303 Oil Use Ruining Heavy Duty and Farm Equipment: Study


The use of hydraulic fluids based on the John Deere’s long defunct “303” standard have been shown to damage farm and heavy duty equipment. The extent of the damage caused by these products have prompted some states to issue Stop Sale orders.

Despite knowing the “303” standard being obsolete since 1974, some manufacturers continue to formulate and market products based on this standard as a cheap alternative to modern day formulations. Several class action lawsuits are filed against manufacturers and distributors that seek to compensate victims for damages sustained through the use of these products.

Some plaintiffs have come forward to make claims against retailers and products such as:

  1. Smitty’s – Super S Super Trac 303
  2.  Wal-Mart – Super Tech 303
  3. Tractor Supply – Super S Super Trac 303
  4. Orschelin – Premium 303 Tractor Hydraulic & Transmission fluid
  5. Citgo – Milemaster 303 Tractor Hydraulic Fluid
  6. O’Reilly’s – 303 Tractor Hydraulic Fluid
  7. CarQuest – 303 Tractor Fluid
  8. NAPA – Heavy Duty Tractor Hydraulic & Transmission Fluid

What Is 303 Fluid Really?

The term 303 fluid stems from an old specification that John Deere used decades ago named JD-303. It was designed for tractors and similar equipment built between 1960 and 1974. It was made obsolete in 1974 when the use of whale oil, of which the specification was loosely based, was outlawed by the Endangered Species Act. Fast forward to today and the ‘yellow bucket’ as it is often referred to is still out there touting the old 303 spec and cost savings.

JD-303 was replaced with J14 then again by J20-A which is also outdated. When John Deere updated J20-A to J20-C, things got a bit gray. The additive chemistry used to meet J20-A carried over to J20-C. The only change was a new test (oxidation and seal) was added to evaluate a tractor fluid’s ability to meet the Allison C-4 spec. In basic terms, no change or reformulation to the fluid…just a new test.

The Petroleum Quality Institute of America conducted a study of 303 fluids purchased from store shelves at random in 2017/2018 in order to determine their performance levels. Their results were shocking to say the least:

  • 91% failed to meet the J20-C and J20-A specifications
  • 74% failed to meet any JDM specifications
  • 60% chance of lower anti-wear protection than J20-C
  • 73% chance will offer less detergency than J20-C

If you have used 303 oil products that have damaged the condition of your heavy duty machinery, you may be able to take part in this claim. .

To learn if you qualify as a member of this claim, call us toll free at 1-800-551-8649 to speak with one of our consumer class action attorneys or complete the form below.