Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2011   by Nestor Gula

Earn more by doing a little extra

A few simple service steps can lead to more work and extra profit

As a garage owner you are in a business of servicing cars and making sure your customers have a great driving experience. As well, you have to make money – to pay for the equipment, the building, the lease, your staff, yourself and your retirement. The adage in business is that if you stay still you are in fact in decline. So as a business owner or manager you have to constantly look for new ways to be able to generate a profit.
Generating a profit does not – pardon the expression – have to come at the customer’s expense. Enhancing the safety and the quality of your customer’s vehicle is a benefit for the customer – one that they will be glad to pay for if they feel they are getting great service and high quality products.
The extra service that you can offer easily will not initially bring about a great bonanza of cash in your till or in the bank account, but will bump your profits up noticeably and, more importantly, build customer goodwill and bring more customers to your shop.
Take wipers for example. When is the last time you sold a wiper to a customer? How many sets of wipers do you sell for every 100 cars that come in for routine service?
Most vehicle owners change their wipers only when they can no longer see the road in front of them. And when they do change their blades, they often drive to the parking lot of the nearest big box store, buy the cheapest blades that will fit their vehicle and put them on in the same parking lot. This could and should have been your sale.
Wipers need to be changed regularly as they deteriorate over time and with use.
“Both front and rear wipers, if a vehicle is equipped with rear wipers, are important driving necessities that need to be checked and changed periodically to maintain good driving vision,” said Tom Vasis, group product manager, Wiping Systems with Bosch. “For best results, Bosch recommends replacing them every spring and fall. Actually, wipers should be changed when they no longer perform as expected. The recommended replacement interval for preventative maintenance is six months; but Bosch’s dual-rubber technology in blades such as the Icon can extend this interval significantly.”
The technician should check the state of the wipers and give his recommendation to the customer. Vasis notes, “Drivers should be aware that ice on the windshield is a major factor in wiper deterioration. If the windshield has been iced up, trying to clear the windshield by activating the wipers, without first clearing off the ice, will quickly damage the wiper blade’s rubber and make it less effective in wiping rain, mist and snow from the windshield,” he said. “Technicians should check wipers for cracking, tearing or to see if they have taken a “set” – in other words the rubber becomes bent to one side. Any of these conditions can cause less than optimal wiping characteristics.”
When telling the customer that they need new wipers and that you can install them, “point out the advantages of having a professional install blades purchased from their shop at a reasonable price, and the relationship between clean windshields and driving pleasure,” said Vasis. “While bad weather and hazardous road conditions are rarely within our control, making sure the driver is operating a vehicle under optimum conditions means, among other things, having good equipment such as wiper blades installed correctly. Premium grade wiper blades offer installers the opportunity to enhance their customer’s driving experience while, at the same time, create a new profit centre for the shop.”
Do you only change light bulbs in your customer’s cars when they are burnt out? Perhaps you should change them before they actually burn out and avoid having the customer risk a hefty traffic fine from the friendly police force.
“Like most other parts that you have in your car the light bulbs will have to be replaced eventually, said Alfredo de la Vega, product manager and marketing coordinator for Hella. “They usually last between 400 to 600 hours, so depending on how much use they get it will be between one and two years between replacements.”
In Canada, where the law states that cars have to have the lights on even during daylight hours, this means that light bulbs must be changed on a yearly basis if the car is used for about an hour and a half per day. “What happens is that light bulbs lose ten per cent of their power for every 100 hours that they are used,” said de la Vega. “Changing the bulbs is a safety element. The light bulbs in the headlights should be changed on a regular interval and not just when they are burned out. This should be part of the regular service.”
Having lights that work is crucially important to safety according to Laura Fuller, manager, communications and marketing services at Osram Sylvania. “With more vehicles on the road, driving requires good visibility at all times. Maintaining car headlights ensures that drivers can see what is on the road ahead, and allows other cars and pedestrians to see approaching vehicles. Upgrading to whiter, brighter halogen headlights is a smart way to increase visibility and roadside viewing. High performance headlights also help drivers improve their reaction time and avoid potential road hazards.”
She noted that halogen headlights dim over time; reducing the amount of light they give off. “They should be replaced before they burn out,” said Fuller. “Similar to wiper blades on a vehicle, headlights should be checked and replaced in pairs. Technicians should be checking the condition of their customer’s vehicle lighting to ensure safety. They should be checking headlight alignment, as miss-aimed headlights can be distracting and dangerous. They should also inspect brake lights and turn signals to ensure that they are in good working order.”
During the routine service you check the coolant level as a part of the general procedure. If it is a bit low, you add a bit of water or coolant and close the overflow cap. Job done. Or is it?
“If you are topping up, this may be a call for something else,” said Dennis Favaro, product manager for Valvoline Canada. “There may be issues that are causing the need to top up. It may be a mechanical issue, or a leak or something else. If you are topping up frequently, you may have an internal or external problem that will need to be examined.”
Technicians should not only look at the level of the coolant in the overflow tank, but also the condition of the coolant. “It is a simple way to do it: you check freeze point, you check for discoloration and you check the mileage. If any one of those indicates a need for a coolant flush than you will need to explain it to the customer. If the coolant is discoloured from what it should be because of rust or another issue in the water hose you will need a flush,” said Favaro.
The technician must find out what coolant is recommended for the vehicle. Some coolants can last for 250,000 kilometres according to Favaro. “There are many products out there. They are not all the same in terms of technology. And they are not all compatible with each other. The old silicone based coolants, what we call the green stuff, has been replaced by newer fluids. That old stuff you had to swap it quite often, much more than with the current fluids. Always replace the fluids to specification.
“Other fluids may have incompatibilities with some of the metallurgy, the gaskets, in the cooling system. The metals and alloys might not be compatible and some damage to the cooling system might result. It is best to stick with what is recommended.”

Print this page


Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *