The key to express service at Motorcars Honda is the Engine Vac, a machine that removes motor oil from a hot engine in just over two minutes.
It usually takes at least five minutes to drain oil in the traditional way: removing the plug from the oil pan on the bottom of the engine and letting the oil flow into a receptacle.
Motorcars Honda has a distribution deal with Samson Corp., a Swannanoa, N.C., manufacturer that makes the device. Motorcars sells the Engine Vac — rebranded from its original name, the EvacMaster — to other dealerships for about $2,000 to $3,000, depending on the model and features.
Tom Cates, a Samson product manager, says removing oil from the top of the engine began in the auto industry about a decade ago, in European Mercedes-Benz dealerships. Other brands, such as Peugeot and Volkswagen Group makes, adopted the practice.
On many European engines, the oil filter is on the side of the engine block and is accessible from above, so a vehicle doesn't need to be placed on a lift or driven over a pit for an oil change.
Cates says the EvacMaster has been available in the United States for 15 years. Several thousand of the devices are in operation, he adds, but mostly not in the service departments of new-vehicle dealerships.
EvacMaster works well with Honda engines, Cates says, but may not draw out oil as quickly in other brands of cars.
"Because you can use the shortest, fattest straw on a Honda inline-four, you can evacuate the engine in a minute or a minute and a half," Cates told Fixed Ops Journal. "When you take the drain plug out, there won't be a drop of oil."
On Motorcars Honda's quick service assembly line, when the dipstick is removed, a reinforced straw is inserted down to the bottom of the oil pan, and the old oil is vacuumed out.
General Motors has a few engines that would seem suited to the EvacMaster because their filters are mounted beside the engine. But the automaker says it has not seriously considered recommending the machine to its dealers.
"We really don't see a customer benefit in oil evacuation, as it takes extra equipment to perform the oil change," GM spokesman Tom Read says.
Toyota has not looked at removing oil with a suction device, says Mike Jarboe, senior manager of service support operations for Toyota Motor North America. Jarboe adds he does not know of any Toyota dealerships using such a machine.
Speedy oil changes are not the only benefit of removing oil through the dipstick tube. Service managers need not worry about inexperienced lube techs stripping oil drain plug threads. Fixing that error is often an engine-out job that can cost $2,000 or more if the engine loses oil and seizes.
The two Engine Vac machines at Motorcars Honda have proved their worth, says Trevor Gile, the dealership's general manager.
"We had a guest complain that we stripped his drain plug," Gile says. "But we showed him how we changed oil. "Typically, we would have had to replace that engine. But we were able to demonstrate we didn't cause the problem."