The Additive Effect: Profits from Performance

In this Internet-driven, instant information world, we sometimes take for granted that others in our service business understand all aspects of what we provide customers. Recent conversations with shop owners prompted me to start asking a simple question when products, services and potential for improved ticket totals came up — how do you market your additives? The general confusion and misinformation that often came with their answer made me realize many of us in this business are missing an opportunity due to lack of knowledge. Knowing what additives are, in context to, what they specifically do and how they can be used as a tool to solve and prevent problems, is essential to the ability to market the service technician needs.

The best way is always to start at the beginning. The dictionary defines additives as: “A substance added to another substance in relatively small amounts to effect a desired change in properties.” With the goal to produce an “additive effect” that is “when two substances used together effect the same as the sum of individual effects.” In other words, you improve the original fluid by mixing small amounts of additive to improve performance of the original fluid. As simple as this seems when you think about it, there is huge confusion in the market place. There is often a failure to realize the benefits additives offer when customers consult with service technicians to solve, or in many cases prevent, specific problems that additives are targeted for.

Here are a few examples:
• Fuel additives: One of the easiest sales today. Fuel systems suffer from a number of issues that can be solved with additives. Improved performance, a cleaner fuel system, lower emissions for compliance and extending the storage life of fuel in a stored vehicle. All you need to do is figure out what the customer needs.
• Engine oil additives: Many vehicle owners will use an additive designed for their application. They run from tackifiers that thicken oil (good for hot, heavy duty service) to friction modifiers that improve fuel economy or even one-time-treat products that reduce wear. These all depend on what the customer is looking for.
• Cooling system additives: Owners looking to reduce temperatures or extend a cooling system’s life have products available to take care of these concerns. These products are often used to delay service to a more convenient time of year.
• Automatic transmission additives: There are products for everything from leaks (seal swell products) to help get you home, improving shift quality or eliminating shudder or chatter problems (friction modifiers) to fluid enhancers that extend the life of the fluid and lower operating temperatures (ATF protectants).
• Power steering fluid additives: Power steering systems tend to get noisy as they age. Often, the problem is depleted power steering fluid needs a boost in lubricity to quiet it down and restore performance. There are power steering additives and protectants designed for that application.
• Differential additives: Many differentials contain limited slip units that require friction-modified gear fluids. When gear fluid is used during service, a friction modifier additive may be required. Gear fluid protectants that extend the life of the gear fluid and improve lubricity for manual transmission applications are also available.
• Air conditioning additives: There is a growing need for products to remove smells and contamination from A/C and heating systems. These products also qualify as additives, and knowing how to solve the problem of a smelly A/C can be a great generator of sales and satisfied customers.
As you can see, the opportunities are there for service providers who become familiar with the additive products available to them and become comfortable using them as tools to solve or prevent problems. Because the counter guy at the auto store is no longer the guy to ask about what to buy when they have a problem an additive would fix, the burden of knowledge falls to the professional service technician. Know your additives! There are problems to be fixed and money to be made.