The Petroleum Quality Institute of America advises consumers to be cautious of motor oil and transmission fluids labeled or sold as “top off” oil.
PQIA is seeing an increase in the number of poor quality motor oils and transmission fluids in the marketplace with labels describing the products as “top off oil. The term “top off oil” is not recognized by any governing body in the lubricants industry as a specification or service classifications defining the performance of such products.”
Of concern, is that PQIA’s test results show oils bearing the “top of oil” terms are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. Instead of referencing such globally accepted and required engine oil standards as SAE viscosity grades and API Service Categories, these so called “top off” oils prey on the consumer’s lack of knowledge about industry standards by simply ignoring them, or referencing obsolete specifications. They play on the appeal of terms consumers are familiar with and often hear when getting their oil changed.
As an example, it’s not unusual for a consumer to hear a fast lube say they “topped off” the fluids (windshield washer fluid, power steering fluid, or coolant) when they get their oil changed. Because of this, it’s a familiar term and one that would seem to be a valued service. But whereas it’s true a car owner may need to top off these fluids and the oil in an engine if it’s down a quart or so, Glenn says the quality of the engine oil required to top off is no different than the quality of oil required for an oil change. Further Glenn adds, most of the so called “top off” oils PQIA has tested are so far off specification they can do damage to your engine.
So don’t fall for it. Alarms should go off when you read “Top Off” on the label. Whereas your engine oil may need to be topped off when low, the oil required to top it off is no different that the oil required for an oil change. READ YOUR OWNERS MANUAL.