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Wallet Flushing, Please Read!

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Joe, Don't get me started on all the crap regulations we have to deal with.


I am still fuming from a state environmental inspection last week that didn't find any significant violations, but nevertheless I need to have an additional environmental study to see if there has been significant soil contamination to the tune of $5,000.00.


There is only one way out of all the "protection" government is offering the ignorant sheeple, and that is by forming a third political party that will push for the interest of the independent business owners.

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Some idiots rantings, looks like a ploy to get customers in my opinion. If when a person takes a car to Jiffy Lube and they tell you that you need all your fluids flushed and you fall for it, you're an idiot.


I may seem a little harse but I'm actually the complete opposite though I feel that people should accept responsibility for not having any common sense. How do you spend 30+k and not have a clue as to what it takes to keep it in tip top shape? They even have books that tell you exactly what they recommend and when they recommend it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

First I want to start by saying, “When was the last time someone wrote a news article about a shop owner who stayed late into the night to make sure his customer had his car ready for vacation? When was the last time someone featured a shop owner, on the 6:00 news, who gave away a used car to the wife whose husband died on 9-11? When was the last time you read about a shop owner who held a fundraiser to help the local youth sports associations.” I could go on and on about all the good we do for our community and customers, but you get the point. The fact is the overwhelming majority of shop owners and mechanics are hard working people who go the extra mile for the motoring public day after day. We don’t ask for recognition, we do it because of who we are.


Ok, now on with Wallet Flushing. In 2006 Douglas Flint, the owner of Tune-Up Technology in Alexandria VA detailed his feeling about fluid services and started a firestorm of controversy over the legitimacy of fluid services and the practice of many shops. You can read his entire comments by going to the link below, but in short he stated that mechanics and shop owner’s, because it’s economically more profitable, push fluid services on their customers. He questions that validity of fluid services and says that when shops push fluid services on their customers, the only they are flushing is their wallet.


Because of Flint’s comments, the California Bureau of Automotive Repair began an investigation into the “questionable tactics” of selling fluid services. The results may affect many shops, not only in California but around the country. There is now an initiative in California and a brochure to “educate” consumers about fluid services. California states it will prosecute for Wallet Flush under the Automotive Repair Act of 1971 and the California Unfair Competition Law of Section 7200, which prohibits the unlawful, and unfair, deception, untrue or misleading advertising. PLEASE READ THE LAST SENTENCE AGAIN.


We sell fluid services all my shop. We are not deceptive, we are not unfair, we do not mislead and what we promote is not untrue. Our service programs and recommendations "flush" more money back to the customer through preventive maintenance, which lowers to total cost of owning a car over time.


The investigation makes comparisons to cars of yesterday and cars of today, basing the findings by comparing a 1940 Cadillac Series 60 to a 2007 Cadillac. Is this a true comparison? We all know that cars are better made today and last longer. In 1940, you were lucky to go 40,000 miles without major engine, transmission or other repairs. In the 1970s, when I started as a mechanic, we did a ton of transmission work and engine work on cars that had less than 50,000 mile! It’s not the same anymore. Today’s cars last longer and servicing fluids will help customers lower the odds of failures.


We do educate our consumers, we do explain the reasons why we are recommending a particular fluid service and we do explain that these recommendations may not be found in the owner’s manual. We also promote the BG Lifetime Protection Plan. Many of my customers keep their cars for 200,000 miles or more and I want to make sure they are protected. We don’t recommend fluid service based only on condition of the fluid, we base it on what WE feel is in the best interest of our customers. By the way, I can still do that in this country? Make recommendations based on my professional judgment, right? If the car maker states that you do not need to change a particular fluid, then why don’t they warranty that component for life???


I urge everyone to read the links below and please give me your thoughts and comments. I am not one to sit on the sidelines and prepared to go to bat for each and every one of you. So, please give me your honest thoughts and opinions.


Article on Wallet Flushing, National Oil & Lube News, June issue 2013




Article when story broke, AOL Auto, posted December 2006



I conditionally agree with your positions on fluid flushing. But inmy opinion if you are pushing the flushing using BG's schedule then YES you are flushing the customer's wallets. I don't have their maintenance interval in front of me but when I told my rep to take his info and get it out of my shop they wanted extended life coolant flushed every 30K miles. They wanted power steering fluid and transmission fluid (including Merc V and Dex VI) flushed every 24-30K without a filter change. Fuel system flushing every 15 K with a can of 44K every 1000 miles or more. Not all of this was in their schedule but was according to my rep. And then you had to start the car on the "maintenance" plan before it's first major manufacturer's mileage interval.

You are correct that even a '70's era car isn't the same as an '03 or '07 car. The fluids are much higher refined, better quality and it shows in the life expectancy of the systems those fluids protect. And with the computer controls those fluids can last much longer as well. But I think the problem is in the judgment call. As I explained above, if you are following the flush chemical provider's recommendations you are performing the services way too often. And if taken to the extreme, like a new/used car dealership across town from me, their quick-lube employees' jobs rely on how many unnecessary flushes they can sell. A friend's wife had a Kia Sorento, and this dealership is also the Kia dealer. She rolled through several times between 30-40K and each time she was told her transfer case fluid needed to be changed and her coolant had to be flushed. Her owners manual didn't call for either fluid to be serviced until at least 100k. She kept declining. Well she had a recall and took it into the Kia service department. And guess what they sold her? Yep, t-case, front and rear diff fluids and a coolant flush, all at just over 40K.


And just as a sie note, I used to work for an independent garage that did all of the local FedEx truck's maintenance and services. The step delivery vans, the Econoline type vans and the pick-up trucks. They never did transmission fluid & filter changes. I was told they did a nationwide study and found the trucks with no services lasted about as long as the trucks with regular services. I don't know. I didn't see the reports but my boss was probably the most honest guy I have ever met so I believe him completely.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Interesting topic.

Yes, fluid changes/flushes are good source of profit for the shop, but:

a. not always

b. still an overall bigger benefit to the consumer in my opinion.

Just like anything else, when the news like this get to the front page of any media it causes an uproar from everyone, including us :)

Every car (customer) we look at, is a special case.

Would I "recommend" flushing the ATF on a 10 year old car with 200k miles on it and molasses-like ATF?, probably not. Who knows what kind of contaminants I am going to swirl up by doing the flush. The least I can do, is make them aware of possible problem and even have them initial the fact that i told them so.

Would I put a brand new car on a 30-50k miles maintenance ATF flush? You bet I would, heck, I do it to all of my own cars, not because I like the exercise.

How many times have you seen a $50-60k car with required synthetic oil been requested by the customer to "just do a regular oil" - "this time" You know it and I know it, it's not going to be just "this time", he will run this car for another 30-40k and sell it as "well maintained". Then someone opens the oil fill cap and sees nothing but crud :(

Today almost all manufacturers promote their cars as set-it-and-forget-it mechanical marvels. Forget the fact that same manufacturer wants to see you back in their dealership on a very regular basis after the sale. When manufacturer stops the maintenance schedule at 150k miles, does it mean that it is in fact the life expectancy of the car? No, it means it is a perceived and promoted life expectancy of the car, by nobody else but them. If the powertrain warranty is a 100k miles and the $8,000.00 transmission clunks at 105k or 125k, who's problem is it, the manufacturer's or the owner's? I am a no lobbyist, but if i was, I'd promote all kinds of laws extending the maintenance intervals, just about beyond the warranty. This way it's a win-win for the manufacturer every time.

Fortunately if we have a good customer base that do TRUST us, there is nothing for us to worry about. I'd post this article in my shop right by the BAR certificate, just as a conversation piece if nothing else :)

Thanks for bringing this up Joe.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency.
      As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor time it takes a technician to complete a job compared to the labor time being billed to the customer. Productivity is the time the technician is billing labor hours compared to the time the technician is physically at the shop. The reality is that a technician can be very efficient, but not productive if the technician has a lot of downtime waiting for parts, waiting too long between jobs, or poor workflow systems.
      But let’s go deeper into what affects production in the typical auto repair shop. As a business coach, one of the biggest reasons for low shop production is not charging the correct labor time. Labor for extensive jobs is often not being billed accurately. Rust, seized bolts, and wrong published labor times are just a few reasons for lost labor dollars.
      Another common problem is not understanding how to bill for jobs that require extensive diagnostic testing, and complicated procedures to arrive at the root cause for an onboard computer problem, electrical issue, or drivability issue. These jobs usually take time to analyze, using sophisticated tools, and by the shop’s top technician. Typically, these jobs are billed at a standard menu labor charge, instead of at a higher labor rate. This results in less billed labor hours than the actual labor time spent. The amount of lost labor hours here can cripple a shop’s overall profit.
      Many shop owners do a great job at calculating their labor rate but may not understand what their true effective labor is, which is their labor sales divided by the total labor hours sold. In many cases, I have seen a shop that has a shop labor rate of over $150.00 per hour, but the actual effective labor rate is around $100. Not good.
      Lastly, technician production can suffer when the service advisors are too busy or not motivated to build relationships with customers, which results in a low sales closing ratio. And let’s not forget that to be productive, a shop needs to have the right systems, the right tools and equipment, an extensive information system, and of course, great leadership.
      The bottom line is this; many factors need to be considered when looking to increase production levels. While it does start with the technician, it doesn’t end there. Consider all the factors above when looking for ways to improve your shop’s labor production.
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