EDISON - A Kane in Your Corner investigation finds motor oil not suitable for cars is for sale at gas stations and convenience stores in New Jersey. Some of it is contaminated, some of it is for cars made before the 1930s, and some of it is possibly even used oil that has been repackaged and resold. All of it can do serious damage to your car according to an exclusive Kane In Your Corner investigation.
"The probability of getting some of this bad stuff is pretty high here in New Jersey," says Tom Glenn, president of the Petroleum Quality Institute of America.
News 12 New Jersey purchased four brands of motor oil and had them tested at an independent lab. The results indicate all are unsafe for today's cars, according to the PQIA and standards set by the American Petroleum Institute. As a result, Kane In Your Corner gave all four brands "failing" grades.
MaxiGuard Super Premium
While MaxiGuard's label called it, "a superior all weather motor oil," lab tests indicated it could harm your car, and was possible waste oil that had been repackaged after previous use.
The independent lab found MaxiGuard did not meet the viscosity standards on its label (the bottle tested claimed to be 10W-40) and was contaminated with silicon, or sand, in levels more than 400 times higher than are typically found in motor oil, according to the PQIA. The lab also noted high levels of iron and aluminum. Those contaminants are abrasive and can cause harm to engines says Glenn, who says the results "are reflective of what you'd see in a used oil sample."
Longtime mechanic Kenny Wetzel also thought the MaxiGuard oil was used, because of its black, cloudy appearance. "That looks like what we take out of a car when we change the oil," he said.
The manufacturer of MaxiGuard, Bass Oil and Chemical, says the bottles obtained by News 12 New Jersey had been recalled, but must not have been returned by the retailer. The company admits MaxiGuard used to make inferior quality oil, but says the product has improved under new ownership.
Tests showed Black Knight could be harmful to most cars on the road today. The results indicated the oil contains minimal additives and the PQIA says it would have "little to no ability to prevent corrosion." The sample also contained significantly higher than normal levels of silicon, which Glenn says are typical of contamination.
The grade of this motor oil is a mystery. Black Knight's label calls it a "10-30" (rather than the typical 10W-30) without explanation for what that means. Lab tests show the oil is not a 10W-30, and would not provide acceptable protection for cars that require that type of oil.
Kane In Your Corner found Black Knight for sale at convenience stores and gas stations across central New Jersey, including a Raceway in South Edison and a Delta in Fords. Jimmy Nanda, the owner of the Delta station, told News 12 New Jersey's Walt Kane he only started selling the product recently and would stop doing so.
The manufacturer of Black Knight, Smitty's Supply, declined Kane In Your Corner's request for comment.
Test results show US Economy, "could be harmful to most cars on the road today," according to the PQIA.
Tests show US economy had silicon levels 10 times higher than typically found in new motor oil, and the PQIA says it has "little to no ability to prevent corrosion."
The label also says the oil is only safe to use "top off," provoking a strong reaction from Kane In Your Corner's mechanic. "I wouldn't put this in my lawnmower," Wetzel says. "You obviously can't fill your car up with it so there must be something wrong with it."
US Economy is also another case of the "Missing W". The oil purchased was labeled "5-30" (rather than 5W-30) and the label claims that means the viscosity can be anywhere between those two numbers, which Glenn says makes it unsafe for any driver to use.
The manufacturer of US Economy, Great Lakes Lubricants, says it has stopped producing this product, and stores are simply selling off the existing supply. However, Kane In Your Corner found the product for sale at many different convenience stores and gas stations across central New Jersey.
US Spirit 10W-40
Test results, along with US Spirit's own labeling, indicate that not only is this product not safe for today's cars, it may not be suitable for any car ever made.
US Spirit's label actually includes a warning that it is "not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1930" and may cause "equipment harm" in "modern engines." Unfortunately, to see that warning, consumers would have to turn the bottle over and read the small print on the back label.
Lab tests revealed another problem. The reason US Spirit says its oil is only suitable for cars built in 1930 or earlier is that "it contains no additive." However, lab tests revealed just the opposite. The oil is "chock full of additive," Glenn said, but not the right kind for today's vehicles.
"If this oil isn't good for newer cars, and it also isn't safe for old cars, then what kind of car would it be good for?" News 12 New Jersey's Walt Kane asked Glenn. A stumped Glenn replied, "I can't think of one."
US Spirit is also made by Great Lakes Lubricants, which tells Kane In Your Corner "there is a market" for its product. The company insists that the oil is intended only for pre-1930 cars, and that "there are a lot of them on the road". The company also downplayed the lab tests showing the oil contains high quantities of additive, despite its label saying it had none, arguing that the test results merely prove that "US Spirit combines the old and the new."
Tomorrow: What the state of New Jersey is, and is not, doing to protect you from inferior motor oil, and why shopping at a well-known gas station chain does not necessarily mean the oil sold inside will be safe.
For interviews on discount motor oils, watch the clip to the left or click News 12 Extra on Optimum TV channel 612.