October 30, 2015
The Petroleum Quality Institute of America (PQIA), represented by Thomas F. Glenn, President of PQIA, had the opportunity to sit on a distinguished panel last week at the annual Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association (ILMA) meeting in Boca Raton, Florida. The panel discussion titled, “The ILMA Ethics Initiative: Driving Toward Quality,” was well attended, informative, and underscored the lubricant industry’s collective interests and efforts to protect consumers from potentially harmful motor oils, and help assure suppliers compete on a level playing field.
With the ILMA meeting in Florida, and a good deal of the panel discussion about the actions the State of Florida takes to protect consumers from potentially engine damaging motor oils, PQIA decided to take a firsthand look at the motor oils currently on store shelves in the State. With that, following the ILMA meeting, Glenn took a drive from Boca Raton south to Miami, and back up North to West Palm Beach. Stops were made at several big chain auto parts stores and 18 convenience stores along the way. Although almost all the major and private label motor oils at the auto parts stores were labeled to meet current performance specifications, what PQIA found at the convenience stores was a real eye opener, and cause for concern.
The majority of the motor oils PQIA observed on the shelves at convenience stores visited in Florida were only labeled with obsolete API SA, SB, SC, and SG Service Categories. To put this in perspective, these motor oils were made for use in cars built prior to 1930, 1951, 1967, and 1993, respectively.According to the API these are obsolete and not suitable for engines built after these model years. Some, in fact, may cause harm to modern engines.
Adding to PQIA’s concerns is the significant presence of multigrade motor oils labeled API SA/SB. Plain and simple, this can’t be.
By definition, an API SA motor oil cannot be a multi-viscosity grade product. As shown in API 1509, Table A-1 of Annex A, API SA motor oils are “straight mineral oil.” As such, they contain no additives. Multigrade motor oil requires the use of viscosity modifier additives to be a multigrade. Consistent with the API definition, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in SAE J183 defines API SA oils as “straight” viscosity grade products. By either/or both of these definitions, the term API SA and multigrade are mutually exclusive; a motor oil cannot meet both an API SA Service Category and be an SAE multigrade.
Similarly, multigrade motor oils marked as API SB are a contradiction since SAE did not recognize “W’ grades until 1952, and API SB motor oils were formulated for use in vehicles built prior to 1951.
So what’s the deal?
Why are obsolete, potentially engine damaging motor oils, some of which by definition simply cannot exist, commonly found on convenience store shelves in the State of Florida? Moreover, what’s being done to protect consumers in Florida from these engine oils? You can be sure, PQIA will follow-up.