The landscape of retail auto repair is changing. In fact, I believe that has been changing for some time, although it seems no one in my industry wants to acknowledge it. As I chat with my fellow independent business owners, the same story happens over and over. A wave of repairs occur every spring and fall, causing a veritable “feast or famine” for nearly every auto repair business (except those heavily invested in fleet work or new auto dealerships). who can count on warranty repairs).
Let me explain: When I was a young Honda dealership technician in the mid-90s, vehicle maintenance schedules were structured around quarterly dealership visits. This meant that owners had to come to the service at least three to four times a year. Add to that, historically all-season tires were truly usable all-season tires, unlike today’s all-season tire products, which are only designed for three seasons. I’m not mentioning this to bring up the debate about winter tires versus all seasons – that conversation is mostly not started right now, when about 75% of 100 of Canadians choose winter tires. Instead, I’m addressing this because it means that twice a year tire exchange service visits are now the new normal for most drivers.
Since most vehicles these days require less maintenance than previous generations, many owners try to book all of their vehicle maintenance and repairs at these tire change appointments. Looking at my own statistics, we have about 1,500 clients that appear with some regularity. At least 75% 100 of them are wearing winter tires, and as of this writing, all of these owners are trying to fit into our schedule to take them off. It would be nice if it was just tire changes, as I could hire temporary labor to facilitate the supervised quick tire changes. The problem is, these owners don’t just want change. They want it all.
This creates massive planning delays and frustration for both sides of the counter. Unfortunately, skilled auto technicians are usually not interested in temporary work, which ultimately means most repair facilities are severely understaffed for 10 to 12 weeks a year.
Attempts to combat this seasonal surge have included pre-booking my clients a little earlier or later in the season and moving clients who don’t use winter tires to off-peak months. However, this is not enough. When I look at my monthly sales spreadsheets, I see massive spikes in November and April. The staff are exhausted and frustrated. Most of the traders I know are in similar boats. The worst part is that I don’t think there is a solution because no one is ready to come for service and maintenance at the end of the summer and then come back two to three months later for a tire exchange.
So how do I fight this? Well I’m starting to take a job that wasn’t on my radar before. Since becoming fond of classic European cars, I started accepting vintage classics, doing restorations and light repairs. Other stores are increasingly invested in their fleet and commercial contracts, while some specialize in tuning and modifications.
Either way, be patient with your tire change appointment. Chances are they will do whatever they can to get you in and out as quickly as possible.
Your automotive questions, answered
Hi Lou. I buy new cars and keep them for a period of time, usually almost 10 years, and do not drive more than 20,000 km per year. I change the oil religiously and replace all fluids, but I generally don’t follow the service plans suggested by the manufacturer. It always makes me a little nervous when I dismiss the reminder that it’s time for my 24,000 km duty, or whatever, but for now, no major issues with this approach. Am I making a big mistake?
First off, it looks like you’re in between statements, because changing your oil and regularly replacing your fluids means you’re sort of a regular maintainer. For the record, I firmly believe that as long as your vehicle is under its factory warranty, you should follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines. Those who don’t usually find out the hard way. Typically, when they are waiting for free warranty repair and are unceremoniously turned down because they missed one or more of their services. After the warranty is ultimately up to you. Summaries of my internal customer invoices show that hardworking maintainers spend less per year over the life of their vehicle than sporadic ones. As an auto repair shop owner, I believe you can determine which customer I prefer.
I have a reasonable ability to work my own car, make stops and starts and my own oil changes, but all I leave to the pros. I usually buy a used car of around 15,000 km and around 8-10 years and keep it for around 10 years. It seems that used car prices are currently very high. I have a quick question: can you recommend a good used car review site to determine reliable models to buy? Because I buy my older cars and keep them longer than the average person, I need to be thorough in my research.
thank you so much
Thanks, Tom. Yes, I agree that it seems like used car prices are going up right now. I know that probably won’t be true, but it almost feels like the booming housing market is causing ripples in all of our markets. I would generally be against buying a car at the mileage you prefer, but as long as you are able to do the bulk of the repairs yourself, you can be fine.
I don’t know of any site that offers in-depth and / or accurate reviews of cars of this age. Personally, I view resale value as my own tool for judging relative market value. Vehicles like the Honda CRVs, Lexus RX350s and Jeep Wranglers hold their value incredibly well. They are known to be reliable and decent used cars, therefore more demanding than their competitors. Alternatively, almost every week, I take a call from someone who has just stumbled upon an incredible and once in a lifetime deal on a beautiful European sports sedan, sold at a fraction of its original retail price. I do my best to dissuade them, because ultimately the vehicle is always cheap because nobody wants it. Reminding me of the parallels of boat ownership: a hole in the water that you throw money into.
Lou Trottier is the owner and operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Do you have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail [email protected], by placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.
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