As car dealerships continue their push for a greater slice of the aftermarket repair pie, the pressure grows for independent repair facilities to expand their offerings and expertise to attract clients. And while the evolution of technology in modern vehicles has presented a number of challenges to independent shops, TPMS service is one area of repair that shops can quickly capitalize on.
Outsourcing tire pressure sensor services and diagnostics can mean turning down tremendous profits and opportunities to bring in new customers since many TPMS-outfitted cars are now out of warranty and ready to be serviced following the TPMS standardization enforced by the TREAD Act of 2008. However, many shops still have not embraced TPMS diagnostics as a cornerstone of their businesses, even though investment in training and equipment can quickly pay for itself.
Training Your Team
TPMS diagnostics can be complex at times, but these systems are generally easier to repair than many new systems today’s vehicles are equipped with. Thorough employee education is crucial when concerning TPMS services and equipment, as incorrectly calibrating tire pressure can be extremely dangerous. But there is such a thing as overcomplicating your training.
“A big thing with some diagnostic/activation tools is that there is so much information out there through various training and websites, that some technicians are getting confused,” said Matthew White, director of tire service at the Tire Industry Association. White provides TPMS training for techs across the country. “For instance, I had a tech call me up the other day who was working on an Asian vehicle. He went to three different websites looking for TPMS information, and they were so technical that he couldn’t understand it. When he called me up and explained what was going on, we were able to get the TPMS light shut off in about two minutes. So, you can’t get too technical.”
Technician training is probably the biggest hurdle most shops have to overcome on the road to becoming capable of properly servicing TPMS. But, customizing a uniform business plan around how you charge for TPMS services is also important. More complex TPMS services are easy to create set prices for, but there can be a lot of gray area with some procedures.
The answer is likely different for every shop, but White advises talking to your team about the circumstances surrounding when a service order needs to be written up. Specifically, you need to answer the question, “When does checking tire pressure become more than just a complimentary service?”
“I think the first thing is that if a customer comes to the service manager, there is a connection with the customer to determine what they want to do,” White said. “You are going to give them information on what the TPMS light might mean, and they have to decide what they want done. If you’re going to check air pressure, are you going to have the service manager do this, or are you going to bring the car into a bay? Because once that comes into a bay, it becomes part of a service order.”
Of course, circumstances are different. For instance, you may be happy to take a couple of minutes to correct a TPMS light free of charge that came on courtesy of an improperly done relearn procedure if it is a loyal customer. But, you may decide you want to charge a new customer a small fee for this kind of service.
“If the vehicle needs a relearn procedure and it’s an older model with the first-generation TPMS, the consumer may be able to complete a relearn procedure without a tool by deflating and re-inflating the tires, or by using a magnet that comes with the vehicle,” White said. “On the other hand, the tire dealer can use a tool and go ‘boom, boom, boom’ to complete the relearn and shut the light off in just a minute or two. In some cases, charging the customer makes sense. In others, it could be a great way to generate new business. The important thing to remember is that if you charge too much, you can overprice yourself out of the market because some competitors will offer TPMS relearn service at no charge.”
The bottom line is that time is money, and it is up to each individual shop to decide what the value of technicians’ time is versus the value of going out of your way for customer service. While the value of charging for certain TPMS services might be a point of contention in your shop, the value of having an in-house team of technicians proficient in TPMS diagnostics should soon prove irrefutable when you see the impact these services can have on your bottom line.