We’re not all “car people.”
Automotive shop owners know well that a good portion of their customer base are most certainly not car people—which is why so many of the problems professionals solve for drivers could frequently have been avoided through regular preventative maintenance.
How many times have you heard similar horror stories about young drivers who, likely through a simple lack of awareness, were under the assumption that their vehicle was a magical product that only needed gasoline to function, not oil changes, brake pads, or power steering fluid? It’s not that difficult to imagine, especially considering that some studies have indicated that two thirds or more of teen drivers don’t understand the basics of vehicle repair.
All too often, an automotive “education” for young or new drivers comes swiftly and unexpectedly, usually in the form of waiting for a tow truck on the side of the highway. We’re all the “car person” in someone’s life, either professionally or personally, and part of getting our Good Samaritan brownie points is to ensure that these individuals have a basic understanding of how their car functions and what needs to be regularly maintained.
Family and friends will thank you for sharing in your knowledge (hopefully), and customers will adore you for it—you didn’t just repair their vehicle, you saved them from making a potentially costly mistake in the near future.
With this in mind, ask yourself the following: what steps are you taking to educate your customers?
When you’ve been involved in a particular interest or profession for a great deal of time (such as vehicle repair and maintenance), it can become difficult to see the forest for the trees. What is common knowledge for us car people—to the point of absurdity in dead-simple cases such as oil changes—might be completely new territory to the uninitiated.
Thus, let’s take a moment to discuss a handful of areas where young or new drivers should be at least somewhat knowledgeable within:
Regular Oil Changes
This is a big one. Explain how the engine of a vehicle requires oil to function, and that if neglected, contaminants will build up and the engine won’t be properly lubricated. This could result in engine failure sooner rather than later, with repair work in some cases exceeding the value of the car (or close to it).
Regularly Checking Engine Coolant
Ensuring that young or new drivers understand coolant, how it works, and why it’s necessary can save them from all kinds of nasty situations. “But it was so cold outside!” Ever heard that one? Make sure that your customers understand that without coolant, an engine can easily overheat regardless of outdoor temperatures.
Brake maintenance is perhaps one of the most frequently neglected areas of basic car maintenance. When an engine overheats from a lack of coolant, the issue becomes apparent more or less immediately, whereas brakes can continue to function for rather long periods of time. This, of course, leads to worn out brake pads. If severely neglected, brake calipers may need to be replaced, or worse, the wheel bearings might need to be replaced as well.
“Why is my steering wheel so wobbly?” We’ve all heard this one—it’s a great segue into brake maintenance, discussed above. Make sure the customer understands that if their vehicle is “wobbly,” bottoms out, or otherwise has an unnaturally bouncy ride, it’s time to get the alignment and brakes checked.
Ask About Dashboard Warning Lights
If a customer comes in because a dash warning light was illuminated, taking a few moments to explain what all of the different lights mean will help them understand what they can handle themselves and when they need to visit you.
Educating your customers about their vehicles will not only improve your reputation for providing excellent customer service, you’ll also be building a roster of lifetime customers. For folks who aren’t “car people,” a trustworthy automotive shop is worth its weight in gold. You’ll enjoy increased positive reviews, referrals, and be known for going that extra mile that makes all the difference for a consumer.
Bottom line? Spend an extra few moments discussing basic maintenance concepts with new customers and it’ll pay off!