Sometimes the simplest of precautions can illustrate the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Protective padding on the handle of a floor jack will improve customer relations by preventing paint and body damage to their vehicles while in a service bay.
This tip also reminds Tire Business readers to always keep their eyes peeled for potential improvements for their service departments.
It also reminds us that some of the most useful improvements are the simplest, least expensive ones. The padded jack handle reminds me that you're never done learning in this business.
One thing I discovered very quickly was that floor jacks are a necessary evil in the automotive service business. I also realized that no matter how many bays and lifts a service shop had, there always seemed to be times when we had to lift a car-usually to fix a flat tire. Indoors or outdoors, rain or shine, that meant using a floor jack.
I learned how to check and top off the jack's fluid, how to grease its ``grease-able'' fittings and to avoid those areas of the bay (floor drains!) where the jack didn't roll very well.
What's more, I saw that the stout jack handle deserved care and respect. Allowing that handle to fall could cause a noticeable dent in the sheet metal of a customer's car.
Obviously, such unplanned alterations to the vehicle's body didn't go over well with the car's owner or our boss.
My boss expected a pit-lane performance on changing and/or repairing flat tires. Perhaps the toughest lesson was that when you were in a hurry, it was relatively easy to lose track of how close that jack handle was to the body of the car.
In my last column, I described the pleasing professionalism I encountered at Leipold Tire, an independent dealership in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Padded floor jack handles were among the useful details I observed there.
Manager Ben Leipold showed me a padded Walker floor jack the dealership had sourced from the local NAPA auto parts jobber.
Mr. Leipold noted that retrofitting padding with a length of pipe insulation and electrical tape from a home center also is an easy way to update existing and/or older floor jack handles.
Gary McDonald, the local NAPA salesperson, explained to me that some floor jacks in the Walker product line are available with both padded handles as well as padded lift pads.
Of course, workers often use a floor jack to lift the vehicle below the rocker panel or ``pinch weld'' area of the vehicle. Technically, this area is out of sight, out of mind to the motorist.
But padded lift pads on floor jacks are becoming more popular due to growing concerns about protecting all painted areas of a vehicle, Mr. McDonald said. He added that replacement lift pads and handle ``sleeves'' are available for lost or worn-out ones.
I helped pals pad and tape roll bars when I was a kid but never thought to do the same to a floor jack handle. Don't you overlook this great little idea!