State Bans JD 303 Tractor Fluids

Missouri retailers were ordered to immediately stop selling John Deere 303 tractor hydraulic fluids after the states Department of Agriculture Weights, Measures and Consumer Protection Division determined the specification fails to meet modern performance demands.Cease sale letters were sent out in early October.

Retailers must take John Deere 303 fluids off shelves because they failed to meet performance parameters of Deere standards that replaced the 303, according to the departments letter.

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The John Deere 303 specification was replaced by JDM J20A/B in 1974.

John Deere developed JD 303 57 years ago and replaced it in 1974 with J14B, which was replaced in 1978 with J20A. John Deere has declared all of those specifications obsolete and has two current specs – JDM-J20C and J20D – along with its genuine Hy-Gard fluid. Some lubricant marketers have continued marketing hydraulic tractor fluids labeled as meeting the 303 standard, but critics say they do not meet the lubrication requirements of modern tractors and in fact can harm them.

[The] use of [JD] 303 fluids can cause damage to the spiral gear in the final drive, cause excessive wear in the planetaries, and result in improper and poor shifting. It could also cause improper operation of wet brakes, noted Tom Glenn, president of Petroleum Trends International, the Petroleum Quality Institute and Jobbers World newsletter.

Because it is obsolete, products making only JD 303 claims cannot be tested.

The Missouri weights and measures department tested 14 different JD 303 samples beginning from Aprril through the end of the summer. All 14 of these 303 fluids failed to meet current specifications and were found to be underperforming to the point that damage was likely to result from use, said Sarah Alsager, director of communications at Missouris Department of Agriculture.

Companies have been given the opportunity to revise their claims on the container to clearly identify the appropriate use of the product therein, Alsager told Lube Report. The department is working with manufacturers, distributors and retailers to ensure a low-cost product with accurate labeling is available in the state of Missouri. She did not comment on how the department is working with those companies.

The cease sale order is likely to have a significant impact on the market, both in Missouri and in the country as a whole. In addition to its direct impact on sales in Missouri, it sends a clear message to blenders and marketers that regulatory eyes are now on [JD] 303 fluids. Understanding that major oil companies, large independents, retailers and some large distributors have a national presence, its likely some will elect to phase out sales of 303 THFs nationally in an effort to be proactive rather than reactive to other states taking similar action.

Glenn believes other states will slowly but surely follow in Missouris footsteps, issuing cease sale orders on JD 303 THFs, citing misrepresentation as the reason. A cease sale order offers states the ability to get JD 303 off of shelves without rewriting or adding regulations.