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Fluid flushes: are you just flushing your money away?

Fluid flush

I recently had a retired widow on a fixed income come in and ask how much it would cost to flush her vehicle’s fluids and if it was really necessary. She was quoted a little over $800 by an automotive dealer and was told that if the services were not done, it may void her warranty. This situation enrages me because it wasn’t required by the manufacturer, nor did the vehicle need it. I believe customers/owners need to be educated in what their needs really are.  I also believe it is our duty, as a professional automotive repair shop to help and guide the customer towards what is right for their specific needs.

 

Remember, it’s a business.

To better understand to whole automotive fluid flushing scene, first you need to understand the economics behind it.

  • People selling these services are often paid on commission.
  • Technicians that do the work are typically entry level employees / lower paid.
  • The equipment to do these services are supplied free of charge on consignment by the supplier of the products used, as long as the shop meets minimum purchase requirements.
  • There is a very low cost of inventory and few SKUs to stock for the business who offers this service.
  • This is a lucrative service to offer with high profit margins.

 

When you understand the economic factors behind fluid flushes, it is easier to understand why some shops will push to offer theses services. It’s a simple, low cost work that yields high profit margins. Of course, any business exists to generate a profit, but profits should not come before the wellbeing of the customers.

 

Do I need to flush my fluids?

Car manufacturers are spending millions of dollars in R&D to develop reliable vehicles. Other than engine oil changes, many vehicles do not require service to any other fluids for a very long time. Many components are now filled with “lifetime fill” like the gear box, the brake fluid, power steering fluid, and require no service other than fluid level checks.

It is also important to note that often, fluid changes are not recommended and are not endorsed by the manufacturer. Many manufacturers like GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Hyundai, even issued internal Technical Service Bulletins that clearly state that these services are not endorsed and may VOID YOUR WARRANTY.

Even worse, some of these services will end up diluting your existing fluid with a non approved product.

There is also an environmental impact to take into account. These services can use +/- 15 liters of various fluids, for absolutely no reason at all.

Of course, all of this does not mean you shouldn’t do any maintenance on your vehicle. It is crucial to take proper care of your vehicle and yes, sometimes there is a need to flush certain or even all fluids. It is important to note that some vehicles require it. But before you do so, make sure you need to be doing it, and that it is being done to the manufacturer’s specifications.

 

How to know when a fluid flush is necessary (and how to protect yourself)

The owner’s manual should be your reference for all of your maintenance. The manufacturers built and designed your vehicle and are the ones who warranty it. It would only be reasonable to think that if a specific maintenance is required it would be published in your manual. If a technical advisor recommends maintenance, ask them to show you in your manual that specific service. Go one step further, ask them to write it on the invoice that it’s a manufacturer recommended service and done with warranty approved products with the actual part numbers.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, educate yourself and be alert for commission based technical advisors trying to sell you non-approved maintenance that is not required. Remember, when in doubt refer to your owner’s manual. If you do not have access to your manual, most manufacturers will supply one to you at little or no cost. Simply contact the customer service office. You can also look for the manual online, where most of them are easily accessible.

If you have any questions or concerns, call or drop in, it will be our pleasure to help you with your vehicle.

 

Happy motoring

Clayton Fitzpatrick, Owner @ CDF ProMecanique

 

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