Become an Expert - Tire Review Magazine

Become an Expert

TPMS. Just another acronym in an ever growing sea of automotive acronyms. As cars evolve the acronyms just keep piling up. Sometimes it can be hard to remember what they all mean.

You don’t need me to tell you what TPMS stands for. If you’re like many in the tire industry, uttering “TPMS” might be met with a little resentment. The fact is TPMS is mandated and it’s not going anywhere. The good news is systems, sensors and tools have vastly improved, making it easier for tire and service techs with even the most basic tire change.

If you get caught up in the extra stress TPMS has introduced into our lives, we cannot overlook the benefits. We all know the benefits of proper inflation; we preach them all the time. The consequences of improper tire inflation are numerous: improper handling, risk of blowout, increased tire wear, poor gas mileage, the list is long. Customers nod their heads like they understand the importance of regular pressure checks, and I’m sure they do, but we all know that the average driver never checks their tires.

With all the challenges TPMS brings for tire dealers, the fact is that dealers still have to make a profit. TPMS is just another bump in the road, but it should never be a loss leader. Don’t let that little hunk of plastic and electronics stand in your way of making a fair profit while delivering greater-than-expected customer service.

Tire dealers are on the frontline of every advancement, improvement or just outright change that automakers make to the tire/wheel assembly. And the changes they make rarely seem to make servicing them any easier.

I mean, who doesn’t know about Chrysler’s lug nut problem? All these improvements slow us down and stand in our way of providing quick, efficient and profitable tire service.

But they don’t have to. Here are some thoughts about how you can make TPMS service a greater bottom line contributor:

Know What You’re Doing

Name an industry that doesn’t require continuing education or training? The tire industry is no different. Tires, tools and things like TPMS are not low tech; there’s a lot to them. The technology and knowledge needed to properly perform today’s tire service is much different than it was just a generation ago.

Just as many licensed professions require continuing education in order to remain relevant, professionals in the tire industry must continue to evolve with the latest advancements taking place within the industry.

A large part of the TPMS burden has been consumer education. Initially, customers would come into our shop frustrated with a low tire and an ever-glowing amber light. The majority didn’t know their car was equipped with TPMS, and fewer even knew what TPMS was. Funny enough, a large chunk of them would blame the “dumb light” itself or the TPMS system for the inconvenience, and skip over the real problem: their low tires!

Clearly, it is a must to inform the customer about the TPMS that came equipped on their car. In order for tire dealers to provide education to the consumer, we must first know what we are talking about. This is the first place that the need for proper training arises.

There is no doubt that a properly trained technician can get more done and in a safer way than an untrained one. Technicians who know how to deal with TPMS won’t make the typical mistakes that result in damaged sensors. The cost from damaged sensors far outweighs the cost of training and acquiring the proper tools.

Avoid Liability

When post-service problems arise, customers tend to blame the last place that worked on their vehicle. It doesn’t even have to be a related-repair for blame to fall. If tire dealers take a few proactive steps they can successfully mitigate and minimize their potential liability.

Perform a pre-service check – Look for the amber indicator on the dashboard when you first get in the vehicle. If the TPMS light remains lit or flashes after starting the vehicle, use your tool to activate and check each sensor in order to establish any sensor problems before beginning work.

We all know, far too well, about the use of aerosol “tire repair” products by customers that limp their vehicles to the shop. If you find one of these products has been used in the tire prior to the customer bringing it for service, replacement of the affected TPMS sensor should be recommended.

In some areas of the country corrosion can be a huge issue. The build quality or materials used in TPMS sensors and related hardware can harbor corrosion possibilities regardless of what region of the country you are in. Be sure to check sensors and mounting hardware for signs of corrosion. If corrosion is found, sensor replacement should be strongly recommended.

If sensors are nearing the end of their expected battery life or if that time will lapse before the customer needs to replace their tires, suggest that the sensors be replaced. The same is true f new tires are being installed. If it’s likely the current sensors won’t make it until the next tire replacement, you should suggest replacement of the sensors. Unless its obvious that the sensors have previously been replaced, you can use the vehicle age and mileage as an indicator of the sensors impending failure.

Make sure you’re replacing the rubber portion of a snap-in valve-type sensor just like you would with traditional snap-in valves and rebuilding hardware for bolt-in style stems.

Document everything. It’s all for not if the customer declined servicing the sensors and you have no record of it. Documentation is essential in avoiding, deterring and defending liability claims.

Offer A La Carte Services

TPMS presents opportunities to sell additional related services other than those noted above.

Many of us know first-hand the benefits of nitrogen tire inflation. Nitrogen tire inflation is an obvious upsell (as long as you are charging for it – and you should be) to the frustrated customer annoyed by the TPMS light that keeps illuminating every few months or in response to seasonal changes in the weather. Customers present you with the perfect opportunity; when customers are prompted by their TPMS system to come in to air their tire, offer to inflate them with nitrogen to avoid the same occurrence in the future. Done properly, you can convert a frustrated customer that came in for a free service into a happy paying customer.

Offer proactive maintenance of the tire sensors when customers are in for other maintenance or repairs. Other considerations would be to offer TPMS position relearns for applicable vehicles in conjunction with rotations and other related services. Offering proactive maintenance of the tire sensors when customers are in for other maintenance or repairs is another avenue of revenue generation if done right.

Convey Value

There are going to be customers that won’t see the value or importance of maintaining their TPMS system. These customers might opt to replace their sensors with a traditional valve stem instead of getting their wallets hit so hard.

It’s our job as professionals to teach customers of the importance of maintaining a fully functional TPMS system. Sometimes you’ll be met with resistance, “Ah, but it’s just my kid’s car.” We have all heard that one. Makes me want to shake them while asking: “Why don’t you love your children?!”

That doesn’t excuse putting freshly minted licensed drivers on the road with inoperable safety devices, and even sad looking tires. Few parents will do that to their kids, but there are a few. We need to remind customers just how important those round and black things really are.

Charge For It

Resist the urge to give it away. The easiest way to remain profitable with the onslaught of TPMS-related concerns is to charge for what you do.

Tire dealers are always looking for an edge in this highly competitive industry. Sure you have to get them in the door, but I strongly encourage you to charge for this valuable service. You are professionals, after all, and professionals get paid.

How many dentists do you know that offer free teeth whitening with every root canal? To me, that’s the equivalent of giving away TPMS service with a set of new tires. Giving away a service that costs you time, resources and expenditures on equipment just doesn’t make sense.

Quit telling yourself that it’s just the cost of doing business or it’s just what you have to do to be competitive. If you compete with bottom feeders, you become a bottom feeder.

Stand out by being the experts in your area. It’s easy to lower your price or give something away, it’s much harder to be an expert. Know more about the subject than your competitors, then when someone has an issue they will think of you – and once you fix their problem when no one else could they will tell their friends.

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