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Fluid Flush Fallacy


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This article is interesting and to be honest I have mixed emotions about.

What do you think?

 

Link:

http://autos.aol.com/article/fluid-flush-fallacy/

 

Article:

 

If you take your car to a shop for a routine oil change you have a high probability of being told your car needs one or more of its critical fluids flushed, changed or serviced. This started originally at the quick-lube shops and spread to the whole auto repair industry, including the dealers.

 

Part of the reason is technology. New machines have made it possible in most cases to change the fluids quickly and easily, or so the sellers of the machines say. But the real driving force is profitability.

 

Today I'm changing a timing belt and water pump on a Dodge Caravan. It will take all of five hours of bay time, a lot of parts and a lot of potential liability. In half the time I could do a series of flushes with little effort or liability and make much more profit. Since most people, mechanics and shop owners included, respond to economic incentives, it is coming to pass that every car going to every shop needs every fluid flushed every day.

 

In short, what is really being flushed is your wallet. It is straining the credibility of an industry that rightly or wrongly has always had credibility problems.

 

The Four Flushes

 

 

Old-timers from the '50s, '60s and '70s always knew it was a good idea to periodically drain the radiator, put a bottle of flush chemical and water in, run it a half-hour then wash it out again with plain water before refilling it with the proper mix of antifreeze and distilled water. Or if you wanted to do a really nice job you could cut one of those plastic flush tees from a Prestone flush kit into the heater hose, allowing you to hook a garden hose up and run a continuous flush.

 

Now these old-timers are being told their transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and who knows what else must be flushed on a yearly, monthly, or even daily regimen. Strangely, their '77 Olds Cutlass managed to run 180,000 miles without all this attention.

 

Now don't get me wrong. I am in favor of changing most fluids at 30, 60, and 90,000-mile intervals, regardless of what the owner's manual says. But that is not what's happening. These services are being oversold to a degree that is bound to damage the reputation of our industry to the net result that consumers will not believe any of us, even when we are telling the truth.

 

The Rundown

 

 

Let's start with the automatic transmission -- the most frequently flushed fluid besides the radiator. The advent of the transmission fluid exchange machine was a great step. In the past, automatic transmission fluid could only be changed by removing the transmission oil pan, which only holds three to six of the eight to 10 quarts in the transmission. The second you started the car, the new fluid mixed with the old, eliminating much of the benefit of the service.

 

The fluid exchange machine, which some people choose to call a flush machine, cuts into the transmission cooler line at the radiator. As the car runs, old fluid goes out into the waste tank while new fluid is simultaneously pumped in. If the shop is really thorough, the car is lifted and actually driven through all the gears while the exchange is taking place. And if the service is done properly, the transmission oil pan still has to be removed and cleaned and the filter replaced -- a solid hour and a half of work. So if a quick-lube shop is offering it to you in 35 minutes, something's not being done.

 

Now, as to checking the dipstick for color or smell to determine if your fluid needs to be changed: At the extremes (not changed for 100,000 miles or changed yesterday), you can tell. But as far as whether it was changed 3,000 miles ago or 20,000 miles ago, no one can know, and if they say they can, they are lying.

 

Power steering fluid in general is not listed in most maintenance schedules as needing periodic replacement, although there are some exceptions. But we have a machine for that now too, so expect to be told you need your power steering fluid flushed. Look, if every three to five years (45,000 to 60,000 miles) you change your power steering fluid, that's not a bad idea. And replacing it with synthetic fluid, if allowable, is even better. But you certainly don't need to do it yearly or even every two years.

 

Brake fluid lives in a sealed environment because exposure to moisture will ruin it. No one ever dreamed of messing with it until Hondas became popular, and Honda for some reason does call for brake fluid replacement. Now we have (you guessed it), a brake fluid flush machine. If your factory manual calls for it, by all means, change your brake fluid. Other than that, leave it alone unless you are having brake repairs done, in which case changing it may not only make sense but be necessary if the hydraulic system has been compromised.

 

It is not enough that you are changing your oil every 3,000 miles. Now when you go for your oil change they want to hook up a motor flush machine to clean your oil system out. Strange, my '63 Valiant didn't need that. Look, this goes under the category "If you need it, it won't help" -- and thus sales are being encouraged on vehicles that really don't need it. If an oil system is dirty enough to have deposits of sludge forming, you're only going to get the sludge out by removing the valve covers and oil pan and scraping it out. Any stirring up of the stuff without removing it is likely to do more harm than good.

 

Stocking Stuffers

 

 

I had an oil-change guy who lasted about a month. Every time a truck or sport-utility vehicle came in (the only vehicles left with a classic differential), he would call me over, waving his finger at me after having dipped it in the differential oil, saying "it needs a differential service," as if he who barely knew how to open a hood would know. Evidently it was a service heavily pushed at his last place of employ.

 

On a military 6x6 doing heavy duty in Iraq, differential oil needs constant attention. On a domestic SUV whose only off-road experience is driving onto the grass at the soccer field, just follow the owner's manual or change the fluid every 60,000 miles. The exception would be if you tow things or if you submerge the differential by backing a boat into the water.

 

Oh, and the transfer case fluid need only be changed at the required mileage or 60,000 miles.

 

Avoid the Wallet Flush

 

 

The easiest way to avoid having your wallet flushed is to try to stay with one shop that you trust, and keep good records. Now I know that even my best customers occasionally go elsewhere for an oil change when my shop is not convenient. So if you find yourself in a strange shop being told that the very lives of your children depend on your getting a particular service at that moment, just walk away.

 

Well, actually, that would be a tough one. But a new customer is often viewed as fresh meat, since all their existing customers have been flushed into the next galaxy. The harder the sell, the more you must resist. And believe me, the sell can be pretty rough. They can come at you with test tubes of fluid samples, and with pH strips whose color change indicates you are seconds from disaster (all provided by the flush machine manufacturers). Even my sister-in-law, whose toughness and command of Arabic swear words sent Egyptian border guards scurrying for cover, succumbed once.

 

And to the people in my industry, the owners and shop managers, I say, "What is it going to take? Another '60 Minutes' or 'Nightline' exposé where they go shop to shop and find out how many flushes they need after chemically certifying the fluids as new? Do you know how tough business is gonna be after that happens? Try thinking a little farther ahead than next week's bonus check."

 

Doug Flint owns and operates Tune-Up Technology, a garage in Alexandria, Va.

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This article is interesting and to be honest I have mixed emotions about.

What do you think?

 

Link:

http://autos.aol.com...-flush-fallacy/

 

Article:

 

If you take your car to a shop for a routine oil change you have a high probability of being told your car needs one or more of its critical fluids flushed, changed or serviced. This started originally at the quick-lube shops and spread to the whole auto repair industry, including the dealers.

 

Part of the reason is technology. New machines have made it possible in most cases to change the fluids quickly and easily, or so the sellers of the machines say. But the real driving force is profitability.

 

Today I'm changing a timing belt and water pump on a Dodge Caravan. It will take all of five hours of bay time, a lot of parts and a lot of potential liability. In half the time I could do a series of flushes with little effort or liability and make much more profit. Since most people, mechanics and shop owners included, respond to economic incentives, it is coming to pass that every car going to every shop needs every fluid flushed every day.

 

In short, what is really being flushed is your wallet. It is straining the credibility of an industry that rightly or wrongly has always had credibility problems.

 

The Four Flushes

 

 

Old-timers from the '50s, '60s and '70s always knew it was a good idea to periodically drain the radiator, put a bottle of flush chemical and water in, run it a half-hour then wash it out again with plain water before refilling it with the proper mix of antifreeze and distilled water. Or if you wanted to do a really nice job you could cut one of those plastic flush tees from a Prestone flush kit into the heater hose, allowing you to hook a garden hose up and run a continuous flush.

 

Now these old-timers are being told their transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and who knows what else must be flushed on a yearly, monthly, or even daily regimen. Strangely, their '77 Olds Cutlass managed to run 180,000 miles without all this attention.

 

Now don't get me wrong. I am in favor of changing most fluids at 30, 60, and 90,000-mile intervals, regardless of what the owner's manual says. But that is not what's happening. These services are being oversold to a degree that is bound to damage the reputation of our industry to the net result that consumers will not believe any of us, even when we are telling the truth.

 

The Rundown

 

 

Let's start with the automatic transmission -- the most frequently flushed fluid besides the radiator. The advent of the transmission fluid exchange machine was a great step. In the past, automatic transmission fluid could only be changed by removing the transmission oil pan, which only holds three to six of the eight to 10 quarts in the transmission. The second you started the car, the new fluid mixed with the old, eliminating much of the benefit of the service.

 

The fluid exchange machine, which some people choose to call a flush machine, cuts into the transmission cooler line at the radiator. As the car runs, old fluid goes out into the waste tank while new fluid is simultaneously pumped in. If the shop is really thorough, the car is lifted and actually driven through all the gears while the exchange is taking place. And if the service is done properly, the transmission oil pan still has to be removed and cleaned and the filter replaced -- a solid hour and a half of work. So if a quick-lube shop is offering it to you in 35 minutes, something's not being done.

 

Now, as to checking the dipstick for color or smell to determine if your fluid needs to be changed: At the extremes (not changed for 100,000 miles or changed yesterday), you can tell. But as far as whether it was changed 3,000 miles ago or 20,000 miles ago, no one can know, and if they say they can, they are lying.

 

Power steering fluid in general is not listed in most maintenance schedules as needing periodic replacement, although there are some exceptions. But we have a machine for that now too, so expect to be told you need your power steering fluid flushed. Look, if every three to five years (45,000 to 60,000 miles) you change your power steering fluid, that's not a bad idea. And replacing it with synthetic fluid, if allowable, is even better. But you certainly don't need to do it yearly or even every two years.

 

Brake fluid lives in a sealed environment because exposure to moisture will ruin it. No one ever dreamed of messing with it until Hondas became popular, and Honda for some reason does call for brake fluid replacement. Now we have (you guessed it), a brake fluid flush machine. If your factory manual calls for it, by all means, change your brake fluid. Other than that, leave it alone unless you are having brake repairs done, in which case changing it may not only make sense but be necessary if the hydraulic system has been compromised.

 

It is not enough that you are changing your oil every 3,000 miles. Now when you go for your oil change they want to hook up a motor flush machine to clean your oil system out. Strange, my '63 Valiant didn't need that. Look, this goes under the category "If you need it, it won't help" -- and thus sales are being encouraged on vehicles that really don't need it. If an oil system is dirty enough to have deposits of sludge forming, you're only going to get the sludge out by removing the valve covers and oil pan and scraping it out. Any stirring up of the stuff without removing it is likely to do more harm than good.

 

Stocking Stuffers

 

 

I had an oil-change guy who lasted about a month. Every time a truck or sport-utility vehicle came in (the only vehicles left with a classic differential), he would call me over, waving his finger at me after having dipped it in the differential oil, saying "it needs a differential service," as if he who barely knew how to open a hood would know. Evidently it was a service heavily pushed at his last place of employ.

 

On a military 6x6 doing heavy duty in Iraq, differential oil needs constant attention. On a domestic SUV whose only off-road experience is driving onto the grass at the soccer field, just follow the owner's manual or change the fluid every 60,000 miles. The exception would be if you tow things or if you submerge the differential by backing a boat into the water.

 

Oh, and the transfer case fluid need only be changed at the required mileage or 60,000 miles.

 

Avoid the Wallet Flush

 

 

The easiest way to avoid having your wallet flushed is to try to stay with one shop that you trust, and keep good records. Now I know that even my best customers occasionally go elsewhere for an oil change when my shop is not convenient. So if you find yourself in a strange shop being told that the very lives of your children depend on your getting a particular service at that moment, just walk away.

 

Well, actually, that would be a tough one. But a new customer is often viewed as fresh meat, since all their existing customers have been flushed into the next galaxy. The harder the sell, the more you must resist. And believe me, the sell can be pretty rough. They can come at you with test tubes of fluid samples, and with pH strips whose color change indicates you are seconds from disaster (all provided by the flush machine manufacturers). Even my sister-in-law, whose toughness and command of Arabic swear words sent Egyptian border guards scurrying for cover, succumbed once.

 

And to the people in my industry, the owners and shop managers, I say, "What is it going to take? Another '60 Minutes' or 'Nightline' exposé where they go shop to shop and find out how many flushes they need after chemically certifying the fluids as new? Do you know how tough business is gonna be after that happens? Try thinking a little farther ahead than next week's bonus check."

 

Doug Flint owns and operates Tune-Up Technology, a garage in Alexandria, Va.

 

 

Great post, it really puts things into perspective. The one thing you didn't mention is the "why" change fluids more often on todays wonders of technology. Machine tolerances... with the advent of the so called "0" weight oils to allow a smooth oil flow in today's engines the tolerance they have on oil sludge is a higher concern.

 

But, it may take a 60 minutes documentary to show the good and the bad. By far the most important thing... educating the customer... and that oil change guy.... (me included) Nothing remains the same, and change is what keeps us on our toes.

 

Next thing you know we'll have our own ultrasound machine to examine the inside of an engine... LOL

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I have to say, I'm not a fan of the "flush", but it does make sense to change the fluids he mentions. He's not exactly telling the truth either about that '77 Cutlass running 180k without needing any of these fluid changes. In that 180k that car probably went through 1 or 2 power steering pumps, a timing chain or 2, a master cylinder, a few wheel cylinders, power steering gearbox, a transmission clutch or 2, etc.... At the time those components were replaced you got a "fluid flush", not by some machine, but by the shear fact that the system was opened up to the environment and all fluid was drained. I have the biggest problem with the transmission flush. The problem is, the service is performed and the pan is not droppped to change the filter. If you are going to do a flush properly, change the filter too.

Brake fluid absolutely absorbs moisture and will corrode the internals of the ABS pump, wheel cylinders, calipers and brake lines. A pressure bleed will get new fluid with no moisture in it into the system. Not a bad idea, at least up north here. Now, this doesn't mean i am going to sell every customer on a fluid change (I don't own any flush equipment other than a pressure brake bleeder). But there are some vehicles that come in with obviously neglected fluids that could benefit from changing them.

I often wonder if people like him would ask to have the old fluid put back in after he had a component replaced because "the old fluid is just fine". If it is not at all important to change the fluid, ever, then that should be just fine with him. Manufacturers make their recomendations based on a vehicle that they want to last 100k miles. After that, they don't care. If it makes it past the warranty then the manufacturer has done its job. The OEMs also look to be listed as the "lowest maintenance cost" over the life of the vehicle (again, 100k miles). Can't be the lowest maintenance cost if you are recomending fluid flushes every 30k miles.

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I have read this article before and I have to tell you, it’s misleading. How can anyone paint every situation with the same brush? The only thing that I am not a fan of is the use of the term “flush”.

 

We don’t flush the engine oil at every oil service, do we? We change the oil as part of the required maintenance. Potentially every fluid can break down and if it does, it should be changed, just like oil or coolant. But I will not hesitate for a moment and recommend the replacement of any fluid that I see in my professional judgment needs changing.

 

If a customer was stuck in the snow and overheated his transmission and the fluid smelled burnt, would you recommend replacing it? Of course you would!

If you were replacing rear wheel cylinders and the brake fluid looked like mud, would you recommend replacing the brake fluid? Of course you would.

I don’t like people who pass judgment on the ENTIRE industry because of a few bad apples.

Another thing, when I started in the early 19701’s it was rare that a car reached 100,000 miles. Now people expect their cars to go over 200k. Well how are you going to reach 200k without preventive maintenance?

 

AND ONE MORE THING: You cannot go by the glove box manual, becuase there is nothing in there. The car maker does not want you to maintain your car, it will last too long if you did. The car maker wants to sell you another car. SO....who do you trust?

 

I feel like Nixon when I say this…but, I am not a crook just because I recommend fluid changes.

 

Can someone please write a positive article about us…just once!

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I have read this article before and I have to tell you, it's misleading. How can anyone paint every situation with the same brush? The only thing that I am not a fan of is the use of the term "flush".

 

We don't flush the engine oil at every oil service, do we? We change the oil as part of the required maintenance. Potentially every fluid can break down and if it does, it should be changed, just like oil or coolant. But I will not hesitate for a moment and recommend the replacement of any fluid that I see in my professional judgment needs changing.

 

If a customer was stuck in the snow and overheated his transmission and the fluid smelled burnt, would you recommend replacing it? Of course you would!

If you were replacing rear wheel cylinders and the brake fluid looked like mud, would you recommend replacing the brake fluid? Of course you would.

I don't like people who pass judgment on the ENTIRE industry because of a few bad apples.

Another thing, when I started in the early 19701's it was rare that a car reached 100,000 miles. Now people expect their cars to go over 200k. Well how are you going to reach 200k without preventive maintenance?

 

AND ONE MORE THING: You cannot go by the glove box manual, becuase there is nothing in there. The car maker does not want you to maintain your car, it will last too long if you did. The car maker wants to sell you another car. SO....who do you trust?

 

I feel like Nixon when I say this…but, I am not a crook just because I recommend fluid changes.

 

Can someone please write a positive article about us…just once!

 

 

Working on it Joe.... I'm working on it. Might even send it out for publication...

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Working on it Joe.... I'm working on it. Might even send it out for publication...

 

Great, we need some positive press. It seems we are targets for the media. I have said this over and over; We are among the hardest working people in history. We keep Amercia moving. Don't judge us because of a few bad apples and don't write things about us that's not true or misleading.

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You are absolutely right Joe. That's what I was trying to say. Why does the whole automotive profession get painted with the broadest stroke?

 

 

Dewayne, a lot of times it's because we all are guilty of thinking of ourselves as individuals, or better put independents. The word Independent should... in my book... only refer to the style or type of business that is outside of the dealership programs. Not the individuality of the independent business. Those individuals out there that give the profession a bad name is what I believe we are trying to erase with ASO... and for that matter a lot of the other organizations out there. Once, if ever, we as a collective of indepedents make it known how the true business ethics applies to the majority and not the minority of repair shops out there... well, then... we can possible see an end to the so called... "label" Individuals are mechanics... Independents are OUR group...

 

This is just a small part of the story I'm working on now. Later Gonzo

Edited by Gonzo
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Dewayne, a lot of times it's because we all are guilty of thinking of ourselves as individuals, or better put independents. The word Independent should... in my book... only refer to the style or type of business that is outside of the dealership programs. Not the individuality of the independent business. Those individuals out there that give the profession a bad name is what I believe we are trying to erase with ASO... and for that matter a lot of the other organizations out there. Once, if ever, we as a collective of indepedents make it known how the true business ethics applies to the majority and not the minority of repair shops out there... well, then... we can possible see an end to the so called... "label" Individuals are mechanics... Independents are OUR group...

 

This is just a small part of the story I'm working on now. Later Gonzo

 

 

 

I too have seen the articles in other publications the last few weeks, it obviously has a consumer flavor to it. As I see it we have two options, live with it an don't complain, or personally get involved and do something. I love the idea of Gonzo writing an article to vent the shops side of this but be sure to include a real solution.

 

Actually all the arguments on both sides of this fence could easily be addressed and quelled if the shops/owners/technicians religiously used fluid testing products already approved by MAP, BAR, SAE, OEM's and Vehicle Manufacturers.

 

How can we keep letting our industry get beat up, when the solution is right at our finger tips.

 

 

If you test a vehicle regularly and show the results to the customer month after month, there is no way they are going to think service centers are ripping them off. They will have seen the fluid change with there own eyes and if they still do not think they need a fluid exchange, then they deserve the inevitable trail of broken parts that will follow.

 

I teach this everywhere I go, fluid testing is the only way to know what condition a specific vehicle's fluid is in. It can't be found in the glove box manual, it can't be found on the end of Goobers finger stuck in diff oil, it can't be found in a Dab a Lube plastic comparator tool, it can't be determined be smelled, it can't be decided by looking at how dark it is, etc, etc, etc. I must be tested or we will forever remain in the cave man times.

 

Sorry to be blunt, but I can't believe an owner or tech has the gall to say they don't need test products in their shop or that they don't think they work. Do they think they don't need to do a blood test to determine their cholesterol level, or need an xray to see if they have a broken bone after a fall? Come on, the tests we now have available took decades to develop and millions of dollars to bring to market place. There is no question they work and are accurate, they have been certified by all major controlling agencies.

 

Step up and start proving you are a professional and that you are able to accurately diagnosis a customers vehicle. Teach them that fluids do go bad in todays pressure cooker engine compartments. Use the three OE Approved fluid testing products available today and tomorrow you will be benefiting from the increased volume of flushes that will come your way. There is no easier close than the one the customer makes himself.

 

Thanks for your thoughts,

Gary

 

 

Here are the products and links to which I refer above. Please let me know if you have any questions on them, you can call me any time at 1(800) 266-4497. As always, GWR will offer special discounts on these essential tools to all members of the group.

 

www.FluidTesting.com

www.FluidRxtest.com

www.RadStrips.com

www.BrakeTestStrip.com

 

 

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