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I went to a quick-oil-change shop I won't mention the...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I went to a quick-oil-change shop (I won't mention the company's name, but I think it also makes peanut butter) to get my first oil change for my brand-new, 2002 Dodge Caravan. After much difficulty removing the factory oil filter, the employees informed me that the post was now stripped and that they were unable to screw on the new filter. After towing the minivan to the dealership, the dealer said he simply grabbed a new filter and screwed one on. The dealer said that the post could not be stripped, since the filter is aluminum and cannot damage the metal post. Who should I believe -- the quick-oil-change place or the dealer, who said the factory cannot damage the post by screwing on the filter too tightly? -- Ron

RAY: Ah, another satisfied Skippy Lube customer!

TOM: Actually, it's hard to know who was at fault here, Ron, but the good news is that your Caravan will be fine. No permanent damage was done at all.

RAY: The dealer was wrong when he said you can't strip the filter post. The filter is not made of aluminum. It's made of steel, just like the post. And I know you can strip it, because I've done it!

TOM: Based on the evidence you present, Ron, here's my best guess as to what happened: The Skippy Lube guys, as well-intentioned as they were, tried to put on the wrong filter -- a filter that was too big for your Caravan. So when they tried to screw it on, they couldn't catch the threads. That led them to conclude that the post was stripped, and rather than mess around with it, they suggested that you go to the dealer.

RAY: When you took it to the dealer, he had the right filter, and it went on -- as Barbra Streisand's fans would say -- "like buttah." So his conclusion was that there was nothing wrong. And he was probably right.

TOM: Of course, there are other possibilities, Ron. The dealership could have secretly replaced a stripped post, which is a 50-cent part. But why would it keep that a secret? To make Skippy Lube look bad? Seems unlikely, doesn't it?

RAY: Although after this experience, you're probably more likely to take your car to the dealership for oil changes. So maybe it is a very clever marketing campaign by the dealership?

TOM: Yeah. I'm going to head back to the shop and get right on it!
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