Successful lube shops take pride in exercising best business practices: friendly customer service, fast turnaround times and competitive pricing. These are all essential components that need to be in place for your business to remain profitable in a difficult industry, but is it enough? To stay ahead of the curve, many shops across the country are adding wheel service to their menu of service capabilities, mainly tire rotation and wheel balancing.
Tire rotations are crucial to the longevity of any vehicle’s tires. The front tires usually wear faster than the rear tires, so it is important to rotate them to prevent uneven tread wear. The beauty of rotating tires is it does not take more than a few minutes, and the benefit to your customers is immeasurable. A small team can conceivably rotate four tires, top off some fluids and change a car’s oil without adding extra time. That is a ton of added value at little or no cost to your business.
According to the 2016 National Oil & Lube News Fast Lube Operators Survey, 16 percent of oil change locations sell tires, and when offered, 53 percent of customers purchase them. The majority of those shops now selling tires are servicing them, as well. The survey also states many shops in our industry are now offering wheel balancing and tire rotations as a way to diversify their service offerings to increase profits. One reason wheel service has found a place in the quick lube industry is because of the inexpensive equipment. These services are also fairly simple to execute, and the equipment does not take up much space in your shop.
A Multi-Purpose Tire Rotation Lift
Let’s start with what you probably already know. There is no such thing as a “tire rotation lift.” The term is actually low or mid-rise frame engaging lift. In this category, there are usually two different types: surface-mounted versions that simply rest on your floor surface and flush-mount models that require a recess to be formed or cut into your existing foundation. Typically, users of these lifts will have one mechanic doing oil and fluid service while another is pulling off wheels.
Be More Than a Lube Pit
Nothing matters like your reputation. Being the highest-rated and best-reviewed lube station in town will make your shop pop up first on search engines when people hastily do common internet searches for “oil change near me.” Potential customers are not going to spend much time on their search, so you better have the accommodating services and five-star rating they want.
When playing the law of averages, your first goal should be to capture as much of your potential customer base as possible by offering the most commonly performed services in the industry. Tire rotations are an easy service to start with. Do not be afraid to brag a little about the quality and number of services you offer. Customers respect confidence as long as you can back it up with great customer service and all the amenities they need.
Find the “Perfect Balance”
In addition to a solid pit lift, a good wheel balancer is another piece of equipment that should be on your list of must-haves. When you consider all they will do for your business, getting one for your shop is a clear no-brainer.
Wheel balancers identify exactly where little tape or hammer-on wheel weights need to be added to prevent vibrations and tread wear associated with wheel imbalances. In addition to tire rotations, wheel balancing is one of the most useful operations a shop can perform. When balancing, the floor-to-floor time is about one minute per wheel, and since you are already rotating someone’s tires, wheel balancers offer great value to your shop. The longer you keep customers on the road, the more return business you are going to get.
Which Wheel Balancer Do I Choose?
There is a lot of competition out there, and wheel balancers come in all shapes and sizes. Some have nifty features that automatically take in your tire measurements so you do not have to manually measure the tire offset, diameter and width.
The more wheels you balance, the more features you should consider. Do some research on different manufacturers and distributors, and enter into a professional relationship you can see lasting for many years. In the past decade alone, technology has changed so much it is now possible to measure weight imbalance more accurately than was previously possible. The tools and microchips inside the machines now measure imbalances within mere hundredths of an inch. It is worthwhile to invest in a next-gen balancer to keep your customers from returning time and time again due to severe vehicle vibrations — a common indicator of wheel imbalance.
Again, you will see many differently priced models on the market. Small-time thinkers grab the lowest-cost option without a second thought. Do not immediately assume the less expensive option is the better option. If you do not know about wheel balancers, do not fret. Ask around local shops, and shop for products in your price range that will offer years of valuable, low-maintenance service.
What About Staffing?
If you want to compete in this industry, regardless of the current size of your shop, you need to have a growth-oriented mindset. A well trained technician will instantly provide a fast turnaround and higher-quality service. Second, and equally as important, you offer customers peace-of-mind when they know the man or woman working on their vehicle is fully certified. Trust in this industry is hard to build and easy to lose.
Certification for your mechanics is a great way to earn customer trust. Tire rotations and wheel balancing is pretty easy to accomplish, so you will not be investing a fortune to get your staff trained. Of course, if you hire and train mechanics, they will be familiar with the procedures and will quickly catch on to your new equipment. Whatever you do, at the end of the day, make your work customer-focused. When people see all the great services you provide, you improve your ability to earn and keep new business.