Any successful tire dealer knows that offering a complete lineup of tire services can keep customers from seeking repairs elsewhere and add to the bottom line. Included in that lineup, puncture repair and wheel care are important service offerings that complete the tire package.
Whether offered as part of a new tire purchase or as a standalone service, these basic procedures must be done correctly to avoid liability, in the case of puncture repair, and to keep customers rolling smoothly, in the case of wheel care.
Proper Repair by Law
The only tire industry-recommended puncture repair method is to remove the tire from the rim for a thorough inspection inside the tire, followed by a patch/plug repair that is installed using guidelines established by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, according to Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training for the Tire Industry Association.
“In 2011, a jury awarded $14.4 million to the orphaned children of a couple who were killed in a 2006 vehicle accident caused by an improper tire repair,” he says. “The stakes for failing to properly repair a tire have never been higher…The risks of repairing tires outside industry parameters could lead to another tragic accident and an even higher judgment in court.”
The guidelines include the use of an uncured rubber stem through the tread that has been cleaned with a proper-sized carbide cutter, then has a patch on the inner liner to restore the integrity of the inner liner, according to Brent Klomparens, director of marketing and key accounts for Tech Tire Repair.
“If a plug repair is used from the outside of the tire, you might not see additional inner liner damage, the repair will not seal out water — which corrodes the steel belts — and could lead to the tire delaminating and failing at speed, which has catastrophic consequences,” Klomparens says. “Unfortunately, too many of these accidents have occurred, prompting states to enact legislation that has this requirement.”
Another example of inner liner damage is ply separation at the injury site, something which cannot be seen with on-the-wheel repairs, adds Adam Tillery, executive vice president for Rema Tip Top.
While puncture repairs themselves may not be highly profitable, dealers who offer the service can build customer loyalty, interface with new customers who may find themselves with an unexpected flat, and offer added value by including the service in a new tire purchase package.
“Dealers have to sell the value in following industry recommended guidelines to maintain the safety of the tire,” Rohlwing says. “Plugging a tire on the rim is inexpensive and quick, but it can have serious consequences if there is unseen damage inside the tire. There is minimal profit in a proper tire repair, but the pay-off is educating the customer that their tires will be serviced following industry guidelines to ensure that safety is always the top priority. It’s another step that retailers can take to establish a relationship and secure future tire and maintenance services.”
Tillery adds that tire repair is a great alternative to a new tire purchase, as it promotes recycling and can provide significant savings to the customer.
“Saving the customer money, especially on a repairable tire that was recently purchased, is a powerful way to gain a long-term customer,” he says.
Consumer education is key when performing a proper repair. This includes not only why and how the service will be performed, but also setting expectations of the labor and time required for this type of repair, according to Klomparens.
“By doing this, a shop can charge an appropriate amount to fully compensate them for this work,” he says. “The consumer will appreciate the professional knowledge demonstrated by the shop, which builds trust and raving fans who now want to share their newfound knowledge with friends and family members. Most importantly, you become their trusted tire expert.”
Wheel Care 101
Basic wheel services — alignments and balancing — are important parts of a shop’s service lineup. Fortunately, these services are both necessary for customers and profitable for dealers.
“Typically, alignments require only one simple adjustment to get the vehicle lined back up properly and driving straight,” says Kyle Harris, product manager for Hennessy Industries. “Alignments are also 100 percent labor in most cases and are very profitable considering they can usually be done in 30 minutes or less.”
When it comes to balancing, as tape weights become more prevalent, features such as stop and lock and laser weight placement become a necessity to keep tire dealer operations running and highly profitable, he adds.
When servicing a wheel assembly, having the right equipment is of utmost importance — especially in the case of custom wheels.
“Having the proper equipment can mean having a tire changer that has the capacity to service the assembly; also having the proper accessories can go a long way to preventing damage,” Harris says. “Changing custom wheels takes a purposeful and deliberate process. It should be done with care taken to be certain the tire can be successfully pushed into the drop center, and also that it is securely mounted to the machine in such a way that prevents damage.”
For alignments, he recommends the Coats CWA6500, which performs efficient, easy alignments on any vehicle to get customers in and out quickly.
“Our most popular products are our new 80C Center Clamp Tire Changer that combines the robustness of a Coats swing arm tire machine with confident, no damage clamping because it uses no jaws to hold the wheel. This machine comes standard with a 220v motor to change even the toughest tires without breaking a sweat,” Harris says. “The Coats 1600 Direct Drive Wheel Balancer combines the accuracy of a direct drive balancer and the ease of use of a touch screen to create an easy to use, production-oriented balancer to keep tire customers rolling smoothly.”