When all is said and done, only you can prevent stinky vehicles! This applies to all tire dealers and service shop operators.
Service personnel at all levels of the business should recognize that motorists don't want offensive odors in their vehicles. Therefore, they should think ahead to prevent the vehicle from smelling worse than when it arrived at the dealership or shop.
I believe experience has taught us several lessons in this area. First, women usually detect different and/or offensive odors more readily than men do. This distinction's extra important because women constitute the majority of customers purchasing automotive maintenance and repairs.
Second, odors need not be patently offensive to cause concerns with car owners. An odor that's simply new and different may make a cautious motorist suspicious. You see, past experiences may have convinced them that whatever's different is automatically bad or potentially dangerous.
Third, for whatever reason, some motorists don't complain about odors that any casual observer would pronounce obnoxious. For instance, think of the times when a technician's torch has singed or set the undercoating ablaze. Consider the time the connection on the fuel pressure gauge leaked gasoline down into the cowl at the base of the windshield.
This list could go on and on. The key here is that you were lucky the car owner didn't complain about odor. Just because you dodged that bullet once doesn't mean you'll get away with it again.
Fourth, some people drive a vehicle that can best be described as a four-wheeled pig pen. At least once, I remember borrowing a window (“box”) fan in order to force fresh air through an interior that simply reeked of mold. It's easy to conclude that the owner of such a vehicle might not notice a new, different but offensive odor.
Don't bet on it, however. As badly as that car already smells, the owner may scream because he or she detects the scent of brake fluid or cleaning solvent.
Now let's review some precautions you and your technicians should take. Begin by using disposable seat covers of some kind. As I've mentioned in previous columns, a prime example of a popular protective product is the Slip n Grip from Petoskey Plastics. To me, these recyclable, disposable seat covers are dirt cheap compared with the time and/or cost of cleaning upholstery or deodorizing an interior.
Always have an adequate supply of spare uniforms handy. If there's one thing you can count on, it's technicians getting dirtier than they expected. Expect the unexpected by having plenty of extra uniforms so a tech can change readily to clean clothes. Clean uniforms reduce the risk of soiled, smelly interiors.
Discourage or forbid employees from smoking, drinking or eating inside customers' cars. Think how much you reduce the risk of spills and odors if workers keep food, drink and smokes out of the vehicles. Also, trash such as wrappers from fried fast food can cause noxious odors.
Coach and condition all service personnel to double-check vehicles for “unwanted objects” before returning them to customers. For instance, check the trunk and under the seats and dashboard for used shop rags, shop gloves, spray cans, tubes of chemicals, etc.
Watch for discarded parts, too. Suppose a tech replaces a burned-out electrical component and leaves the old one under the dash or under a seat. The part's burned insulation or plastic can really stink up an interior.
Finally, service personnel always should have appropriate cleaners and cloths handy for removing stains or cleaning up spills inside a customer's car.