EDISON - News 12 New Jersey was the first television station in America to expose dangerous motor oil for sale at gas stations and convenience stores; some of it was so contaminated that it could seriously damage a car or void its warranty. Now, five months later, a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds the brands that did worst in lab tests do not appear to have kept their promises to make things better.
In December, MaxiGuard was billing itself as "Premium" motor oil, but Kane In Your Corner found it to be anything but. A chemical analysis by an independent lab found MaxiGuard was contaminated with dirt and metal filings, was possibly nothing more than waste oil that was rebottled, and could seriously damage a car.
The maker of MaxiGuard, Bass Oil and Chemical, of Brooklyn, N.Y., admitted there were problems with quality but promised it would soon release a better product, recognizable by a slightly different label. So News 12 New Jersey's Walt Kane recently purchased the new and "improved" MaxiGuard and sent it off for analysis. The results were essentially the same: high levels of dirt and metal filings typical of used oil that could damage most cars on the road today.
"The labels would say these are new products," says Tom Glenn, of the Petroleum Quality Institute of America, "but (the tests) would not support that there's anything different."
Kane In Your Corner spotted another problem with the "improved" MaxiGuard. The contents of the bottle measured about 20 percent short of an actual quart. A closer look at the new label showed MaxiGuard no longer mentions the volume of the container; it gives a net weight in grams instead. Grams are a unit of mass typically used to measure dry ingredients, not liquids.
Peter Weiss, of Bass Oil and Chemical, tells Kane In Your Corner that MaxiGuard will improve its product once again. Weiss admits that "as a result of your investigation, we were contacted by (New York State's Department of) Weights and Measures" and says the company committed to complying with all laws in the future. Weiss also promised to make sure that future quart bottles of his product actually contain a quart of oil.
Kane In Your Corner also followed up on another brand of oil that was given a failing grade last year: US Economy. Lab tests showed it contained abrasive material and its own label admitted using it could void your car's warranty. In December, Javad Khan, of Great Lakes Lubricants, the manufacturer of US Economy, told News 12 New Jersey that US Economy had been discontinued last summer and stores were just selling off their remaining stock. But Kane In Your Corner finds US Economy is still for sale at stores across central New Jersey, and the PQIA says it has found it in stores as well.
"I would suggest that maybe what you were told - that they're not selling it anymore - might not actually be fact," Glenn says, "because we're seeing plenty of it, not only in New Jersey but in other states as well." Great Lakes Lubricants did not return calls.
Finally, Weights and Measures officials here in New Jersey may be about to crack down on unsafe motor oils. Glenn says he has spoken to officials with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs recently and is confident that they will take action.
Do you know how to make sure the motor oil you buy is safe? One tip: look for the seal of approval from the American Petroleum Institute. For complete information, check out the Kane In Your Corner Guide to Buying Motor Oil.