Does your dealership offer automotive services? If so, several simple steps will reduce the risk of competent but forgetful technicians soiling the interior of customers' vehicles.
First, I believe that interior-protection products are a necessity in every service facility that prides itself on its professionalism. These products range from basic paper floormats to the complete floor, seat and steering-wheel protection packages offered by outfits such as Petoskey Plastics. I referred to the Petoskey approach in my last column.
Second, oversee diagnostic procedures to be sure your techs are working smart, safe and clean whenever they get inside a vehicle. Remember that an unavoidable amount of diagnosis always occurs inside a vehicle. The more often this occurs, the greater the risk of a soiled interior.
For example, the diagnostic connectors or data link connectors on a typical vehicle are located somewhere under the dash or in the console.
So in order to diagnose everything from driveability and emission problems to antilock brakes and ride control, a tech will probably be connecting a scan tool of some kind to a diagnostic connector inside the car.
The very least a service manager or foreman should do is groom techs to clean the equipment before taking it inside a vehicle.
Wiping off the scanner and its cables may add a whopping 30 to 60 seconds to the task. But building an extra minute into the job is infinitely cheaper than the cost and aggravation of cleaning black streaks off the upholstery left by greasy test leads.
If you're too cheap to invest in interior protection products, I hope you'll at least equip each tech with a roll of paper towels and an appropriate degreaser.
Whether or not interior protection products are available, I habitually wipe off test equipment and test leads/cables with common household glass-and-surface cleaner beforehand. Yes, customers have noticed this small step and complimented me on it, saying it looks like I take pride in my work and my equipment-not to mention showing respect for their vehicle.
Over the years there's another reason I routinely wipe off test leads: This small precaution reveals any frayed or cracked insulation that could cause trouble during my diagnosis. It's certainly true with my own personal test gear and especially valuable when I'm on the road, using someone else's equipment.
But that said, I still feel much more comfortable when seat protectors are in place before a road test. That way I'm sure neither the test instrument nor its cables/leads will soil a seat during a road test.
Many techs put meters or scanners on a seat while road testing for the cause of an intermittent performance problem. The moment the tech feels the vehicle misfire, surge etc., he or she presses a button on the tester that makes it record critical data while the vehicle's problem is occurring.
Last but not least, protect both the tech and the vehicle by keeping fuel and fluid out of the passenger compartment altogether.
For years, technicians have taken hoses and pressure gauges inside the vehicle while road testing for an intermittent fuel pressure failure or an automatic trans fluid pressure problem. Then the hose itself or a connection leaks gas or hot fluid inside the vehicle. Obviously, hot trans fluid can seriously burn a technician.
The safest way to measure fuel or trans pressure during a road test is to do it electronically.
Several companies offer electronic pressure gauges that eliminate the need for those long, nasty pressure hoses. These gauges use very accurate pressure sensors that attach directly to the fuel system or to the transmission. The user routes a wire test lead from this sensor under the hood or under the vehicle into the interior and plugs it into the meter.
The meter displays the necessary pressure readings without having fluids of any kind inside the vehicle. What's more, some of these electronic pressure gauges can detect and remember intermittent pressure changes that the human eye and mind may not.
Last but not least, the electronic pressure measuring equipment also looks safer, more modern and more professional than the old hose-and-gauge routine.
Simply put, things such as modern equipment and interior-protection products help your dealership look like it's worth the fees you're charging.
Dan Marinucci is a free-lance automotive service writer and former editor of two automotive service magazines.