Severe vs. Normal, Revisited
One of the most confusing subjects for most fast lube customers is normal versus severe driving conditions. They are usually mistaken about where they fall in the spectrum — is the soccer mom who idles for more than an hour each day picking up her three kids from school “normal?” There may also be some confusion among technicians who are unsure when to recommend an extended life oil filter.
I recently had the chance to visit with Edward Covington, vice president of Quality Assurance for WIX Filters, to shed some light on properly matching oil filters to driving conditions.
NOLN: Why do you think there is a misconception when it comes to normal versus severe driving conditions?
Covington: When you read the owners manuals of vehicles, they will normally refer to normal or severe driving conditions; however, I prefer to use optimum for normal conditions and less-than-optimum for severe conditions. I think what severe really means is that you’re driving in an environment that will shorten the life of the oil or shorten the life of the oil filter.
NOLN: In terms of population, just how many drivers do you think fall into the severe category?
Covington: I have read many articles through the years that mention a general statement like, 80 percent of all driving, at least from an oil and filter change standpoint, is considered to be in the severe category. Let’s paint that picture just a little bit.
I read a recent statistic that there are 4.05 million miles of roads in the United States, and 1.45 million miles of these roads are unpaved. Roughly, according to that highway statistic, 35 percent of the roads in America are unpaved. Driving on a dusty or dirt road usually lands a driver in the severe or less-than-optimal category.
Other driving conditions that are less-than-optimum include driving in hot weather, cold weather, mountainous driving and stop-and-go driving. For example, from May through September a good portion of the lower half of the United States is above 90 F. You can draw a line across many of the northern states, where people drive in severe cold. Since mountainous driving is severe, that includes people in all of the Rockies and the Appalachians. There are many cities and towns across the country where people are driving in stop-and-go traffic every day. When you have a map of the United States and you color in the bottom red for hot weather and the top blue for cold weather, you take out the mountains, dirt roads, cities and construction sites, there’s not a lot left where you have drivers in normal conditions. There simply aren’t many people who drive 10 miles and stop.
In my mind the old 80/20 rule stands pretty true when you look at the geography of our country and how we drive.
NOLN: How should service centers address severe driving?
Covington: You need to equip your customers with an oil based on their recommended oil change interval and how they drive. Then, you need to choose an oil filter, based on the oil and driving conditions. Some people have been led to believe that you can use any filter with any oil and drive any number of miles with them. That’s just not realistic.