How would a manufacturer know what oil you are using to void your warrantee?

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Mar 30, 2003
I have heard a lot of talk about having your warrantee voided if you do not use the specified grade of oil, but how would the dealer's shop know? It's not like they are going to send for UOA to prove it when you come in with a problem. Is this concern really founded at all?

[ May 01, 2003, 03:01 PM: Message edited by: Snatchface ]
Don't worry, if your engine seizes and they think they can avoid buying you a new one by proving that you were using the wrong oil, they'll pay the $30 to have it tested.

In reality, I seriously doubt any oil will cause engine failure within the warranty period, even if it is way out of spec for the car, so long as you change it when it needs it.

Cheers, 3MP
even if it did fail, just drain the oil and refill with whatever's spec for the car before it gets to the dealer

Let me give you an example of a situation last year in which I was an EW for plaintiff.

Plaintiff brought case against GM (defendant) for an engine that failed 1,500 miles before warranty was void. GM denied engine replacement. The plaintiff used the owners manual to record his oil type at oil drain, filter, the date, mileage on engine, and mileage on oil.

Defendants lawyer (GM) was trying to make the owner look like he had kept poor and unofficial records and acted in bad faith toward scheduled oil changes.

The EW was called (me).
Defendants Lawyer (GM): To your knowledge and experience, what do you think of the plaintiff's method of keeping records?
EW: From the User's Manual for the car that I have examined, yes, I would say he kept meticulous records.
GM: The plaintiff claims he changed the oil according to schedule, is that your understanding?
EW: The plaintiff changed oil according to the "Severe Schedule" listed as per the GM manual.
GM: And what does that mean?
EW: He changed oil at shorter intervals than he really had to, because he wanted longevity from the car.
GM: But when the shop analyzed the oil, it showed a viscosity increase, indiciative of allowing the oil to stay in the engine too long; isn't that true?
EW: There are many causes of increase in viscosity. When I looked at the oil analysis, I saw increased elements associated with glycol and liquid glycol intrusion into the oil.
GM: And for the record and the jury, please explain what you mean.
EW: The head gasket leaked causing anti-freeze to mix with the oil.
GM: I just asked you to explain what glycol meant so the jury could clarify.
EW: No, for the record you asked a process question, not a simple definition.
GM: And what happens when anti-freeze enters the oil?
EW: The oil thins at first, which we call a viscosity decrease, or thinning of the oil, and the mix becomes a jelled mess, eventually oxidizing to a thick sludge.
GM: So anti-freeze could get into the engine, or higher than normal viscoity oil was put into the engine.
EW: Is that a question or comment?
GM: Please comment.
EW: It is my opinion that it was anti-freeze that infiltrated the oil and caused the engine to fail.
GM: How do we know that the plaintiff didn't have a grudge against GM and put anti-freeze into the crankcase just to stiff GM? He had written threatening letters to GM!
EW: How do we know you didn't beat your wife or girlfriend this morning? The letter I saw attempted over a period of 9 months to get GM to resolve the issue, or he would have to take the issue to court. I saw no threatening language, and here he is suing you for damages!

The judge found against GM and stated that no special bookkeeping was necessary, nor did GM define record keeping, to prove sufficient oil change intervals, and that the record of oil and lubrication changes found in GM's own owner's manual was sufficient during the warranty period.

Furthermore, the plaintiff received a new engine and cash for time off from work, mental anguish, and car rental, and a promisory note for a 30% discosunt on his next GM vehicle.

The plaintiff bought a Toyota the next year!!

[ May 01, 2003, 04:06 PM: Message edited by: MolaKule ]
So from that post, I'm guessing you don't think that it could ever be a problem either. (?)
Based on receipts you must provide. If you have no receipts or proof of regular oil changes, warranty DENIED. I suppose you could use someone elses receipts, but they will call the place the oil was changed if they suspect that the wrong oil was used, but VERY unlikely. They just want proof you did regular oil changes with dates and mileage. At BMW I only had maybe three times in ten years had to ask a customer for receipts and that was only when a main bearing went bad.
Just to be a devils advocate, I would have brought up the question so what happened first, the head leak caused the oil to thicken or the oil really wasn't changed, causing the oil to thicken and creating a head leak? kinda like the chicken or the egg come first.

To answer your question Sface, there's ways to determine what viscosity of oil you're using and if they have a good enough library of oil analysis, could possibly even guess as to what brand of oil you're using.

The idea of changing the oil out after the damage was done would not work as it will show up as new oil. Very easy to detect even for a mechanic.

Can an oil cause problems? yes, but the root cause is normally done because of the human aspect such as not changing oil, thus over extending the life expectancy of the oil causing the sludge, the other would be a no oil condition again, human not paying attention to engine, thus not the oil's fault. If the oil pump failed, causing no oil, then that's a mechanical problem but then there's always the argument that you have lights and gauges to alarm you to the problem and you failed to take action and continued thus blowing the motor.. Anyway you look at it, manufactures do not have to prove you did or didn't to deny. But when in court, they do. So if you ever go to court, you'll win as it is almost impossible to prove that the oil failed but the lack of oil caused the problem. That's the only time you have a failure due to lubrication and for every lube failure brought out, there's also a mechanical reason for it to fail as well.

So question is, do you want to go that distance and end up in court just to prove your point or just follow recommendations and eliminate that step. It'll come out of warr soon enough.
Interesting story, MolaKule. Even more interesting is that GM ever went to court over the issue. How does that saying go about fools and their money...?

The idea of changing the oil out after the damage was done would not work

Yah, I figured that it would just make you look guilty if you did that
I think that it was pretty poor customer service of GM to take the court route. I don't think a lot of other companies would have gone that way. I have a 7yr/70K mile extended warrantee so I am somewhat concerned about this issue...and i really want to get away from 5w20 ASAP.

[ May 01, 2003, 07:52 PM: Message edited by: Sface ]
I have a 2002 CRV Honda, and a 7yr/100K warranty, and also don't like the 5/20 oil idea. Here in Northern Calif it gets around 100 or over 100 degrees a lot in the summer months, I don't think the visc on the 20W is goint to cut it combined with the heat factor plus mileage on the oil. I would like to run 5W-30 synth but worried about the warranty issue. My first oil change I just went to Castrol GTX 5w-20 for now. Still undecided on what synth to start using.
Meticulous record keeper, that plaintiff, but foolish. Imagine, throwing away a 30% freebee on a new car. Toyotas blow headgaskets, too.

Did the plaintiff provide receipts showing what type/grade oil and filters used for service?

I wonder what the result be if one provides receipts(assuming it is required) but with wrong(against the manual) grade oil.
What do you think would happen if a car owner was a do it yourself type and changed his own oil.If the owner kept records of the oil/filter changes at the sever service schedule and provided the recipts for the purchase of the oil and filters.... but since he did the changes himself couldnt "prove" or provide witness's that he actually proformed the actual changes ? Would the reciepts and records be enough or is a witness or other testomony needed ?
What Chrysler requires is a log and receipts.I change my own oil and filter,and I keep the receipts,as they are dated.I buy oil by the case,and make sure my receipts coincide with the change intervals.The log book is the most important part.
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