Motor Oil Lawsuits Offer Critical Lesson: Read the Fine Print

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Two separate lawsuits filed against Dollar General allege that the retailer is selling motor oil that can wreck your car engine. The label includes a warning, but you'd have to look closely.

How closely do you check product labels before you make a purchase? After you read this story, you may find yourself poring over some product labels with a fine-tooth comb.

A recent class-action lawsuit accuses Dollar General of selling obsolete motor oil without providing consumers with sufficient warning about the potential damage it can cause to modern-day vehicles, or cars with engines built after 1988, according to Law360.

“Dollar General’s entire line of low-cost motor oil is unsuitable for the modern-day vehicles driven by its customers and has no business being sold … except that Dollar General is successfully deceiving a sufficient number of customers to make this fraudulent practice worthwhile,” alleges David Sanchez, who filed suit in a California federal court in mid-December.

Sanchez says he made three separate purchases of Dollar General’s store-branded DG SAE 10W-30 motor oil. The oil sold for $2.50 to $2.75 a quart, alongside higher-priced big name brand oils.

Some of Dollar General’s oil labels can be viewed here on The fine print on the back of the detergent motor oil that Sanchez says he purchased reads:

“This oil is rated API Service Category SF. It is not suitable for use in most gasoline powered automotive engines built after 1988. It may not provide adequate protection against the build-up of engine sludge.”

According to the Petroleum Quality Institute of America, the Dollar General oil’s “SF” rating is based on an outdated and obsolete American Petroleum Institute (API) standard. There have been six upgrades in motor oil standards since the “SF” rating.

Click here for a look at API’s engine oil service classifications.

Dollar General also sold DG SAE 30 Non-detergent Motor Oil. Its product label contains this warning:

“This oil is rated API SA. It contains no additives. It is not suitable for use in most gasoline powered automotive engines built after 1930. Use in modern engines may cause unsatisfactory engine performance or equipment harm.”

Yikes. “So for everyone with a Model T, go grab some [DG SAE 30],” MousePrint quipped.

Michael Deck of Houston also filed suit in December against Dollar General for allegedly engaging in deceptive trade practices by selling obsolete motor oil, The Houston Chronicle reports.

Dollar General is not alone in selling obsolete oil. The PQIA warns that obsolete motor oils are “found on retail shelves across the country,” and are especially prevalent in convenience stores and lower-income urban neighborhoods. So before you make a motor oil purchase, the PQIA recommends the following:

“[C]onsumers are advised to read the front and back labels when buying motor at any retail store. Look for the API Service Classification and viscosity grade to be sure the motor oil you buy is right for your car. And always read the labels carefully.”

Click here for helpful information from the PQIA on how to read motor oil labels.

Check out “Don’t Buy These 7 Things at a Dollar Store.”

What do you think of the lawsuits against Dollar General? Do you buy your own motor oil for your vehicle? Do you read the label first? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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