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Ownership Goof of the Month: Avoid Non-Factory Oil Filters!

19:46  04 june  2018
19:46  04 june  2018 Source:   autotrader.ca

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Oil Filter© ACDelco Oil Filter

Welcome to Goof of the Month! Every month, we highlight a story or situation that reinforces the need for drivers and shoppers to understand their vehicle, how to maintain it, and how it works.

This month, a doozy of a story came in from a service advisor contact: the sad tale of a customer in a nearly new sedan that suffered catastrophic engine failure and was denied warranty coverage – all because the customer figured saving $13 bucks on an oil change was a safe bet.

“This is a fairly freak occurrence, though it’s not totally uncommon,” explained our contact, Norman, who has been a service advisor at several major dealerships for about 20 years.

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It’s a simple story.

Brand-new car meets quick-lube shop

a hand holding a banana© Provided by autoTRADER.ca

Norman’s customer had purchased a popular sedan, brand-new, from Norman’s dealership, a little under two years ago. All servicing since then had been completed at the dealer – until a recent oil change.

“We had records of the customer having several oil changes completed here since he bought the vehicle,” Norman explains. “All of his maintenance and servicing was up to date.”

Thing is, just before his latest (and unfortunate) visit to the dealership, the customer had his vehicle’s oil changed at a local quick-lube shop. After some discussion with Norman, the customer admitted that he skipped the dealer oil change this time around to save a few dollars.

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“Our oil changes cost a few dollars more than a typical quick-lube shop,” Norman says. “Customers tend to call us out on this, but there’s at least one simple reason why: you don’t need any training or certification to be a lube tech at a quick-lube shop. Anyone can do it. But to work in service at a dealership, you need to be a trained technician. We only use trained technicians to do customer oil changes. Also, as a dealer, we’re only using quality, factory parts and fluids, which can be more expensive. Usually the difference is about $20, but in this case, apparently, it was only $13.”

That’s on the surface, of course, because this customer’s most recent oil change wound up costing him thousands.

Saving money, burning cash

a close up of a sign© Provided by autoTRADER.ca

Here’s what happened: the customer brought his car into the local lube shop for an oil change, saved $13, and carried on with his week.

A few days later, the customer went outside to start his car and let it warm in the driveway before heading to work. About 15 minutes later, on the road, the customer noticed a strange burning smell. He ignored it initially, but then noticed a Low Oil Pressure warning light in his instrument cluster, and prepared to pull over.

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Before he could, the engine died.

The customer managed to move his car over to the shoulder, and his engine was now destroyed, having failed catastrophically.

The cause? A faulty oil filter.

Turns out, the filter installed by the quick-lube shop had become compromised. The metal casing had split open externally, allowing engine oil to be pumped rapidly out of the engine, all over the underside of the vehicle, and all over the road. The burning smell was likely caused by oil that had contacted some hot exhaust parts. In quick order, the engine’s oil pump had emptied the engine’s oil supply almost fully, meaning the engine was running without lubrication.

“It doesn’t take long at all for this to destroy your engine,” Norman says. “If you see a Low Oil Pressure light, you need to pull over and shut your engine off, right away, and then call a tow truck. Even a minute of driving without oil in your engine will cause very, very serious damage.”

The customer said he noticed a small but notable puddle of oil in his driveway later on, where the car had been parked the night before. In all likelihood (possibly because oil pressure is higher when the engine is cold), the filter had split open while his vehicle was idling in the driveway.

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It’s unclear when the oil pressure warning light illuminated: it may have been on when the customer got into their vehicle and drove off, or may have come on later.

Why didn’t the customer smell burning oil before getting into their car in the first place?

Norman comments, “Maybe the exhaust wasn’t hot enough at that point to burn the oil, or maybe the oil only started to drip or spray onto the exhaust when he started driving. We’re not sure.”

Engine fried, warranty nuked too

a close up of a car© Provided by autoTRADER.ca

Norman figures that the oil filter, not the quick-lube shop itself, bears sole responsibility for the destruction of this customer’s engine. Still, since the installed filter was not a factory-specified part, the damage caused by its failure wasn’t covered by warranty.

“It was a faulty oil filter, plain and simple,” Norman says. “Our warranty, and many others, clearly say you need to use a factory oil filter, and this is exactly why. If this customer had his oil changed here, or even bought a filter from us and had the oil changed elsewhere, and that filter failed, this would have been covered for him.

“Sad thing is, this lube shop has a sign, right on the front, that says ‘Warranty-Approved Oil Changes’ – though I don’t know of any brand that will warranty-approve damage caused when a non-factory part, like their oil filter, fails.”

Norman says he has customers who buy factory oil filters from him, many at a time, in cases where they change their own oil, or live in a town without a servicing dealer nearby.

“I also happen to know that our filters are relatively inexpensive. Many of the non-factory filters you can buy at your local parts store are actually the same price, or even a little more expensive.”

End result? The customer had to eat the cost of the failed engine, to the tune of several thousand dollars.

“Obviously, he was very unhappy, though he understood the situation fully,” Norman says. “The customer is, apparently, pursuing legal action against the quick-lube shop for the cost of the new engine – though we’re not sure of the result.”

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