Frequently Asked Questions on Smart-O-Plugs

Q: What is a SMART-O® Plug?

A: SMART-O® is an oil drain/sump plug, designed and engineered by master auto technicians and special parts manufacturers to help prevent oil drain/sump plug failures, oil leaks, oil pan damage and engine damage due to improper installation of the plug.

Q: How does the SMART-O® plug work?

A: Simply, when the O-Ring comes in contact with oil it expands, which seals the thread gap, keeping the oil in the engine and out of the environment. Incorporated in the SMART-O® plug's threaded area is a groove. In that groove is a special O-Ring that is designed to expand up to 10-20% when contact is made with heat and/or oil (hydrocarbons). Once this expansion takes place the O-Ring takes up the air gap, and leak path between the threads of the oil pan, and the SMART-O® plug O-Ring.

Q: What makes the SMART-O® plug eco-friendly?

A: The black oxidized coating serves as a more environmentally friendly alternative to regular zinc-plated coatings which often contain the hazardous Cr6 substance

  • SMART-O® plug is reusable - as long as the O-Ring is intact, requiring less replacements
  • SMART-O® plug reduces the risk for oil leakage into the environment

The plug features a groove in the threaded portion where the O-Ring is fitted. Once in contact with oil, the O-Ring expands up to 10-20% creating a seal between the opposing threads. This produces a positive connection between the drain plug/sump plug and the oil pan, allowing the oil pan and plug to vibrate at the same frequency, essentially keeping oil in the pan, off of driveways, and more importantly, out of our waters and our environment.

Q: How do I find which plug I need?

A: There are several resources to help you identify the correct plug for the vehicle. In an effort to support green initiatives, we recommend several paperless options:

  • Always use the SMART-Gauge by inserting the old plug and identifying the SMART-O® plug based on the correct fit in the Gauge.
  • Refer to the Parts Finder.

Q: What will I use the SMART-O® Gauge for?

A: Mechanics, techs and end users should always use the SMART-O® gauge to measure the correct dimension of their old plug and compare them to those of the SMART-O® plug. Once the old plug is removed, refer to the guides, posters or online part finder to look for the make, model and year to determine the SMART-O® plug match. Compare the old and SMART-O® plug for visual confirmation the plugs match. If there is a question of whether the old plug is an aftermarket product, you can then use the SMART-O® gauge to determine the correct SMART-O® plug selection.

Q: How do I identify which plug is which?

A: SMART-O® plugs are identified by the head marking at the top of each individual plug, for example: F1, R1, R3 etc..., Our range of 18 different plugs cover 99% of vehicles sold in the market. Each plug comes complete with a washer and O-Ring. Complete plugs are available individually packaged pack or in bulk.

Q: What happens if the O-Ring is cut?

A: Over time, the threads of the oil pan may cut the O-Ring. This may happen more quickly in vehicles that are older or have somewhat damaged oil pan threads. If you take out a SMART-O plug with a cut O-Ring, replace it with a new SMART-O® plug. Remember, even if the O-Ring is torn on the way into the pan, the plug will still function as a regular OEM plug.
If you feel you are seeing a pattern of certain vehicles with missing O-Rings, document the make, model, year, engine size, and which SMART-O® plug was removed from the pan. Please inform your auto service centre, reseller or distributor who will feedback the information all the way back to the maker.

Q: Can I re-use SMART-O® with the O-Ring seal?

A: SMART-O® is reusable, but for optimum performance, we recommend changing the plug once a year.

Q: Will using the SMART-O® plug affect a vehicle's warranty?

A: No, it will not affect the manufacturer’s warranty according to an official ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The manufacturer or dealer cannot void a vehicle's warranty due to installation of an aftermarket part unless it was done improperly, can be proven that this part fails to perform the function it was intended for, or causes damage to another part. For more details on this ruling, please read more on the official FTC site: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0138-auto-warranties-routine-maintenance In other regions outside USA, please kindly check the local practices and legislations in your country.

Q: How do I order SMART-O®?

A: Please contact the auto service centre, parts dealer, reseller or distributor in your region.

Please check out locations for Where to Buy >> 

Q: How do I order more of just one plug if I’m running low?

A: After the starter kit, you can order complete plugs in packs of 5. Other items that are available for individual orders include the gauge, product guides, various promotional items. Please check our Online Product Catalogue >>

Q: How does SMART-O come? Is there a kit?

A: SMART-O starter kits are available. There are currently 3 sizes available – each contains various combinations of plugs and washers, but quantities of each plug varies depending upon popularity.

SMART-O starter kits:

  • MASTER Workshop Case 18 plug sizes, assortment of top washer, supplied in a durable, partitioned metal case, with marketing materials
  • REGIONAL and SPECIALIZED 40-plug kit, 8 different sizes, assortment of most demanded washer, supplied in a durable, partitioned metal case, with marketing materials

The advantages of the marketing materials are the ability to sell to your customer and train your staff on the features and benefits of SMART-O. Complete plugs can be ordered in bulk in quantities of 5 or individually in Point of Sale Blister Packs.

Please check our Online Product Catalogue >> 

Q: If the SMART-O®-Plug won’t allow the plug to come out, or leak in the event that it is not properly installed, then why use a washer, or torque it at all?

A: The SMART-O®-Plug is designed to be installed exactly as the OEM plug is. It should never be left loose or installed without the washer. The washer is there because it would otherwise damage the oil pan surface to torque the plug without some type of bushing. Again SMART-O®-Plug is a better drain plug/sump plug because it has a patented design to aid the installer and to protect the environment.

Q: What do I do when I am having an issue with the installation of SMART-O® in certain vehicles?

A: If you feel you are seeing a pattern of certain vehicles with torn O-Rings, document the make, model, year, engine size, and which SMART-O® plug was removed from the pan. Please inform your auto service centre, reseller or distributor who will feedback the information all the way back to the maker.

Q: What happens if the O-Ring is missing?

A: The plug will still work just like a standard drain plug. If you observe the O-Ring is missing at the time of service, replace with a new SMART-O® plug. Remember: even if the O-Ring is missing, the plug will still function as a regular OEM plug. If you feel you are seeing a pattern of certain vehicles with missing O-Rings, document the make, model, year, engine size, and which SMART-O® plug was removed from the pan. Please inform your auto service centre, reseller or distributor who will feedback the information all the way back to the maker.

Q: I've removed the SMART-O® plug and the O-Ring looks distorted. Why?

A: There are instances where after removing the SMART-O®, the O-Ring may look deformed or twisted. This is not an instance where a new plug is needed. The o-Ring will contort into the shape of the threads over time. It may appear flat with grooves that may even look like tears in the surface or maybe even as if it is shaved off. This is normal and once removed from the oil pan, given some time, the O-Ring will resume its original shape. Once the plug is reinstalled, it will continue to expand and take the shape of its new home.

Q: The O-Ring was green, but now it's black; should the plug be replaced?

A: No. The green coating on the O-Ring is in place to enable a smoother insertion of the SMART-O® on its first application. The rubbing of the threads against the O-Ring will remove part or all of the green coating, even possibly after just the first use. This is ok because once the plug has been in the oil pan there is enough oil to keep it lubricated for the next use.

Q: Why is the O-Ring green?

A: The O-Ring was engineered by two USA companies, Parker and DuPont. Although all O-Rings look the same, this is one of the most advanced O-Rings in the world! The O-Ring is manufactured from a patented material which is then itself coated with the patented green coating which is in place to allow for a smoother first insertion. The rubbing of the threads against the O-Ring will remove part or all of the green coating over time. This is ok because once the plug has been in the oil pan there is enough oil to keep it lubricated for the next use.

Q: Can SMART-O® be used in transmissions?

A: In principle, the SMART-O® can be used as a transmission or filler plug. But we do not have the data for plug fits which transmission and which vehicle, so we are not able to give accurate recommendations. Use the gauge to measure up any such plug and compare with a comparable fit for SMART-O. Some transmissions would probably require different plugs. We only provide data for using SMART-O® plug-in oil pans of automobiles, light trucks and motorbikes.

Q: Does the SMART-O® O-Ring material work the same way with transmission oil?

A: Yes, SMART-O® will expand and can resist negative material effects from transmission oil and engine oil alike.

Q: Will the SMART-O®, O-Ring work in class 4 PAO oils?

A: Yes, SMART-O® will work in class 4 PAO oils. SMART-O® will expand using class 4, synthetics, esters, diesters, polyol esters, mineral, and even PAG, ATF, Hypoid, Flax, and just about anything that is slick.

Q: What kind of temperature can SMART-O® resist?

A: SMART-O® can withstand temperatures of up to 400 degrees Celsius, so it’s safe to say that it can work in both transmissions and oil pans of engines.

Q: Should I use SMART-O® in all oil changes?

A: There are many ways to use the SMART-O® program. It’s best to look at your overall business operation and decide how you want to use it. Some find it profitable to upsell SMART-O® to customers as a “must have” for leak prevention and “green” awareness. Others find it profitable to add it to every oil change. Some add it to their top tier oil changes as part of a green oil change package.

Q: What is the benefit of adopting SMART-O® for my outlet?

A:

  • More effective workflow
  • More effective inventory system: only 18 SKUs to cover 99% of the vehicles on the road, this enables users to carry less stock than previously needed while still achieving the same coverage.
  • Customer retention
  • ECO-protection issues
  • SMART-O® has been in the market for several years, providing maximum protection for customers and the environment
  • Using SMART-O® can also reduce engine damage costs, oil spills into the environment, customer complaints, negative publicity, negative service experiences, insurance liability expenses, and human errors associated with the rapid turnaround times in oil changes.
  • The expanding O-Ring grips tightly into threads, virtually eliminating self-loosening of the plug caused by vibration. It also reduces the need for excess torquing—lessening the risk of damaging oil pans’ threads and costly repairs if used correctly.
  • A unique head marking system alongside a product map and adjustable assortment kit, facilitates quick plug match-up and superior storage and product organization.
  • SMART-O® can be bundled effectively with other services and products; workshops can offer a green oil change package; oil/sump plugs can be promoted together with oil filters and recycled/reclaimed oil.

Q: What are the torque specifications and where do I find them?

A: It is recommended that SMART-O® be tightened with a torque wrench. Regular OEM torque specifications should be used for SMART-O®. Upon contact with oil, the expansion of the O-Ring in effect creates an automatic torque function on the plug, which helps prevent the plug from vibrating loose. Due to the function of the O-Ring, during removal, the plug will have more resistance than a regular plug and will require a wrench. This is good news since it’s no longer necessary to be exposed to a hot plug. Using a wrench also keeps hands away from hot oil draining from the oil pan. The fact that you need to turn the plug out with a wrench shows that the plug is functioning as intended.

You can find the torque specifications in the SMART-O® Product Guide.

Q: Can O-Ring expansion damage the oil pans threads?

A: No, it cannot because no pressure is exerted during expansion; the O-Ring will remain the softest piece of the system between the oil pan, the drain plug, and the washer.

Q: How does removing the air gap/leak path prevent failure?

A: When a standard drain plug is installed properly and torqued to manufacture’s specs, the oil pan and drain plug vibrate at the same frequency when the vehicle is running. Improper installation can cause the flange and washer to not press up against the pan creating an air gap between the drain plug and the oil pan. Crankcase pressure and gravity are contributing factors in a running engine that can lead to the drain plug eventually un-screwing and falling out. Oil could also pass through the threads and out onto the ground leading to the evacuation of oil and catastrophic engine damage. The SMART-O O-Ring prevents oil from leaking through threads due to the self-expansion material; and grips tightly into threads, virtually eliminating self-loosening of the plug caused by excessive vibration.

Q: How would SMART-O® help me in my outlet?

A: More effective workflow

  • More effective inventory system: only 18 SKUs to cover 99% of the vehicles on the road, this enables users to carry less stock than previously needed while still achieving the same coverage.
  • Customer retention
  • ECO-protection issues
  • SMART-O® has been in the market for several years, providing maximum protection for customers and the environment
  • Using SMART-O® can also reduce engine damage costs, oil spills into the environment, customer complaints, negative publicity, negative service experiences, insurance liability expenses, and human errors associated with the rapid turnaround times in oil changes.
  • The expanding O-Ring grips tightly into threads, virtually eliminating self-loosening of the plug caused by vibration. It also reduces the need for excess torquing—lessening the risk of damaging oil pans’ threads and costly repairs if used correctly.
  • A unique head marking system alongside a product map and adjustable assortment kit, facilitates quick plug match-up and superior storage and product organization.
  • SMART-O® can be bundled effectively with other services and products; workshops can offer a green oil change package; oil/sump plugs can be promoted together with oil filters and recycled/reclaimed oil.

Q: What are the reasons for adopting SMART-O®?

A: The overall objective for adopting SMART-O® oil drain/sump plugs is to reduce the possibility of oil outs, reduce environmental and corporate claims, and increase customer retention.

Q: Where can I get replacement washers available for SMART-O plugs?

A: Washers are available from Smart-O distributors and retailers.

Q: Can I reuse the washer?

A: It is recommended and common practice in the industry to change the washer with every oil change. The sealing performance of the plug may be adversely affected if crushed washers are reused. If crushed washers are reused excessive torque will be needed to tighten the plug risking damage to the pan. SMART-O recommends changing washers with each oil change.

Q: Where are my crush washers?

A: When using SMART-O, the seal is now the O-Ring, versus the seal happening at the washer. The washer provided with SMART-O is an added protection, with the first defense being at the O-Ring. The plugs and O-Rings are reusable, reducing waste and adding to the eco-friendly oil change. The washer is changed as it provides a secondary level of defence and to ensure correct torqueing.

Q: Why does the Smart-O-Plug use a washer if the seal is the O-Ring?

A: The Smart-O-Plug is designed to be installed like the OEM drain plug and torqued to OEM specs. The washer is changed as it provides a secondary level of defence and to ensure correct torqueing preventing damage to the pan thread.

Q: Can I use other crush washers?

A: Crush washers are for one-time use only and produce sharp edges when crushed. These edges could cut the SMART-O O-Ring in the event of removal of washer and plug. There are risks associated with re-use of washers and the use of crush washers in conjunction with SMART-O plug—please check our Technical Bulletin

Q: Why am I seeing cut O-Rings with GM vehicles from 2000-2007 (North America)

A: In most cases, SMART-O plugs are expected to be used multiple times; however, in cases where Helicoil inserts are used (see below for make, model and year information regarding Helicoil inserts), the condition of the threads of the oil pan may cut the O-Ring on the way out in as little as a single use. This is actually when the O-Ring has the most value! If the O-Ring were not present, a regular plugin a damaged/worn oil pan would most certainly have a higher probability of leaking. The technician should always consider the make, model and year of a vehicle in order to determine if a Helicoil is present. (See our Tech News pages or below explanation for further information regarding Helicoil inserts)
If you feel you are seeing a pattern of certain vehicles with torn O-Rings, document the make, model, year, engine size, and which SMART-O plug was removed from the pan. Please inform your auto service center, reseller or distributor who will feedback the information all the way back to the maker.
O-Ring tear when installing SMART-O in oil pans with Helicoil inserts The affected vehicles will have an aluminum oil pan with a Helicoil installed from the factory. Installing ‘F1’ plugin oil pans that use a Helicoil insert may tear the O-Ring; therefore, it is recommended that SMART-O is NOT INSTALLED IF A HELICOIL IS PRESENT.
Affected vehicles include: Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac Trucks and SUVs.
Affected years include: 2000–2007.
Affected engines include: 4.8L, 5.1L, 5.3L, and 6.0L V8 engines.
VIN codes: U, V, and T.
Vehicles using oil pans with Helicoil inserts may be affected by this problem.
Not all vehicles will have this issue; therefore, it is important to inspect each vehicle within the above years, makes, and VIN ranges first.
Note: With or without the O-Ring, a SMART-O plug will still perform like a regular OEM drain plug if installed and torqued to manufacturers' specifications.
RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Carefully check the drain plug port of the oil pan and inspect if it has a Helicoil insert. Initial testing is completed but will be part of a continuous process.
  2. DO NOT INSTALL A SMART-O PLUG, IF A HELICOIL IS PRESENT.
  3. Instead, inspect the OEM washer, then reinstall the OEM plug and torque to manufacturers’ specifications.

Q: Why can’t I see the O-Ring grow when I pour oil on it and lay it on my workbench?

A: You would need a caliper to measure the expansion, and even then it would be hard to measure. Expansion means that the shape of the O-Ring changes from a tube-like structure to whatever environment it is put into. This is why when you remove a Smart-O-Plug from an oil pan it will look like it has threads in it until you allow it to sit for a while until it regains its original shape.