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Preparing for old man winter

No matter where you live, there are steps you can take to help your customers prepare for the change of seasons.
Monday, October 28, 2013 - 07:00
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A Few Other Checks to Make
Now also is a good time to make sure the Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is working properly. On many cars, the air conditioning system is used in defrost mode (regardless of temperature selection) to dehumidify the air and help prevent the window from fogging up. Hook up the pressure gauges and check the operation of the A/C system.  Once you’ve verified the A/C is blowing cold and is coming out of the right ducts, crank the temperature control down to full heat and complete your performance inspection there. A lack of heat can be caused by air in the cooling system, a temperature blend door that is not functioning, or restrictions in the heater core flow.

Serpentine belts can look fine and still be worn out. Most belt makers offer these pocket tools to check EPDM belts for damage. This one is Dayco’s version.

Often overlooked is the cabin air filter. Once fitted to only higher-end cars, cabin air filters are the norm on more than 85 percent of the cars made since 2006. They not only keep the outside dirt, pollen and smog out of the cabin, they also help prevent debris from building on the evaporator core. Clogged filters can reduce the airflow through the vents and on some occasions have been responsible for the early demise of an a/c compressor.

Another overlooked item is the wiper blades. It seems our customers know full well they are worn and streaking the windshield, but then forget all about it once the weather has cleared. Visually inspect them for damage, then hit the washer function and see how well they clean and clear. While you’re focused on the wipers, make sure the wiper wash bottle is full of washer fluid. It, too, resists freezing. If all you see is water in the tank, advise your customer of the potential damage it could do to the washer motor. A small part but not always the easiest (or cheapest) to get to and replace.

What about the lights? Where I live, there is no mandatory state inspection and I see more cars with brake lights that don’t work then I do with lights that are totally functional. With inclement weather, the need to see and be seen is vitally important to the driver’s safety. Make sure all the lights work, including the brake lights. Check the condition of the headlight lenses. Clouded lenses reduce the light getting to the road and the fix is easy to do, using any of a dozen different products on the market. I used to use No. 400 grit sandpaper (wet) to get rid of most of the haze, followed by a fine polishing compound to get rid of the rest. The key to a successful headlight reconditioning is the use of a sealant afterward to protect the lens from hazing over again.

Your customers count on you (whether they admit or not) to keep them safe and to help them be ready for the seasons ahead. A little more focus on these key items can help you differentiate your shop from your competitors, winning you more business in both the short- and long-term.

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