It should be standard practice to perform an overall inspection of every customer’s vehicle when it enters the shop, regardless of what specific repair prompted the visit. Inspections such as checking fluid levels, tire wear, belt condition, a visual inspection for leaks, loose or badly worn steering and suspension parts, a brake pad and rotor check, etc., should be included, as a pre-emptive strike to alert the customer to any issues that require immediate or not-too-distant attention.
This serves to both safeguard the customer and to increase your shop’s income, wherein you can legitimately charge for additional work during the initial visit and/or have the opportunity to schedule another visit.
In addition to the “standard” checks, how often do you inspect the vehicle’s parking brake operation? This is especially important for the traditional e-brake system that features cables and levers. As we all know, the majority of drivers seldom use their parking brake. As a result, corrosion sets in, resulting in sticking cables and pivot points. If ignored for extended periods, when the e-brake is applied, it’s likely that the system will stick, resulting in locked-up rear brakes, or depending on the condition, the cable(s) may snap, resulting in no emergency braking option.
In addition to checking emergency brake operation (and repairing or lubricating as needed), make a point to educate the customer. Assuming the system is operational, they need to periodically use the e-brake in order to keep it in working order, whether they feel the need or not. Just like the human body, vehicle systems need to be exercised in order to stay in proper operating condition.
The same applies to various other systems. If the vehicle is equipped with A/C, and even if the customer doesn’t feel the need to turn it on, the compressor needs to be engaged once in a while in order to keep the system running properly.
If the vehicle is equipped with 4WD that uses actuators, the system needs to be engaged periodically to prevent valves from sticking. Otherwise, the customer may not be able to engage the 4WD system when it’s actually needed.
We need to remember the customer doesn’t know what we know. They may be oblivious to the need to maintain operation of various seldom-used systems, to avoid drivability problems and to avoid horrendous repair bills when a system fails.
You may not consider yourself a teacher, but educating the customer is important. Letting them know what they can do to prevent avoidable and expensive repairs increases customer loyalty by making it clear that in addition to operating a business, you’re looking out for their best interests. ■
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