Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2009   by David Halpert, Assistant Editor

Spring Forward

The Change In Season Means Replacing Worn Hardware And Increasing Profits

Canadian winters are especially notorious for wreaking havoc on a vehicle’s exterior systems. This is doubly so for those parts particularly vulnerable to the cold and snow. Since many of these components need to be replaced on an annual (sometimes seasonal) basis, this translates to increased sales for independents.

Two parts in particular that bear the brunt of winter the hardest are wiper blades and headlamps. The importance of a good set of wiper blades and headlights in accident prevention cannot be denied, as well as their profit potential for savvy independents, especially when independents leverage today’s product innovations and technological developments to sell customers on upgrading to these newest technologies when it comes time to replace older, worn systems.

Educating customers about wipers

“Automotive service professionals can benefit by educating their customers about the relationship between clean windshields and driving safety,” says Tom Vasi, group product manager for Bosch’s wiper systems. “While bad weather and hazardous road conditions are rarely within our control, driving safety often is. The windshield wiper, a relatively inexpensive and easy-to-install item, plays a crucial role in improving driving visibility and, as such, is an important safety-related item.”

Since 2005, with their introduction of the Aerotwin bracketless wiper blade design, Bosch has helped push the market towards beam blade technology. By eliminating the conventional external steel frame Bosch improved the blade’s ability to hug the curvature of modern aerodynamically shaped windshields. Enclosing the tension springs has reduced the chance of snow and ice build-up to ensure excellent performance in winter. A symmetrical wind spoiler creates a downforce through channeled airflow, resulting in better windshield contact and a cleaner wipe. This becomes especially important in severe wind conditions, all-too-common during winter driving, where older wiper technologies often failed to keep the wiper blade on the windshield when the winds kicked in.

“It starts with asking your customers, ‘When was the last time you replaced your wipers?'” says Randy Chupta, marketing manager for Gates Canada, producers of the Trico wiper blade. “It is recommended that wipers be checked every six months and replaced at least once a year. Unfortunately most consumers on average replace their blades every two and half years.”

Chupta goes on to say that having support signage/materials provided by the wiper manufacturer in their waiting room will alert consumers for the need to change their blades. He says that having service writers with the right knowledge and training, along with up-to-date materials to give customers will help independents generate higher sales and profits, especially when the season changes to spring and it is common to change worn blades and other parts.

Trico offers a line of displays to stock and showcase its product. They also offer posters, counter mats, and counter easels that can be placed in the customer waiting area. Additionally, their sales reps spend a great deal of time working with wholesalers at the level of the auto service provider. These “detail calls” are essential to building relationships with their clients, providing technicians with helpful business building tools and to outline seasonal promotions that may be running.

Brightening up headlights

In recent years, the vehicle lighting market has cautiously moved from halogen lighting to high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting. Because HID headlamps do not use a filament as their primary lighting source, the lights consume less energy but also produce a brighter light than halogens. Because HIDs produce 250 per cent more light than halogens, it makes driving at night safer for drivers since their view isn’t forced or strained. The colour of the light is closer to 6,000 degrees Kelvin (comparable to sunlight at 6,500 degrees Kelvin).

When asked what technicians could do to better market their lighting products more effectively, Alfredo de la Vega, marketing manager for Hella Inc., has this to say:

“I think they [technicians] need to recognize that the lighting system is used on a consistent basis so it needs to be maintained and upgraded on a consistent basis as well. You have to change your bulbs every 4-6 months, even if they may still be working for safety reasons. Lights wear just like tires do. A technician can recommend this to their customers since lighting performance also decreases with time.”

Vega adds technicians should also point out to drivers that in the transition from winter to spring there is a chance moisture may have gotten into the lighting housing and to the lights themselves. If this happens, there is a good chance for rust to slowly corrode the connections and cause the headlamps to fail. That is why regular inspection of lights should be encouraged and made part of a spring inspection routine for the customer.

Another strong selling point for HID lamps is conventional halogen bulbs normally last between 500-1,000 hours HID lighting can last an average of 2,500 hours, as much as four times longer.


Antifreeze is probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone think of additives — but they actually encompass a wide range of fuel treatments, cleaners, and coolants across many brands and types. However, there’s no discounting proper antifreeze when it comes to preventative maintenance.

It is recommended that a concentrated formula be used on most model vehicles. A good antifreeze should be phosphate-, silicate-and borate-free, and should extend the life of a corrosion inhibitor package so that it lasts for up to five years or 150,000 miles.

“Our 50/50 formula is a great convenience product for topping off or just draining and refilling the system. But it’s really important to use our concentrated formula when doing a complete system flush,” says Jeff Bye, vice-president and general manager of coolants and car care for Honeywell CPG regarding its Prestone brand. “When a flush is conducted, some water always remains in the system, therefore in order to get the factory fill recommended 50/50 ratio of water and antifreeze/coolant, you have to use a concentrated formula, and then test the concentration levels with the proper equipment or tools.”

The reason antifreeze/coolant and water are mixed at a 50/50 ratio is to lower the freeze point of the cooling system to -36 degrees Celsius and to raise the boiling point to 109 degrees Celsuis (or 129 degrees Celsius using a 15 lb pressure cap). Problems that can occur with a 30/70 per cent mixture of antifreeze/coolant and water include a raised freezing point, lowered boiling point and decreased metal corrosion protection. Problems resulting from a 70 per cent antifreeze/coolant concentration may include slushing, additive precipitation, water pump leakage, poor heat transfer, overheating, and of course, a raised freezing point and the possibility of overheating.

Bye also recommends shops use distilled, deionized or quality soft water during flush and fills to minimize potential contamination. Ions and impurities that are sometimes present in poor quality water can attack and/ or adhere to metal surfaces in hot heat exchangers and cause scale build up. Also, some municipal water carries chloride, chlorine and sulfate, which can cause corrosive issues.

“This type of contamination can contribute to erosion corrosion and lead to decreased antifreeze/coolant flow, resulting in poor heat transfer, cooling system components failure and higher metal and oil temperatures,” says Bye.

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