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From the Bay: Honest Assessments

Determining the seriousness of fluid leaks should be part and parcel of every inspection. (Photo: Huw Evans)

Providing accurate analysis of when repairs are needed and why.

Drips, leaks, “sweating” and “staining” are all common terms used in the automotive service repair industry. Technicians in the service bay often refer to how fluid used in various parts of the vehicle—from the engine to the transmission, suspension, axles, power steering, brake and even fuel systems—is finding its way out.

When it comes to inspecting and determining the severity of the leak, it’s important for both technicians and service advisors to be on the same page. If they are not, it can result in miscommunication and lead to situations where customers feel they are being taken advantage of.

Unscrupulous tactics
There’s a general consensus that leaks or drips can be a surefire tactic for unscrupulous technicians and service providers to scare customers into paying for work their vehicle might not need, at least in the short term. And, it’s beliefs like this that can give our industry a negative reputation in the eyes of consumers.

That’s why it is important for service advisors to be trained in explaining what the vehicle needs and when it needs it in a clear and transparent fashion. And it’s important to be honest. If the technician notices that the vehicle is sweating a bit of oil from the valve cover gaskets, around the rear main seal, or from the differential, these are very common issues and don’t necessarily require immediate attention, especially if the vehicle has been sitting for extended periods.

On the other hand, if liquid is dripping significantly, such as coolant pooling from the water pump once the engine is shut off, or fluid leaking from the transmission, it likely warrants attention sooner rather than later.

Service advisors have a duty to inform customers of the work that’s required for a number of reasons, ranging from safety and reliability to building a longterm relationship with their clients—a relationship that can lead to future business opportunities and spreading a good word-of-mouth reputation.

Inform immediately
If the vehicle comes into the shop and oil or power steering fluid is puddling on the floor, it is the duty of both the technician in the bay and the service advisor to inform the customer immediately, even documenting it via photos or video. At that point, the shop has done its job. Whether customers choose to accept the work or not is ultimately their decision and responsibility. As technicians and shop managers it is our duty to provide an honest assessment of the work required as well as the timeline for when it should be completed.

And while it is important to stress that neglected maintenance today may lead to costly repairs and compromised vehicle safety and performance tomorrow, providing a clear and concise timeline as to when the work is actually required is key.

One way to do this is for shops to instigate a practice of integrating routine inspections during each customer visit. This way, the technician is able to document the condition of the vehicle, while the service advisor, in addition to documenting these features, can work with the customer to determine a timeframe for maintenance based on both the vehicle requirements and the customer’s budget.

As technicians working in the bays, not only do we need to be diligent when it comes to inspecting our customers’ vehicles, we also need to ensure we trust our service advisors that they understand the information presented to them and that they can correctly relay that information to the customer on the other side of the counter. By doing so, it creates a win-win result for everybody.

Categories : Mechanical

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