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I read your recent column about Honda's actions regarding fires...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I read your recent column about Honda's actions regarding fires in 2003-2005 CR-Vs. (Editor's note: Fires were being reported immediately following oil changes, due to oil from an incorrectly installed oil filter dripping on the hot exhaust. Honda blames improper oil-filter replacement procedures. Tom and Ray feel that the design is at least partly to blame.) Early on, we implemented steps to strengthen our communication with dealers and independent repair shops to further educate service personnel on the proper procedures for oil-filter replacement and the importance of proper installation of the oil filter. This communication included:

--Letters to all (Honda and Acura) dealership service managers and owners.
--Communication through newsletter mailings to dealers and independent service shops.
--Additional language printed on Honda original replacement oil filters and on the filter packaging.
--Information to owners via Honda's Owner Link system.
We are now undertaking a Customer Assurance Program that includes the following measures:
--A letter will be sent to affected owners of 2003-2005 model CR-Vs. The letter will instruct the customer as follows:

If the customer has not yet had an oil-filter change, he or she is instructed to ask the dealer to inspect the old filter gasket when the original filter is replaced. A sticker will be provided to all customers that can be given to the service technician to underscore the importance of following proper procedures. This sticker can be affixed to the work order at the time of service.
If the customer has had his or her first oil-filter change within the past 30 days, he or she is entitled to a free inspection of the filter by a Honda dealer to ensure proper installation. In the event of a double gasket, the service technician will replace the filter and top off the oil at no charge to the customer.

--All new CR-Vs in dealer inventory will have the original factory filter replaced by a new filter prior to customer delivery.
--Honda will be sending additional communication to independent service facilities to further reinforce the importance of following proper procedures during the oil-filter change. The sticker provided to owners can also be used with independent shops to help ensure proper protocol.

Regards,
Chris Naughton
American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

RAY: Thanks, Chris. We understand the new filter has a gasket with a nonstick coating. Honda says that the problem occurs when the old filter gasket sticks or is only partially removed. That creates an imperfect seal for the new filter. Then while you're driving, oil can drip out onto the hot exhaust, and suddenly, it's time to get the marshmallows.

TOM: While the steps you're taking to warn every possible technician and customer to be careful might prevent some fires (the guys at our own garage didn't know about this until we addressed it in the column), it's nearly impossible to warn every single mechanic in the field. That's why we still think a better solution would be to shield the hot exhaust from oil that drips out of the filter for any reason. That's idiot-proof. And remember, there are people like me and my brother out there changing oil!

RAY: We know that's more expensive than a sticker, but it's the right thing to do.

TOM: And when the next CR-V comes out with a modified design to address this problem, we'll know that you guys at Honda privately agree with us.
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