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Specialty Chemicals


The fastest growing product category in the aftermarket today is specialty chemicals.

Today, most chemical suppliers are expanding their lines and creating more and more new products - many of which are increasingly targeted at narrower and narrower market segments. Take fuel system cleaner, for example. There are general purpose fuel system cleaners, but there are also products for cleaning fuel injectors, carburetors, injectors and intake valves, throttle bodies and intake systems, and even one product that is "specially formulated" for keeping the injectors in Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) clean.

There are so many different specialty chemicals, it's hard to categorize them all. Many products also fit into more than one category. But here's what we're talking about:


  • Cleaners - Brake cleaners, engine degreasers, carburetor/fuel system aerosol cleaners, wheel/tire brush-on and aerosol cleaners, glass cleaners, upholstery cleaners, carpet cleaners, bug/tar removers and car wash detergents.

  • Waxes, Polishes and Protectants - For clear coat finishes, for regular finishes, with or without silicones, for chrome/aluminum, for alloy wheels, for plastics, rubber, leather and fabric. A subcategory would be polishing/buffing compounds.

  • Tire Care Products - Tire/wheel cleaners and sealer/inflator products for fixing flats.

  • Fuel System Products - Octane boosters, lead substitutes for older engines, various types of fuel system cleaners, fuel de-icers, diesel fuel mileage extenders and diesel fuel anti-gel additives.

  • Lubricants/Penetrants - Penetrating oils for lubricating parts and/or loosening fasteners, and specialty greases/lubricants (for brakes, CV joints, wheel bearings, chassis components, door hinges, door locks, etc.)

  • Engine Oil/Crankcase Additives - Friction reducers/modifiers, products to reduce oil burning, engine flush to remove carbon and varnish deposits, top cleaners to remove carbon from combustion chambers, and moly- and teflon-based crankcase additives to extend engine life.

  • Cooling System Additives - Sealers to stop leaks, additives to extend the life of antifreeze, rust inhibitors/water pump lubricants, and cooling system flushes to remove rust and scale.

  • Brake Chemicals - Aerosol brake rotor/squeal treatments, brake lubricants/greases and brake cleaner.

  • Specialty Fluids - Power steering fluids, transmission additives (leak sealers and friction modifiers), transmission flushes to remove varnish deposits, brake fluids, hydraulic clutch fluid and windshield washer premix.

With so many new chemical products crowded onto limited shelf space, some customers may have trouble finding the type of products they want. Others may have a difficult time deciding which product among the many best suits their needs. Having so many choices can be confusing - which is why you need to be familiar with all of the specialty chemical products in your store. It's no easy task with so many different products, but it's just as important as helping a customer find the right replacement filter, spark plugs or other parts for his or her vehicle

One way to keep yourself up-to-date is to read the promotional literature from the chemical suppliers and its advertisements. The marketing information will tell you what the products are, what applications the products are designed for and how the brand of products stacks up against its competitors.

Read product labels. You can learn a lot just by reading the recommendations on the product label, the usage directions and the claimed benefits. This kind of information can help you answer questions like, "How often should I used this product?" or, "Is it safe to use in this situation or under certain conditions?"

Studying the various chemical products will not only help you understand some of the nuances between similar products but also which products are recommended for specific kinds of applications.

It's also helpful to try some of these products yourself. Nothing beats firsthand experience. Once you've used a particular product, you'll know how it works and what to recommend when a customer asks you for help.

Related sales possibilities will depend on the chemical product. If somebody is buying a fuel system cleaner, he may also need a new fuel filter. If he's buying an aerosol tire/wheel cleaner, he may also need a tire gauge. If he's buying some car wash, he may also need a mitt or brush to wash his vehicle. Think what else you might need if you were buying a specialty chemical product - then ask your customer if he also needs those additional items.

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