Savvy service professionals must approach oil-consumption concerns with discipline and data instead of baseless assumptions and rumors.
Many discussions I have had with automotive service personnel about this topic lack problem-solving information such as oil specifications, valid records and careful measurements.
I don't know it all; I don't pretend to know it all. But there's one thing about which I am certain: Problem solving requires the proper information.
Unfortunately, the information some service personnel have about an oil-consumption issue consists of hearsay and/or half-truths about everything from the oil itself to the vehicle, its engine and its overall usage.
Sometimes, managers and technicians give me the impression that they just can't be bothered gathering the necessary information.
In my last column, I emphasized that readers should judge motor oil by a combination of its specifications as well as its actual performance in a variety of vehicles.
Consumption, measured in miles per quart of oil, is one of those performance traits that service personnel may measure on various brands of motor oil.
Mind you, your dealership's or service shop's experience may be very different from mine — not to mention that of some trusted sources.
But over the last 15 years or so, service professionals plucky enough to measure oil consumption have noticed that some supposedly comparable oils don't all perform the same. The results of this real-world testing prompted them to embrace certain brands of oil while abandoning others.
Typically, the oils that perform best during these consumption tests are not the cheapest products available — not by a long shot. Not surprisingly, the people who are eager enough to perform these tests also are the same ones who promote quality instead of low price at their auto service facilities.
Suppose, for example, that a prospective customer questions the cost of an oil change at this business. If this happens, a service salesperson can comfortably and confidently cite the company's own test results on the oil brands it recommends.
I think readers would agree there's a world of difference between selling product benefits you have experienced firsthand versus those you have not.
Previously, I have stressed that the most-accurate, most-immediate bank of real-world information is the one that readers create themselves.
Tire dealers and service-shop operators worth their salt constantly develop their own information — especially ongoing measurements of factors such as fuel and oil consumption.
Now, experience has shown that the most-loyal customers are ones who are informed about and involved in their vehicles' upkeep.
For one thing, some tire dealers and service-shop operators patiently have shown customers how to check all the fluid levels under the hood.
For another, they have taught vehicle owners how to monitor and calculate both fuel and oil consumption. To ease the task, they issue a little log book to each customer. Of course, this booklet carries the company logo.
Savvy service sales pros explain that carefully logging this information helps the motorist as well as the technicians maintaining their vehicles. (Some auto service centers even promote customer cooperation here by "gifting" free car washes or other perks to the more-cooperative vehicle owners.)
It's unrealistic to think that a tire dealer or service-shop operator can accrue oil consumption values for every vehicle.
But garnering many measurements for many vehicles sure beats having none! And to me, this data collecting is an ongoing obligation for savvy service personnel.