Low Oil? Part 3

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Dave Prange

In this third, and final, installment on the growing low oil level problem in consumer vehicles, we’ll look at the issue from the consumer’s perspective. Since it is estimated only 39 percent of owners even check their oil between oil changes, their first exposure may very well be from you.

Your people and your customers need education. First, they’ll wonder why it’s low. The biggest reason is probably by design. Engineering improvements to help increase fuel mileage have had the unintended consequence of increased oil consumption. Gasoline direct injection, low-tension piston rings and lower viscosity oils are just three improvements that have actually had negative impacts. Don’t take my word for it. Just Google “normal oil consumption,” and you’ll easily find the problem covers engines with various brand names. Some are just worse than others.

“Audi, BMW and Subaru stick firmly to the statement that oil consumption is a normal part of a car’s operation,” quoting the Thirsty Thirty in Consumer Reports. “Subaru considers a quart burned every 1,000 to 1,200 miles to be acceptable. Certain Audi and BMW cars’ standards state that a quart burned every 600 to 700 miles is reasonable.”

Their focus, and the focus of pending class-action lawsuits, is to get the auto manufacturers to cover the damages of low oil through vehicle warranties. Honda and Toyota are two that have extended coverage parameters. So consumers, I guess, can wait for trouble and then hope the repairs will be covered. Before I go over their options, a note on vehicles with growing mileage. The older cars — 50,000 miles and above — will burn even more oil. This comes from seal, gasket and valve wear. Second, what does it mean for the consumer’s wallet? Engine wear, corrosion, damaging sludge and contaminants decrease fuel mileage and lead to engine failure and repair or replacement.

Finally, what can they do about it? Check oil levels frequently. The best option is to train your customers to use you and your free top-off service. Shorten their drain interval to match their oil consumption. Remember, once it starts, it will only get worse. This is not your fault. You are, as always, the hero of the story — wearing the white hat of prevention.

Use of an additive designed for low-oil vehicles can be suggested, as well. This will allow you to serve and protect until their next visit. Pre-drain oil system cleaners are a must to fight sludge buildup. As cars age, sealers and high-mileage products can help.

I will provide you with complimentary wall posters and brochures to help educate your guests. I have the three column reprints available also, but you have to reach out to me. Get ahead of curve, get in front of this issue and build consumer trust and sales. Hope to see you at the shows!

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