It can be tempting to forgo even quick inspections in the face of a long line of cars needing winter tire changeovers and battery replacements, but it is important to communicate the need to ensure the consumer’s vehicle is in good working order.
Even where winter tire changeovers are not mandatory, as soon as the snow flies, shops are going to be slammed – and service advisors are going to be pressed hard to balance the needs of proper maintenance advice with the need to get a long line of customer cars the service they need right now.
It can be tempting to forgo even quick inspections in the face of a long line of cars needing winter tire changeovers and battery replacements, but it is important to communicate the need to ensure their vehicle is in good working order.
If your shop is full to capacity, inspections should still be done, with any non-critical work scheduled for a later date. Any smaller items – bulbs, wiper blades – that need replacing should be done during that initial service visit as they are critical items for safety, but usually do not have a significant impact on total service time.
The goal during this busy time is to ensure that critical service is executed and any other service is logged and scheduled, to ensure that your customers are not stranded on a cold winter’s drive.
Promoting pre-winter maintenance has a number of key advantages, both for the service shop and for consumers themselves. A well-maintained vehicle lasts longer and performs better, and preventative maintenance almost always costs them less in the long run, by catching problems early while they are still relatively minor. And of course, remind your customers that in winter there is the extra added factor of safety.
There are a number of ways you can promote winter car safety and encourage customers to take the extra steps needed to prepare their vehicles for the coming season. At the minimum, printed signage or brochures that outline what areas to inspect (or that your service technicians will inspect for them) can be placed in your showroom to promote the idea.
You can also promote a special winter package that includes full inspection, top-up of needed fluids, tire check (or winter tire installation), etc.
Finally, specials on winter items, from tires and batteries to bulbs, windshield wiper blades, winter fluids (washer fluid, oil, etc.), even floor mats and snow brushes are very popular this time of year.
A 10 Point Inspection
Be Car Care Aware offers the following ten-point inspection that you can either encourage your customers to perform themselves, or offer to do for them even during the busiest of days:
Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
Check all hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, frayed, brittle or showing signs of excessive wear.
Check the battery and replace if necessary. Make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.
Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.
Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks an be dangerous and should be corrected without delay.
Schedule a tune-up to help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy and produce the lowest level of emission.
Check the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety operations such as defrosting.
Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.
Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.
Winter Emergency Kit
You don’t want to think about it, but a breakdown in a snowstorm can quickly become an emergency, even a life-threatening situation. Putting together a small cooler-sized bag of emergency supplies to keep in the trunk is an ounce of prevention that you may be grateful for later.
There are pre-packaged kits that shops can offer to customers, or they can build their own. Here’s some suggestions for what it should contain:
- Blankets, socks, mittens, hats
- Hand warmer packets
- Ice scraper and extra snow brush
- Flashlight with extra batteries (or a hand crank model)
- Jumper cables
- First aid kit (Band-Aids, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antiseptic cream, medical wrap)
- Bottled water
- Tea light candles and matches, kept in a sealed zip-loc bag (these can help to keep you warm)
- Candy bars or energy bars
- Safety flares and/or emergency triangles
- Phone charger that plugs into the car lighter
If you have room in the trunk, some other items can be handy if you get stuck:
- Foldable shovel
- Floor absorbent or kitty litter
- Air compressor that plugs into your car lighter
- Aerosol run-flat (to temporarily fix a puncture)