Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2000   by Auto Service World

Over the Counter (April 01, 2000)

Ford Extends Head Gasket Warranty on 3.8L

Ford Motor Company, which had previously recognized a problem with the head gasket performance on its 3.8L V6, has extended the warranty to seven years or 160,000 km on certain models.

The warranty affects the head gaskets used on the on the 1994 Lincoln Continental, 1994-1995 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, and 1995 Ford Windstar, and is the second time Ford has extended the warranty because of the problem. The original warranty extension, issued in 1998, was for 5 years/96,000 km for the Taurus, Sable and Windstar vehicles, and 6 years/120,000 km on Continental.

The problem stems from design changes to the engine for the 1994 and 1995 model years and is not, in fact, a problem with the gasket. Instead, according to Ford, it results from the different expansion rates of the aluminum and the steel head bolts. Under certain cold-start conditions, the head will actually lift off the block and then slam down repeatedly, until clamp load is restored–presumably when the components warm up. This repeated pounding causes bore grommet (fire ring) cracks. The original gasket, of a graphite design, wasn’t up to the pounding it was being subjected to. The replacement gasket is made of a higher density graphite to support the torque load better and more evenly.

In addition to the gasket revisions, Ford had previously revised its torque procedures for the cylinder heads and offered a new bolt kit.

“What worries me,” says John Hyde, technical analyst for gasket supplier Rol Manufacturing Canada, “is that people aren’t going to find out about the new specs.” Those new procedures substantially increase both the clamp load and the number of steps required to achieve it. The procedure is available from AERA-Engine Rebuilders Association and most gasket suppliers’ technical services departments.

“When Ford issued the original warranty extension, our data indicated that the extension would cover the affected vehicles over the time and mileage where owners were most likely to have a head gasket concern,” said Ann O’Neill, director, vehicle service and programs, Ford Customer Service Division. “But, as these vehicles have aged, we have received new data that indicate that some owners are having failures outside the original warranty extension.”

Owners of these vehicles who experienced head gasket failures during the extended warranty time frame will be eligible for a full refund for past repairs, or for a limited time, may choose a certificate to be used towards the purchase or lease of a new Ford, Mercury or Lincoln.

In addition, it has been reported that customers suffering engine failures as a result of the gasket problem will have their vehicles purchased by Ford if a replacement engine can not be found within five days, and they will also be offered a certificate toward the purchase of a new Ford vehicle.

UAP/NAPA Gives Consumer Warranty Option

UAP/NAPA has started providing consumers with the option of a limited warranty or extended protection.

Its Protection Optional Guarantee (POG) allows consumers to accept a 12-month, 20,000 km warranty against defects, or to purchase a certificate giving them extended protection for as long as they own the vehicle.

The program will initially be offered only on brakes, ride control and mufflers, but will be extended to other product lines in the future.

“Freeing the industry and consumer from the burden of the Limited Lifetime Warranty is a positive step,” says Carman Bennett, senior vice-president. “This gives the consumer the choice of the protection best suited to his or her needs.”

In addition, UAP has also introduced the NAPA United friction line to Canada. The line has been available in the U.S. through NAPA stores. Three products will carry the United brand: Ceramix Friction, Application Engineered Friction, and OE Performance Loaded Calipers.

Federal-Mogul Gives Official Word on Restructuring

Federal-Mogul Corporation has announced the details of a restructuring plan designed to improve Federal-Mogul’s profitability in the light of less-than-stellar overall financial performance.

Dick Snell, chairman and chief executive officer, said that a strong contributing factor in the company’s poorer than anticipated financial results was a decline in the proportion of revenue that it derives from the aftermarket. Rather than being a 50/50 OEM to aftermarket split, the aftermarket business made up 46% of the company’s sales. Since the aftermarket business has double the gross margins of OE, according to Snell, this had a considerable impact on profitability. Snell said also that the aftermarket decline as a percentage of business was expected to continue.

In Canada, the plan calls for the closure of four satellite distribution centers, in Winnipeg, Man., Vancouver, B.C., Edmonton, Alta. and Montreal, Que. Customers had been informed of the closures as early as last fall. The Winnipeg facility closed in early March. The last facility to close, Montreal, will shut down in June.

Michael Holland, national sales manager for Canada, says that the closures and the restructuring are in line with the corporation’s focus on its manufacturing capabilities. “It’s a part of our strategy. We don’t want to be in the distribution business; we want to align ourselves with our distributor customers. We want to focus our energies on being a better supplier and remove ourselves from these distribution satellite operations.” Holland says that although a substantial quantity of business flowed through the satellite warehouses, it is still a positive step.

“Our challenge is to transition to our distributors’ locations in each of those market areas. I believe our distributors welcome the change; they had perceived us as being competitors.” While he admits it will mean that jobbers will no longer have that option and must seek local distributors to buy from for quick supply needs, the business realities dictated their closure. “They had enjoyed the good pricing, but the cost was pretty heavy to us.”

Aftermarket Day Students Hear Secrets of Leadership

Students at the Canadian Automotive Institute heard one of the industry’s leaders talk about the secrets of leadership, which aren’t really secrets at all.

Sean Corcelli spoke to the students at the Barrie, Ont., institute and outlined what he called the “Factors of Leadership.” These included environment, attitude, and commitment to self-leadership.

“Never let your ego get in the way,” said Corcelli, general manager of Bumper to Bumper’s operations and chairman of AIA’s leading Northern Alberta Division. “It builds an ‘I’ not a ‘we’ culture.” He said, too, that it is important to be committed to all aspects of your life, including work, home and family, and advised everyone to seek out information continually.

“Read and study intensely. You will be amazed at how much you can learn,” which gives you the intellectual capital to succeed. “Success,” Corcelli concluded, “there’s no feeling like it.”

Following his presentation, many other industry leaders spoke about aspects of the aftermarket. The presentations were, in turn, followed by a career fair which allowed the students the opportunity to find out more about aftermarket companies, with an eye toward possible employment in the aftermarket.

Raybestos Offering Noise Solution Clinics

Raybestos is offering a series of training clinics for professional installers designed to provide solutions to brake noise.

Brake noise is generally cited as the number-one reason for vehicle comebacks. In response, the company is offering clinics in French and English that will target installation issues that can cause noise. The clinics are two to three hours long and can be provided at a facility arranged with the company.

Jobbers are advised to contact their Raybestos supplier or the company to arrange for training.

Midtronics Purchases Exide Charger Division

Diagnostic tool maker Midtronics, Inc. has purchased the Charger Division of Exide Corporation for an undisclosed amount.

With t
he deal, Midtronics adds retail and commercial battery chargers to its line of battery testers, along with its PowerLogic and inCharge brands of professional charger/testers.

Midtronics has acquired all assets of Exide’s Charger Division, including equipment, current inventory, and the North Bay, Ont., manufacturing facility. Midtronics will continue to manufacture chargers in North Bay, supplying customers with Exide and NASCAR branded products.

Pennzoil-Quaker State To Sell Undercoatings Business

Pennzoil-Quaker State Company announced that it has reached an agreement to sell its undercoatings business to Pittsburgh-based Oil Service, Inc.

Included in the sale will be Pennzoil-Quaker State Company’s PennzGuard and Quaker Koat product lines, which offer both solvent-based and water-based undercoatings.

Oil Service, Inc. is a privately held company that specializes in the manufacture, sale and distribution of oils, specialty products and corrosion preventatives. Oil Service will have the right to use the PennzGuard and Quaker Koat names for a 90-day transitional period, after which the products will be folded into Oil Service, Inc.’s Transcoat brand. Oil Service, Inc.’s existing sales extend throughout North and South America.

Castrol Parent To Merge With BP Amoco

BP Amoco PLC has agreed to acquire Burmah Castrol PLC for nearly $5 billion U.S.

The price represents a premium of about 60% over the price of Burmah shares in the three months prior to the acquisition and a 74% premium over the closing price the day before the announcement that the companies were in talks, in the second week of March.

Analysts have reported that the acquisition has been driven by BP Amoco’s need to secure a source of lubricants after Mobil Corp., its partner in a European marketing and refining joint venture, agreed to merge with Exxon. The joint venture supplied BP Amoco’s retail network with lubricants.

BP Amoco said it and Burmah Castrol’s lubricants businesses will be merged to form a new lubricants division to be run by management from both companies. In addition, the company has said it will sell the chemicals division after it completes the purchase.

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