we miss a related sale in the automotive service sector, we call it
“leaving money on the table.” Leaving money on the table is a major
reason why many shops linger on the edge of profitability and, to back
that up, it’s a well-documented fact that the automotive service
industry in general loses millions of dollars in missed sales
opportunities each year.
Worse still, jobber parts stores that sell
remanufactured assemblies are leaving a lot of money on the table
because they don’t promote the related parts needed to make an engine
replacement a more reliable and warranty-free repair.
To put the
issue of selling related engine parts into perspective, let’s keep in
mind that all mechanical parts have a service life that’s based on the
frequency and severity of use. Because we also drive our vehicles in a
sunlight, oxygen, and water-based environment, we often forget that
ozone and other atmospheric chemicals deteriorate soft parts like
radiator hoses and engine mounts.
COOLING SYSTEM PARTS
worn-out engines are now being replaced at 100,000- to 200,000-mile
intervals. These relatively high vehicle longevities bode well for
related cooling system sales because most cooling system parts like
water pumps need replacing each 100,000 miles. Water pumps are unique
since their service lives are very predictable on many nameplates. Some
applications need replacing every 60,000-80,000 miles while others
might last 150,000 miles.
In any case, when a water pump is
removed from the old engine and the worn inner shaft seal is exposed to
dry air, the seal may leak shortly after the water pump is put back
into service. Radiator, heater, and water distribution hoses often
follow the same failure pattern when they’re re-used because the old
rubber has lost its elasticity and seldom forms a reliable seal when
re-clamped to a water outlet.
Conventional brass radiators and
heater cores present problems of their own because the anti-corrosive
package in the coolant dissipates with age and use and erodes the
solder joints that fasten the cores to the header tanks. Modern
radiators, which usually consist of aluminum cores clamped to plastic
tanks and sealed with rubber gaskets, also tend to deteriorate with
age. The water inlets and outlets might also wear from abrasive
particles being suspended in the coolant. Last, if the rubber gasket is
exposed to oil leaking internally from a bad automatic transmission oil
cooler, the rubber swells and forces the plastic and aluminum joint
apart, causing the radiator to literally split apart at the seams.
in mind that most engine remanufacturers clearly state that the engine
warranty will not apply if the engine failure has been caused by
overheating due to lack of coolant. In fact, most remanufacturers
attach small overheat indicator tabs to the cylinder heads that
indicate if the engine has been overheated. It’s my belief that the
average jobber leaves at least $500 in related cooling system parts
money on the table each time a new engine goes out his door. Not only
is he leaving money on the table, he’s exposing himself to a warranty
situation that could easily be prevented by selling a extra few feet of
heater hose or the often-ignored replacement water pump.
LUBRICATION SYSTEM PARTS
mechanics say that the oil pump is the heart of the engine because it
pumps life-saving lubricant to vital operating parts. For that reason,
most engine remanufacturers include a new oil pump with their newly
What may not be included is the oil pump
inlet tube and screen that attaches to the oil pump. Unfortunately, the
old oil pump screen is full of large metallic and abrasive particles
that would have otherwise damaged the oil pump. These hard particles
are extremely difficult to flush from the screen and may shorten the
life of the new engine if they later vibrate from the screen and lodge
in the engine’s new bearings. Because new oil pump screens are so
critical to engine life and so relatively inexpensive, selling a new
screen to go with the new pump should be considered a vital necessity
when replacing the engine.
Many working in the service and parts
sectors also forget than many modern engines are equipped with oil
coolers. Like the oil pump screen, the cooler accumulates metallic
debris that may damage new bearings and refinished crankshafts. Because
most oil coolers can’t be successfully cleaned or flushed, they should
be replaced to prevent damaging the new engine.
If the engine has
a remotely located oil filter or oil cooler, it’s also best to replace
the oil hoses connecting the filter to the engine’s lubricating system.
Although these hoses might visually appear to be in good condition, the
very act of bending them during removal can cause the hardened interior
rubber coating of the hose to crack and leak. Although lubrication
system sales aren’t generally big-ticket sales, they are a necessary
part of preventing expensive warranty comebacks.
you looking for an extra $1,000 or more in add-on sales? If you are,
don’t forget that most turbochargers and superchargers wear right along
with the engine. In addition, oil leaking from a worn turbocharger or
supercharger seal can cause oil consumption and exhaust oil smoke
issues that result in a false warranty claim on the new engine.
worn flywheels, flywheel starter ring gears, clutches and hydraulic
clutch linkage should be inspected for wear and replaced as required.
Here again, because the parts must be removed and replaced as part of
the engine replacement procedure, there’s no extra labor charge for
installing new parts. Even at retail price, a clutch and flywheel
replacement is cheap insurance against future failures.
starters, power steering pumps and air injection pumps should be
inspected for bearing wear and other malfunctions affecting these
parts. The battery should also be tested to ensure that it’s up to the
task of cranking the newly installed engine. These extra items can add
up to enough profit on an annual basis to enough to pay for that badly
IGNITION SYSTEM NEEDS
One look under the
hood of a modern vehicle always elicits the question, “Where are the
spark plugs?” Because the recommended spark plug replacement interval
for most modern engines is at least 100,000 miles, engineers don’t go
out of their way to make spark plug and ignition systems easily
accessible. So, unless the parts are nearly new, the cost-effective
time to replace ignition parts is before the new engine is installed in
the chassis, not after.
Engines with distributor ignitions should
have the distributor rotor and cap and the spark plugs and spark plug
wires replaced. Distributorless ignitions should have the wires and
spark plugs replaced. Coil-on-plug systems should have new coil boots
installed along with the new spark plugs. Here again, ignition parts
aren’t generally as expensive as radiators, turbochargers, and
clutches, but they do add precious dollars to a jobber’s bottom line.
AND DON’T FORGET THE ENGINE MOUNTS
all rubber products, conventional rubber engine mounts and struts
deteriorate due to exposure from heat, oil and atmospheric pollution.
Replacing deteriorated engine mounts and torque control struts is
important because they insulate the chassis from engine and drive train
vibration and hold the engine in its correct relationship with the
chassis. This relationship is important on vehicles with mechanical
clutch linkage because the engine and transmission mounts maintain the
correct geometry between the clutch linkage and the engine. If the
clutch linkage needs constant adjustment, the engine might actually be
shifting in the chassis as the clutch is depressed.
remember that new engine mounts are like icing on the cake because they
provide that “like new” feel to a new engine. A quiet, smooth and
responsive engine is what the customer paid for and, at the end of the
day, is what he or she should get.
Gary Goms is a former
educator and shop owner who remains active in the aftermarket service
industry. Gary is an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician (CMAT)
and has earned the L1 advanced engine performance certification. He is
also a graduate of Colorado State University and belongs to the
Automotive Service Association (ASA) and the Society of Automotive