"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

No Friend of my Drain Pan – Mr Lube

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I’m the forgiving sort (goes with the whole Christian thing). I’m even willing to permit a couple of chances for service people to get the job right…I saw enough honest error when I was running a fighter squadron maintenance organization (18 jets, 170 technicians and engineers).

Last year, I had my car in for an oil change at a local Mr Lube. I like those oil change places for the in-between maintenance checks, as they’re quick and convienient (unlike my dealership). The day after the oil change there was a puddle under the car. I know these places can be sloppy, and leave oil on the body members that can drip for days. After a couple of days the oil spot had not left, so I began to suspect a problem. When I was checking the oil filter for tightness, I also noted that there was oil sprayed all down the backside of my engine. At that point I was not thinking Mr Lube, but rather a blown head gasket. Since they were the last to work on the car, I went back to Mr Lube.

Turns out the drain plug seal had been split, which was the cause of the slow leak (this is typically due to improper installation through over-torquing, and poor post-installation inspection). When they saw the oil down the back of the engine, the Mr Lube tech said “It looks like you have a head gasket leak.” They replaced the split seal, and when I thanked them he said, “I’m just glad it wasn’t our fault”, which left me a little mystified.

I was due for some other maintenance work so I took the car into a licensed mechanic to look at the head gasket. His comment – no problem, whoever filled the oil last time just tried to go too quickly. When you rush the oil spills down the back of the engine.

After that experience, I decided not to go back to that Mr Lube, but not to write off the chain.

Now comes the most recent experience, in Winnipeg, on vacation. Oil change just before coming home. The morning we leave as we pull away…oil spot under the van. Same drill, monitor for a few days to make sure it’s not just sloppy clean-up. Nope. The van is high enough I can crawl underneath, and what do I find? A folded seal on the drain plug and a slow oil leak.

This now falls into the category of twice bitten, so we won’t be going back to Mr Lube.

I’m aghast – as there isn’t a task more basic (for a mechanic) than installing a drain plug and seal. I’ve done this many times on vehicles and aircraft. I really wonder if they’re using torque wrenches at Mr Lube, and if they are, what type of training program they have in place. The two installation critical parts in an oil change are the filter and the drain plug. Either done improperly could lead to a catastrophic loss of oil. Critical tasks demand focused training and a program of proficiency checks to keep the person sharp.

Anyway, forewarned is forearmed.


Written by sameo416

August 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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