Opportunities to Add Sales Are in the Chemicals Under the Hood
Cold weather brings with it opportunities for add-on sales all around the vehicle. For example, sales of winter tires give dealers a chance to inspect brake, chassis, suspension and exhaust systems while the car is on the lift. Windshield wipers for winter also cater to the season.
But there are more opportunities under the hood. Modern Tire Dealer asked experts from chemical additives companies and a coolant manufacturer for details.
According to Mark Kardon, director of marketing for Penray Inc., a supplier of chemicals, additives and functional fluids for automotive and heavy-duty markets, such products are especially attractive to tire dealers for several reasons.
First, chemical additives can offer a variety of protections and fortifications of fluids like coolant, oil and fuel that are already present in the vehicle.
Second, they are essentially “universal fit,” so few SKUs are needed to cover nearly every type of vehicle that enters a service bay. Kardon says a modest investment in inventory can translate into a significant increase in sales and profits.
Third, they are not at all labor intensive. They can be installed quickly and easily, and with little sales or technical training.
Additives for cooling systems
There are many chemical products that can enhance a vehicle’s performance and reliability in cold weather. For example, most antifreeze blends today are ethylene glycol based. However, the additives in antifreeze that protect against corrosion are sacrificial, meaning that they are used up as they perform their duties. Kardon says antifreeze and the cooling systems it protects can often be reconstituted with the proper additives.
“Penray offers a two-step cooling system recharge kit that includes two separate products for pre-winter cooling system service. This kit includes our Cool-Prep flush and fill type of cooling system cleaner that removes, dissolves or disperses scale, corrosion, silica gel, sludge and light oil contamination that may exist in most cooling systems.
“The second product in the kit is our Cool-Tec 2 cooling system treatment which fortifies the existing coolant mixture in order to restore proper pH levels and prevent future formation of corrosion, scale buildup, and solder bloom,” says Kardon. “This product is formulated for professionals who are more familiar with proper usage instructions and handling that DIYers may not adhere to. An informational video on this two-step product can be viewed on our website.”
When to replace fluid
Mark Rode, senior market manager for Fram Group IP LLC’s Prestone brand, says antifreeze contains rust and corrosion inhibitors which degrade over time. “When that happens, you start to see rust and corrosion. You get particulates in the cooling system, and that’s when it starts to break down water pumps and you start to get holes in radiators and hoses. That’s what most people will have problems with.” Rode advises shops use a refractometer to test for contaminants in the antifreeze on every car and share the results with their customers.
Replacing antifreeze is a harder sell for a shop. “It’s not the easiest sell because you can’t point to it and say look at this fluid, it’s all grimy and dark. It should be much lighter than this,” says Rode. Customers need to understand that particulates in the solution will lead to corrosion.
While additives can help, the system will need to be cleaned, according to Rode. “At some point you want to make sure you get that old fluid out of the system because it’s got contaminants in it. In this day and age, a consumer is not going to wear through the ethylene glycol protection so much as they are going to run into an issue where the inside of the radiator or cooling system is starting to degrade because the product in the car is just beyond its useful lifespan.”
Prevent water in fuel systems
Ethanol/gasohol fuel blends for passenger cars and electronically controlled fuel injection make the integrity of the combustion process critical to fuel economy and emissions control. But water contamination can develop when the fuel is in transit, in storage, or even during re-fueling, according to Penray’s Kardon. Water can cause corrosion within the tiny orifices in fuel lines, as well as in ultra-precise fuel injectors. Droplets of water can easily freeze in winter temperatures, obstructing the free flow of fuel throughout the system.
“Managers should choose a quality gas line antifreeze like our Nox-Ice product that can prevent such problems,” he says. “Many winter fuel system additives are methyl-alcohol based. A product like ours contains isopropanol instead, which absorbs twice as much water as other products and is compatible with all kinds of fuels, including gasoline, gasohol and diesel fuels.”
Sometimes technicians face a towed-in car that simply won’t start. For these situations, Penray recommends a starting fluid that is compatible with both gasoline and diesel engines and is also suitable for use in seasonal vehicles and equipment such as snowmobiles, ATVs and snow blowers.
People may bring seasonal equipment to a tire shop for help because they trust its technicians with gasoline engines, or perhaps because retailers of such machines are either booked up or don’t offer service at all. Kardon says providing starting fluid for seasonal equipment is a value-added service that can help build a customer’s trust in a shop and its technicians.
What about diesel?
Diesel-powered cars and light trucks are becoming increasingly common. Diesel engines have specific cold-weather issues. Bio-fuels and ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuels create further complications, according to Kardon.
A problem with diesel fuel is its tendency to gel, or turn to paraffin wax in low temperatures. Truckers have dealt with this issue for years, and now owners of diesel-powered passenger cars need to be aware of it as well.
Common practice is to add an anti-gel additive to each tankful of fuel in order to maintain sufficient viscosity to assure continuous fuel flow, he says.
“But there are other factors that come into play with diesel fuels in cold weather. In addition to fuel gelling, technicians should choose and recommend an additive that performs other tasks as well.
“A quality diesel fuel winter additive will prevent ice crystals from forming in the fuel, and will also improve diesel fuel quality (cetane ratings) by up to six points, which will promote easier starting and improved fuel economy.”
Penray has a wide variety of technical information and videos that explain diesel fuel technology on its website.
While these tutorials were initially created for the heavy-duty marketplace, Kardon says they are helpful to technicians servicing light-duty diesels, since so much of the technology crosses over.
Remove carbon from GDI engines
Drivers of vehicles with gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines appreciate their fuel efficiency but often do not understand their maintenance requirements. GDI technology, which injects fuel straight into the combustion chambers, has led to some problems with carbon buildup on valves, according to Robert Stuck, trade marketing manager for RSC Chemical Solutions, a division of Radiator Specialty Co.
“We’re seeing carbon issue buildups on GDI engines at as little as 5,000 miles. If it’s not treated it could even clog an injector at 15,000 miles.”
A GDI vehicle being prepped for rough winter weather is an opportunity for a shop to educate a customer as well as perform a necessary service.
Stuck says a new RSC Chemical Solutions product called Motor Medic Fuel Pro Complete is ideal for shops that do not have fuel injection cleaning equipment. “Where our kit comes in is where you have a smaller service center that doesn’t have that money to invest in equipment. Everything is right here in the box for them to perform that cleaning service.”
The Motor Medic product is designed for port fuel injection as well as GDI. Stuck says it works well on GDI engines because it addresses the fuel system from both the gas tank side and the intake side. The cleaner is poured into the gas tank and also put into the engine through a vacuum line off the brake booster.
He recommends performing the cleaning every 6,000 to 10,000 miles. “That’s a good reference especially in a GDI engine because you’re going to need that cleaning done sooner because of that carbon buildup.”
RSC Chemical Solutions markets its Fuel Pro Complete product to consumers, but Stuck says not everybody wants to tackle the job.
“If you look at the trends, do-it-for-me is growing over do-it-yourself.” ■
5 tips to help you sell more winter tires: Start with a sheet of paper
Bridgestone Americas Inc. traveled to Tire Rack Inc.’s home turf in South Bend, Ind., to partner in a winter tire driving event. Tire Rack even convinced the University of Notre Dame to allow its hockey rinks inside the Compton Family Ice Arena to be the site of the testing.
Bridgestone showed off its two latest winter tires, the Blizzak WS80 for sedans, which was available during the 2014-2015 winter season, and the Blizzak DM-V2 for crossover and sport utility vehicles and light trucks that’s premiering for the 2015-2016 season. During the tests, the tire manufacturer and the industry’s biggest online tire seller offered a few tips dealers can use to educate consumers and ultimately sell more tires this winter.
- A sheet of paper. The contact patch of four tires on a vehicle adds up to a combined area about as big as an 8-1/2-inch by 11-inch sheet of paper.
- Tread depth matters. As winter approaches, the ice, slush and snow on the roads makes a tire’s tread depth even more important. Tire Rack recommends replacing tires when they have about 5/32 of an inch of tread depth remaining. In regions where winter delivers rain and wet roads, Tire Rack’s replacement recommendation is 4/32 of an inch.
- Tire pressure isn’t a constant. Dealers know this, but consumers might not. As the temperature drops, so does tire pressure. A tire filled to 32 psi at 70 degrees Fahrenheit drops to 28 psi at 30 degrees F.
- Good driving still counts. Tires can’t do everything. Drivers still need to slow down, give other cars on the road more room to operate and not tailgate.
- The worst part of winter. A Bridgestone consumer survey showed 65% of respondents said their least favorite part of winter is driving on icy roads. Just as consumers shop for boots to keep their feet steady on icy sidewalks, investing in winter tires is a way to keep their vehicles steady on the road. — Joy Kopcha
Quick reference for winter tire suppliers
The first snowstorm of the season usually triggers a rush on winter tires. If you need to replenish your inventory, here’s a summary of suppliers and their lines for the 2015-2016 season. For the complete list broken down by premium, performance and dedicated LT-metric tires in the North American market, see the March 2015 issue of MTD or visit moderntiredealer.com.
Bridgestone: Blizzak, Firestone Winterforce
CMA: Duraturn Mozzo Winter, Mozzo Winter-ice
Continental: WinterContact, General Altimax Arctic, General Grabber Arctic
Cooper: Weather-Master, Discoverer
Falken: Espia, Eurowinter
Goodyear: Ultra Grip, Dunlop
GT Radial: Champiro WinterPro, Champiro IcePro
Hankook: Winter i*cept, Winter i*Pike
Hercules: Avalanche, HSI-S
Kumho: I’zen, WinterCraft
Linglong: Antares Grip
Michelin: X-Ice, Uniroyal Tiger Paw Ice & Snow, Pilot Alpin, LTX Winter
Nitto: Exo Grappler AWT
Nokian: Hakkapeliitta, Nordman, WR G3
Pirelli: Snowcontrol, Winter Carving Edge, Winter Sottozero, Scorpion Winter, Snowsport
Sentury: Landsail Winter
TBC: Winter Claw, Arctic Claw
Toyo: Observe, Open Country
Vredestein: Snowtrac, Quatrac, Arctrac, Wintrac, Rotiva
Yokohama: IceGuard, W.drive