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Column: Goodyear vs. Santa Claus

Dick Nichols' monthly column Business Beat
Dick Nichols 0020
Dick Nichols Business Beat

For most businesses, the Christmas rush is their ‘make-it-or-break-it time.'

But not for all. Take your local service garage for example.

For Bryce Heron at Fountain Tire, business drops off drastically the minute the Christmas shopping season begins.

“Our single busiest month is October,” Bryce said. “We do 20 to 25 per cent of our business between the start of October and mid-November.”

And it’s not just winter tires. People often bundle services – in addition to having their winter tires put on, they’ll get their oil changed and have other work done to get their cars ready for winter.

“But as soon as it becomes a battle between Santa and Goodyear, Santa wins every time,” he added.

Of course, there are some bright spots. Like when the first enduring cold snap rolls in from the arctic.

“As soon as we see bitter weather - -15 or more for several days – that’s when a weak battery or heating issues show up.” Bryce said.

When the oil in your vehicle gets cold, it thickens up.

So, your starter motor – which draws 150 amps in the summer – requires 300 to 400 amps to turn your crankshaft in the cold. Not only does the starter motor use more power, but it also uses it for a longer duration. That can finish off a weak battery. “

It happens in extreme heat, too,” Bryce conceded, “but that’s not usually a factor here.”

As an aside, that’s also an advantage of using synthetic oil, which doesn’t create sludge or thicken up as much in the cold, so your car’s engine turns over quite a bit easier.

So Bryce, you recommend using synthetic oil, right?

“Well, we have to be cautious about recommending things,” he replied, “because people worry that when they go to a garage, they’re going to be subjected to a lot of upsells.

“It’s something all garages have to be very aware of,” he continued. “The best ones make sure people know their options but they’re also careful to explain the situation and just present solutions, as opposed lecturing customers about what they need to buy.”

To help customers understand where their money goes, Bryce’s technicians take pictures of the job while it’s in progress to illustrate what was done and – most importantly – why.

By the way, as a customer you can take advantage of the January slowdown. To keep their technicians busy, many garages offer discounts on labour if you can leave your vehicle with them for a few days.

When they have open time slots, they’ll fit you in, and that’s more likely to happen in January than at other time of the year.