By Kevin S. McCartney. There is a rapidly growing trend for dealerships to suggest that having oil changes done by independent or other non-OEM service providers could compromise warranty coverage. Consumers are listening and increasingly opting to have all routine maintenance performed by OEM dealerships. If you are not concerned about this, you need to wake up and smell the coffee!
The only needed service that most consumers are conscious of is the regular oil change. Oil changes are therefore the service that most often opens the door to additional business. If consumers feel a need to have their oil change services performed at the OEM dealership, Independent shops will loose a substantial amount of other business.
There is a rapidly growing trend for dealerships to suggest that having oil changes done by independent or other non-OEM service providers could compromise warranty coverage. Consumers are listening and increasingly opting to have all routine maintenance performed by OEM dealerships. If you are not concerned about this, you need to wake up and smell the coffee!
The most alarming part of this situation is that in many cases, the OEM dealership is correct when they state that having oil change services performed by non-OEM providers may jeopardize warranty coverage. That may shock you, but it’s true. If you are not aware that GM has four very different required 5W-30 oil service ratings, you may well be failing to use an oil product that meets minimum warranty requirements in at least some GM models.
The four different GM oil service ratings that apply to SAE 5W-30 products are:
- GM 6094M (most GM engines of American or Asian origin)
- GM 4718M (many GM engines of American origin)
- GM LL-A-25 (most GM engines of European origin)
- GM LL-B-25 (a few GM engines of European origin)
Every one of the above requirements exceeds the minimum SAE, API and ILSAC requirements that most oil companies choose to observe. The result is that a great deal of name brand oil products fail to meet minimum OEM oil requirements. And MOST 5W-30 oil products fail GM 4718M, LL-A-25 and LL-B-25. Many industry professionals are shocked to learn that API and ILSAC approval fails to meet the minimum OEM requirements of most modern vehicles.
Every technician and shop owner has noticed that automobiles have changed dramatically over the past few decades. Many of those changes, like electronic fuel injection, coil on plug ignition, on-board diagnostics and hybrid electric power trains, have been very visible. These high visibility changes have distracted most professionals away from equally dramatic changes in cooling and lubrication.
Engine oil and engine lubrication systems have undergone similar changes since 1992. I’ve been offering lubrication training nationwide since 2003. Until this year, most shop owners and technicians have assumed that lubrication training simply isn’t required. “I haven’t had any problems” has been an incredibly common response to any classroom discussions about engine lubrication. They falsely assume that any reports of oil related damage are caused by a failure to change oil at 3,000 miles. Most also have a favorite brand and viscosity that they falsely assume will keep them out of trouble.
Even if you select what you think is the OEM required viscosity, you could be wrong. GM 5W-30 viscosity approval is different than SAE 5W-30 viscosity approval. The GM approval requires better low temperature pumping viscosity than SAE. And, a BMW approved 5W-30 is required to be thicker at high temperature than the SAE 10W-40 requirement. If you don’t understand the OEM proprietary and ACEA oil service rating systems, you won’t know the true viscosity of most oil products.
The above SAE viscosity chart clearly shows that:
- A 5W-30 can be about the same viscosity as a typical 5W-20
- A 5W-30 can be about the same viscosity as a 5W-40
- GM approval changes the viscosity requirements
- ACEA approval changes the viscosity requirements
- An ACEA A3/B3 5W-30 is much thicker than an ACEA A5/B5 5W-30
- An ACEA A3/B3 0W-30 can be much thicker than a 10W-40 at high temperatures.
“0W-30 and 5W-30 products can be thicker than a 10W-40 at high temperatures.”
If that isn’t already complicated enough, many products make extremely misleading claims. Many products that fail GM 4718M display the statement “Exceeds the engine protection requirements of GM 4718M”.
If you are starting to think this is strictly a GM issue, it isn’t. Other OEM requirements are even more demanding and even more confusing. The result of selecting the wrong oil for these engines can result in total engine destruction The Center for Auto safety claims that oil related catastrophic engine failure is increasing at an alarming rate and typically occurs before 70,000 miles. When special oil requirements are ignored, engine destruction can occur much sooner in spite of regular 3,000 mile oil changes with the type of oil you have trusted for decades.
Can you justify the repeated use of oil that is not OEM approved, to a small claims court judge?
Do you expect the judge to accept claims like “it’s a good brand”, “the oil company said it was fine”, “the label wording sounded like it was approved” or “I’ve been in this business for 30 years and never had a problem” to overcome the fact that the oil you used isn’t OEM approved?
Do you really want to be on the hook for the cost of an engine or one of the more expensive ($6,000) OEM catalysts?
All of the above are legitimate questions. But, let’s put this in a more important perspective. Can you afford to let your customers discover that the dealership is correct in telling them that you are jeopardizing their warranty coverage? And we can take this a step farther. Can you afford to let your customers discover that some quick lube chains can do a better job of maintaining their warranty than you do?
Don’t kid yourself. At least some national quick lube chains have a computer database to automatically provide oil requirement warnings that even minimum wage employees can understand. These programs automatically warn the service advisor if the specific vehicle has special oil requirements. If you aren’t taking steps to understand the specialized oil requirements of modern cars, you may be falling far short of consumer expectations. I don’t think any independent repair shop can afford to have a customer discover that a quick lube franchise is better equipped to identify the special needs of his car than the independent.
Failure to recognize the OEM proprietary oil service ratings will often result in the use of oil products that fail to meet minimum warranty requirements for most late model cars. There is not a single 5W-30 product that will meet the minimum requirements of even all GM products. At least two separate 5W-30 products must be stocked (or at least used) just to meet GMs minimum OEM requirements. Even some of the most expensive “full synthetic” oil products may fail to meet all of the four GM required ratings.
The typical conventional SAE 5W-30 oil (bulk or bottle) sold by every trusted “big name” oil company fails to meet the OEM requirements of about half of the newer cars on the road today. That includes most European cars and a rapidly growing number of American and Japanese cars.
The term synthetic was rendered meaningless several years ago by a Federal Trade Commission ruling. Almost any common oil product can now be legally advertised as “full synthetic”.
Brand loyalty is also misleading. Many technicians claim that they have been using the same oil for decades without any problem. The reality is that many oil products that appear to be identical are not. A “Brand X” often has more than one “5W-30 Super Syncopowertec XL” product. The two products often appear to be identical but one meets very different ratings than the other. The only way to tell the difference is to understand the following oil service ratings that will be listed on the back of higher quality oil products:
- GM 4718M, LL-A-025, LL-B-025, 6094M
- Ford/WSS-M2C153-H, M2C931-B, M2C930-A, M2C929-A
- VW 502, 503, 503.01, 504, 505, 505.01, 506, 506.01, 507
- BMW LL-98, LL-01, LL-04
- MB 229.1, 229.3, 229.31, 229.5, 229.51
- ACEA A1/B1, A3/B3, A3/B4, C1, C2, C3, C4
- Honda HTO-06
All of the above ratings greatly exceed any API or ILSAC approval. And, these more stringent approvals are required for many modern vehicles. They indicate very significant improvements in areas such as: valve train protection, engine cooling, fuel efficiency, extended oil drain intervals, oxidation, extreme temperature capability and acid neutralizing. SAE, API and ILSAC approval is no longer adequate!
Some have suggested that the increasingly specialized OEM oil requirements violate the Magnusson-Moss act. But, it seems clear that this isn’t the case. The OEM proprietary ratings are significantly more stringent than anything API or ILSAC has to offer. API and ILSAC have failed to respond to the OEMs need for better lubricants. OEM proprietary approval and/or ACEA approval is required to insure proper protection to a rapidly growing number of vehicles.
Next article we will look deeper into this issue and the damage that has already resulted from failures to observe appropriate oil change practices. But, don’t expect a few magazine articles to take the place of more extensive training. If the facts presented in this article shock you, or if you haven’t had any formal training in lubrication technology, you probably have more catching up to do than a few magazine articles can provide.
If you have trouble finding local update training on this subject, contact me (Kevin S. McCartney at firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m always happy to work with local industry organizations and parts distributors to provide local training opportunities. And you can help us decide where the “right place” is, to hold a full weekend of training on lubrication and cooling updates.
Contact Kevin S. McCartney at 209-873-1155 or email him at email@example.com