The condition of a battery and its related hardware usually reflects the vehicle owner's values and his or her perceptions of automotive maintenance. Service personnel may use battery condition as an initial barometer of the motorist's awareness of and interest in proper vehicle care. Successfully selling automotive maintenance is the cornerstone of all healthy tire dealerships and auto service shops. If you have sold maintenance, you appreciate how challenging the task can be. Understanding the prospect helps service sales people do a better job. On the one hand, you can't always judge a book by its cover. Still, the “cover” that you judge—battery condition—may be very revealing. When I started in the automotive service business in the late 1960s, I pumped gas, changed tires, performed repairs and did road service calls. As much as I tried to resist prejudging people and their cars, it didn't take long for me to do so. The overall condition of the vehicle formed part of the first impression. But thanks to performing countless jump starts, the condition of the battery made the largest impression. Now, more than 50 years later, my work as a reporter and technical instructor take me across the country and back again. I do as much of in-shop homework, research and photography as practically possible. Therefore, I'm still observing people and their machines. And I've come to the conclusion that little, if anything, has changed since those early years in the bays. One example is that I still gauge the overall appearance of any given vehicle. Yes, indeed, vehicles eventually get dirty. But there's usually a major difference between a car that's been cleaned regularly and one that's seldom touched—this applies to both the interior and exterior. Some motorists take pride in their rides; others do not. Another example is inspecting the engine compartment, especially the battery. Ultimately, engines and transmissions accumulate a certain amount of dirt that's normal for both the vehicle and the locale. However, it's a different matter when the car owner has neglected oil leaks for a long time. Not only does the engine drip oil, but the wet oil attracts additional dirt. Sometimes I see “rust trails” that were created by a seeping or burst coolant hose. Leaking any coolant at all is one sin, but the rust trails indicate how badly the cooling system was neglected. Now let's return to the battery, the heart of the vehicle. An unreliable battery means an unreliable car—period. My impression is that informed, alert motorists always have well-maintained batteries in their vehicles. A conscientious car owner with a neglected battery has usually been the exception rather than the rule. I can relive the 1960s simply by riding shotgun in a service vehicle or tow truck. A motorist has left the lights on and the battery has died. The road-service person opens the hood and we inspect the battery, its connections and mounting hardware. Far more often than not, a fairly clean battery with clean, tight connections on it reflects a motorist who takes care of automotive priorities. He or she simply forgot to turn off the lights. The fact that it takes minimal time and effort to boost this car's battery indicates the quality of the battery and the level of maintenance performed. Look out if the battery is loose on its mounting location and its connections are sprouting that corrosive “cauliflower” buildup. Likewise, watch out if the battery case is damp, wet and/or filthy. Typically, these conditions flag a devil-may-care motorist who never grasped the concept of priorities and proper maintenance. Sometimes, prospects—especially motorists—aren't as forthcoming and straightforward as we'd like them to be. Perhaps playing the role of the concerned automotive doctor enables you to open the hood for a visual inspection. When it does, never undervalue the condition of the heart of the vehicle, the battery. Then observe the prospect's body language and tone of voice change when you helpfully point out a pending heart failure—and the solution.
Battery condition reflects driver's attitude
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