Ah, the lowly fender cover. It was born with a single life mission: to protect the painted surface of a front fender from nicks and scratches while underhood work is being performed.
Vehicles enter the shop. Some customers require routine maintenance. Some customers complain about driveability issues. The brakes squeal. They hear a clicking noise on turns. The engine cranks but won’t start. The tires are wearing out fast. The car pulls to the left under braking. The engine is leaking oil. The list goes on.
Proper wheel alignment is obviously important in terms of preventing premature tire wear, and to maintain predictable and controllable handling and braking. But in winter weather, where the customer encounters slippery conditions, wheel angles become much more critical. The effect of improper toe, camber and/or caster angles becomes more pronounced and are compounded as the coefficient of friction between the tires and the road are reduced.
When I was a kid and obtained my first driving license, I realized that it was my responsibility to learn to operate a vehicle. The thought of punching in a street address and having the car deliver me there would never, ever cross my mind.
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.
The knowledge and skill of technicians who diagnose and service today’s vehicles is critical to the success of any shop. Whether the required component replacement or system assembly is performed by the same specialized technician who performed the diagnosis or by a general service tech, the proper installation of a part is far from simple. So when someone makes a comment such as “he’s just a parts changer,” it makes my blood boil.
Shop safety is one of those topics that must be reviewed on a regular basis. It is also as enjoyable to discuss as sitting down to buy life insurance. I just hope my column reminds everyone to stop and take note of this important topic today.
For those of us who reside in a “snowbelt” area of the country, city and county road crews have different approaches in their attempt to keep road surfaces clear and free of the slippery stuff (ice and snow).
Years ago, I wrote an article for our sister publication Modern Tire Dealer. I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with the folks who ran a community-help program that was conducted by a tire dealer in cooperation with a local radio station, all based in a western New York state metropolitan area. The program was called “Captain Friendly.”
This is a tale of stupidity and frustration, followed by eventual success, thanks to a few heroes of the automotive service industry.
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