Keeping hot fluids cool and cool fluids clean

From brake flush to coolant, and transmission to power steering fluid exchange systems, every shop owner is looking for something specific.

And A/C equipment continues to be a top-seller in fluid exchange, with the equipment changing dramatically to meet the revised SAE J2788 standards.

"A few years ago, it was typical to see a three, 3.5-pound air conditioning charge," said Blumenstine. "It's now a pound, and in 2008 they're going to go below that.

The old specification was plus/minus an ounce of refrigerant, and the new specification is plus/minus a half ounce."

A powerful payback

Due to an ongoing demand for exchange services, and also because of this equipment's general affordability, payoff can come quickly — often within a few months.

"We put a machine in the Valvoline distributor for evaluation," said Casale, "and he ran over 3,000 quarts through the machine in about a three-month period. If you equate that to dollars, he made about $18,000 in sales on that one piece of equipment in three months.

"That's out of the ordinary, but there's some huge potential," Casale said. "You figure a $4,000 piece of equipment is going to generate about $78,000 in a years' time.

I'm not sure which shop wouldn't sign up today."

Payoff also depends on the activity of the shop and how they're promoting the service.

Sales breed sales

An impressive ROI doesn't stop at the exchange service, either.

"A lot of the shops have gone to this type of service and are expanding their offerings for the end user," said Blumenstine. "Just about everybody is doing brake service now, with the exception of perhaps quick lubes."

"[Tech shops] are not only going to increase their revenue based on offering this service; they're going to get a lot of add-on services," said O'Hara.

It's not uncommon for these add-on services to present themselves during a routine exchange process.

"We found that shops that bring in cooling system service equipment not only increase their revenue from the service, but increase their repair ticket and parts sales related to the cooling system because they're diagnosing problematic areas of the cooling system. It creates opportunities for them to sell more thermostats, more radiator caps, more repair … because they're in a better position to know what that system needs. That's a huge selling point for the mobile."

Come armed with a solution

With sometimes more than 10 or 12 different choices in every category of exchange equipment, distributors must do their homework before they're qualified to make a valuable suggestion to their customers.

They can start by asking questions like: "Are they selling ease-of-use and quick service? Then vacuum extraction may make a lot of sense. Or, if they want to sell a complete thorough process, true flushing [may be] the way to go," said O'Hara.

"And [distributors should] be armed with that information before the selling situation occurs," O'Hara said.

"Because you can't find out the customer needs something and then scramble to figure out what to offer them. If you're educated and armed, you can sell them the right piece of equipment.

"The tool dealer has to assess [the situation] to determine what is best to present to that particular customer, because they're going to have to keep coming in the shop for a number of years," O'Hara said. "If they sell a wrong piece of equipment for that particular shop, they're going to hear about it every time they're in there. It's not worth it to not be educated."

Get in on the profit

With many full-service shops and quick lubes vying to perform fluid exchange services, and because both are looking to keep their business away from dealerships, it is a competitive market where all parties are looking for the best edge.

Revenue is almost guaranteed when a shop owner purchases the right piece of equipment. It may take a little time and some product research, but when a mobile dealer speaks fluid exchange fluently, he can give shop owners what they want.

Jim O'Hara, Clore Automotive.
Amanda Summers, RTI Technologies.
Frank Casale, Flo Dynamics.
Bill Blumenstine, Ritchie Engineering.

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