Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2007   by Auto Service World

Temperature Control Systems and Components

What Your Customers Want

The temperature control market is a vast and complex arena. While most repair outlet owners and technicians probably have a decent handle on most of the intricacies, it certainly won’t hurt your client relationships if you are personally up to speed on some of the more critical issues today.

From hard-part replacement issues, to coolant conundrums, to regulatory head-aches, knowing your way around the temperature control game is a counterperson must.

Know Your Coolants

As difficult as the coolant category can be for jobbers, with its slim profit margin and proliferation of chemistries, today’s counterperson can rest assured that the overall nuisances don’t stop once the product leaves your store. In fact, one could argue that the technicians themselves have even more problems with it.

To begin with, there are essentially three types of coolant technologies currently out there. These include conventional–usually green–inorganic additive technology (IAT) coolant; Organic Acid Technology (OAT), most commonly known as Dex-Cool, which GM is committed to for the foreseeable future; and Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT), also known as G-05, which has been adopted by Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and several others. Today, though there is still a lot of talk on the street of “universal compatibility” but little evidence to back that up, there is no one formulation that has been accepted by all OEMs.

While that question will be mulled over by regulators and engineers for some time, one must be realistic about the current state of the controversy. Yes, there is evidence in the lab that mixtures of more than 25% of one coolant technology with another will cause the resulting solution to fail the relevant standards; but it is more common that a failed coolant and any resulting damage will be the product of much less exotic problems, such as bad water or the wrong mix ratio.

This is particularly prevalent in heavy-duty and off-road applications, where roadside refills can either dilute the coolant package to near-water, or increase the concentration to the point that protection is compromised. (The ideal proportion is 50/50, but no more than 60/40, water/coolant).

As mentioned, water quality is a huge variable. Chlorine will corrode aluminum tubes. Mineral-laden water will clog them. Sand and dirt, as well as silicate and inhibitor dropout from incorrect use of supplemental coolant additives (SCAs), also compromise cooling.

Finally, the proliferation of coolant technologies has led to a desire to limit the amount of variety needed by those who sell coolant, which in turn has led some companies to claim universal compatibility with their products. These claims have raised a few eyebrows–and at least a few of those were at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which asked at least one supplier to cease making that claim until further testing could be performed.

Air Conditioning

Perhaps the most important piece of information a counterperson can obtain in terms of A/C service is a solid working understanding of the various scraps of legislation that govern your particular jurisdiction. Jobber News publishes an annual reference guide in the A/C supplement included with the April issue (also accessible online at For example, some major changes are taking effect in Quebec this year that will have major implications on how temperature control chemicals are handled in that province, bringing it into line with most other provinces. The law provides for three areas of air conditioning: commercial refrigeration, automotive, and white goods like refrigerators and freezers. The new law, which fundamentally deals with ODS and hydrocarbon handling, initially passed in 2004, but became a more pointed issue in June of 2007 when training was to be completed.

In terms of dealing with your technician customers, the new legislation is not so much focused on A/C in particular as it is concerned with the handling of the materials involved. Basically, the law states that technicians have to take a training course in order to perform the maintenance required, which has a lot to do with the various gases involved in flushing a system and checking for leaks.

Understanding Complexity

Clients entering a garage simply do not appreciate the complexity of the temperature control system.

Further, many technicians simply fail to understand that not everyone is a DIY automotive genius, and this can lead to some serious problems when it comes to explaining the costs involved with replacement service.

The problem stems from the closed loop system of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment, as it creates a ripple effect when a single component fails, resulting in soaring warranty replacement costs, damage to the shop’s service reputation, and quality complaints in the aftermarket.

Technicians daunted by the complexity of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system often opt to change only the failed part instead of performing a complete diagnosis to uncover the root cause. Diagnosis is a longer process and the results are often hard to sell due to customers’ skepticism in replacing a working component.

Apart from the interdependence of the components, service-related challenges also make diagnosis tricky. For instance, compressor oil selection, recognition and handling of refrigerant blends, and use of air conditioning sealers can all affect a technician’s ability to determine the cause of failure.

To curtail these aftermarket handicaps, HVAC manufacturers are pursuing technician support strategies. An astute counterperson can highlight these available programs and ensure his technician customers receive electronic catalogues, a wide spectrum of training options, and diagnostic and equipment protection tools.

Inventory Solutions

One of the most common industry complaints when it comes to temperature control components is the difficulty of keeping inventory in check. Whether it be a financial problem or simply a storage space reality, your customers would likely do just about anything to avoid carrying the vast majority of their inventory.

Fortunately, some companies have begun responding to this tricky issue, particularly as it pertains to belts and their accompanying tensioners. Since timing belt tensioners and idlers tend to be more common across vehicle platforms than belts, a belt-centric program often requires redundant use of like tensioner components with unique belts. Since belts are also sold individually, inventory duplication results from stocking both belts and tensioner components.

Unlike competitive programs that are limited to only “belt-centric” assortments, new beltless kits are being distributed by some manufacturers. According to them, this optimizes inventory expense by over 40%, so jobbers and WDs can offer increased vehicle coverage while investing their working capital in other areas.

Dos and Don’ts: Temperature Control

Do familiarize yourself with all of the A/C legislation that applies in your jurisdiction, and be prepared to inform your installer customers should they have any question. Take a look at the annual Jobber News A/C Special Report for a detailed chart. Visit, click on “Print Editions” and “Back issues.”

Don’t assume everything in a catalogue or company release is necessarily accurate. In many cases, the regulatory information is applicable only for those south of the border, and is inaccurate for Canadian customers. If you’re not sure, ask your rep.

Do take advantage of newer promotions and products that can help your garage customers limit duplication and redundancy in their inventory.

Don’t accept the age-old complexity prob
lems. Manufacturers today offer a number of programs and solutions for you to pass on to your customers.

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