Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jackass Award - Proof That a Mechanic Slept with an Engineer's Wife...

2008 Saturn Vue 3.6 L V6, as seen from below - front is at the top. (See the filter?)

Understandably, service access is not always the top priority when designing a new vehicle; cost and relative ease of production often trump it. I get that.

I also sympathize with the engineers somewhat as they don't always have the big picture, having to design a door hinge or a heater or whatever without specific knowledge of what's around it beyond basic dimensions. This same component - this engine, in this case - also often has to be able to fit into multiple vehicles. That's reality. I get that too.

However, what I don't get, and can't deal with, is stupidity when it comes to stuff that has to be serviced regularly, and oil changes are about the most regular service any vehicle will ever require. An oil filter isn't like a hydraulic valve lifter that will probably last the lifetime of the car. It will be replaced at a pre-determined interval, as many as 50 times in the 250,000+ kilometer life expectancy of the average private vehicle. We're talking several times a year.

So why would anyone put the oil filter in a location that almost guarantees that it will make a mess of the A/C compressor, subframe, and probably the technician? It's an awkward extraction at best.

More critically, why would anybody put it within millimetres of a catalytic converter that's designed to get several hundred degrees of temperature within a minute or so of the vehicle running, so as to virtually ensure that whatever poor sap has to change it will receive severe burns?

You can't tell me that this filter's location didn't receive some amount of consideration, yet there it is. Someone deserves a career of designing glovebox hinges for this one.

It's easy to criticise: what could they have done differently? At the minimum, they could have angled the converter away from the filter - there's clearly space to do so. They could also have made it possible to access it from above (it isn't), or have provided an opening or door in the air deflector to get at it from in front of the subframe (there's almost space for that with this same engine in the larger Lambda models {GMC Acadia, etc.}). Not as preferable, but it could also have been integrated into the oil pan as was the case on the earlier 3.5 litre DOHC Oldsmobile V6.

While GM is by no means alone in doing things like this (everyone does them to some extent), something this dumb feels like it could only be malicious. Proof that a mechanic slept with an engineer's wife...

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