The change of seasons typically brings with it an awareness among motorists that it is an opportune time for routine maintenance on their car or SUV. This is prudent so their vehicle is as prepared as possible for the winter driving season.
It is in this light that quick lube shops see an uptick in business after a slower summer season when folks are more focused on vacations than auto maintenance. The kids are back to school, the leaves start to fall and motorists start to think about the harsh conditions to come.
Certainly, oil and filter changes rank right at the top of the list of critical pre-winter services. And your customers’ appearances in your shop afford you the opportunity to provide add-on products and services that greatly benefit the motorist and also boost your bottom line.
Such products and services can not only include those that are performed or installed during their visit, but they can also include other products your customers can take and store in their trunk in anticipation of conditions that can compromise safe driving in the coming months.
In-shop services that benefit both the shop and the motorist should certainly include battery service. This typically involves cleaning terminals, checking the integrity of the connections and applying preservative/protectant to the terminals and posts to ward off future corrosion that can ultimately lead to a no-start condition. Battery service can also include load testing, which takes mere moments and can easily lead to the sale of a new battery.
Tire rotation is another important service, as it promotes even tire wear and assures that the best tires are on the front wheels, where they can provide the best possible steering and braking, especially on FWD vehicles. And, of course, with wheels and tires off, you have the opportunity to inspect and evaluate brake and suspension system components and recommend replacement of worn parts that can compromise braking, handling and safety. This can also lead to the sale of new tires, if your shop is so equipped.
Note that some vehicle manufacturers recommend periodic brake fluid replacement, and this is prudent on every vehicle. Since brake fluid is hygroscopic, it attracts moisture, which can cause rust and corrosion in brake lines, calipers and even within the ABS system. Be sure to use a quality DOT 3 or 4 fluid as specified by the vehicle manufacturer.
Cooling system service is important to assure the strength of the coolant is sufficient to prevent cold-weather freeze-up, which can cause catastrophic engine damage. You should also consider using cooling system additives to fortify the coolant’s ability to ward off rust and corrosion within the cooling system. If your inspection reveals rust, oil or gasoline contamination, or other indications that the coolant has outlived its usefulness, a flush and refill service is in order.
Of course, your time spent under the hood allows you to check the levels and condition of power steering fluid, brake fluid and transmission fluid. You should replenish these as needed, and you may find it appropriate to recommend fortifiers or anti-leak additives as necessary. In any event, you’ll want to be sure to use the proper fluids, assuring that the fluids you use are compatible with the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.
While under the hood you also have the opportunity to inspect serpentine belts, coolant and power steering hoses, and air and fuel filters. And don’t forget the cabin air filter as well, since its role becomes even more important in winter weather when windows are likely to be closed.
Visibility is especially important in winter months, when snow, ice and even frost can reduce visibility. So you’ll want to assure your customers’ wiper blades are new or recent and their windshield washer fluid is filled with a winterized formula or boosted with a concentrate so it won’t freeze up in sub-zero temperatures. It’s important to remind your employees and customers that a concentrated windshield washer fluid additive should not be used alone, but rather mixed with the proper proportion of water.
Finally, be sure to update your waiting room products and literature with season-appropriate products. These can represent important add-on sales that the customer will likely need at some time in the coming months — products like windshield washer fluid concentrate, windshield spray de-icer and gas line antifreeze, along with scrapers, foul weather emergency kits, shovels and flashlights.
By offering a complete package of services and aftersales items, you provide important products and services that enhance customer satisfaction that will lead to repeat business. Remember, it’s always easier to keep existing customers than it is to find new ones.