Tire dealers who perform automotive services should always replace the drain plug gasket during an oil change on any Honda or Acura vehicle.
This inexpensive extra step will build customer loyalty by eliminating annoying and potentially costly oil leaks following routine oil changes on those two types of vehicles.
I'm going to brag for a moment here. Researching Honda/Acura repair and diagnosis has enabled me to work alongside some of the best dealership technicians and independent Honda specialists in the industry. One of the first things I learned working with these fellows is that butchered oil pans are commonplace on these vehicles.
The sad fact is that this damage is completely preventable. All a tech has to do is to routinely replace the little aluminum gasket on the drain plug during every oil change.
This small step has been standard procedure among Honda specialists for years. But for some reason, many service facilities outside the Honda ``fraternity'' have been slow to adopt this policy.
The typical Honda or Acura vehicle that comes into your tire dealership is fitted with a 14-mm drain plug in the engine's oil pan. This drain plug has a soft aluminum gasket on it that is designed to be used only once. This aluminum gasket doesn't seal worth a darn once it's been ``crushed'' during a routine drain plug installation.
Techs at Honda/Acura dealerships as well as those in independent specialty shops usually have a handful of new aluminum gaskets in a toolbox drawer at any given time.
What's more, the parts people at Honda/Acura dealerships routinely supply a new aluminum gasket with every oil filter they sell. Like it or not, this means that when you buy an OE oil filter, you usually find a new drain plug gasket taped to the top of the filter. They include it because they know how important it is to a leak-free oil change.
I've never purchased an aftermarket oil filter for a Honda or Acura that came with a new aluminum drain plug gasket, and I don't know anyone who has. I certainly don't ever remember a counterperson at an auto parts store recommending this gasket, either.
Anyway, the trouble always starts when an uninformed tech reuses this drain plug gasket. If the used gasket is going to leak, it usually leaks right away. Hopefully this tech is in the habit of checking for leaks after every oil change.
Many ``lube boys'' I've observed don't check for leaks because their bosses expect them to turn out each oil change in record time. (Remember, it's a loss-leader service.)
Much of the time, the used drain plug gasket leaks. Unfortunately, many techs instinctively tighten the drain plug tighter in hopes of stopping the leak. By the time the tech realizes that tightening the daylights out of the drain plug isn't going to stop the drip, he's either stripped or weakened the drain plug threads inside the oil pan. Many times, the weakened threads fail on the hapless tech who performs the next oil change.
Oddly enough, the threads may initially survive the tech's repeated efforts to ``tighten away'' an oil drip. However, this overtightening often bends or distorts the area of the oil pan surrounding the drain plug.
I urge readers to caution their technicians that a bent, distorted oil pan suggests stressed, abused threads inside the oil pan-threads that could strip out easily in your hands regardless of how careful you are. Avoid needless arguments and accusations by explaining this to the vehicle owner before you loosen the drain plug.
Pan abuse is so common that some fellows have turned reconditioning Honda/Acura oil pans into their own little cottage industries.
If you can't find aluminum drain plug gaskets anywhere else, Honda offers the 14-mm drain plug gasket under part number 94109-14000 for a whopping list price of 27 cents each.
When the side of the pan is just bent enough that the regular gasket won't seal effectively, many Honda techs switch to an o-ring style drain plug kit from Sure Seal Products (800-645-7584). Although the o-ring must also be replaced during every oil change, it saves everyone concerned time and aggravation.
Dan can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]