If one part of a vehicle’s cooling system needs to be replaced, there’s a very good chance the remaining components do, too.
Experts agree there’s no shortage of upselling opportunities for jobbers when it comes to coolants, belts and hoses at this time of year and while customers might not appreciate the unexpected charges at first, it should save them money down the road.
If a technician is working on a vehicle’s cooling system and calls in to ask about a line of parts, Tom Lee, marketing manager at Continental Contitech, an Ohio-based manufacturer of automotive and industrial products, suggests jobbers ask them how the hoses are holding up.
“If they’re replacing the water pump or the thermostat, now is the perfect time because the system has been drained. That’s usually the inhibiting factor. Otherwise, the opportunity doesn’t present itself,” he said.
In fact, if any one hose has failed, he said it’s more than likely that the others are ready to go as well. Most vehicles have hoses for the upper and lower radiator, the in-and-out heater and a couple of small hoses that service the coolant overflow tank.
“There are a lot of smaller ID hoses that should be looked at, at the same time. If the technician is asking about one hose, they should be asking for a whole set,” Lee said.
If the coolant is in poor condition, there’s a good chance the entire cooling system is in the same shape, which is another reason to re-evaluate the hoses.
If the engine has overheated at some point, it could have shortened the life of the hoses, Lee said.
“If a hose has been removed, it should be replaced, too. The twisting and turning and stretching usually damages the reinforcement inside. You’ve broken any kind of seal the hose had on the vehicle to begin with and it’s hard to get that seal back,” he said.
High mileage is another good indicator. Lee recommended that hoses be looked at as part of regular maintenance starting at 60,000 miles or about 96,000 km. That includes commercial vehicles, such as taxis or delivery trucks.
“They have a lot of idling and a lot of heat, which means a lot of wear and tear on the rubber products,” he said.
“If a hose has been removed, it should be replaced, too. The twisting and turning and stretching usually damages the reinforcement inside.”
— Tom Lee, Continental Contitech
Speaking of heat, motorists who have made it through the summer without replacing their coolants, belts or hoses might want to get them looked at once the leaves start to turn colour. Jobbers should be advising service shops about this opportunity since vehicles have just endured their most stressful period, according to Jay Brown, general manager of Nissens, a Fort Worth, Tx.-based manufacturer of radiators and engine cooling solutions.
“In the fall, you’re going to test the coolant itself to make sure it has the right freeze reduction properties [before winter],” he said. “You’re looking at stress points. The highest ones are the high temperatures in the summer and the freezing temperatures in the winter.
“In the spring, you’re going into the driving season. You have families driving across the country for summer vacations. You want to make sure the belts are in good condition so that when they get to that stress point in temperatures, they’re going to hold up.”
Considering the wide variety of fluids that combine to make a vehicle go, Brown said the most important one from a coolants, belts and hoses point of view is the most basic – water. He said it’s crucial that distilled water is used in cooling circuits; otherwise minerals from tap water can clog up the radiator, the thermostat or the water pump.
“Every component is dependent on the next component. The quality of the water is an essential part of that circuit. I think that’s well known but we still see people using tap water,” he said.
The more jobbers can get across the message to technicians about the importance of inspection procedures, the fewer panicked phone calls will be put in to mechanics, Lee said.
David Hirschhorn, New Jersey-based director of brand management at CRP Automotive, agrees and recommends jobbers help repair shops do the whole job. When changing a serpentine belt, for example, it’s a good idea to replace components that ride on it, too, such as idlers, tensioners and water pumps. The challenge is belts are lasting twice as long as they did 10 or 15 years ago but the durability of many related parts has remained the same.
“All of these components (used to last) 80,000 miles. Do you really expect them to last 160,000 miles? If you’re going out for a three-hour drive, do you want to risk one of those components failing and your car is on the side of the road?” he said.