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Dodging Disaster: Follow These Simple Steps to Avoid Costly Wheel-Offs

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cy, broken or stripped wheel studs, warped disc brake rotors or loose wheels.

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Rather than relying on previous job experience, teach new employees your way of performing the job correctly.Here’s a warning from a major insurance underwriter: Loose and missing lug nuts have resulted in terrible car wrecks, severe injuries, fatalities, bad publicity and expensive litigation. Although you may think technicians would never forget to reinstall and properly tighten the lug nuts, it happens many times each year.

One catastrophic claim from a wheel-off could put you out of business.

Protect Your Business
How about a short lesson on quality control? First, protect your business by being critically proactive and using basic quality control (QC) techniques. Don’t wait until you have suffered a catastrophic incident to implement a QC program.

Review your current work practices, identify weaknesses and implement the necessary checks and counter-checks. Be sure to address everything from hiring procedures and employee training to job procedures and quality checks of completed work.

The following, issued by one underwriter, offers guidelines that will help you implement an effective program at your business.

It all starts with people. Hire the best people you can find. Conduct pre-employment reviews and be sure to consult with legal counsel before conducting drug tests. Confirm prior job history, and verify qualifications – has your potential hire received any prior applicable training? If so, when?

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Just as important, be sure to establish job specifications for all critical tasks or duties. Teach new employees “your way” of performing the job correctly. It is dangerous to rely solely on previous job experience at employers that may have used haphazard training methods. Be sure to focus extra attention (training, supervision, etc.) on new employees.

TIA offers tremendous tire service training, including mount/dismount and wheel-off prevention training. One thing your insurance agent – and a plaintiff’s attorney – will be looking for is verification of the level of training (and continuing training) your employees receive. For information on available training, visit TIA’s Web site at tireindustry.org.

And have your managers or supervisors regularly observe technicians to ensure that they adhere to written job procedures. Any deviation from procedure must be addressed immediately.

Managers or supervisors should spot-check all completed work, especially work performed on safety-sensitive items such as tires, wheels, brakes and steering components. Taking that a step further, technicians should crosscheck each other’s completed work. Whoever checks the final work should sign the repair order acknowledging he or she did so. Two signatures are better than one when it comes to defending a wheel-off claim or avoiding one altogether.

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Developing a written procedure is imperative. The QC system should ensure that every wheel that leaves your shop is properly installed. The importance of a QC system will also help in court if a legal question pops up. You can show your written QC requirements, prove that at least two people have signed off on the job and show your record of quality service. That could defuse the situation in court.

Finally, make sure you have properly calibrated, working torque wrenches, and that your techs are using them when remounting tire/wheel assemblies. Pneumatic tools are nice, but are generally not as accurate as hand torque wrenches. Plus, you stand a great chance of over-torquing wheel fasteners when using pneumatic tools vs. hand wrenches.

One last thing. Stay current on each manufacturer’s tire and wheel size and torque specifications to ensure the right tires and wheels are being used, and that wheel fasteners are hand torqued to the proper level.

Does all this sound too easy, too simple to believe?  It isn’t. And it should be standard operating procedure in your shop.

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