Kane In Your Corner: How the state plans to fix motor-oil issue
Two years ago, New Jersey passed regulations intended to guarantee consumers the right to know what kind of motor oil is being put in their cars. But a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds those rules have never been enforced and few have any idea they even exist.
In an exclusive investigation, News 12 New Jersey went undercover at seven quick lubes and mechanics across Central New Jersey, then had oil samples tested by an independent lab. The results, interpreted with the assistance of the Petroleum Quality Institute of America, indicated six of the seven businesses used oil that was not 5W-30, the viscosity the manufacturer specified for the car. Two of the seven samples were so lacking in anti-wear additives that the PQIA called them "unsuitable for most cars on the road today" and said they could "potentially cause premature engine failure".
These were precisely the kind of problems New Jersey was hoping to prevent in 2013, when it joined 20 other states in adopting regulations requiring oil change establishments to label all receipts and invoices with the brand name and viscosity of the oil used. In addition, if the oil used lacks the proper additive mix required by the American Petroleum Institute, the regulations require oil changers to place a "clear warning" that the oil is "obsolete".
None of the garages Kane In Your Corner visited complied with the law. Two provided receipts saying they used 5W-30 oil, but in both cases, the lab said they did not. None provided a brand name.
In fact, five of the seven garages provided no information at all, and that may not be their fault. Two years after the rules were adopted, garage owners contacted by News 12 New Jersey had no idea the rules existed.
"They should let us know," says Darren Wall, manager of Quality Auto Center in Colonia, the one garage which completely passed Kane In Your Corner's lab tests. "If it was enforced, I'd have no problem following that."
"The regulation has been posted since 2013," counters NJ Consumer Affairs Director Steve Lee. "The garages and the auto repair shops should know." However, Lee says since most clearly do not, his agency will focus on getting the word out before beginning enforcement later this year.
Bob Russo, president of the Consumers League of New Jersey, says the new rules only go so far. He's calling on the Division of Consumer Affairs to organize what he calls an "Oil Change Task Force," to conduct undercover operations identical to the one by Kane In Your Corner.
"If you never inspect what's going on, you can't expect it to be a legitimate thing," Russo says.