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Published on March 12, 2007

Equipment upgrades essential

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Opinion

AKRON (March 12, 2007) — Tire servicing is no longer run of the mill. Any given job that rolls into the shop could present a challenge to your technicians.


Does the vehicle have run-flat tires? Low-profile tires? Plus-sized or custom wheels? A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS)?


A more important question: Can your shop handle it?


Turning away a customer because you don't have the right service equipment is bad for business. Scratching or nicking a customer's $1,000 custom wheel because you don't have the right equipment can be unforgivable—not to mention costly when your dealership has to replace that pricey item.


Tire dealers who want to stay in business and remain competitive will have to bite the financial bullet and invest in upgrading tire changers and balancers to service today's growing variety of tire/wheel assemblies. The old-fashioned, center-post changer just won't cut it for many of the jobs driving into your shop.


Tire balancing also is more complicated. Tighter suspensions and stiffer tire sidewalls have contributed to an increasing number of customer complaints about vibration. And the customer expects you, the tire dealer, to fix it right the first time.


Not only do small tire dealerships face competition from large tire chains, national retailers and now car dealerships, they also have to compete on price, service and technology.


According to tire service equipment suppliers, car dealerships are a growing market for their products—and they are buying the expensive top-of-the-line tire changers and balancers. So that car dealership down the street that's been vying for more of your tire service business could very well have better equipment than your shop and is enticing your customers who drive “tricked out” vehicles.


That same car dealership also likely sells new vehicles equipped with run-flat tires and TPMS. With upgraded equipment to handle these technologies, it'll have an advantage in retaining service customers long after their vehicle warranties expire.


But just like the computer adage—“garbage in, garbage out”—even the high-end tire changers, and in particular, balancers, are only as accurate as the people operating them. A tech who fails to properly center a tire on the balancer, for example, will receive miscalculations from the balancer diagnostics.


As in other aspects of the tire business, a poorly trained employee, even one armed with the latest technology, can cause costly comebacks—and a bad reputation for the dealership. While employee training is a necessary business expense, upgrading tire service equipment to meet your customers' needs is just as crucial.


As Myers Tire Supply's Jeffrey Jobe bluntly stated: “You have to have the equipment to do the job. If you turn away a certain amount of business, you've eventually got to decide if you're going to stay in business.”

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