAE 5W-30 engine oil.

Synthetics are typically considered the top line in motor oils. They comprise products formulated with superior base oils (API Group III, and/or polyalphaolefins, esters, and others), and additives. Synthetic motor oils are generally said to provide enhanced engine protection from wear and deposits, longer service intervals, superior high temperature operation and cold-flow properties, improved fuel economy, and other features and benefits.

In addition to major brand products, synthetic engine oils are produced by a number of independent lubricant manufacturers. Test results on some of these brands and others will be made available in future postings on the PQIAblog.

Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Store Motor Oil

img113[1]We expect the motor oils we purchase for our cars to protect our engines from wear, sludge, and rust, and indeed most of the oils on retail shelves do so quite well.  But there are some products out there that will not only fail to protect your engine; instead they will actually damage it!  And what’s worse, these oils can be found on retail shelves across the country.

The Petroleum Quality Institute of America (PQIA) has been sampling and testing motor oils in the USA for several years and publishing the results on its website ( The results are often shocking and two issues have become apparent from PQIA’s work:

  • The worst of the retail packaged oils are concentrated in convenience stores
  • Bad oils are more often found in lower income urban neighborhoods

While most convenient stores do carry high quality motor oils, the inconvenient truth is that some turn a blind eye to quality, not knowing or perhaps caring about what is actually in the bottle.  These bad apples that put profit ahead of ethics, and sometimes the law, spoil the reputation of the typical hard working convenience store owner, and harm both the consumer and the lubricant industry. The following are important issues every consumer should be aware of when purchasing oil at a retail store.

Inconvenient Truth #1: There is a better chance you will purchase bad oil if you buy at a convenience store, corner store, or bodega.

Although the majority of convenience stores sell quality brands of motor oils, close to 20% of engine oils on convenience store shelves visited by PQIA only meet obsolete engine oil specifications or have other issues, and these oils can damage an engine. As an example, many brands of engine oils PQIA finds at convenience stores meet only the American Petroleum Institute (API) SA Service Classification. API SA engine oils are obsolete products formulated for use in passenger car engines built before 1930, contain no additives, and can do damage to nearly all cars currently on the road. Further, some of the engine oils PQIA finds at these stores meet no recognized specifications at all and test results indicate these oils are so far off spec that they will damage an engine in short order.

Inconvenient Truth #2: There is typically little to no information on the labels of obsolete engine oils to warn consumers of their limited use.

Adding to the challenge of sorting out the good from the bad, most of the obsolete motor oils on the market have slick labels with such persuasive, yet meaningless marketing terms as Super, Premium, Gold, Quality, and Plus, to name a few. Further, whereas nearly 85 years separates an API SA from current API SN technology, the difference in price between these products is often small. As a result, few alarms go off when a consumer uses price as a measure of quality.

Inconvenient Truth #3: Your chances of running into bad oil increases significantly at convenience stores located in urban areas.

PQIA finds that the chances of picking up a bottle of bad motor oils increases significantly when visiting convenience stores, corner stores, and bodegas in urban areas. As an example, PQIA recently found obsolete and off-spec motor oils at over 60% of the 18 convenience stores it visited in Dearborn and Detroit. Sadly to say, it appears that the producers and marketers of these motor oils are preying on people in lower income communities who tend to purchase on price.   These are folks who can ill afford to have their car engines damaged by off-spec oil, and likely have a hard time proving that the oil is the reason their engines failed.

Inconvenient Truth #4: Majors oil companies have little to no say in what engine oils are sold at convenience stores operating under their sign.

Consumers might take comfort in thinking a convenience store located at a major gas station is owned and operated by the major oil company selling the gas, but think again. An estimated 97% of the nation’s convenience stores that sell gasoline are owned and operated by independent companies. These operators have the legal right to decide what brands of oil they carry, and the oil companies are generally powerless to stop them.  Understandably, this leaves consumers with the perception, and false sense of confidence, that the major oil companies stand behind the engine oils sold at the stores pumping their gas. Unless it is their branded product, in most cases they do not.

Inconvenient Truth #5: Although there are laws to protect the public from unlawful, unfair and deceptive business practices, enforcement is far more reactive than proactive when comes to engine oils.

Having worked with several state and federal agencies, PQIA is well aware that they have the consumer’s best interest in mind to assure the quality and safety of the products we buy. But the fact is that, as important as engine oils are to what is often a consumer’s second biggest investment, engine oils receive very little regulatory and enforcement attention. This is in part due to lack of budget and resources. Secondly, consumer affair enforcement is often wired to respond to complaints based on the number of like complaints they receive. Whereas this approach is reasonable for products where there is a clear cause and effect, it comes up woefully short with engine oils where the cause of an engine failure is very difficult and expensive to prove. That said, some of the motor oils PQIA has found are so obviously bad that you don’t have to run them in an engine to know they will do harm.

Inconvenient Truth #6: Consumers need to protect themselves, and Knowledge is the best line of defense.

In the absence of effective regulatory oversight, consumers need to look out for themselves by learning how to read an oil label and recognize the danger signs.  There are many online resources that can be helpful, including that of the API and PQIA.  Furthermore, convenience store owners should also seek some education about what they are selling to their unsuspecting customers.  Certainly many store owners should and would take such bad oils off their shelves if they understood the consequences of selling them.

More on MaxLife ATF

PQIA received a number of calls and emails following the update it published last week on the assessment of the Valvoline MaxLife DEX/MERC ATF. Understandably, due to the label on the product prominently stating “DEX/MERC,” and the Product Information sheet stating “Suitable for use in: Ford MERCON®” most of the questions were directed at asking if the Valvoline MaxLife DEX/MERC ATF did in fact meet the DEXRON® III/MERCON® specification.

img4[1]The answer is no, the MaxLife ATF tested does not meet the MERCON® specification. This is because the viscosity specification for MERCON® is 6.8 cSt minimum @ 100°C and the MaxLife sample tested at 6.0 cSt. To this point, Valvoline responded to PQIA with a technical explanation regarding the use of synthetic base oils in the product, its shear stability, and why the product is suitable (click here for letter) saying MaxLife ATF will provide acceptable “even superior” performance in MERCON® applications and is “suitable for use” in these applications.

PQIA understands Valvoline’s position with regards to this issue and appreciates the company reaching out to us to explain it and to assure consumers the product is perfectly acceptable in MERCON® applications. PQIA does, however, remain concerned that the practice of referring to a specification where the data is not consistent with that specification opens the door for abuse.

If it’s acceptable for a supplier to say its product is suitable for use in applications where it does not meet the specifications for that application, how can a consumer really be assured that the product will perform similar or better than the original specification?

With the propensity of products on the market, and the harsh reality that there are some suppliers that place products on the market that do not meet implied and/or even stated performance requirements, PQIA’s position is that we cannot condone the reference to a specification when the product does not adhere to all aspects of that specification.

PQIA does, however, welcome suppliers to explain why they believe their failure to strictly comply with a specification does not adversely impact performance requirements.

Let us know what you think. Post a REPLY below

Alarms Should Go Off When You Read “Top-Off” on an Oil Bottle

The Petroleum Quality Institute of America advises consumers to be cautious of motor oil and transmission fluids labeled or sold as “top off” oil.

topoff34[1]PQIA is seeing an increase in the number of poor quality motor oils and transmission fluids in the marketplace with labels describing the products as “top off oil. The term “top off oil” is not recognized by any governing body in the lubricants industry as a specification or service classifications defining the performance of such products.”

Of concern, is that PQIA’s test results show oils bearing the “top of oil” terms are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. Instead of referencing such globally accepted and required engine oil standards as SAE viscosity grades and API Service Categories, these so called “top off” oils prey on the consumer’s lack of knowledge about industry standards by simply ignoring them, or referencing obsolete specifications. They play on the appeal of terms consumers are familiar with and often hear when getting their oil changed.

As an example, it’s not unusual for a consumer to hear a fast lube say they “topped off” the fluids (windshield washer fluid, power steering fluid, or coolant) when they get their oil changed. Because of this, it’s a familiar term and one that would seem to be a valued service. But whereas it’s true a car owner may need to top off these fluids and the oil in an engine if it’s down a quart or so, Glenn says the quality of the engine oil required to top off is no different than the quality of oil required for an oil change. Further Glenn adds, most of the so called “top off” oils PQIA has tested are so far off specification they can do damage to your engine.

So don’t fall for it. Alarms should go off when you read “Top Off” on the label. Whereas your engine oil may need to be topped off when low, the oil required to top it off is no different that the oil required for an oil change. READ YOUR OWNERS MANUAL.

Room for Improvement

The Petroleum Quality Institute of America Encourages Responsible Labeling of Motor Oils and Says There is Clearly Room for Improvement.

An area where PQIA sees considerable room for improvement is with motor oils only meeting obsolete API specifications (SA, SB, SC, SD, SE). Whereas there are certain applications where these products are appropriate, they generally have limited use and can cause harm to most passenger car engines. Unfortunately, PQIA frequently finds these products on store shelves with labels that not only lack any precautionary statements to advise consumers of their limited use, but instead use marketing terms suggestive of a high quality product. One example of such a brand is XCEL shown below.

ScreenHunter_24%20Feb.%2007%2015.35[1]The XCEL labels display terms suggestive of high quality and lack any precautionary statements about the fact these products are not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automobile engines built after 1930. Further, whereas API SA oils are generally monogrades due to the lack of additives, consumers can easily assume these XCEL motor oils are appropriate for use in their vehicle because they are offered in multi-grade viscosities commonly required in vehicles currently on the road.

What the XCEL labels say:

  • Protects like no other
  • A multi-grade highly refined general purpose automotive oil
  • Formulated from a quality blend of selected lubricants to provide protection against oxidation and corrosion of engine parts.
  • This economical quality blended lubricant provides excellent and durable lubrication for automobiles and light truck engines to minimize oil consumption cost.
  • Recommended for older cars where a minimum amount of additive is required
  • API Service SA

What the XCEL labels don’t say:

  • Is not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1930.
  • Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.

Whereas marketers might argue they advise consumers accordingly by including the “API Service SA” on the label, the fact is, less than 1% of consumers are even vaguely familiar with the API Service Classification system. In fact, often when asked, many consumers relate the API rating to school grades and as such, believe and SA must be better than and B, C, or D.

So rather than fooling ourselves, or worse yet, taking advantage of the consumer’s lack of knowledge about the codes on labels that speak to quality levels, PQIA encourages the use of language consumers understand. The API recommends specific warning labels for many obsolete specification motor oils to clearly communicate the limited use for these oils, and we applaud those marketers who