Tire Dealers Exercise Caution in Response to Coronavirus

UPDATED: Tire Dealers Increase COVID-19 Precautions

Tire dealers across the country are taking precautions against the coronavirus with the cleanliness of their stores and employee hygiene.

With schools closed, social gatherings limited and social distancing now part of our daily lives, tire dealers across the country have taken additional measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at their shops.

First, many businesses are reaching out to their customers via email and social media to let them know the precautions their shops are taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and keep their environments clean.

Pat Fleischmann, co-owner of Community Tire Pros & Auto Repair with six locations in Phoenix, Arizona, said Community Tire Pros is offering to pick up and deliver a client’s vehicle and accept payment over the phone to minimize contact, especially with customers most susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

She said employees have also been instructed to frequently clean high-touch points such as counters, coffee areas, the kitchen and work areas.

“We are now dealing with ‘droplets’ of either coughing, speaking, body moisture and sneezing in our common areas and workplace,” Fleischmann said. “Community Tire Pros & Auto Repair understands the fear of getting ill and trying to still function in a world with so much fear. We have put elements in place at our facilities as the health, safety and well-being of our clients are paramount.”

Chris Monroe, owner of Monroe Tire & Service in Shelby, North Carolina, said on Friday that his shop was continuing its normal cleaning procedures of wiping down counters, phones, keyboards and credit card machines on a daily basis. However, he said Sunday that with the U.S. government urging people to take additional precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, his shop will do the same.

In addition to cleaning high-touch points in the shop, his staff at the counter will also wear gloves when interacting with customers, and he’s instructing technicians to wear gloves and sanitize the parts of the vehicle they touch after service.

“I think our customers will want to know we’re engaged and responsive to this,” Monroe said. “Everything over the past couple of days has changed. I think we need to change our mindset over the next couple of weeks… The last thing we want is for people to not come to us for fear of us not doing anything.”

Mary Ramnytz, controller for TireSource‘s six locations in northeast Ohio, said the dealership has seen a bit of a loss in car counts but “for the most part, our appointments are staying and people are still coming in,” she said.

Ramnytz said the dealership sent out an email to its customers this week detailing the precautions that it’s taking to stop the spread of germs, such as wiping down credit card machines and phone handles more frequently.

“We have Lysol wipes around the stores, so I think people are taking precautions and seeing that we are staying clean,” she said. “We did just get customized hand sanitizer spray a couple of weeks ago and have those for customers as well.”

According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), employers should actively encourage sick employees to stay home, separate employees if they develop coronavirus symptoms at work and practice respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene. Businesses should also perform routine environmental cleaning and advise employees to take certain steps before traveling.

Chris Monroe from Monroe Tires & Service – a 2019 Tire Review Top Shop finalist – posted this video on the business’s Facebook page to give customers a status update.

Scott Welsh, owner of Courtesy Auto & Tire of Tacoma, said he amped up his store’s precautionary measures after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced yesterday he would use emergency powers to begin shutting down bars, restaurants, clubs and gyms statewide and ban all gatherings of more than 50 people. Inslee also encouraged social distancing, according to the Seattle Times.

“As of 5:30 last night, I had to create these fast policies and communicate with customers to make sure they don’t think were closed and that we were taking this situation seriously and doing the best for them,” he said.

Welsh said he posted a link on the shop’s website, sent out an e-newsletter and posted on the shop’s social media channels to let customers know of his policy changes, which include a “hard 6-foot rule” on social distancing and a limit of three customers in the store. Other precautions the shop had been taking were sanitizing high-touch points areas multiple times per day, encouraging employees who don’t feel well to stay home and instructing staff not to shake hands. Hand sanitizer is also readily available to Courtesy customers, and the shop uses no-touch paper towel holders and trash cans, Welsh said.

To promote minimal contact, Welsh said in his letter that customers have options to communicate with the shop: schedule appointments by phone or online; use the shop’s dropbox and secure lockbox for drop off and retrieval of their vehicle; and communicate about their vehicle and payment options over the phone or via email.

“Our car count slowed down a little bit, but for the most part, people are making and keeping their appointments,” he said. “I don’t have a rush of people, but I’m keeping my bays full.”

Welsh also said the way he’s interacting with suppliers has also changed. Instead of interacting with a delivery person and signing paperwork on the spot, Welsh said his tire and parts suppliers are now instructed to drop off product and invoices with the order at the door. If face-to-face contact is required, staff and vendors will need at least six feet of separation, his policy says.

“We’ve totally changed the way we do business with our customers, vendors and the way we interact amongst ourselves,” he said. “It’s an extreme change, and it’s now it’s required by the state of Washington for us to have a written policy of these changes.”

Scott and Susan Welsh have been running Courtesy Auto for the past 12 years. (Josh Fernandez Photography)

Andy Leipold, manager at Leipold Tire in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, said on Friday that the shop was conducting business as usual and continuing with their regular cleaning schedules. On Tuesday morning, however, he said his shop also upped its game by sanitizing high-touch points in the shop more frequently and having technicians wear gloves while inside customers’ vehicles.

He said while some people have not showed up for appointments or canceled, others have urgently scheduled vehicle maintenance as a precaution in the event of a shutdown.

“We have a lot of people who’ve called and said, ‘I need my tires rotated right away,’ or ‘ I need this fixed today,’” he said.

Leipold said while the long-term impact of the virus is unknown, he’s noticed a handful of tire manufacturers canceling events, such as their annual dealer meetings, as well as a reduction in traffic outside his shop.

Tuffy Tire & Auto says it is taking proactive measures and safeguards to ensure customer health and safety during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The store is disinfecting surfaces, using steering wheel covers, floor mats and seat covers in customer vehicles, enhancing cleaning following the return of all loaner and customer shuttle service vehicles, washing hands and instructing employees who feel ill to stay home and consult their healthcare providers.

For more coverage on how COVID-19 is impacting the tire industry, click here, or follow the links below:

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