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Ownership Your Corner Wrench: Getting flushed at the service counter?

19:32  04 july  2018
19:32  04 july  2018 Source:   driving.ca

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If you haven’t been offered a flush for your vehicle, you haven’t visited almost any type of automotive service outlet lately. From small independents to regional/national chains to carmakers’ dealerships, just about every shop of every description has a full menu of fluid flush services to offer; but do we really need any of them to keep our rides humming in top shape?

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For every fluid our daily transports use, there’s a flush service offered by an increasingly wide variety of producers/marketers. Whether it’s engine oil, transmission fluid, transfer case or differential oils, coolant, or brake fluid, if your auto uses it, there’s a flush for it. And, of course a cost. These services can range from $100 to $500 on average and once you buy just one, you’ll be reminded of the need to buy future flushes on a predetermined rate of time and mileage. Like Clark Griswald’s jelly-of-the-month gift in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, it’s the gift that keeps on giving (or taking).

First understand that no carmaker has any recommendations for fluid flushes in their maintenance guides or owners’ manuals. Specific fluid replacements, yes, flush services, no. Some, like FCA, have even gone so far as to publish statements in their consumer documents indicating their products don’t require flushing services to maintain warranty or reliability. So why are these services being offered and promoted? The reasons can be boiled down to three categories; profit need/desire, improved vehicle reliability, customer retention.

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The first reason doesn’t need much explanation, save to say improved vehicle design and build really has cut into traditional profit centers along with OEM dealerships finally waking up to the fact that their competition is the local shop down the street, not a same-make dealership across town. Improved reliability stems from the knowledge that no matter how evolved a vehicle may be, leaving certain fluids in place for the consumer-expected vehicle lifespan (approaching 10 years on Canadian average) won’t really cut it. And flushing does remove far more of most fluids than simply draining and refilling as per automaker suggested processes. And of course as mentioned earlier, getting on the flush bandwagon does bring you back to the same retailer again and again in a customer retention cycle.

All this being said, the main benefits for drivers who opt for fluid flush services are extended system warranties that some (not all) flush chemical suppliers offer. Certain suppliers will provide major dollar coverage for any defect related failures of systems that their product treat. For example if you get a transmission flush (and continue to get them as per the supplier’s schedule) they may kick in up to $2,000 or more in case of a gearbox failure. The same applies (with certain dollar limits) to power steering components, axles, transfer cases, engines, brake and cooling system parts, etc. Unlike automaker extended plans, these can be purchased long after the base factory coverage expires without forking over the $2,500+ that those plans cost.

But you have to know the details. The best questions to ask your service consultant who is recommending any flush service are, ‘what if any extended warranty comes with this purchase?’ and ‘what real benefits will I realize?’ and finally ‘why does my car need it?’. One last note, if your vehicle is equipped with direct gas injection, don’t ever purchase a fuel injection system cleaning service that delivers its chemicals through the fuel injectors. Due to the design of these increasingly popular engines, the treatment spray will never hit the engine intake valves to remove any carbon build-up.

For engines and transmissions, when do you repair or replace? .
It takes an expert eye and common sense when dealing with these major and complex componentsBut what about the big two items under the hood; engines and transmissions? When is it time to draw the line between repairing and replacing? The first battle is finding a shop/tech that can do both. Engine rebuild specialists for mainstream vehicles seem to be an endangered species. Fortunately for automatic transmissions, the situation isn’t nearly as dire, but few small independent shops have the specialized tools and technician skill-base to complete gearbox overhauls.

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