mouseprint: fine print of advertising
Go to Homepage

Subscribe to free weekly newsletter

Mouse Print*
is a service of
Consumer World
Follow us both on Twitter:

Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

February 8, 2016

Thanks for Nothing #2:
Dollar General Found Selling Obsolete Motor Oil

Filed under: Autos,Retail,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:26 am

Many of us shop at dollar stores because of bargains you can often find there. Sometimes, however, the bargain is no deal.

For example, Dollar General sells quarts of its own brand of motor oil, DG, for $2.50 to $2.75. That is cheaper than the big name brands.

Dollar General oil

What could be bad?


Dollar General Oil back of label

The back of the label provides an unexpected shock. This oil is not for use in cars built after 1988?! Who would ever expect a common oil like 10W-30 sold by a major general merchandise chain to be inappropriate for the expected use for most customers?

While the label says it meets a particular automotive specification, that spec is outdated, and has been updated six times since then according to the Petroleum Quality Institute of America.

Another product the company sells, an oil called SAE 30, has an even more astonishing disclaimer on the back of the bottle:

SAE 30

This one is not for cars built after 1930! So for everyone with a Model T, go grab some.

But for everyone else, thanks for nothing, Dollar General.

Now, consumers in 14 states have filed lawsuits against Dollar General for selling obsolete motor oil: CA (see lawsuit), CO, FL, MD (see lawsuit), KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, NJ, NY (see lawsuit), VT, OK, and TX.

And our friends at ABC’s Good Morning America, with a little help from Mouse Print*, just completed an undercover investigation of these motor oils:

Good Morning America story
Click to view

We asked the company to explain why they even sell these products that are inappropriate for most of their customers, whether they would put up more prominent warnings for shoppers, and what their reaction was to the lawsuit. They responded as follows in relevant part:

We are confident that our DG-branded motor oil products meet not only our standards for quality and value, but also all applicable federal and state labeling requirements where they are sold. In addition, the labeling on these products contains obvious and unambiguous language regarding the products’ intended and appropriate use.

Dollar General intends to vigorously defend against the claims raised in the recently-filed lawsuits regarding these products, including the filing of motions seeking their dismissal. — Dollar General Corporate Communications

Few shoppers know that there is more to buying motor oil than looking for the proper viscosity, such as 10W-30 or 10W-40. You need to make sure that you are choosing the one specified in your owner’s manual, including the appropriate service category. This is an industry specification, noted on the label, relating to the additives put in the oil to help prevent corrosion, sludge build up, and engine damage.

The most current service category is API “SN”. The oils shown above have obsolete service category designations such as “SA” or “SF,” meaning they are missing more modern additives.

Here is a chart from the Petroleum Quality Institute of America (an organization that tests motor oils for compliance with the labeled standard) showing which car model years are covered by each service category designation. Each category is backwards compatible.

oil chart


We welcome your submissions of other great “thanks for nothing” examples. Just email them to edgar(at symbol) .

Share this story:

• • •


  1. The 30 weight oil mentioned technically is not obsolete. Right on the label it’s listed as NON DETERGENT, which is not used in any modern vehicles but is used in machinery such as air compressors.

    With that said, I still would buy a brand name Non-Detergent oil over this store brand.

    Comment by Hugh Jorgan — February 8, 2016 @ 10:09 am
  2. This would be hilarious were it not so obviously marketed to mislead consumers.

    Comment by Shawn — February 8, 2016 @ 10:20 am
  3. Wow, this is quite the shady. I learned the hard way that most products on dollar store shelves are not worth the lower cost – especially their generic brands.

    I don’t even understand why it would be worth their time and resources to manufacture obsolete motor oil. Yes, they’ve placed cautions on the package, but are that many people REALLY going to dollar stores for motor oil? I certainly hope not.

    Comment by Wayne R — February 8, 2016 @ 2:02 pm
  4. As Hugh mentioned, SAE 30 is commonly used in small engines. I think my lawn tractor specifically calls for the SA category SAE 30 (as in the image), which contains no detergents. (It’s also clear like mineral oil, compared to the tan/brown color of other grades with additives. I don’t think I’ve seen a non-SA category SAE 30 oil. It’s very uncommon for modern vehicles to call for single grade oil, they’ll prefer multi-grade oils, like SAE 10W-30.

    My conclusion being that the SAE 30 is likely not causing anyone potential for harm, but the older grade SAE 10-30 could, especially if it is mixed in with more expensive and more modern standard oils without clear markings.

    I’m less familiar with issues associated with older category multi-grade oils that match designations still used in modern vehicles.

    Comment by Derlin — February 8, 2016 @ 2:05 pm
  5. Yet another example of “you get what you pay for”. I always shop for oil at the name-brand auto parts stores. They sell name-brand oils with the API service grade clearly marked on the front of the bottle (which is not the case with this junk). Rather than take a chance with cut-rate oil, go for a real bargain and get the 5-quart jug of name-brand or store-brand oil; you’ll get quality oil at a lower price compared to 5 individual 1-quart bottles of the same oil.

    Comment by morlamweb — February 8, 2016 @ 8:45 pm
  6. Baseless lawsuit here. Contra Mouseprint, it is in fact up to the consumer to read the label and know what they are putting in their engines. That’s why they have the specs in the owner’s manuals and, often enough, directly on the oil cap and dip stick as well as on a maintenance tag or sticker elsewhere under the hood. You can find motor oils with the exact same specs as these at DG at just about any big box retailer or automotive supply store. These oils are not “obsolete” so much as they have uses that are appropriate and uses which are not. That’s what that service classification is for.

    Comment by Roman Berry — February 9, 2016 @ 3:59 am
  7. Although the circumstances here in this “oil advertising” case are admittedly somewhat bizarre, and obviously the store is vending the oil in a way that WILL “scam” a subset of the population, there are two inescapable key “facts” in the case that should give the Plaintiff pause. First of all, NO MATERIAL FACT is hidden or even inconspicuous on the container. A vendor has a legally enforceable right to sell a “motor oil” even if its utility to the public is ZERO in MOST cases. In particular, if there is even de minimus utility of a product AND it is not mislabeled, then it is not illegal, deceptive advertising. The fact of the matter is on the container there is plain English stating, IN ALL CAPS no less, (I’m comically paraphrasing): “Do NOT use this product in NEWER cars”. Related to the foregoing, the second fact is there IS a point beyond which the LEGAL SYSTEM, as presently constituted, can not possibly protect members of the public from their own stupidity, inability, or unwillingness to read and understand English on a PRODUCT LABEL. Again, the container does disclose DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT IN YOUR CAR. So, the fact of the matter is, the essential facts are not hidden at all from the purchaser. I suspect the legal prognosis for the Plaintiff here is not going to be good (additional reasons for that omitted) and frankly the focus might more properly be placed in this case on the public’s wholesale failure to READ INSTRUCTIONS. Also, if people read instructions and consequently did NOT buy the oil, do you think the oil would be produced? Of course not. So, what is MORALLY worse here…having lots of stupid people around or the vendor taking advantage of the stupid people who buy the oil without reading the label? Seems to me the MORAL issue (and, thence the legal issue) is a wash in THIS particular case. This is NOT a clear and convincing case of deceptive advertising. Bottom line: LEARN TO READ ENGLISH AND FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS ON THE LABEL!!!!

    Comment by Kevin Gainer — February 9, 2016 @ 3:05 pm

    Comment by Angry Person — February 9, 2016 @ 4:15 pm
  9. There is no attempt to mislead people. The oil is what it is and what is CLEARLY stated in the “caution” section on the back of the bottle. If you own and operate a vehicle costing thousands of dollars, then perhaps you should read both your owner’s manual and the back of the container! Just like buying OTC cold medication, etal. you need to read what you are purchasing. I have a few cases of oil with API designations of SE, SE, SG and upwards that I stocked up on over the years. I use SN in my vehicles and the others in various small engine machinery. But, of course I can also read and understand what type is required for all my equipment because I read the manuals. To those who blithely go about life uninformed about the things they use every day, “you snooze, you lose.”

    Comment by John Nicholson — February 9, 2016 @ 5:21 pm
  10. I cannot believe some of the things written here. They sound like they could been written by shills for Dollar General.

    They just don’t understand and never will that our consumer laws are written to protect the general public.

    Moreover, we should not be expected to have to read the fine print disclosures on commodity items. If we had to do that, we would have to spend hours in the drugstore reading the back of shampoo bottles.

    Comment by CMH — February 10, 2016 @ 6:38 am
  11. I like to know if the Dollar General is going to replace the engine? I used this motor oil in my 06 HHR thinking it was ok… Now my car is not running and I believe it is due to this motor oil. Please let me know either way.

    Edgar replies: LaYana… you are going to have to contact Dollar General to make a claim, but first see if you can get an expert car mechanic’s opinion of what caused your engine problem.

    Comment by LaYana Colette Maxie — February 12, 2016 @ 11:32 am
  12. They knowing sold an inferior product and damn well knew 99% of consumers would not read the label. This is deceitful to the nth degree and should be a red flag warning to consumers to avoid DG on any purchase.

    Comment by Rick M. — February 14, 2016 @ 7:53 am
  13. Thanks to this article, I will not buy any oil sold by DG.
    What they are doing may be legal, but it is not right!

    Comment by Linkbelt — February 14, 2016 @ 10:03 pm
  14. I have a VW that requires a special VW501 Spec oil. The only way to determine if the oil meets those specs is to read the small print on the back of Name Brand oil containers. Can I sue any oil company for NOT putting on their container that the oil won’t meet my needs? GM has similar specs, you have to research to ensure you are using the proper oils and it is not up to the store to warn you other than in labeling, which was clearly done.

    In addition – before anyone could win a lawsuit, they would have to prove they suffered damages. Which is damn near impossible to due when attempting to blame your lubricant as the cause of such damages.

    Comment by Michael D — February 15, 2016 @ 3:03 pm
  15. I used dollar general oil in my 2000 chevy trailblazer and the motor went i think they should replace my motor but i dont know who tdont know who to get ahold of to get this to happen

    Comment by Charles — February 20, 2016 @ 10:44 pm
  16. The higher zddp content in sae SJ oil can shorten the life of catalytic converters. The newer oils have lower zddp amounts to prevent catalytic converter problems.. If you have an older engine with flat tappets, the newer oils will cause camshaft wear and failure. Sae SJ oil will help to prevent this failure.

    Comment by Wayne — February 24, 2016 @ 10:31 pm

Comments RSS

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by: WordPressPrivacy Policy
Mouse Print exposes the strings and catches buried in the fine print of advertising.
Copyright © 2006-2020. All rights reserved. Advertisements are copyrighted by their respective owners.