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Performing Routine Courtesy Checks Benefits Customer and Shop

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Whenever a customer’s vehicle enters the shop, for whatever reason (tire rotation, brake service, headlight bulb, noise complaint, etc.), an initial “courtesy check” can and should be offered. 

Whenever a customer’s vehicle enters the shop, for whatever reason (tire rotation, brake service, headlight bulb, noise complaint, etc.), an initial “courtesy check” can and should be offered. This might be a routine for some shops, or it might be an option offered to the customer. While a shop may charge a nominal fee for this, many shops offer this as a free service. Performing a courtesy check provides a benefit to both the customer and the shop. For the customer, it is a verification that the vehicle is in good condition or is in need of repairs. The repairs are pointed out to avoid issues down the road. For the shop, it’s a legitimate opportunity to increase the current or future parts and labor ticket.

I realize that many shops already perform multi-point inspections as a routine, but for those who don’t, consider creating an inspection checklist (pre-printed checklists may be available from various suppliers and trade associations). Here we’ve provided a 27-point checklist merely as an example.

EXAMPLE OF A 27-POINT INSPECTION

Engine oil

Check the oil level and visually inspect the oil’s condition. Determine when the most recent oil change was performed, as it might be time for a change. Also, inspect the oil for frothy appearance or evidence of water/coolant in the oil. Always check for signs of engine oil leaks (valve covers, front crank seal, rear main seal, oil pan, oil filter, oil pan drain plug, any external oil lines/hoses if applicable).

Transmission fluid

Check the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) level and inspect/smell for evidence of burning. On a manual transmission, check the lube level in case.

Power steering fluid

Check the fluid level and inspect the pump/reservoir/lines for leakage. Hard lines might be more susceptible in cold climates where road salt is used.

Battery

Check the condition of battery terminals for cleanliness. Check the battery cable connections for cleanliness, proper clamping, cable damage. Check the battery voltage. Check the battery mounts for looseness.

Power seats, power door locks, power mirrors

Check the performance of each power system for proper operation.

Door latches

Check the operating conditions by opening/closing all doors. You may find infrequently used doors have sticking latches that result in difficulty opening or closing, requiring the application of penetrating oil/grease.

Rear hatch supports

If the vehicle is equipped with a rear hatch door, check the condition of the hydraulic hatch supports. It’s common for hatch struts to weaken and to lose hydraulic performance over time.

Brakes 

Inspect friction material thickness. Look for signs of glazing or uneven wear. Check brake rotors for cracks, thickness, damage. Check the calipers for operation, signs of leaks. Check the brake hoses for cracking, deterioration, leaks. Check the brake lines for corrosion, leaks. Check the master cylinder fluid level and condition. 

Parking brake

Check the parking/emergency brake system for proper operation. Look for non-engagement or sticking/frozen system.

Clutch hydraulic

Check the operation of the clutch pedal, engagement, release, slipping.

Spark plugs/wires

Depending on the engine design, access to spark plugs might or might not be practical for purposes of inspection. If easily accessible, remove the spark plugs to check their condition. Inspect the spark plug wires for positive connections, brittleness/damage. Inspect the coil-on-plug boots/wells for signs of oil contamination.

Air and fuel filters

Check the condition of the engine air filter and cabin filters. If possible (depending on the system) check the fuel filter conditions.

Exhaust system

Check the exhaust system for leaks, corrosion, rattling. Check the heat shields and connections.

Driveshaft/CV joints, boots

Inspect the driveshafts for physical damage. Inspect the U-joints for condition (lube, if applicable). Inspect the CV joints for unusual noise on turns and check CV joint boots for tears/damage.

Struts/shocks

Visually inspect for the fluid leakage. Perform a bounce test for the condition. Check the strut/shock mount connections for looseness/missing hardware.

Tie rod ends, ball joints, control arms

Check tie rod ends for condition (looseness/play). Check the ball joints for signs of wear/play. Check the control arm bushings for signs of excess wear. Any signs of excessive wear that require replacement are legitimate reasons to urge immediate service, not to be postponed.

Axle lube

Depending on the system, check RWD/AWD axle lube level.

Tires/wheels

First, check the tire inflation pressures. Inspect the tires for tread wear. Check for uneven tread wear (indication of wheel alignment issues), and road damage. Also, check for proper tire size (look for mismatched sizes). Inspect the wheels for rim damage. Check the wheel fasteners for missing/loose fasteners.

Radiator/coolant hoses

Inspect all coolant hoses for signs of damage or deterioration (cracks, hardness, excess softness) and check the hose connections for leaks.

Coolant level

With the engine at room temperature, check the coolant level. Inspect the fluid for signs of contamination (engine oil in coolant, etc.)

Exterior lights

Check for the proper operation of headlights, turn signals, running lights, brake lights, backup lights.

Heater operation

Operate cabin heater system for proper operation regarding temperature, heater door operation, fan, etc.

Wiper blades

Inspect the wiper blades’ condition. Look for signs of windshield streaking. Check the wiper arms for proper operation.

Wiper fluid

Check the wiper fluid level. Operate the wiper fluid motor to check for proper operation (look for signs of plugged lines/squirt nozzles).

Horn

Check for the horn’s operation.

Restraint system

Check the seat belt system for operation, belt condition, latch engagement and release.

Glass

Check for damage (cracks, stone chips, scratches, etc.)

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By routinely performing a courtesy check, the customer is made aware of the vehicle’s condition. While some findings might be minor in nature or repairs that can be postponed based on the customer’s budget and time constraints, serious issues can prompt the need for immediate attention. Informing the customer of the condition of various systems (whether good or bad) is a service that benefits the customer and adds to the shop’s bottom line.  

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