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Lifetime warranties - They're not like they used to be


Gonzo

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Lifetime Warranties

There are warranties, and then there are lifetime warranties. Some people won’t buy anything, unless it has a substantial warranty attached to it. My dad was one of those guys. It didn’t matter what it was as long as he could get a warranty with it. He would be as proud as a peacock when he got the chance to use one of those warranties. But, for me, it could be rather embarrassing. Especially for a ten year old kid carrying a broken toilet seat into the hardware store where dad had bought it with a lifetime warranty years earlier. I can still picture it today, dad with his big grin on his mug, marching up to the return counter with his ancient receipt showing the date, the store manager’s name and of course, the warranty. While I’m cowering behind him carrying the broken toilet seat in shame. I did my best to hide my face the whole time, in fear one of my classmates might spot me with the family throne in tow.

Warranties have their place, that’s for sure. However, a decade or so ago when all these large franchised discount auto parts stores started to monopolize the market by offering lifetime warranties on their parts that I’ve noticed a problem. Now, it seems every consumer wants every part for every car to come with a lifetime warranty. It’s not that I think any of the major players in the automotive parts business couldn’t offer a lifetime warranty, but why should they? From my past experiences the failure rate of a quality part is far less than those discount parts with lifetime warranties. But, the average DIY’r doesn’t see it that way. They are still going to go with the cheaper-discount part when cost is an issue, and since it comes with a lifetime warranty that’s all the better. In my opinion these lifetime warranties should come with a disclaimer, “You’ll be changing it for the rest of your life. Because the replacement for the replacement part is just as cheaply made as the first one.”

When I hear someone tell me they changed an alternator five times in a row, because the one they put in stopped working again, I have to wonder is the problem the part or is it the diagnosis? Sometimes, it’s both. Other times, it’s a lack of knowing how the systems operates. Of course, after changing it so many times they’ve got the physical side of removing the bolts or a belt down pretty good. And, I’ll bet they can probably change it out a lot faster than I can. Since their labor is free, it’s a no brainer… go ahead and change it again…and again…and again.

 

A perfect example of this was the guy who did just as I described; he changed his alternator five times in a row, and every time it would last a week or so. By the time he had enough with the cheap parts he finally asked for a better quality part one. But, a week later it was back to not charging again. This time the counter person had to tell him, “This one doesn’t carry the lifetime warranty.” And now… it’s my turn.

The whole problem turned out to be a melted connection at the voltage regulator plug. Every time he would reconnect it to the alternator it would last a week or so, before the connector worked loose again. When I told him what it was he was not only shocked, but made the same comment they all make when they’re paying their bill. “I should have just brought it here in the first place.” Hmm, imagine that. The real question is whether or not any of the replaced alternators were ever bad at all. I can’t answer that with any honesty, because all I had in front of me was a name brand part that was working just fine with the connector repaired.

HID headlights are another common repair these days. Sometimes they can be rather expensive and time consuming to repair. The failures seem to run in groups, you know, several at a time with the same sort of problems. They all have the same odd aftermarket bulb or ballast installed. (I think the part goes on sale on the internet and then they all jump at a chance to buy them.) They’re definitely not factory parts, but some cheaply made offshore find. The car will come in with the usual complaints that one headlamp or one beam isn’t working, and they already replaced all this stuff. (Ballast, bulbs, etc…) So, I’m supposed to find some sort of electrical gremlin that’s knocking them out. When the entire time, and every time (so far) it’s faulty parts that have caused the issue.

Well, of course it can’t be the part. Why, it has a lifetime warranty on it. Don’t ya know I’ve heard that a few times? Somehow the cost difference between factory original parts, and the aftermarket sideshow parts doesn’t ring a bell as to which ones might be a bit better. Oh, I got it. The difference between the two was that “lifetime” warranty. One has it and the other doesn’t. So, which one do you think carries the lifetime warranty? You guessed it. SOLD! Sold ya right down the river more like it. Needless to say, most of the time the customer doesn’t want to go with the factory parts; they’d rather take their chances with another lifetime warranty from parts unknown.

I’ll bet you can probably guess by now, I’m not all that impressed with a lifetime warranty as a selling point. Or, for that matter changing out one lifetime warranty part with another lifetime warranty part unless it’s properly stated on the invoice and known by the customer that I take absolutely no responsibility for their components. I only guarantee the installation and diagnostic work. How long that part lasts is up to your driving habits and your lifetime warranty.

 

Maybe I’m just a little one sided in all of this. Maybe I should give these lifetime warranty parts a better recommendation. That’s hard to do, considering the failure rates I’ve seen from them over the years. Mind you, they’re not built like a 60’s toilet seat that finally broke after decades of use with a house full of kids. Back then a lifetime warranty was generally only offered with the better made parts. The manufacturers did it to say, “We’re proud of our product!” It wasn’t just to make a quick sale and a fast buck.


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one time I brought a lifetime heater core from pep boys. The first one lasted about two years and the second one was bad right out of the box, so I asked for my money back and got it. Meant I had free use of the heater core for 2 years and decided to buy one with not such a longtime warranty and it is still good today about 15 years later!

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The purpose of a warranty is to help the customer feel confident

that you stand behind your work. In other words, they need to

feel that if they give you their hard-earned money to service

their vehicle, it's not going to be money wasted.

 

One of the best things a shop owner can do is to make sure they

have a solid (nationwide warranty, if possible) that you can

enthusiastically and confidently provide to your customers.

 

Here's why...

From the customer's perspective, they've heard, read, seen

and probably even personally experienced a problem where
a shop didn't stand behind their work.

So, even if that bad experience didn't happen to them, at
your shop, that customer is still skeptical.

Understanding this is one of the customer's biggest concerns
when they are listening to your service advisor explain what needs

to be done to their vehicle... and how much it's going to cost

them will make it super easy for the customer to say yes.

 

So, when used properly, it's a selling tool that will make

you a boatload of money because it will help you easily

sell more service (and tires).

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'Lifetime warranty means we'll spend spend a lifetime replacing it over and over again' - my go to line when this issue comes up

It's like the consumer has been told by somebody that it's warranty first-quality second. They hear "lifetime" warranty and it's cheaper... you're done. No matter what the tech says. I've lost work and probably pissed a few off over the years but, I'm not lowering my standards just to get the work... I guarantee.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I sell some of my brake jobs with "lifetime warranty" pads when a customer asks for it. I am very clear that lifetime warranty is the life of the pad, not the owners lifetime. If the pads wear out in 50k miles they served their purpose and are not going to be replaced free. If a caliper hangs up the pads aren't defective. I have replaced lifetime of squeal pads due to noise, the lifetime warranty ones went in the garbage and oem ones went on. I hate to play in to marketing schemes but people want reassurance. It's absurd to think brake pads will last forever. Tires have 90k mile warranties now. Another joke.

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... people want reassurance.

 

afredauto, you hit the nail on the head!

 

Customers want reassurance that they're making a good

decision. The warranty helps you to sell the job because

it helps the customer to say, "yes" because...

 

When you look at things from the customer's perspective,

they've heard horror stories about how shops have taken

their money and didn't stand behind the work.

 

The warranty is important because it's designed to help

ease the customer's mind that if they give you their

hard-earned money and there's a problem later, they'll

be taken care of.

 

To use warranties to your selling advantage...

Everyone has to be clear about what the warranty is.

First of all, using a parts supplier that will stand

behind their product is key.

 

What's covered? Just the part? Or do they also cover

the labor? And for how long and under what circumstances?

 

Once everyone's on the same page with that...

Your service advisor has to be very clear about how

the warranty works and can explain it to the customer,

in a simple, effective manner that eases their mind.

 

Regarding tires...

Tire manufacturers have mileage warranties and those

warranties are based on a number of factors, including

how the tire is maintained.

 

When this is explained properly... you have a built-in

ongoing relationship with that customer because you've

explained to them how to maintain their tires and

the best part is YOU are the one that's going to help

them maintain their tires.

 

This is a brief excerpt of our Selling Tires module

which includes a small segment of how to explain to the

customer how tire warranties work:

 

"Mrs. Jones, here's how the mileage warranty works

with the tires you've purchased today. You've purchased

a (Insert mileage) tire so (Insert tire manufacturer)

gives you a (Insert mileage) mile warranty."

 

"What that means to you is: if you've maintained the

tire properly and the tire wears out prematurely and you

only get (Insert half of the original mileage) miles

out of it, you would only pay for the tread that was used."

 

"In that situation, you would only pay half price

to replace that tire."

 

"They also warranty the tire against anything related

to how they made the tire and the materials they used."

 

"So, what that means to you is if there are any issues

with workmanship or material, (Insert tire manufacturer)

is going to stand behind the tire."

 

Customers do not understand how tire mileage warranties

work and the importance of maintaining their tires, so...

 

The rest of the conversation needs to be about how

your shop helps them get the maximum mileage out of

their tire purchase.

 

When used properly, warranties can make you a boatload

of money and keep your customer's loyal TO YOU, which

in turn, keeps your bays filled, and your techs busy.

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afredauto, you hit the nail on the head!

 

Customers want reassurance that they're making a good

decision. The warranty helps you to sell the job because

it helps the customer to say, "yes" because...

 

When you look at things from the customer's perspective,

they've heard horror stories about how shops have taken

their money and didn't stand behind the work.

 

The warranty is important because it's designed to help

ease the customer's mind that if they give you their

hard-earned money and there's a problem later, they'll

be taken care of.

 

To use warranties to your selling advantage...

Everyone has to be clear about what the warranty is.

First of all, using a parts supplier that will stand

behind their product is key.

 

What's covered? Just the part? Or do they also cover

the labor? And for how long and under what circumstances?

 

Once everyone's on the same page with that...

Your service advisor has to be very clear about how

the warranty works and can explain it to the customer,

in a simple, effective manner that eases their mind.

 

Regarding tires...

Tire manufacturers have mileage warranties and those

warranties are based on a number of factors, including

how the tire is maintained.

 

When this is explained properly... you have a built-in

ongoing relationship with that customer because you've

explained to them how to maintain their tires and

the best part is YOU are the one that's going to help

them maintain their tires.

 

This is a brief excerpt of our Selling Tires module

which includes a small segment of how to explain to the

customer how tire warranties work:

 

"Mrs. Jones, here's how the mileage warranty works

with the tires you've purchased today. You've purchased

a (Insert mileage) tire so (Insert tire manufacturer)

gives you a (Insert mileage) mile warranty."

 

"What that means to you is: if you've maintained the

tire properly and the tire wears out prematurely and you

only get (Insert half of the original mileage) miles

out of it, you would only pay for the tread that was used."

 

"In that situation, you would only pay half price

to replace that tire."

 

"They also warranty the tire against anything related

to how they made the tire and the materials they used."

 

"So, what that means to you is if there are any issues

with workmanship or material, (Insert tire manufacturer)

is going to stand behind the tire."

 

Customers do not understand how tire mileage warranties

work and the importance of maintaining their tires, so...

 

The rest of the conversation needs to be about how

your shop helps them get the maximum mileage out of

their tire purchase.

 

When used properly, warranties can make you a boatload

of money and keep your customer's loyal TO YOU, which

in turn, keeps your bays filled, and your techs busy.

Using a lifetime warranty as a selling incentive is one thing. Selling second rate parts with lifetime warranties is another. Most people see a warranty as blanket protection but don't have a clue that quality has been thrown out the window with some of these aftermarket parts. There's a fine line between selling with assurance and selling with a lifetime warranty. The customer should be aware that not all warranties are as good as the product they are representing.

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Just about every job we do comes with a 12mo/12000mile parts & labor warranty. Wheel bearings/starters/alternators I push the best parts and extend it to 3/36 parts & labor. It's better for the customer and better for my bottom line. I've learned that the customer that's driving a $500 car and wants the cheapest part and cheapest temporary quick fix still has expectations on par with the more expensive correct repair regardless of dialog and disclaimers.

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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