Regulatory and Legislative Issues You Should Know About

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The past few months have been very busy from a regulation and/or legislative front. We began 2016 talking about Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) regulation. Transmission fluids are not subject to a uniform licensing system like engine oils, and that's making certain Weights & Measures officials uncomfortable. At a recent Central Weights & Measures Association meeting in St. Charles, Missouri, the Vice-Chair of the National Conference of Weights & Measures Fuels and Lubricants Subcommittee suggested that fraudulent ATF installation occurs whenever an installer uses a multi-vehicle fluid that doesn't meet the latest standard available. Such fluids were referred to as “obsolete" and therefore should not be lawful.

Despite AOCA's insistence that input be obtained from ATF manufacturers and distributors, as well as fact-checking alleged consumer impacts, the regional officials recommended that ATF regulatory amendments be upgraded to “voting status” at the upcoming national conference meeting. So what does this all mean? If AOCA and its allies prevail, the new national Weights & Measures standards will be an improvement. If we do not prevail, installers could be limited to OEM-approved products and be held liable for manufacturers’ product claims.

AOCA and its allies continue to advocate in favor of reasonable product identification on customer receipts, keeping product liability with manufacturers where it belongs. We also advocate for the continued use of ATF products that responsible manufacturers have tested and guarantee to be “suitable for use” for specific transmissions. We’re making headway, but a lot can happen in these coming months as the process continues. We’ll be talking more about this topic at the upcoming AOCA iFLEX convention and trade show. Plan to attend AOCA Talk Live Presents: The ATF Panel, featuring Holly Alfano, ILMA; Josh Fredericks, Valvoline and Jack Zakarian, Chevron.

 Two years ago the Automotive Oil Change Association, Auto Care Association, Service Station Dealers of America and Tire Industry Association joined forces to call on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take immediate action to have Kia withdraw a technical bulletin warning consumers not to use non-OEM filters, which is clearly a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA).

The bulletin, which was referenced in an article posted by Consumer Reports, recommended that car owners either go back to the authorized dealer or use a Kia oil filter to avoid problems with oil- and filter-related warranty claims. It looked like a simple case of yet another automaker violation, but two years and many seized engines later; the situation appears to be something else entirely. On its face, it appears that Kia Motors’ violated MMWA, but did they take that step specifically to cover up an engine problem that causes radical spikes in oil pressure?

A normal 3.5 or 4 liter engine runs at 20 psi oil pressure with highs between 60 – 80 psi. The Kia brand oil filter—Hyundai Kia 26300-35503—was recently given a “burst test” by Southwest Research Institute, in which the filter survived oil pressure up to 479 psi. Oil filters for normal 3.5 and 4 liter engines are built to withstand approximately 250-260 psi. Given that normal “high” oil pressure is 60 – 80 psi, those filters offer significant pressure padding. Kia vehicles, however, apparently require a filter capable of nearly twice the maximum capacity of industry normal filters.

You wouldn’t’ know this by reading the Kia owner’s manual, because it’s not in there. None of the Kia owner’s manuals reviewed to date mention how high their vehicles’ oil pressure may spike, nor that they’ve designed a special filter to accommodate that risk. If they had confessed to the extreme oil pressure spiking potential, then owners and service professionals would have known to make sure they used only oil filters meeting the super tank pressure capacity. Instead, Kia Motors published a technical bulletin that mandated use of its proprietary filter without explaining the technical problem to anyone. We are currently gathering all available evidence to determine if a petition for a recall is feasible.

We have received some good Magnuson Moss Warranty Act (MMWA) news in recent months though. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finally took action to require BMW to repair the damage caused by its Magnuson Moss Warranty Act (MMWA) violations brought to light three years ago by AOCA, Auto Care Association, Service Station Dealers of America and Tire Industry of America. In doing so, the FTC officially called out the worst of the automaker MMWA-busting tactics. It was a major step, and a very long time coming. It is not, however, the end of the road for ensuring adequate MMWA enforcement.


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