‘Sex Sells’ may be a common mantra attributed to the advertising industry but it is not always true. While automotive filters are hardly the most glamorous car parts, their importance must not be underestimated; Rob Marshall argues that due consideration to quality should be your buying focus.
Many customers think that all filters are the same. Therefore, it can be difficult to justify to the average non-technical car owner why you are charging them more for a quality part, compared to the typical white-box ‘bargain’ they might have researched themselves on online marketplaces. Filters, like oil, are relative bargains, considering the damage that sub- standard substitutes can wreak. Champion, part of the Federal- Mogul family, reports that many consumers indulge in this false economy, by sacrificing quality for cost, but the use of OE- quality parts gives professionals extra confidence in the quality of their service work.
THE QUALITY CONNECTION
Unlike oil, for example, filters have no universal performance standards. Trusting the brand, your supplier and their partners tends to be all that you can do. HELLA Hengst is one such company that works closely with the car manufacturers and supplies not only to the VM line and OE spares but also the aftermarket. Yet, the company warns about the quality of counterfeit copies that risk courting engine failure. For example, its investigations have uncovered fake oil filters that possess ineffective anti-drain valves, which result in a lack of oil pressure for a prolonged period post engine restart, as well as low quality filter material that provides zero filtration protection. And, even filter media that disintegrates at relatively low oil pressure and temperatures, which causes plastic particles to enter the lubrication circuit, with potentially catastrophic results.
Another OE supplier, Mahle, also warns about dangerous replicas and states that, while low-rent filters appear similar on the outside, the internal differences highlight the quality of the part, especially in respect of the filter media. We shall look at the anti-counterfeiting provisions that such companies employ in a later issue but it is reasonable to state that a typical technician is not an experienced filtration engineer and the quality control aspect of filters falls back on the issue of trust once again.
UFI Filters highlights that, while the quality of the filter is paramount, it is not the only consideration. As increasing part numbers are one of the many challenges faced by both suppliers and distributors, motor factors tend to stock the fastest moving parts, which is understandable, although this can lead to an increased lead time, when a filter for a less common vehicle (or component) is required. To help achieve its plans of capturing a 10% share of the UK filtration aftermarket within just three years, UFI Filters has established a 1,000m2 distribution centre in the West Midlands that holds over 200,000 parts, covering 96% of the UK car parc. The company told AT that this gives motor factors a sector-leading service quality, a next-day delivery service to garages and low minimum order values.
Through block exemption, provided that certain parameters are met, a service history from an independent garage should not affect a manufacturer’s warranty. Unfortunately, cars that are bought using finance (such as PCP) can have a codicilin the small print, which dictates that only a complete main dealer service history is permitted, meaning that aftermarket maintenance would affect its value adversely. Extended warranties may risk being voided, if any insistence on franchised service history is not adhered to. These demands are not covered by block exemption legislation and you may choose to inform your customer of the fact, before a car is booked-in for servicing.
While it is unreasonable to expect a car manufacturer/importer to repair damage that has been caused by a ‘white box’ filter of dubious origins, it is also unjust for a manufacturer warranty to be rejected, because the owner has trusted an independent repairer to fit parts that match OE quality. Should you suspect that a customer vehicle may be covered under
manufacturer/extended warranty programmes (or has been bought on finance), you may wish to check the terms that tend to be printed in the owner’s manual/service booklet.
Famed for its 7 years-long warranty, we contacted Kia Motors UK for clarification about whether the use of aftermarket filters and independent servicing would void its warranty. We were told that this would not, with the following caveats:
- The aftermarket garage is VAT registered (we believe this cannot be enforced and could be challenged)
- The service must be carried-out correctly, as detailed in the owner’s manual (fair enough)
- The oil type and grade should be detailed on the invoice (not an unreasonable request)
- Service records must be stamped and dated
While another Kia requirement is that any parts used (including filters) must have their part numbers detailed on the invoice and should be either genuine Kia-branded, or of an ‘equivalent quality’. We asked Kia Motors UK to explain how it judged filters to be ‘equivalent quality’ and it told us, “Generally, we would be happy, if the filter in question were produced by a reputable manufacturer that met the appropriate ISO standards.” Interestingly, Comline is neither a filter manufacturer, nor an OE supplier, but it argues strongly that its filters meet OE quality standards. Since its catalogue focussed initially on the filtration needs for Japanese and Korean models (including Kia, of course) its portfolio has expanded rapidly to include European models.
Today, its reach covers 95% of the Asian and Euro aftermarket vehicle parc, with millions of filters sold worldwide every year. To justify its confidence in the OE quality of its filters, it partners only with filtration manufacturers that are not only OE suppliers themselves but which are also ISO accredited. Additionally, Comline performs its own regular quality control audits of its suppliers’ manufacturing facilities, as well as engaging the independent International Filter Testing Services to analyse filtration performance routinely. Its tests include a wealth of assessments, ranging from anti-drain valve performance to filter medium vibration fatigue tests.
A spokesman told AT: “We go to great lengths to ensure the quality of every filter in our comprehensive range, by working solely with world-class, ISO compliant manufacturing facilities and employing stringent quality control procedures. Our absolute focus on quality allows technicians to confidently fit and supply Comline filters safe in the knowledge that they will integrate seamlessly with their customer vehicles, deliver consistent, reliable performance and protect their manufacturer warranties.”
However, the duty of care does not rest solely with filter brands and your factor. Technicians bear their own responsibilities, when servicing a car that is covered under its manufacturer warranty. Detail the filters used on the customer invoice, including part numbers, sign the service book and advise the customer to file the paperwork as evidence. As it would be the car manufacturer/importer (or whichever body honours the guarantee) that has to prove that a certain part is inferior, thus providing your customer with as much evidence as you can is an important factor in raising awareness that good quality aftermarket servicing and filtration remains in the customers’ best interests.