Today, I'm going to talk about the oil in your engine. I know this doesn't sound like a particularly interesting topic, but what I am about to tell you can help you avoid voiding your warranty, leaving you to pay thousands of dollars for an engine repair.
The Basics: The oil in your engine is what keeps hundreds of parts moving at really high speeds from turning themselves, and your engine, into just so much metal junk. It may seem obvious, but oil is the lubricant in your engine. There are some not so obvious consequences of this, however.
The Level: One of the consequences of oil being the lubricant in your engine is that you have to have enough oil in your engine. That may seem obvious, too, but what you might not be keeping in mind is that, just because you start out with enough oil doesn't mean it's going to stay that way. And if the oil level goes too low, you lose part of the lubricating protection and can prematurely age your engine. More importantly from a legal perspective, you can lose the protection of your warranty. That's right, it's your obligation to keep the proper level of oil in your engine, and if you don't do that, and your engine fails, the car's manufacturer can refuse to cover the cost of the new engine. And if you don't have warranty coverage, you don't have a Lemon Law case. You should check the oil level every time you get gas, and add oil if the level is too low. Are you adding oil frequently? Then, your engine may be suffering from excessive oil consumption.
Excessive Oil Consumption: If you have to add oil to your engine on a too frequent basis, your engine is suffering from consumption--excessive oil consumption, that is. What is excessive? In my opinion, if you are using a quart of oil more frequently than every three thousand miles--in a new car or truck--that is excessive. Excessive oil consumption is a defect that can support a Lemon Law claim by the way. If you suspect this problem, report it to your dealer and have them conduct an oil consumption test. This requires some effort on your part, because you have to bring your vehicle back to them to have them check the oil level at set intervals. It's worth the effort, though, if it saves you from having a Lemon with a blown engine. By the way, there are may cars and trucks out there that are prone to excessive oil consumption, and the manufacturers try to brush it off as "normal operating characteristics" of that model. Just because all of their cars consume too much oil, doesn't make it okay.
Changes: Just as important as keeping the proper oil level is keeping the oil changed at the proper intervals (the oil and the oil filter). Check your maintenance manual (one of those books in the glove compartment that I've talked about before. You'll usually find it buried under napkins and maps and hand lotion--but no gloves, for some reason.) Keep a record of the oil changes (more on that in a minute). Not changing the oil and filter will void your warranty just as fast as not keeping the proper oil level, with the same consequences. Why should that be? It's about the sludge . . .
Sludge: If you fail to change your oil at the required intervals, you can end up with sludge deposits in your engine, which can cause it to prematurely fail. That is one of the situations that can cause your warranty to be voided, as I said. Sometimes, engine sludge occurs in some engines even when you have done everything you are supposed to do. If that happens, and you can prove you changed the oil when required, the manufacturer will have to honor the warranty. Remember, though, it is up to you to prove that you had the oil changed. If you did it at the dealer, they should have records (you should keep your copy anyway). If you had the oil changed somewhere else, you need to keep the receipts yourself. If you change the oil yourself, even if you have the receipts for the oil, they may question whether you actually did the oil changes.
The Bottom Line: Make sure you keep the oil in your engine at the right level and changed when the maintenance schedule says you should, and you'll help to avoid problems with your engine, with your warranty, and with any potential Lemon Law claim.
I'll have a new topic for you for my next post. In the meantime, you can get more information from my websites San Diego Lemon Law and When Bad Cars Happen to Good People.
See you next week!
© 2011 Douglas C. Sohn
Doug Sohn is a San Diego attorney specializing in Lemon Law cases. He is a native of San Diego and lives in the North County with his wife, Cheri, and 3 of their 5 children. Cheri also works with Doug in the practice.