Several simple steps may minimize or eliminate annoying leaks that sometimes occur after a routine oil change. If your technicians aren't already performing these steps, consider adding them to your shop's oil change procedure. First, be sure every oil filter is tightened properly. Indeed, there are specifications for oil filter tightness. When in doubt, service personnel should consult the appropriate service manual or technical literature for the spec. The lion's share of oil filters are the spin-on, disposable type. There are several traditional filter tools that suffice for removing this type and then tightening the new oil filter. However, cartridge-type filters are becoming more and more popular due to their “green” feature. That is, you reuse the filter housing and discard only the filter element itself. Occasionally, the cartridge-type filters require a special removal/reinstallation tool. The cost of these specialized tools always pales compared with the actual cost of a comeback—an angry customer and possibly a damaged or destroyed engine. Second, marking the end or side of the filter housing may ease the task of tightening an oil filter quickly but correctly. For example, most engines still use the familiar spin-on oil filter. The common tightening procedure here is to spin the filter in place until its gasket touches the surface of the engine. Then tighten the filter an additional three-quarters to one turn. Depending upon the color of the filter housing, the markings on the filter and/or filter location, a tech may easily lose track of how much he has rotated that filter beyond its initial contact with the engine. Tightening the filter too much may make it difficult to remove next time. But the more-common mistake seems to be tightening it inadequately—then the car comes back with a leaking oil filter. Many techs I know routinely stripe the outside of an oil filter with a large-tip felt pen, paint stick, tire chalk or similar marker. This stripe or mark on the filter makes it much easier to see how far you have tightened that thing after it touches its mating surface on the engine—not too loose, not too tight. Third, experience shows that replacing the drain plug gasket is the surest way to prevent oil leaks. To be fair, some engines tolerate a reuse of the drain plug gasket; others don't. Honda engines happen to be a prime example of those that don't. Some managers or foremen I know tape a new drain plug gasket onto every oil filter when they're stocking the shelves of the store room. That way, finding a new gasket taped to the filter dramatically increases the odds of a tech replacing the gasket. And it eliminates excuses for skipping the step—and courting problems.
Steps to minimize oil leaks, comebacks
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