Oil changes and modern specifications

The consequences of slipping up…

Although performing oil changes is reasonably elementary, the lubricant itself is immensely complex. Therefore, Rob Marshall looks into the latest developments affecting the engine lubrication market and the consequences of technicians not keeping up-to-date.

While the main engine oil functions are well-understood by technicians, it is still quite magical that they maintain their cooling and lubrication properties within the environments of low viscosities, higher temperatures and extended drain intervals. Yet, the oil’s protective properties extend beyond the power unit. Certain anti-wear additives may be life saviours for the engine but they can be fatal for the catalytic converter, or DPF. As an example, Lucas Oil blends its engine oil in 10w-30, 10w-40 & 20w-50 viscosities, which contain high levels of zinc, molybdenum, and phosphorus to offer maximum engine protection for muscle, showroom, classic and trophy cars. As Lucas Oil admits, these formulations are more specialised applications, making them unsuitable for modern vehicles equipped with catalytic converters, or DPFs. In addition, some of the latest engines may be prone to specific issues, such as intake coking, and the car manufacturer may specify a particular engine oil additive formulation to minimise the effect. These are reasons why engine oil has become increasingly bespoke and why both owners and technicians have to be sure that they make the right choice.

Consequences of owner neglect…

Many technicians remain surprised about how badly certain owners neglect their cars, many of whom cannot even be bothered to check their levels. Even oil companies are trying to communicate this to the public. As an example, Castrol’s Oil Check Challenge seeks to raise awareness and encourage workshop visits.

Getting the oil right is not easy for newer vehicles. Prioritise manufacturer specifications over viscosity and API/ACEA ratings.

Deteriorated oil produces a sludgy deposit that can cause blockages. Should the crankcase breather be restricted, the crankcase can pressurise and cause oil leaks.

While physical oil leaks are certainly not intentional, all engines burn oil – although some of them do so more than others. Morris Lubricants explains that oil consumption is not necessarily a sign of excessive wear; it tends to be a consequence of efficiency technologies. An example is a relatively recent piston design, where the ring packs are moved closer to the crown to enhance swirl and optimise fuel and air mixing prior to combustion. However, moving the uppermost ring further up the piston exposes it to higher temperatures, but it still requires lubricating. This is a popular area in which oil is burnt. Millers concurs, stating that some manufacturers maintain that oil consumption should be expected.

Morris Lubricants adds that, should the owner not replenish the lost lubricant and the level falls, the remaining sump content faces increased stress and premature deterioration. The result is accelerated engine wear, poor engine cleanliness, corrosion and, possibly, overheating. The latter point is relevant, because oil has a major influence on crankcase temperatures. Millers explains that, should the level fall to the minimum allowed quantity, the remaining oil would have to work harder and, therefore, suffer a reduction in its lifespan and require draining sooner.

Aside from low oil levels, neglected oil change intervals present further problems. MOTUL reminds us that engine oils are formulated with set drain intervals in mind, because the additive packs are consumed over time. In addition, the engine oil becomes polluted by metals and solid dirt particles, unburned fuel and moisture. Therefore, it is logical that the consequences of neglected oil changes include enhanced wear and tear, corrosion and deposits accumulations, including sludge. The VLS adds also that the increased viscosity can raise fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

Importantly, Motul emphasises that OEM handbooks state oil change intervals should be reduced according to operating conditions. As AT detailed in our 2020/1 lockdown editorials, multiple short journeys are tough on oil, not only because of the extra contaminations that it must suspend and extra acids that require neutralising, but also due to it not reaching its optimum operating temperature. Due to the oil deteriorating faster under these low-mileage conditions, you should insist that it is drained at least once annually. As many active DPF regeneration algorithms consider oil quality, neglecting drain intervals can cause aborted active cycles and, therefore, particulate blockages. The DPF Doctor, Darren Darling, finds that not resetting the on-board indicator post-service on some vehicles can hinder successful regeneration, because the car thinks that the sump’s contents is older than it really is.

Why ‘That’ll do’, won’t…

According to Euro Car Parts, technicians will turn often to a ‘one size fits all’ solution, such as stocking a 5w-30 C3 engine oil, theorising incorrectly that it can be used in most cars. Yet, a handful of engine lubricants will not suffice for every vehicle that enters your workshop. Selecting the correct engine oil requires additional research and the selection process has matured, too. Motul highlights that the viscosity grade is not a quality indicator; the correct marker is the OEM specification. Especially on turbocharged GDI models, low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI) is a continuing challenge and both Morris Lubricants and Motul highlight this engine-killing phenomenon as one reason that justifies the importance of choosing oil by prioritising OEM approvals, because a major contributor to LSPI is a calcium anti-wear additive contained within the oil. Yet, LSPI is not the only issue that is promoted by engine oil. Intake coking is another example, caused not by calcium but by viscosity improvers. OEMs will, therefore, formulate engine oils to reduce these issues as much as possible. Should garages choose to use the wrong oil, then the rate at which these issues occur will increase.

Choosing engine oils for modern applications starts neither with the viscosity, nor whether the lubricant is mineral, part, or fully synthetic. Checking whether, or not, the lubricant meets the car maker’s specification for that model must be the priority. Yet, should you be working on a classic model with no manufacturer recommendation, then the aforementioned specifications have more relevance. AT plans to investigate lubricants for historic vehicles in a future issue.


We are grateful to the Verification of Lubrication Specifications, the independent UK organisation that ensures claims made by oil companies are true, for informing us of the most up-to-date changes. While many aftermarket garages are unlikely to be affected immediately by the most recent developments, forewarned is forearmed…

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has announced its 2021 sequences for light duty vehicles, catching-up finally with the American Petroleum Institute (API). The latest sequences can be claimed alongside the ACEA 2016 light-duty engine oil categories until next year. The new standards seek to address the challenges posed by the latest engine developments. Yet, the VLS comments that they represent evolution, rather than revolution.

Since AT covered this topic last year, the sequences tackle some of the existing technical challenges. These include new A7/B7 and C6 categories that address the impact of Low-Speed Pre-Ignition (LSPI) that affects turbocharged GDI engines primarily. Yet, it is worth noting that the ACEA sequences for heavy-duty diesel engines has been delayed, although the release of which is expected by the end of the year.

Interestingly, the introduction of new engine tests modernises the sequences to consider lower viscosity (i.e. thinner) lubricants, used in some of the newest engine designs. The VLS theorises that, given the transition of passenger cars and even light commercial vehicles to electrification, the ACEA engine oil sequences for light-duty engine oil will not be updated so frequently in future.

In terms of enforcement, the most common issues that the VLS encounters involve oil blenders over-claiming. This takes several forms – one of which involves companies claiming to meet certain specifications on their engine oil packaging but lacking any supporting evidence, when challenged. A further issue involves some products stating incorrectly that they are ‘officially approved’ by an OEM.

Should you be uncertain that claims, made by your oil blender(s), are untrue, you can request that the VLS investigates, by contacting it on 01442 875922 or visiting www.ukla-vls.org.uk


As we are told that oil packs for modern engines are so carefully balanced, one would have thought that topping- up the additive packs would upset the chemistry. This appears not to be the case entirely but much depends on your aim. Opinions, therefore, differ. Motul told AT that using an ‘on-top’ additive generally can have a negative impact. The company reasons that all components within the oil formulation, the additives particularly, are balanced, which can be prejudiced by an unknown additive. Increased wear and tear, corrosion, deposits, accelerated oxidation and a viscosity increase can be the consequences. It also adds that you risk prejudicing the OEM warranty, by using them.

Meanwhile, BG Products views that, despite becoming ever more bespoke, engine oils are still formulated to a set budget and specification, meaning that oil producers have to balance price with top performance in normal operating conditions. Where ‘severe’ conditions are encountered, BG Products reasons that it provides customers with a choice to upgrade the oil with an additive package. As mentioned earlier, much depends on what you wish to achieve. Engine oil that is subjected to the severe conditions of not being able to reach its optimum temperature constantly may well benefit from extra detergents, for instance. BG Products also highlights that higher oil temperatures, such as those experienced with high-speed motorway driving, can also break down the engine oil faster and so extra fortification can be of use to help it retain its stability.

JLM Lubricants also offers garages the chance to upsell. Aside from its cleaning functions, the company told AT that its Bortec additive performs particularly well in areas of the engine subject to high temperatures, pressures and friction. In addition, the antioxidant in boron provides the engine oil with better protection against ageing, enabling it to maintain optimal performance for longer. JLM Lubricants insists that, since Bortec is based upon low viscosity base oil and, since a treatment consists of approximately 250ml, it is compatible with modern, low viscosity engine lubricants. This may not be the case for a relatively thick ‘stop smoke’ type of additive, however. As with any professional product, BG Products reminds us not to overdose, commenting that adding more than the recommended dose of a “top-treat” oil fortifier risks unbalancing the oil which can destabilise it.

Hailing from North America but available in the UK, Lucas Oil is another well-established quality brand that sells a variety of engine oil treatments but, again, much depends on the application. It reasons that engine oil additives are especially important in today’s engines that are smaller and more powerful than those of the past, which stresses vital engine components and the oil that protects them. One of its best-known products is the Heavy Duty Oil Stabiliser, which has been updated for today’s low viscosity engine oils, even up to 0w-8. While enhanced dispersancy and oxidisation resistance are advantages, Lucas Oil highlights that it is not lost focus on dry-start protection, which remains the primary cause of wear.


Morris Lubricants views engine flush additives as especially useful in scenarios where the vehicle possesses an unknown service history, the incorrect oil has been used, or the sump is contaminated by another engine fluid. Motul emphasises that lubricants, exposed to extended oil drain intervals, while operating under severe conditions, can be overwhelmed by solid and liquid contaminations. Consequently, these deposits can remain within the crankcase after draining, which will impact the detergency and dispersancy performance of the fresh oil. A flush, therefore, is beneficial. JLM lubricants agrees, stating that its Engine Oil Flush Pro is formulated to dissolve old oil residues and accumulated dirt in the lubrication system, plus the cylinder walls, pistons, piston rings, valves, guides and the combustion chamber. The net advantage is that it extends the new oil’s lifespan. Using such flushes, including Motul’s ‘Engine Clean’, Millers ‘Engine Oil Flush’ and BG Product’s ‘EPR’, also help to clean and free the low-tension piston rings, used most commonly in GDI applications. This helps to restore compression, therefore minimising the quantity of unburnt fuel entering the crankcase, which has the extra advantage of not degrading the engine oil prematurely.


While this feature focusses on engine lubricant and supplementary products, customers are querying garages about whether they should use E10 95 RON petrol with an additive, or the more expensive Super Unleaded E5 97+ RON grade.

To summarise, E10 petrol presents several technical challenges over E5. The extra ethanol corrodes certain metals faster. It also attacks the structure of certain plastics and rubbers. Even if the car’s fuel system does not contain such materials, it cannot escape other complications. E10 petrol absorbs moisture more readily, which tends to originate from condensation in the petrol tank. This incombustible ethanol/moisture mix then phase-separates from the fossil-fuel element and falls to the bottom of the tank. This leaves fuel above it with an octane rating below 95RON. E10 also oxidises, becomes more acidic and, therefore, ages faster than E5. Yet, even when fresh, E10 is an effective solvent, which risks fuel system blockages – further details about which can be found in our separate filtration editorial. For more information on E10, AT’s previous analysis on the topic can be accessed here: https://autotechnician.co.uk/forewarned-is-forearmed-e10-petrol/

You and your customers may have come across various fuel additives that claim to combat the negative effects of ethanol. Yet, as E10 presents several separate technical challenges, we questioned various additive producers about how their products could address them all. Unfortunately, some companies did not answer our questions; others revealed that their products only addressed certain issues and not others. At this point, therefore, AT’s examination of E10 fuel additives is inconclusive, meaning that we cannot make any firm recommendations at this stage.

Should you be queried by an unsure customer about E10, you can advise that the fuel can be used if the motorcar in question is both materially compatible (which can be verified by this link https://www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-e10-petrol ) AND the driver fills the tank at least once every six weeks. Should the car be incompatible materially with E10 (such as many early GDI engines, or those fitted to Historic vehicles), or the car covers a low mileage, use E5 super unleaded instead of an additive. We hope to update this advice in the future, once we receive answers that are sufficiently convincing.

Making the informed choice: Filter Quality

As the difference between a decent and sub-standard replaceable filter is not immediately obvious, Rob Marshall enquires with both OE and Non-OE suppliers about how technicians can select quality parts with confidence.

Due to motorcars becoming more complicated, more precise and boasting lengthy service intervals, effective, consistent and long-lasting filtration has become ever-more critical. Low grade products might look as if they will do the job on first glance but, as engine damage especially builds over a period of time, the consequence of using poor quality filtration might not be associated with a sudden and expensive mechanical failure. 

Using low grade filters also presents a warranty risk, when maintaining a vehicle that is still covered by the manufacturer, or supplying main dealer. While you are not duty-bound to buy filters from a franchised parts counter, the customer will have to demonstrate that he/she has used OE quality filters and itemising the brand and part number on the invoice should be part of the customer service remit. 


First Line told AT that the filtration market overall is very sensitive to prices, which are being driven-down continually. As some manufacturers are cutting quality to meet a particular cost base, First Line advises that garages should protect themselves and their customers, by sticking with reputable, established brands that manage and control the specifications of their products carefully, as it does with its Borg and Beck brand of filters. 

Issues can occur at factor level. MAHLE reports that, when garages request that a service kit is delivered, parts can be supplied that originate from several different manufacturers. This should not be a problem, provided that those makes can be trusted, but MAHLE advises that quality brands are specified by garages to their parts suppliers, in order to protect their reputations. 

On modern canister filter designs, only the filter medium is replaced; the anti-drain back and bypass valves are incorporated within the filter module.

UFI Filters Group concurs that, while filters look very similar on the outside, performance levels deviate enormously. Buying and fitting a cheap aftermarket filter might seem to be a good way of cutting costs and, potentially, boosting profits but it can be a false economy for you and/or your customer. UFI says that they can cause damaging particles to remain within the engine, due to either an oil filter failing to separate them from the oil, or that they have entered the engine via the air, or fuel filter. This compromises not only engine performance and reliability but also increases fuel consumption and harmful exhaust emissions. 


Out of all filters discussed, the spin-on oil filter is the most mysterious type, because all of its working parts are enclosed within the metal canister. Apart from the filtration medium itself, a flap valve (although some filters are equipped with two) is fitted that stops the oil from draining from the filter, after the engine is switched-off, to prevent oil starvation on start-up. A calibrated bypass valve also features, to ensure that the oil flow avoids the filter, should it become blocked. 

UFI told AT that, presuming that these required technologies are installed in the first place, it has encountered bypass valves on low quality filters that open at higher (or lower) pressures than specified, increasing the risk of unfiltered oil passing through the engine, thus raising engine wear levels. By comparing budget filter quality against its own standards, MAHLE has discovered poor machining, resulting in sharp metal burrs that could detach from the filter, as well as anti- drain back valves that are either misshapen, and/or made from thin rubber, which reduces their effectiveness, plus a lack of glue that holds the relevant components together. 

The cartridge-type oil filter is far simpler and easier to inspect, because its filtration elements are exposed and the bypass and anti-drain functions are performed by the assembly, into which the filter locates (referred to by UFI, for example, as the filter module). As with spin-on filters, low quality cartridge filters can suffer from manufacturing inadequacies. MAHLE reports of poorly folded filter materials, while UFI highlights that the performance of the filter material (also called ‘media’) may be generic and unmatched to the specific engine application, which can result in either particles entering the lubrication circuit, or the filter clogging prematurely. The company explains that developing the filtration media is a complex science; neither must it degrade on contact with acids, soot and bio-fuels, nor affect oil pressure, while filtering contaminations effectively. Even the cartridge dimensions play an important role in determining optimum filtering efficiency, while minimising the risk of clogging. UFI explains also that modern engine technology has seen a shift from a cellulosic oil filter media and the latest engines, especially turbocharged units, have filters that are specified with glass-fibre, or polymer materials. As with engine oil, therefore, downgrading oil filter specifications is not a wise idea. 


While it is obvious that an air filter affects the air quality that is delivered into the combustion chambers, it is not always appreciated that the filter controls air flow stability, too. Therefore, to ensure optimum performance, while mitigating wear and harmful exhaust emissions, air filter specifications are factored by the carmaker and replacement parts must match them. 

A sign of a good quality air filter is it possessing a pre-filter that removes larger particles, such as road dust. This extra fleece layer can increase filter capacity by up to 40%.

When working with a vehicle manufacturer, when a car model is being developed, MAHLE explains that the location and filter replacement interval defines the most apposite filtration material and the physical dimensions to achieve the required filtration and flow rates. The company also explains that maintaining a constant air pressure is critical, because these values are monitored continually by the engine management system. In addition, MAHLE highlights that specifying the pressure differences between a turbocharger’s intake and exhaust turbines is a precise science and any subsequent modifications (such as installing a poor-grade air filter) that reduces the pressure within the air intake can damage the turbocharger over a period of time. 

Yet, you may encounter performance upgrade air filters that have been fitted to a customer’s vehicle at some point in the past. Obviously, some of these types may not require replacement but might need maintenance, such as cleaning, or oiling, to maintain their filtration properties. AT asked both MAHLE and UFI about these types of filters generally, with no reference to any brand. The advice that we received was that, while such filters could increase airflow, it would be at the expense of filtration effectiveness. Furthermore, airflow meters are calibrated to work with an OE specification filter, so any deviations can, perversely, result in a drop in engine power. The use of ‘more open’ engine air filters and the resultant imbalance that is created can also cause increases in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, while risking an increase in oil contamination rates and accelerated wear levels on internal mechanical parts. This may be why certain makers of ‘racing’ air filters state that the ECU should be ‘calibrated’ after the element is installed. 


Again, fuel filters have changed from the washable gauze-type that was fitted to many carburettor engines (although it is easy to forget that a strainer mesh is still fitted to the in-tank lift pump on many modern cars) to the canister-type, fitted to the underside of the vehicle on many petrol engined cars. Cartridge-type fuel filters (as pictured) are now commonplace, although their initial prevalence on diesel engines was because of the issues associated with the fuel, including water contamination and microbe-related infestation.

As pressures and tolerances have risen on both diesel and petrol fuel injection systems, so too has the sensitivity to fuel contamination. MAHLE reveals that even the smallest particle can cause premature wear and require costly replacement of both the high-pressure pump and injectors. Water in the injection system can cause a loss of performance, injector damage and even component failure. In some applications, water separation is a core function of the diesel filter, as specified by the vehicle manufacturer. UFI highlights its new Gen2Plus filters, which it claims sets new standards in the separation of water residue from the fuel and its ability to filter impurities from the fuel; the first application of which was in the current-production Fiat Tipo. 


While the informed technician knows why it is beneficial to install OE quality filters to protect the engine and its ancillary components, a typical customer may not be as technically- minded, which is why the garage has to make the decision for them. Perhaps, therefore, the only opportunity you have to upsell filtration products to the customer lies when the cabin filter is due for its annual replacement, because it has direct implications for the occupant’s health and comfort, which are easy to explain and understand. 

First Line has produced a poster to inform customers about the importance of changing cabin filters and the potential upgrade options. To request a free poster for your customer waiting areas,
contact marketing@firstline.co.uk

First Line says that educating the end user about the importance of changing a cabin filter annually is a major challenge for the filtration industry. Comline agrees and argues that opportunities are not being grasped by many garages. “The cabin filter is a relatively low-cost item, which offers motor factors and garages fantastic growth opportunities,” advises Nick Weir, Head of Comline’s Business Line Operations, who continues: “The key lies with consistent education and we urge motor factors and garages to join us, as we strive to highlight the benefits of a fully-functioning cabin filter. With NHS figures reporting that a fifth of the population now suffers from hay-fever, there has never been a better time to convey the cabin filter message.” 

Mr Weir also reports that the carbon-activated cabin filter offers an ideal upselling opportunity, because it provides additional protection against ultra-fine gases, such as particulates, benzine and ozone, while absorbing unpleasant odours, which may otherwise enter the cabin. These may be worth emphasising, should you have a customer that drives frequently in urban conditions, for example.  

Many other filter manufacturers offer upgraded cabin filters, too. MAHLE offers its Caremetix range; MANN has its Frecious- Plus and UFI announces that its anti-bacterial ARGENTIUM range will be launched next year. AT will keep you informed of further developments. 


Deciding on which filters to fit to your customers’ cars is a balance between your brand preferences, its range, what your factor supplies and the speed of delivery. From a quality perspective, OE manufacturers that design filtration solutions for car companies and supply their main dealers with replacement parts emphasise their OE quality credentials that are closely monitored and controlled. Such companies also take action against any counterfeiters, although such cases are rare in the UK. 

Do not discount non-OE suppliers, either, provided that they can demonstrate that their filters are of OE quality, at the very least. First Line told us that, prior to cataloguing a new product, it goes through extensive quality control processes and, although First Line admits that it is not a manufacturer, it uses the, “very best manufacturing partners, all of which are subjected to regular quality audits in line with First Line’s ISO:9001:2015 procedures.” 

The company also emphasises Borg and Beck’s 100 years of heritage and states that all of its filters are warranted throughout the relevant vehicle’s service interval. Like First Line, Comline engages some of the largest and most respected production facilities in the world, which comply with latest ISO standards. Aside from monitoring its suppliers directly, it also tests filters in its own laboratory, including performance and ease of fitment assessments. Comline also partners with the International Filter Testing Service (IFTS). 

The company told AT that IFTS membership tends to be the preserve of an OE filter manufacturer; the organisation also conducts impartial tests that underpins Comline’s confidence in its filter range’s quality. To assist technicians further, Comline reports that its entire range is backed by a comprehensive data portfolio, which includes product specification, application data and fitment information, all of which is available via MAM, Autocat and TechAlliance. 








Brake friction servicing remains one of the most popular workshop tasks, but technology has not stood still – Rob Marshall looks at purchasing, fitting and up-selling advice.


Choice is not always the best thing. Aside from practical issues, including reliability of supply from the factor, selecting brake friction components has become almost bewildering, because the market has become saturated. Despite the many options available to garages, Borg & Beck has found that most workshops stick to just one brand. However, it reasons that the typical installer needs to understand the differences between the parts on offer (see our later advice on training) and relate them to the owner/driver, because of the differences in pedal- feel and longevity that may exist between different friction brands that possess different specifications, despite all of them being compliant with mandatory R90 standards. Research is, therefore, key. Delphi agrees and states that it uses over 130 friction ingredients to create 20 friction formulations to tailor braking performance for a particular vehicle application. This compares with some suppliers that, it claims, only offer two friction specifications. MEYLE advises that it can be a positive upsell move to offer customers a choice, instead of restricting them to a single brand, but you will need to be informed enough to advise accordingly. 

Some factors have introduced their own brands, as a means of achieving economies-of-scale and building customer loyalty but, potentially, this courts confusion even further. Euro Car Parts (ECP) told us that it arranged to distribute the Pagid brand exclusively a decade ago, after it was acquired by TMD friction in 2002. Its reasoning was to combine the company’s widespread network and rapid delivery service with Pagid’s OE heritage. The strategy appears to have worked, with ECP reporting that the brand has grown phenomenally, although it is worth adding that the Pagid range extends beyond the friction components alone. 

The final word, however, has to go to Delphi, which advises that, in order to avoid inferior quality products, choose a proven quality brand that has been engineered, manufactured and tested to OE standards. 


Introduced in 1999, the ECE R90 Regulation stipulated that aftermarket brake pads should perform within a 15% tolerance of certain OE test criteria. As of November 2016, the directive was extended to cover brake discs too. ECP highlights that, because braking is a lucrative market, everyone is looking to cash-in and increase revenue, resulting in the ‘OE Quality’ statement being used to indicate that a brand complies with R90 legislation. It warns, “Many customers have started to assume incorrectly that these brands supply components to vehicle manufacturers – that is not the case. A large percentage of the brands within the braking aftermarket do not manufacture components themselves, let alone supply vehicle manufacturers.” 

Supplied to both vehicle manufacturers and the aftermarket, Federal-Mogul states that its Ferodo brand meets OE standards at the very least. It reveals that R90 legislation is a minimum standard for braking parts – for example, certain R90-compliant friction parts tend to have a standard type of noise control, or none at all, whereas Ferodo brake pads are designed with OE specific noise control features, such as chamfers and shims. Federal-Mogul reveals also that R90 conformity tests tend to take several hours, whereas OE testing can take six months and include more comprehensive testing that R90 might not consider, such as wet weather performance, temperature sensitivity, wear levels, fade, thermal conductivity, judder, durability and noise. 

You might think, therefore, that only OE suppliers seek to surpass the basic R90 requirements for both discs and pads but this is not the case. The new generation MEYLE-PD range of brake friction components are also intended to perform at a far higher level than the basic ECE certification. Brake pad manufacturer, Comline, has introduced extra test procedures as well, such as hot sheer testing, wear analysis and noise tests, which it describes as R90-Plus. 

Yet, we are not downplaying the role that R90 has in making it harder for sub-standard braking components to enter the UK car parc. All pads and discs that you fit must be supplied in a sealed box, each of which should bear a unique part number, official approval mark and evidence that permits traceability of the production process, such as a date, batch number, or source code. The box should contain fitting instructions in the correct language and the brake discs should be marked with a minimum thickness specification. 


Buying extra parts, or a complete kit that includes accessories, can reduce labour times. Borg & Beck’s brake shoe kits, for example, are preassembled and it claims that you save up to 45 minutes of labour fitting time, compared to assembling and fitting the separate parts. 

Dependent on the application, however, extra parts may be needed and it can be worth enquiring if they need to be ordered separately. Apec reports that braking hardware’s tensile strength reduced by 30-50% over a two-year period, so replacing shims, for example, is a wise idea, even though the old parts do not appear to have anything wrong with them. Meyle told us that 99% of its brake discs range is supplied with a new locating screw, because they tend to corrode to the hub and are unsuitable for reuse. Its MEYLE- PD brake pads kits include ancillary parts, in cases where the company views their replacement as desirable. While Delphi admits that its brake pads are supplied with calliper bolts, fixing screws and wear indicators, where deemed necessary by OE specifications, it supplies fitting kits separately in order to limit the number of part numbers in its range. Borg & Beck highlights that its brake fitting kits include all of the components necessary to complete the tasks, including clips, springs, pins and bolts. 


While coated brake discs have been available for some time, unpainted brake discs are still widespread for older cars, so enquire with your supplier. While there is nothing wrong with unpainted discs (provided that the protective oil film is removed with brake cleaner prior to fitting), the rusting process looks particularly unattractive, if it can be seen through wide alloy wheel spokes – offering a coated alternative may be a useful up-sell for a cherished vehicle. 

Comline told us that coated discs form most of the company’s range, which are salt-spray tested for up to 240 hours to ensure optimum corrosion resistance. This tough coating is resistant to petrol, oil, brake fluid and most wheel cleaners, as well. Borg & Beck says that its water-based zinc and aluminium flake coating on its BECKTEC Brake Discs not only increases the corrosion protection but also enhances the thermal exchange properties of the disc to optimise braking performance. A technician saves time, because coated discs can be fitted straight out of the box, with no cleaning/degreasing being necessary. 

In light of increasing awareness of particulate pollution, affecting watercourses in particular, brake pad manufacturers have strived to eliminate heavy metals (especially copper) from their friction materials. Delphi and Meyle (the latter referencing its MEYLE-PD ‘next generation’ brake pads) told AT that working on reducing pollution and dust formation, while maintaining brake performance, is one of the many ongoing behind-the-scenes challenges that the brake friction industry faces. 

The increased uptake rate of hybrids and EVs, however, has made drivers more aware of brake noise, because the natural sound of the friction materials working together is not masked by the noise of an internal combustion engine. Meyle reports that previously unnoticed sounds can be perceived as disturbing. Therefore, a complaint of excessive brake noise from an EV driver might be entirely normal but latest developments may provide an up-sell opportunity. Delphi advises that selecting a brand with NVH reducing technologies, such as its own, is increasingly important. As the typical driving style is modified to take full advantage of regenerative braking systems on hybrid cars and EVs, Delphi says that advanced corrosion on the braking system changes the wear properties of pads and discs and the aftermarket needs to be aware of the opportunities that this brings. Federal-Mogul adds that brake pads are more prone to glazing under light usage conditions, as well. 

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is ZF’s TRW brand introducing the Electric Blue brake pads for EVs, as pictured. Designed to reduce braking noise, the pads are claimed to produce 45% fewer particulates than conventional pads. The current range covers 97% of the European EV car parc. 


Noise grievances tend to be the commonest issues that damage customer confidence in garages, motor factors and brake component manufacturers. Unless the issue stems from grinding, caused by serious neglect that must be dealt with immediately, most other noises are more annoying than detrimental. Comline’s Dr Keith Ellis, Director of Braking Product Development revealed that: 

“Squeal is caused by vibrations that result from the interaction between a brake disc, brake calliper and brake pad, which tends to be influenced directly by various internal and external factors, including the temperature of the disc, or pad, the ambient temperature in which they are operating, the speed that the vehicle is travelling at and the pressure being exerted under braking.” 

Installing shims to the brake pad back-plate reduces this vibration and, therefore, controls unwanted brake noise. Comline states that there are multiple different shim derivatives available across the aftermarket, with differing levels of quality and performance, which vary between bonded gasket paper and complex laminations, using layers of different materials. For example, while Borg & Beck’s BECKTEC Brake Pads are not only grooved and chamfered to reduce noise, they also possess double rubber shims for anti-rattle and noise suppression qualities. Comline reports that its multi-layer Rubber-Metal- Rubber (RMR) shim construction is particularly effective at controlling unwanted vibrations, when combined with the pads’ noise-abating friction material and pad design. RMR is a standard feature on all new to range Comline brake pads and available on over 500 of the most popular references. 

Therefore, the brake pad’s shape can influence brake noise, too, and is one reason why directional brake pads are becoming more popular. By varying the angle at which the friction material contacts the disc, both noise and vibration can be reduced. Correct installation is crucial. Directional pads being fitted the wrong way round is one of the most common installation errors that Federal-Mogul/Ferodo encounters, for example. This has prompted the company to upload a fitting video (http://bit.ly/2WvtsUC) to its website. Delphi adds that its directional pads use either a letter, indicating which side of the vehicle the pad should be fitted, or an arrow that indicates the rotational direction of the disc and, therefore, the direction in which the pad should be fitted. Consult the fitting instructions, should you identify the pads as being directional, by the presence of a chamfered friction surface, or a crescent cut out of the shim, where no arrow is provided. Incorrectly- installed pads, or not following the correct lubrication advice in the fitting instructions, can cause excessive noise, as might wear in either the disc, or calliper. An interesting method of curing squeal is provided by BG Products. Its Stop Squeal is applied to the pads’ friction material, which reduces the likelihood of the pad and disc sticking and reduces vibration.
It is claimed that braking performance is unaffected by the application. Judder, felt by a pulsing brake pedal under light braking, as well as vibration being detected and even heard, can result not only from a damaged disc but also by incorrect fitting. Apec highlights that not cleaning the hub sufficiently, and garages not performing a run-out check, are two of the most common fitting errors that it encounters. Fitting good quality parts and providing the customer with point-of-sale advice about driving techniques for bedding-in brakes will also help reduce the chance of a dissatisfied customer returning for warranty work. 

Federal-Mogul warns about misdiagnosing the brake pad as the source, when noise could emanate from many other parts, from the wheel bearing to the ball joint. This is more of an issue on newer vehicles, where increased non-braking components are produced from aluminium, which tends to resonate more than steel. 


Federal Mogul advises that it encounters many garages installing new pads but not replacing worn discs. This tends to result in mushy brake pedal feel, increases the risk of noise and hot spots developing on the pad. Yet, when installing new pads and discs together, avoid mix-and-matching parts, because the friction surfaces are designed to work best together for optimum performance, longevity and anti-noise/vibration characteristics. Delphi Technologies, for example, offers an extended warranty only when its pads and discs are installed together. 


For information on APEC’s IMI approved Light Vehicle Manual & Hydraulic Braking Systems, contact its Techmate Team on 01174 288090. Federal Mogul, meanwhile, offers Garage Gurus, a dedicated resource that provides training and technical support. Its ‘Gurus Online’ provides a 24/7 online training portal that encompasses over 30 courses, all of which are completely free of charge. ‘Gurus On-Call’, sees technical specialists provide fast answers for product and diagnostic questions either via telephone or Skype. You can also check-out over 40 on-line tutorial videos on the Garage Guru’s YouTube channel. 

For 2019, Delphi continues to develop its range for newer models especially, to provide garages with an opportunity to repair newer vehicles sooner. It highlights that new components will be supported by its usual comprehensive training and technical support. Comline has extended its range of coated brake discs to cover the Ford Fiesta (2017-onwards), Jaguar F-Pace, XE and post 2015 XF models, the Honda HR-V (from 2015), the current production Hyundai Tucson and the Kia Sportage. 

Meanwhile, Borg & Beck is emphasising its new point-of-sale materials, pictured. Aside from its ‘Brake Disc Installation Best Practice’ poster for the workshop for easy reference, it has added a rear-view mirror hanger in its brake disc boxes to help educate the driver to observe the critical bedding-in processes, such as avoiding heavy braking during the first 400 miles. It also advises that technicians pass on hints about poor driving practice, such as sitting stationary, often after heavy brake applications, with the footbrake applied firmly, which creates hot spots and increases the risk of judder developing. This can be an issue particularly with both automatic transmission vehicles and those featuring ‘Stop:Start’ technology. 

Getting your bearings

With most types demanding attention only when they start to fail, Rob Marshall discovers that there is more to hub bearings than keeping the wheels on.

Subjected to the axial forces of cornering, radial forces from acceleration and braking, let alone sudden shock loads introduced by poor road conditions, or driver error, it is remarkable that wheel bearings can last in-excess of 100,000 miles, especially as most types require zero routine maintenance. FAG, one of Schaeffler’s brands and an original equipment supplier to vehicle manufacturers, explains why we should not be so surprised, because development of a new bearing can take anywhere between two and five years and must undergo every imaginable extreme test, both on-and-off the vehicle, before being put into production. 


Considering the effort that OEM suppliers exert in making these safety critical parts achieve their design objectives, the aftermarket needs to be sensitive about not only selecting quality replacement parts but also the fitting methods. Should you get either of these wrong, the reduced lifespan of the replacement wheel bearing could be the least of your worries. 

Understandably, the quality aftermarket component providers realise this and stake their reputes firmly on quality. Like FAG, NTN-SNR Bearings supplies both car manufacturers and the aftermarket; it states that there are many factors that result in a wheel bearing, which will be safe and long lasting. Yet, non- OEM suppliers are keen to emphasise quality, too. febi bilstein emphasises that its internal certified quality management tests match OE quality requirements, which assess precision, fit, dimensional stability, material quality, tensile strength and hardness. 

First Line has its bearings manufactured to OE specifications, tested to seven different criteria, with materials and manufacturing processes being controlled tightly, allowing for full traceability throughout the production processes. Like First Line, Comline works exclusively with ISO compliant factories but the company conducts its own regular in-house quality testing in addition to those performed by its manufacturing partners. 


While copy and OE bearings might look the same at first glance, they can be different inside – here, the copy is missing some of its rolling ball elements. Material quality and dimensional accuracy are also known to be variable
in non OE parts. FAG told us that a safety-critical wheel bearing possesses tolerance specifications as low as 8 microns, with a typical human hair being 50 microns in diameter.

febi bilstein warns that counterfeit alternatives are becoming more prevalent, where both the wheel bearing’s appearance and its packaging are copied but the important technical details are not replicated as faithfully. NTN-SNR confirms that these low-grade substitutes do not meet the strict specification of the equivalent OE quality bearing. Technical concerns include incorrect tolerances and sub-standard materials. Poor build quality is reflected in poor sealing, which permits the often unsuitable grease to leak out, and that is presuming that water ingress does not cause seizure beforehand. From a fitting perspective, NTN-SNR reports that counterfeit bearings tend not to be made to correct dimensions, which makes them harder to install, risking damage to hubs and stub axles during the fitting procedure. 

First Line told AT that these situations occur, because these bearings tend to be produced by manufacturers with little engineering or technical knowledge, using raw materials of an unknown quantity. FAG highlighted that some low-quality wheel bearings have their ABS encoders glued into place, rather than integrated into the seal. These either fall off, or do not provide an accurate enough signal for the wheel speed sensors. FAG concludes that, 

“The wheel bearing is a safety critical item. By fitting a cheap copy bearing, you are putting the occupants of the car and other road users at risk. It is a gamble – like Russian Roulette.” 


Look for reasons why a bearing has failed and consider if another component has curtailed its life. This one had suffered from water ingress (shown by
the rust-coloured grease), caused by a deteriorated seal that may be been punctured by corrosion. Query if the driver has struck kerbs/potholes/speed humps regularly, or has driven through floodwater. Typical signs of failure include excessive play, rumbling, or an illuminated ABS lamp.

When excessive noise, or play, indicates a wheel bearing needs to be replaced, look for reasons why the bearing has failed. Admittedly, it is not always easy to establish how many times the driver has struck potholes, or driven through floods, but be aware that wheel bearing life can also be affected by other components. 

FAG reveals that the wheel bearing acts as a heatsink and changing associated components for those of a different specification risks placing them under extra stress. febi bilstein adds that fitting inferior quality braking parts, such as discs, can introduce excessive vibrations into the bearing. First Line explains that this can lead to ‘brinelling’, where the rolling elements (balls or rollers) impact and dent the bearing’s raceway surface(s), accelerating wear levels. 


Be wary of special tools that are necessary
to install Generation 2 bearings especially.
A common issue when removing sealed bearings from a stub axle is that inner race remains in place. Cutting a slot into the metal using an angle grinder, prior to striking it with a chisel to split the metal, courts damage.
Yet, an inner race puller can negate this risk. Pictured is VS7025 from Sealey. Consider also Laser’s 5178.

Aside from the safety and liability considerations of buying suitable quality parts, ensure that a supplied wheel bearing kit includes all of the necessary parts, such as new hub nuts and seals/covers, so that you can complete the repair properly snap-ring/retaining clip. In cases where a bearing fits into a steering knuckle housing, it can be difficult to apply force to the outer race, because it is made inaccessible without having to wait for extra parts to arrive. Access to technical data, such as Schaeffler’s REPXPERT, should be used to not only ensure the correct part number but also to access fitting instructions and torque specifications. As even the best quality bearing can be damaged by incorrect fitting, consider the need for dedicated equipment. Steve Prince of Pichler Tools highlights that technicians can struggle to not only fit Generation Two wheel bearings but they can also fail to identify them correctly, because not all types are fitted with a snap-ring/retaining clip. In cases where a bearing fits into a steering knuckle housing, it can be difficult to apply force to the outer race, because it is made inaccessible by the integral road wheel mounting hub being in the way. Applying pressure to this flange instead of the bearing outer ring causes forces to be transmitted though the inner bearing ring, then to the outer ring via the rollers.

Wheel bearing development continues to reduce weight and drag. NTN-SNR has introduced a ceramic wheel bearing for JLR. Pictured is a Face Spline bearing, made by FAG and fitted to many BMW X-drive applications. The ring of teeth mesh with those on the CV joint, negating the need for a heavy centre drive shaft.

Aside from any physical damage that this might cause to the main bearing components, the weather seal can be compromised, risking water ingress. The correct method is to apply force to the outer bearing race with the dedicated tool. Pichler Tools’ Universal Gen2 Wheel Bearing Kit not only performs this duty but adjusts to accommodate the different bearing sizes, up to (and including) the Mercedes Sprinter commercial vehicle. Not only does the tool ensure correct fitting but it also can be used to press-out the old bearing, which can save workshop time too, by negating the need to remove the ABS sensor.


  1. Avoid using a hammer to fit the bearing, such as installing one to a stub axle. This causes brinelling (damage to the raceway, caused by impact from the rolling elements), which shortens the bearing’s service life.
  2. Do not use an impact gun to install the hub nut. Not only can this damage the bearing but it also makes it impossible to establish the torque applied. Gather the appropriate torque specifications from the part supplier, or from the OEM fitting instructions.
  3. Where taper bearings (Generation 0) are installed on older vehicles, do not forget to grease them adequately and avoid contaminating the lubricant. Ensure that the front hub bearing end-float is adjusted to the manufacturer specifications (as pictured), because overtightening will shorten bearing life considerably.
  4. Ensure that the mounting surfaces are clean, free from corrosion, or other debris, before fitting. Contamination in and around the wheel bearing can cause it to fail.
  5. Ensure that all threads are clean and in good condition.
  6. Should any be reusable, check that any fixings are in good order. Be wary if any parts (such as hub nuts) are for single use only and that they are renewed accordingly. Split pins, or similar locking systems, should be installed correctly prior to the vehicle being driven.
  7. Ensure that the bearing is installed correctly, not backwards, or at an angle (which cracks the inner ring), and that the hub/stub axle is not damaged.
  8. Be careful with bearings containing active ABS sensor rings, which must be protected and not placed near anything magnetic. The encoder face must not be laid on a workshop bench, which may damage, or contaminate it. Do not subject them to shocks, either.
  9. Use bearing installation tools, especially for Generation 2 bearings, onwards. Where a snap ring (or retaining clip) is fitted, such as on certain VAG applications, it must be located accurately in the groove on the hub. Using a workshop press is not a suitable alternative.
  10. Check that any wheel speed sensors are clean, in good order and installed correctly.


Wheel bearings have evolved, because cars have become heavier, more powerful and have boasted increased wheel sizes. Pressures to reduce weight and drag, to help the carmaker lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, come with the need to reduce time and costs at the vehicle assembly stage. To date, therefore, you will encounter four different generations of bearing, all of which dictate different handling, removal and fitting methods. As always, follow the fitting instructions for the appropriate application carefully. 

‘Generation 0’ are taper roller bearings, with separate inner and outer races and seals. They are used on many classic and retro cars, especially for the non-driven wheels. The most common applications are VW-Group applications throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Vauxhall applications up to 2000, RWD Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter/VW LT
to 2006 and the Citroen Relay/Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer to 2002. 

‘Generation 1’ combined all of the Generation 0’s components into one assembly. As this design is pre- lubricated and sealed, they are maintenance-free, because it was not necessary to check the play/end- float periodically any longer. Tightening the hub nut sets the required bearing end-float. Most types are secured with a circlip and even a snap ring, in some circumstances. 

‘Generation 2’ type bearings possess a flange that acts either as a mounting point for the road wheel, or as a mounting point to the axle carrier. The centre can be splined, for driven axles. The main advantages are a reduction in the number of individual parts and enhanced rigidity. Yet, be aware of the special tools required to press the bearing into the bearing seat, using the outer ring. A snap ring (or retaining clip) may be fitted instead of a circlip but this is not true for every application. 

‘Generation 3’ bearings possess two flanges, rather than just one. Some types may be equipped complete with ABS sensors. An advantage to the aftermarket workshop is that this design does not require any special tools to install them. 



Filtration – Upping the service standard

‘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.


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.






Quality pipe dreams – By Rob Marshall

In general, the factory-fit Original Equipment (OE) exhaust lasts considerably longer than the items that were fitted to cars driven by our ancestors. Not only are advances in exhaust design and materials responsible for the situation but better fuel technology (including reduced sulphur blends), higher engine efficiency and mechanisms that promote rapid heating of the catalysers for emissions-reducing purposes have also played their roles.

While our politicians remain determined to demonise diesel passenger vehicles in particular, exhaust systems on heavy-oil fuelled cars tend to last longer than those powered by petrol; one reason for this is a layer of carbon that forms within the pipes and silencers, isolating the metal from moisture and corrosive gases.

So, how can Klarius Products, an aftermarket exhaust developer and the UK’s largest producer, claim an increase in both turnover and profit, when the market appears to have flatlined?

To explain, the company’s co-founder and Business Development Director, Paul Hannah, told Autotechnician that, while focussing on the company’s core expertise of design, engineering and manufacturing complete Type Approved exhaust systems remains a priority, it has had to react quickly to the changing market-place. Specifically, he explains that: “In addition to stocking large quantities of exhausts, we have invested in designing systems for newer cars and, very often, we have been the first to offer an aftermarket alternative. This has meant that we have had to make our production processes far more flexible.”

The investment necessary has been considerable but it has allowed the company to produce small batches and stock a greater range of exhaust systems, and their related components, while not raising storage costs – something that, ultimately, controls trade prices.

This illegal non-Type Approved catalytic converter contains the wrong sized internal monolith and its pale shade indicates a lack of precious metals, unlike the compliant Klarius component.


Mr Hannah advises that technicians will be replacing more exhaust systems in the future. Part of this is fuelled by the reduction in newer diesel car sales and the increase of not only petrol hybrids but also three-cylinder turbocharged units that power an increasing number of vehicles in the UK car parc. He explains that: “In order to reduce weight on these eco-focussed models, the exhausts are made from thinner metal. Those fitted to the inherently imbalanced turbocharged three-cylinder engines are subjected to greater vibrations, which place the complicated internal baffles that are required to silence the uneven exhaust gas pulses, under additional stress. In the case of hybrid petrol cars specifically, because the average engine tends not to be running continually, especially in city conditions, the water produced by the combustion process condenses within the exhaust, instead of exiting as steam, causing it to corrode from the inside, out.”

It is little wonder, therefore, that much of Klarius’s growth has been supplying replacement systems for newer eco- petrol models, with the Toyota Prius being among one of the company’s most popular lines.


While replacement catalytic converters and Diesel Particulate Filters have to comply with mandatory Type Approval standards, a British quirk is that the rest of the exhaust system, including the pipe and silencer boxes, do not – unlike the rest of Europe. Rather than existing solely to keep bureaucrats in employment, Type Approval confirms that the aftermarket exhaust system performance standards, including those of noise, fuel efficiency and back pressure levels, must either equal, or better, those set by a replacement exhaust system supplied by a main dealer.

Paul Hannah, pictured left, explains how Klarius Products is preparing for future replacement exhaust system demand, by focussing on
lean and flexible production, investment in new product lines and maintaining its focus on being the only Type Approval producer of complete systems in the UK.


“We recognised that this legal situation was a problem right from our company’s inception,” explained Hannah, “because non-approved exhaust systems were being offered on the British market that we found not only increased fuel consumption and produced higher levels of real-world pollution (with our own testing revealing NOx emissions being twenty times higher and hydrocarbons 50% more) but their fitment also made the car technically illegal to drive on other EU countries’ roads. This is why we insist on fully Type Approved exhausts, only.”

Therefore, the benefits of offering a customer a certified exhaust system include, potentially, superior fuel economy, better engine performance, lower emissions and less chance of an MOT failure.

The message appears to be getting through to suppliers. Euro Car Parts and subsidiary companies of the Alliance Automotive Group, for example, will not supply anything other than fully compliant Type Approved systems to their trade and retail customers.

Type Approved catalytic converters and DPFs are now a legal requirement in the UK, unlike complete systems

To ensure Type Approval compliance, Klarius tests vehicles both on its own dedicated outdoor facility and on an indoor rolling road, prior
to examining the specification of a main dealer supplied replacement exhaust system.


Some of us with longer memories recall that Klarius Products hit the headlines three years ago, when the firm was accused and investigated for allegedly breaching Type Approval standards.
Is the company being hypocritical today, by continuing to promote such a strong stance on the formal standards?

“Not at all,” insists Hannah, who clarified, “After a considerable and lengthy investigation, the Vehicle Certification Agency’s conclusions matched our initial assertions, in which administrative error was responsible, where certain Type Approval registration documents were not transferred correctly from our former holding company. This had neither technical, nor environmental, implications.”

Klarius also reports that the investigation and experience of working closely with the government agency has benefitted the company’s subsequent procedures, which led to further improvements in product quality and production efficiencies.


Klarius Products remains committed to its goal of being the first aftermarket exhaust company to provide independent factors and repair businesses with alternatives to main-dealer systems that equal, or better, their performance. In the last year, the company has added approximately 500 new parts, equating to 200 individual car models, to its 10,000+ product line.

Klarius is preparing for the future with heavy recent investments in not only its production and warehouse sites but also a new delivery van fleet and achieving ISO 9001:2015 certification for its quality systems, which comes into force this autumn.

Governments may be proud of their sound-bytes of ridding the world of internal combustion, but Klarius proves that its demise is still a long way off.



Ferodo Racing: ‘braking’ records

We spoke to Ferodo Racing to learn of cross-overs between the world of motorsport and the ultra-competitive aftermarket for brake components.

Engines racing, hearts pounding and knuckles clenched white. The smell of hot oil, clutch and brake pads fills the nostrils as drivers battle for the perfect line. The M25 is a fearsome place. As unlikely as it may sound for anybody accustomed to the cut-and-thrust nature of rush-hour London, there’s a proving ground that provides even more arduous conditions for the development of OE components: motorsport. In one vital area – braking – it is a world that has, in various forms and across a myriad of championships, been dominated by Ferodo since the company provided stopping power for the Parry-Thomas world land speed record of 1926. We spoke to Ferodo Racing to find out how much cross-over exists between brake friction technologies destined for road or race.

“In a way, motorsport is more straightforward,” explained Edward Little, technical manager, Ferodo Racing, Federal-Mogul Motorparts EMEA. “Teams are looking to stop as quickly and repeatedly as possible, with consumables lasting – as a worst- case scenario – for as long as the most demanding stage, race or conditions require. Vehicle manufacturers on the other hand, must consider the expectation for longer life-cycles of up to 60,000 km, ever more stringent NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels and efficiency – including the environmental impact of friction materials. If you were to fit true race-derived pads and discs to a mass-produced car, there would be a global outcry as their characteristics are simply not suitable for road use.”

“Very high-performance road pads can be used for light racing but use of race pads on the road would quickly wear OE-specification discs, not to mention be too noisy and offer compromised performance at low temperatures. Race pads are designed to withstand extremes, with an optimal operating temperature above what you would normally expect to attain in road conditions,” said Little. “Development of road and race friction materials is similar, relying on processes that determine the optimal blend of ferrous metals, carbons and ceramics, and abrasives such as silicon carbide and alumina. The search for new options is continuous. For race applications, dynamometer testing and simulation of race conditions follows – from hot to cold, or fast and slow, for example. If a product is achieving encouraging results then it is progressed to more rigorous trials and, ultimately, the greatest test: trials with race teams.”

Little explains that while the cross-over between road and race is less than you may expect, there are distinct similarities and synergistic benefits to be felt. For example, the ability to carry out high performance testing for the most extreme track- biased road car compounds, or accelerated development of components for niche manufacturers of high performance vehicles. In the past, the demanding nature of race pads has led to easy detachment from the metal backing plate. The development of mechanical methods to replace the adhesives are now benefitting road cars; a significantly reduced chance of detachment has led to far safer pads in all road conditions.

The bedding-in process is equally important for both applications and is an area that Ferodo Racing thinks could evolve in future. “Pads ‘remember’ the way they have been thermally processed for motorsport use – the performance of the microstructure is determined by it,” concluded Little. “If pads were taken straight out onto the track then performance would be inadequate, and this is the task carried out by ‘bedding-in’ new pads for road use. Although it’s currently a costly consideration, in the future we could see a scenario where aftermarket pads have undergone a similar thermal processing to provide a true ‘ready to go’ option.”

Quick to evolve and fast to stop, the world of brake friction material development is a complex one. If one thing is clear, it’s that the diversity of Ferodo’s capability and expertise is ready for track or commuter hack.

The Customer Clinic – Part 1

Not too long ago we asked you on Facebook what your customers do or say that really #grindsyourgears, and the responses came thick and fast!

We had all the classics from ‘The parts are cheaper online’, ‘I’ve had a look on YouTube’ and ‘My mate’s a mechanic’ all the way through to ‘Since you serviced my car…’.

Let’s not forget the customer JJ’s (just jobs) and the fact that you all have this laptop that tells you what’s wrong and what to replace in 5 minutes… I mean come on folks, it’s not that hard is it. Because of all the computers and technology at your disposal, being a technician is now easier than ever!

The automotive world isn’t unique when it comes to infuriating customers, but in our trade they can be as ridiculous as a membership to the Flat Earth Society and strangely devoid of any sort of logic or self-preservation.

None of this is new to you, so why am I writing this? Well, when you look through the comments there are consistent themes that emerge and you all experience essentially the same frustrations. Why do customers look up the prices of parts? Why is mentioning that they know a mechanic important? Why have they already had a look online to try and figure out what’s wrong? And last but not least why do they think that you have a magic computer that fixes things? There are more of course, but you know the score. Instead of writing things off as ‘just the way it is’, let’s see what we can do.

In this series of articles, I will endeavor to give you some ideas on how to deal with these situations.

Starting with PARTS – as a good technician it’s infuriating when a customer is looking online for prices and questioning the cost of your quote/estimate. Why would they want you to fit parts that are so cheap any person with an ounce of knowledge would question their quality, durability and specification? Let’s be brutally honest too – as a business you need to/should make a fair profit.

Let’s assume that some of your customers do this because they actually don’t understand. They don’t know that all parts are not created equal or what the implications are to their vehicle and personal safety.

There will be some people that simply don’t care – but you won’t win them all.

When it comes down to your business/workplace, by agreeing to these requests to scrape the barrel on cost, or fit parts the customer has arrived with on the backseat of their car, this has implications for you too.

So, here are some points that can help you to create a ‘Customer Parts Promise’ which you can add to your website, social media channels, or to create a good ol’ fashioned leaflet or poster:

As a business we will not fit any parts to your car that are of sub-standard quality or in any way not fit for purpose. We also won’t fit parts supplied by customers. You may well know a workshop that doesn’t mind doing this, but when it comes to your safety and your vehicle functioning exactly as it should we WILL NOT compromise.

This ensures protection for you, your family, your vehicle and other road users.  

 Here’s some further information: 

I hope there’s some information in here to help alleviate a small part of your daily frustrations. In Part 2, I’ll be looking at why customers feel the need to say they know a mechanic, used to be one, tell you how easy the job is, or a mixture of all three.      

Find us at www.autotechnician.co.uk – www.facebook.com/Autotechmagazine/ and www.twitter.com/autotech_mag


Should Automatic Transmission oil be changed?

Whether or not to change the oil in the latest automatic transmissions is an ongoing cause of confusion among vehicle owners and independent workshops alike, says Wayne McCluskey, Technical Training Manager at ZF Services. Particularly when described as ‘filled for life’, the transmission and oil are often presumed to perform reliably without intervention. However, improved understanding of the oil’s functions is leading a number of car manufacturers to rethink this position and recommend automatic transmission oil servicing at regular intervals to benefit performance and longevity. Although the details here refer to ZF transmissions, the advice can be viewed as best practice guidelines for any car equipped with an automatic gearbox.

The reliability of a modern automatic transmission depends on original equipment oils and filters to protect the complex internals.

While ZF’s newer transmissions are simpler in design, in terms of number of component parts, technological improvements demand that the oil itself is recognised as a highly engineered, multifunctional component. Aside from lubricating,

it acts as a coolant, enables hydraulic operation of transmission brakes and clutch packs, and transfers power to the remainder of the drivetrain via the torque converter. Overlapping application of clutch packs instead of freewheels, and controlled slip of the torque converter lock-up clutch, raise operating efficiency and deliver smoother gear changes, but also place greater stresses on the oil.


Under normal operating conditions, automatic transmission oil suffers some degradation with use and age. Friction materials and load bearing surfaces wear and the oil endures repeated temperature cycling, potentially leading to judder, abnormal noise and deterioration in gear change quality. ZF recommends carrying out transmission oil and filter changes after 50,000 to 75,000 miles. Increasingly critical demands on the oil mean that only a single product is developed, tested and approved for each new range of ZF transmissions. The result is a range of ZF-branded ‘Lifeguard’ part-synthetic oils to suit its five, six and eight-speed automatic transmissions. These oils are also packaged and marketed under alternative references by vehicle manufacturers using the transmission. Reference list TE-ML 11, available at www.zf.com/lubricants, is regularly updated – any oil not on the list has not been tested and approved by ZF.

ZF oil change kits are available for all ZF 5, 6 and 8-speed automatic transmissions.


The quality of the automatic transmission oil filter is equally important. Inadequate filtration or poor sealing can leave particulate contaminants circulating, which accelerate wear and increase the risk of seizure for parts operating within close tolerances, such as the pistons in the mechatronic unit. Conversely, over-filtration can lead to vital additives being excluded from circulating with the oil, and blockage of the filter.


For simplicity, all the parts required to carry out an oil change for any ZF five, six or eight-speed car automatic transmission are now available from ZF Services UK in an oil change kit. Oils, filters, sump pans and other spares can also be purchased individually.

When should Lambda sensors be replaced?

NGK is the world’s largest manufacturer of Lambda sensors under its NTK vehicle electronics brand and here, it provides some tips on replacement and details the benefits of bespoke Lambda sensors.

Due to the hostile environment in which they work, sensors are subject to a degree of wear and tear and ageing. It would be impossible to say definitively what the service life of a Lambda sensor should be due to the very different conditions that each vehicle experiences under different drivers. City driving with lots of stop- start operation will have a different influence on the life expectancy of a Lambda sensor compared to steady motorway use.

We recommend that the function of the sensor is checked every 20,000 miles or annually. The MoT emissions check samples the exhaust gases to monitor the efficiency of the engine, exhaust system and engine control systems. The Lambda sensor is a vital part of this system and its function is therefore influenced by many other components.

A malfunction of an associated part may directly affect the performance of a sensor. An oscilloscope and gas analyser is a much more accurate way of assessing sensor performance than relying on fault codes alone. Garages should look for slow response times, output range and heater function.

Contaminants from poor quality oils and fuel which remain in the exhaust gases can become deposited on the sensor element, affecting its operation. Even coolant or oil leaking from an engine can enter the wiring and compromise electrical connections and reach the sensor element and affect sensor operation.

“Garages should look for slow response times, output range and heater function.”

A ‘universal’ Lambda sensor is designed to cover as many applications as possible by splicing in the old connector from the unit being replaced. In theory, this sounds like a good idea. In practice, the potential for problems and subsequent premature failure is increased.

Bespoke, OE quality Lambda sensors are ready to install and offer considerable advantages over ’universal’ types. They come complete with any necessary fittings and grommets and no requirement to use ‘old’ connectors – which may be corroded or damaged. Installation times can be halved with the confidence of compatibility and reliability.