Don’t Accept Incomplete or Missing Vehicle Inspection Info

Jan. 14, 2021

This MTD exclusive is provided by Dennis McCarron, a partner at Cardinal Brokers Inc., one of the leading brokers in the automotive industry ( 

I know you’ve heard me grumble about technicians performing poor, improper vehicle inspections - or even skipping the entire inspection process - before. Performing thorough inspections can grow your shop's revenue and when done right, will make customers happy. 

But hear me out: You need to go ballistic when an inspection report comes back with missing or poorly detailed vehicle data. Here are a few areas to watch:

Missing or incomplete VIN. By volume, this is the number-one culprit. Vehicles are far too complex and have multiple in-production year changes. Ordering parts by year, make and model should be dead to you. There is too much pressure in getting cars in and out of the shop quickly. You can’t be the reason the wrong part shows up. At least know that you gave the parts house the right VIN. Every single vehicle should have a VIN recorded on it - no exceptions.

Contact number/text/email. Customers are busy people. They tend to show up in bunches in the morning and afternoon, and when there’s a line of customers at your counter, it’s easy for service advisors to cut corners and skip some questions. It is critical that employees don’t just ask, “Can I call you on your cell?” That cell number you have in the system may be old. It may be wrong. You never know.  

It’s also time you get used to asking a customer which communication method they prefer. Make sure you are able to contact them in two to three different ways. If your point-of-sale system doesn’t support a robust communication tool, consider additional software. 

As far as email goes, I understand some customer’s hesitation in providing their email addresses. But it is crucial for service advisors to at least ask - every time. This bit of data, along with reasons for declined service data and scheduled maintenance, can make a huge difference in your shop’s profitability and its ability to capture additional sales.

Missing tread depth levels or wear patterns on tires. If you say you are going to do a visual tire inspection and the technician doesn’t record what was found, the inspection never happened. In a court of law, should it ever occur that a customer had a tragic accident on the way to vacation after bringing their vehicle in for a basic inspection and you have no record of it, be ready to get out your checkbook.

Poor construction of inspection. Just because you have an inspection template for your store, doesn’t mean you are done. Does the flow of the inspection make sense? Does it move the technician from one system to the next in an efficient manner? Does it work from the driver’s front of the vehicle around to the driver’s rear, and then around the passenger side?  

There are a few ways to create an inspection flow. Make sure your flow is designed in an efficient way. And don’t assume the company that manufactured your digital vehicle inspection (DVI) tool took that into consideration. Your best bet is to go to your top technicians and ask them if the flow is good, and if not, how it could be improved.  A good DVI will let you customize your inspection items and the order in which they are inspected.

Speaking of DVIs,  don’t wait until the whole world has passed you by electronically. Using paper to perform inspections at this point is like using an old manual carbon copy credit card machine. (Half the readers of this article don’t even know what those are!)

Get in the game. A good tablet will cost you about $200 - slightly higher if you go with bigger memory. And bigger shops should absolutely get more memory. 

DVIs reduce the amount of time a vehicle is in your shop as there’s no walking back and forth from the car to the sales floor a hundred times a day. They also provide credibility through photographic evidence and help you obtain customer approvals more quickly. There isn’t a single valid reason why  any tire dealership in North America shouldn’t have a DVI.

This is the year for taking that big stride in making managing your shop and your life easier.

Clamp down on processes, go ballistic when you notice missing data so that doesn’t happen again and start modernizing your shop. You’re out of excuses. Make 2021 the best year yet.

Dennis McCarron is a partner at Cardinal Brokers Inc., one of the leading brokers in the automotive industry ( To contact McCarron, email him at [email protected].