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Visibility: Helping Your Customers See and Be Seen


1/1/2003

Visibility-enhancing products such as wipers and lighting are one of the most neglected of automotive maintenance items. However, for optimum performance and driving visibility, blades should be replaced every six months.
 

Much of the new automotive technology relates to safety, as vehicle manufacturers tinker with things like accident avoidance, "smart" airbag systems and other advanced safety features.

Driving will never be a passive endeavor, for even with those safety measures in place, the majority of accident avoidance skill rests with the driver. Simply stated, drivers can't avoid what they can't see.

But unfortunately (but not surprisingly), visibility-enhancing products such as wipers and lighting are one of the most neglected of automotive maintenance items. Most consumers will wait until their blades are falling apart, chattering or streaking horribly before it dawns on them that the blades need to be replaced. However, for optimum performance and driving visibility, blades should be replaced every six months.

Lighting products are usually replaced only after a failure - and a ticket from the police.

REPLACEMENT WIPERS
Unlike the many automotive parts that a jobber sells, replacement wiper blades aren't expensive, their replacement frequency rate is high, and many manufacturers have simplified the installation process. In fact, more than half of the wiper blades that are sold are now replaced by the vehicle owner rather than a professional installer.

With extra sales and a little marketing push in this area, the typical jobber can achieve higher profit margins and greater DIYer exposure in today's windshield wiper replacement market.

Even if consumers live in a place where it never rains, environmental elements alone are the major reason behind a blade's short life span. Ozone, airborne contaminates, oil, sunlight and road film all help to weaken the wiper's functionality. Exposure to sunlight and ozone cause the wipers to age, even if the wipers aren't used much.

EDUCATING THE CONSUMER
Not all vehicles are easy for installing wipers, so store personnel should try to make themselves familiar with some of the more common problems. In fact, many people delay replacing their wiper blades because of the difficulty in using the adapters most blades come with, (which are needed to fit an assortment of wiper arms.)

How well a particular set of blades performs is also important. The blades are part of the windshield wiper system, which includes the wiper arms and holders. The blade's ability to clean the glass depends on the slope and area of the windshield, the amount of spring tension on the wiper arm, the number of pressure points or claws that hold the blade and the material used in the blade itself. Today's windshields are more sloped than ever before for improved aerodynamics. But a sleek "cab-forward" windshield with a lot of glass directs more wind against the wipers, which can force the blades away from the glass at high speeds; that is, unless the wiper system and blades are designed to resist lift. So replacement blades and other wiper system components should be properly designed to equal or exceed the anti-lift performance of the original parts.

On newer vehicles with steeply-raked windshields, wind lift at high speed can be a problem if the correct replacement blades are not installed.

For these applications, recommend anti-lift blades that incorporate aerodynamic features to keep blades in firm contact with the glass at all speeds.

By offering a wiper blade line guaranteed to fit a vast majority of vehicles, without the need to assemble adapters, jobbers are sure to increase their sales. Still, customers have to be careful when it comes to matching blade length. Refills won't fit unless they're the same length as the old ones. Replacement blades that are too long may create interference problems, while ones that are too short may not do an adequate job of clearing the windshield.

LIGHTING PRODUCTS
Like wipers, lighting products are vital to the safe operation of the vehicle - even in the daylight. Studies have shown that vehicles are much more visible by other drivers when the headlights are on, thus giving way to the trend of daytime running lights on many of today's newer vehicles.

However, unlike wipers and wiper systems, lighting products are not strictly a safety item. Many lighting products are also used to enhance or improve the vehicles existing system. Some of these lights are designed to create that high-tech "blue" or a whiter light beam seen on many high-end vehicles.

You have probably noticed the blue-hued lights in your rear-view mirror. These HDL, Xenon and look-alike bulbs are now finding their way into the aftermarket.

These new headlamp systems don't have an optical pattern on the cover lenses, which gives the light a distinct appearance. The headlamps are brighter, illuminate a larger area in front of the vehicle, consume less energy and have a longer life.

While halogen lights have been the dominating type of lighting used, now there are several newer kinds of lighting: Xenon, Bi-Xenon, Xenarc HID (High Intensity Discharge) and HDL.

Xenon is more than two times as efficient as halogen light, and it consumes much less power. A Xenon beam looks similar to the color of natural daylight.

When stocking lights, have a good selection of not only bulbs, but bulb styles as well. Not everyone is looking just to light the road. Some may be willing to spend a little extra for a expensive-look. Having the product on-hand (and being able to talk about them intelligently) will be a winning sa;es combination.

In addition to lighting products, consider stocking other safety and visibility products as well. These products include:

  • Reflectors and reflective tape
  • Back-up lights
  • Cab/interior lights
  • Flashers
  • Replacement mirrors
  • License plate lights
  • Turn signals















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