The bitter winds of winter make it obvious for some to prepare their car for months of extreme cold. However, many customers may not realize that it’s just as important to get your vehicle ready for the hottest months of the year before they put the top down and hit the road. This is where installers can step in to educate consumers and provide services and information directly related to their summer car care. Herbert Steurer, passenger vehicle lubricants brand supervisor for ExxonMobil Fuels & Lubricants, shared some information about why this is a great practice.
Q: Simply put, why is it important to engage with customers about preparing their car for the summer months before summer actually arrives?
A: Keeping customers informed about all aspects of their car care from season to season, beyond the standard oil change, can help build loyalty between your business and the public. In some ways, it shows thought leadership: you’re thinking about what their car needs, before they know they need it. This builds trust with your customer. After all, installers are seen as the expert to everyone who pulls up to that bay door. While that trust may result in a sale for today, it’s also more likely to result in a long-time customer moving forward.
Q: What are some examples of simple and memorable preventive measures installers could relay to their customers for better summer performance?
A: Heat is already top of mind for drivers in the summer, but typically only as it relates to how hot it is inside the car. It’s good to get them thinking about just how much heat is really taking place under the hood because, as we know in some parts of the country, it can be absolutely brutal. Remind customers that, as the heat rises, their cooling system is working overtime to keep the engine from overheating — this is the No. 1 cause of summer breakdowns. Now, more than ever, it’s important to make sure their cooling system is clean and leak-free, with caps, clamps and drive belts checked. Recommend their cars’ coolant be flushed and refilled every 24 months, and ask when their last coolant flush took place. There’s a good chance they probably won’t know.
Q: Outside of the cooling system, what other hot spots should customers be aware of?
A: Passenger vehicle rotors and brake pads are incredibly susceptible to the summer heat — wear and cracks are more common in months when temperatures are high. Remind customers to check their brake pads and shoes early, especially if there is any hint of grinding when brakes are applied. Again, this is something most drivers put off, or don’t think about, until it’s too late — remind them rotors are much more expensive than pads. The stop-and-go traffic of summer can make quicker work of pads.
Q: The most obvious summer vehicle preparation for many is their air conditioner. How long should someone wait to make sure it works?
A: If you’re waiting until the summer heat to crank your air conditioner and make sure it works, you could be in for a rude awakening. Again, show leadership in the spring months by getting ahead of the curve: remind customers to schedule any air conditioner work before the heat really sets in. They’ll probably thank you for it later when appointments are filling up at the peak of the season. A partially-functioning system is as good as a non-functioning system in many hot areas of the country. And, while they are there, ask them if their cabin air filter has been replaced at proper intervals. As with a coolant flush, this is something the average driver may not even have considered.
Q: What do customers need to know about how heat affects their motor oil?
A: When your engine is running at its hottest in the summer, it’s important to understand the relationship between motor oil and your engine, and how heat plays a factor in all of these things — from keeping your engine running, to keeping it clean. As an example, we test our Mobil 1 Advanced Synthetic motor oil at up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This is important because heat causes conventional motor oil to oxidize, thicken and leave deposits affecting an engine’s performance, while some synthetic oils provide protection for high-temperature performance. So, it doesn’t hurt to mention to your customer that a change in seasons could also be the perfect time to change their motor oil, and their type of motor oil, as well.
While many garages suggest changing motor oil around every 3,000 miles, we know modern advances in both cars and lubricant technology allow most cars to far exceed this recommendation. To save on wear, suggest a switch to a synthetic motor oil, and educate them on the benefits of switching from a conventional motor oil — many customers won’t know the differences and benefits and will be interested to learn. Synthetic motor oils have been found to protect engines longer than conventional motor oils in terms of wear, high-temperature performance in the summer and modern turbocharged engines.
Q: Is there any other part the summer heat could affect, and why?
A: For one, tire pressure is affected by changes in temperature, and a change as slight as 10 degrees can lower tire pressure by one to two psi. Factoids like this mechanics know, but customers can benefit from learning and keeping in mind. In addition to checking both the wear on their tire treads and the inflation pressure to keep them safe on the road, go ahead and explain why this is important — an under-inflated tire is more likely to blow out in high heat and will also reduce their fuel economy.
Something they might not think about is that summer car care can be cosmetic, as well. The sun will quickly fade, crack and dry out the interior of a car getting too much sun. But if they must park in the sun, suggest a sunshade on the dash to protect interiors — many installers sell these extras in addition to their mechanical services. This is worth mentioning when doing any air conditioner work, as sunshades also help reduce internal temperatures overall and reduce the heavy lifting of their air conditioner, saving them money and time in the long-run.
If there’s one takeaway with all of this, I can say that with a little forethought, finding opportunities to deliver good preventative car maintenance advice this summer will ultimately save your customers from being inconvenienced when they want to drive their car the most. After all, they’ve been waiting all winter to finally go on that road trip, family vacation or weekend cruise — maybe they’ll even send you a postcard this time!