Ever wonder what to do with those valuable vehicle information labels that cross your path on service jobs?
Savvy service personnel always clean and preserve them by using non-abusive cleaning products.
There are myriad vehicle makes and models on the road today. Sourcing the correct parts for them may become more involved than anyone at your tire dealership or service shop imagined.
When you least expect it, for instance, a parts specialist may request additional vehicle information. Furthermore, you have to retrieve this info from a label, decal, sticker or tag somewhere on the customer's vehicle. At this point, you'd better cross your fingers that this item is easy to find and the printing on it is still legible.
Perhaps you haven't been through this exercise yet. If not, understand that these identification “labels” could be in a variety of locations around the vehicle. Some are exposed to dirt, grease and the elements. Others are in safe or relatively protected areas. A label, tag or stencil could be somewhere on the engine, transmission or firewall. If you're lucky, this will be legible as well as fairly easy to locate.
Important labels may be riveted or glued to the end of a door frame or inside a door jamb. Others may be hidden under a trunk lid. Note that OEM identification decals are commonplace on starters, alternators, computers and other electrical components.
Once again, auto makers and component suppliers may label parts and vehicles several ways. The oldest, simplest approach has been stamping or etching characters into the metal itself. Usually, these are somewhat easy to read unless the area is unusually dirty or has been heavily painted over. Likewise, some metal identification tags may have been covered with a thick layer of paint. Much worse yet, a careless technician may have lost or discarded an “ID” tag.
In other cases, the alpha-numeric data have been stenciled onto a part with ink or paint. Predictably, this kind of labeling is vulnerable to powerful solvents or cleaners—not to mention the person who never masks labels before painting.
Usually, solvents also destroy those ubiquitous stick-on, decal-style labels. Probably the two worst offenders in the solvent category are common brake and/or carburetor cleaners. Most techs keep aerosol cans of both brake and carburetor cleaners on their tool carts or workbenches. Many grab the nearest spray can, cleaning first and asking questions later.
I frequently have to clean an area on a vehicle before I can shoot photographs for my training classes. Often, I have to do the task without disturbing identification decals, labels or stencils. First and foremost, I've found that common, all-purpose glass cleaners usually clean well without removing a stencil or destroying a decal.
Glass cleaners that double as household surface cleaners are a relatively recent and popular item in the marketplace. I have had excellent luck with this genre of product when cleaning labels and stencils. While this is not in any way a paid endorsement, I often use Spic and Span's Cinch, for instance, because it's effective, non-abusive and inexpensive.
Other times, I have to clean a dirtier, greasier area on a vehicle without damaging a label or stencil on it. One product I've used for years is Simple Green-brand multi-purpose cleaner. Another is one of the citrus-based, multi-purpose cleaners such as Zep's heavy-duty cleaner. Usually, I apply these cleaners with a common squirt bottle.
In many situations, I fold a shop towel into a square and spray the cleaner onto the towel. Then I wipe off the work area, label or stencil with it. For me, this simple approach has eliminated the risk of overspray.
Equipping a tech's work station with a squirt bottle of similar products is a small investment that pays big dividends by preserving valuable information. Meantime, let me hear about the cleaners you're using in the bays.