North Carolina Issues Stop Sales Order for “303” Tractor Fluids

August 15, 2018

North Carolina’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDACS) issued a stop-sale order last week for tractor hydraulic fluid (THFs) products labeled, claimed or implied as meeting the obsolete John Deere “J303” specification. The State joins Missouri and Georgia in halting the sales of these products.

NCDACS’ Motor Fuels Laboratory recently tested nine brands of THFs either claiming to meet 303 specifications or including “303” in their brand name. The State said none of these products met specifications for use in modern equipment, adding that the J303 specification was discontinued in 1974. John Deere’s current THF specifications are J20C and J20D. 

Under North Carolina’s stop sales order, manufacturers and distributors will have six months to remove these products from retail locations. The State said that these products may be relabeled to either remove the 303 specification or include a more recent John Deere specification the THF does meet on the label. Online sales must include a note that 303 THFs are not legal in North Carolina.

NCDACS says that manufacturers can ensure compliance in three ways:

  • THFs that meet a current J20C and/or J20D specification may list the obsolete specifications J20A, J20B, J14B and J303 on their labels because these current John Deere specifications are backwards compatible. 
  • Products listing the obsolete or discontinued specifications J303, J20A, J20B, J14B, but not current specifications (i.e., J20C or J20D), must include a cautionary statement on the label that the product does not meet John Deere specifications for tractors built after 1974 for J303, after 1989 for J20A-B, or after 1978 for J14B. This label advisement can include only the date for the latest specification the product claims to meet.
  • Brand names that include “303” imply they meet those specifications and should be altered because they may have the effect of deceiving the purchaser as to the nature and performance of the product.

“Our lab found several THF products that stated they were universal, or as being approved by major manufacturers, stating no specifications of any kind on their packages,” said Stephen Benjamin, director of NCDACS’ Standards Division. “These samples were tested to the current J20C specifications, for information reasons, and met them. However, the lack of any specifications does not provide the purchaser with information for its intended use, nor the ability to test the product for meeting those specifications.”

ILMA will be hosting a panel discussion on the latest THF developments at its upcoming Annual Meeting.