Preventative Maintenance Plans

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Diane Freeman is President of the Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario (AARO). You can reach her at [email protected]. Photo Diane Freeman

Good for your customers and good for you.

We hear a lot of discussion in our industry around preventative maintenance. From a shop owner’s perspective, it makes a lot of sense and can be instrumental in not only attracting customers but retaining them long-term. Preventive maintenance (PM) consists of scheduled servicing, inspections, and vehicle repairs to prevent potential problems and maximize vehicle functionality and availability.

80/20 rule

When planning for preventative maintenance, service centres should also be aware of the 80/20 rule. Essentially, it’s the ideal ratio for effective equipment management. Your technicians and service advisors should be spending at least 80% of their time on preventative, proactive maintenance and 20% or less of their time on unplanned repairs.

Preventative maintenance is good for your customers because of it:

  • Reduces Cost: Regular preventative maintenance can help avoid costly repairs down the line.
  • Keeps your customers safe: By performing automotive preventative maintenance, you can prevent significant accidents leading to severe injuries.
  • Improves vehicle performance: Regular preventative maintenance can help improve your vehicle’s performance, increasing fuel efficiency and overall driving experience.
  • Extends the life of the customer’s vehicle: By performing preventative maintenance on your customer’s vehicle, it can extend its life, preventing it from breaking down prematurely and providing more service opportunities for your business.
  • Provides peace of mind: Knowing that their vehicle is in good running order provides customers peace of mind while on the road and confidence in your business for providing all their car care needs.

Being successful when it comes to preventative maintenance, requires service centres to have a full checklist for each and every vehicle that comes into the shop. This includes:

  • Checking and/or changing the oil and filter: Checking and changing your car’s oil and filter is one of the most important preventative maintenance tasks you can do. Make sure to check the oil level regularly and change the oil filter when necessary.
  • Air filter/cabin filter inspection/replacement: Clogged air and cabin filters can impede vehicle performance and reliability. In many cases, they are cheap insurance, both for the shop and the customer.
  • Brake inspection: Make sure to check the brakes regularly to prevent any major issues from occurring, including callipers, discs, drums, master cylinder, booster, brake lines and brake fluid.
  • Cooling System inspection/service: Make sure to check the coolant levels in the vehicle regularly and replace the coolant if necessary.
  • Transmission fluid inspection/service: Inspecting the condition of the transmission fluid and performing a flush and filter replacement if necessary.
  • Tire rotation/inspection/TPMS system: Checking the condition of the tires is one of the most critical aspects of any preventative maintenance plan since they are the only object that connects the vehicle to the road. Worn, cracked, or damaged tires can have a major impact on vehicle and road safety.
  • Diagnostic Trouble Codes: Pay attention to any warning lights or diagnostic trouble codes and attend to them immediately.
  • Battery inspection/test: Ensure the battery is in good condition by performing a test as part of the inspection process. Also, inspect the condition of the terminals and cables.
  • Belts and hose inspection: Check the drive belts and radiator/cooling/oil and power steering hoses. Damaged ones can lead to major mechanical issues and replacing them is cheap insurance for both the shop and the customer.
  • Lights wipers and mirrors: Ensure all lights, wipers and mirrors are properly adjusted and functioning correctly.
  • Following OEM maintenance schedules: Make sure, at a minimum you follow the OEM manufacturer’s maintenance to prevent voiding the warranty. (Service centres should also understand the driving habits of their customers and come up with a tailored preventative maintenance plan based on these requirements).
  • Cleaning the vehicle: Cleaning both the interior and exterior regularly prevents any build-up of dirt and debris. If a vehicle cleaning is offered as part of your inspection process, it is often appreciated by your customers and can go a long way to enhancing your CSI scores and reputation.

On a final note, whether executed via print or digitally, it’s important to have a vehicle checklist or Inspection sheet that can be given to the customer once maintenance work has been performed. By doing so, you can document what was performed on the vehicle and what work needs to be done in the future.

This not only prevents or mitigates any potential friction but also allows the customer to prepare and budget for future repairs, which in today’s economic environment is more critical than ever.



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