The independent resource for information and insights on the quality and integrity of lubricants in the marketplace.

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
  • PREMIUM
  • SPECIAL
  • 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

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