Hazy shade of winter

Winter checks will be more important than ever as we head towards the end of the year. Find how to help your customers while generating new opportunities

Published:  03 February, 2020

Many cars will be entering the Winter having been simultaneously neglected and under-driven since March, which isn’t a good combination. Now is the time to offer winter checks for your customers to see if anything is amiss.  

Batteries
On the battery front, VARTA recommends garages check all car batteries before the cold weather sets in as part of their ongoing Back To Better campaign. “2020 has no doubt affected vehicle usage,” said VARTA Technical Sales Manager Andy Cook. “Many cars will not have been doing their regular journeys. Where more than one car is owned, that second or third car may not be getting used at all.
Andy continued: “Many drivers think that cold weather does damage to the battery, but it is actually heat that dramatically shortens the life-span of a battery, so by the time winter comes, older batteries are close to their limit. This coupled with many cars being parked up and not having the alternator re-charge the battery will result in higher than usual battery failures.

Andy added: “While the battery test is not part of an MOT, VARTA are recommending as part of their ongoing Back To Better campaign, garages offer a pre-Winter battery test-check to all vehicle owners whilst the vehicle is in the workshop.”
He concluded: “By offering a battery check to all customers, and replacing or giving advice on those batteries close to failure, workshops will have provided peace of mind and a reliable service to their customer base.”

Rotating electrics
Looking at the rotating electrics side, HELLA’s Senior Head of Marketing and Communications Helen Goldingay said that these parts need to be in good working order too, as they help the battery: “The starter motor is put under enormous strain, particularly when the engine is first started and in sub-zero conditions. It is, therefore, important to ensure it is correctly positioned and securely mounted in its housing. The terminal connections also need to be securely fastened and show no signs of wear or heat damage.”

She added: “The alternator is vital to ensure the battery remains well charged and able to provide the power for the engine’s electrical system. To make sure it is functioning efficiently, check it is firmly secured and that the auxiliary belt that drives it is in good condition and at the correct tension.”

Wipers
Then there’s wipers. According to TRICO, garages should definitely include a free wiper blade check as part of their winter checks offering. TRICO’s Senior Marketing Manager Sam Robinson said: “During the long, bright Summer, UV rays from the sun could have damaged the rubber of the blade, so these will need checking to ensure they’re in optimum condition.

“To assist, TRICO has compiled a checklist that they can use to assess the blade’s condition and identify if it needs replacing.”
Clean screen: Clean the windscreen using warm water or specialist glass cleaning fluid, paying attention to the areas at the top and bottom of the wipe area. Also check the glass for cracks or chips.

Safe and secure fitment: Check the blade is securely fixed to the arm. The blade should rotate freely, but there should be no wobbling or movement perpendicular to the arm.

Blade edge check: Gently clean the rubber blade edge with a damp cloth or sponge. Check for imperfections in the rubber or splits, particularly at either end. Ensure that the rubber element returns to a central position and is not flipped over and set in one direction. If the blade fails any of these checks, it should be replaced.

Wipe check: Spray the glass, operate the wipers and check that there are no missed areas, water smears or multiple streaks that impair vision. Blades that leave streaks or smears should be replaced immediately.

Sam added: “As blades are not only affected by rain and snow, but also the UV rays from the sun, TRICO recommends that wiper blades are replaced every twelve months to ensure maximum effectiveness and visibility.”

Brakes
Moving onto brakes, Scott Irwin, Head of Technical Training at Textar, said: “A vehicle’s braking system can be put under heavy strain over the winter period, with ice, snow and sleet often covering the roads. While grit can help grip, the salt can have an adverse effect on the brakes, slowly corroding them over time. Nonetheless, grit will work more efficiently should the tyre’s tread level be at an optimum level.

“However, one of the most important checks a motorist can get done over the winter is to have the brake fluid checked in their vehicle. As the fluid is hygroscopic, it absorbs moisture during its life in the car through the cap, hoses and joints that it passes. In colder months brake fluid will absorb more moisture. If the fluid is in a deteriorated state, it can cause further damage to the vehicle, such as damaging the hoses.

“The recommended dry boiling point for Dot 4 LV fluid and DOT 5.1 is 260ºC , whereas the wet boiling point for DOT 4 LV is 160ºC  and DOT 5.1 is 180ºC, and this can be reduced by 30% as a result of just 5% of water contamination.”

Scott continued: “While regular servicing will check the boiling point of the brake fluid, vehicle manufacturers recommend the brake fluid be changed a maximum of every two years if not advised to before. Changing brake fluid when recommended prevents brake failure and maintains the boiling point at a safe level.”

He added: “Educating customers on the importance of checking and changing brake fluid is not only safety critical for drivers, but it also provides an opportunity for garages to upsell and create an additional revenue stream.”

Video
Once you gave performed a Winter check, you need to present the results. According to Gordon Grant, Global Sales Director at CitNOW, personalised video can help, while also give the opportunity for maintenance upselling.

“As we approach Winter, it’s vital for motorists to start thinking about vehicle health checks and general maintenance, especially if their car has been sat stationary on a driveway for long periods during lockdown.

“It’s easy to incorporate video into workshop and maintenance processes, with personalised and insightful videos created by technicians proving to be an effective method for upselling extra work, gaining quicker approval on additional recommended maintenance and delivering trusted advice to customers.”

“Firstly, the use of video can be crucial for giving customers the confidence to come back. Secondly, video is now perhaps the most important tool for managing vehicle health checks (VHCs) and presenting issues to customers. Often, this leads to increased approval rates for new amber work, or picking up pre-existing amber work that has perhaps been overlooked during the pandemic.”
Gordon added: “CitNOW is not only helping workshops book more work as a result of successful VHC videos, but is also helping to encourage customers back to the workshop and feel confident in completing work with our trusted partners.”

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