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A Chemical For Every Job

There are general purpose cleaners that can be used for a variety of cleaning applications, but there are also specialty cleaners available for more specific purposes.


The aisles in most auto parts stores are filled with all kinds of specialty chemicals. Whether it be fuel and crankcase additives, cleaners,  penetrants, lubricants, waxes or polishes, there are products for almost every kind of conceivable automotive application. One thing these products share in common is that they all are designed for a specific need or purpose.


There are general purpose cleaners that can be used for a variety of cleaning applications, but there are also specialty cleaners available for more specific purposes. Some of these include top cleaner to remove carbon deposits from combustion chambers, fuel injector cleaner to keep injectors clean, throttle body cleaner to remove varnish from throttles and intake systems, brake cleaner to remove dirt and grime from brake components, engine degreaser to remove heavy accumulations of dirt and grease on external engine surfaces, driveway cleaner to remove stains from cement surfaces, carpet cleaner and upholstery cleaner to clean up the interior and special solvents to remove bug splatter and tree sap from vehicle finishes.


This demonstrates that customers often need a very specific product for a particular purpose. Helping them buy the right product may require some inquiry as to what exactly they want to accomplish. Based on how they respond, your product knowledge should allow you to direct them to the specialty chemical product that would best suit their needs.

In some situations, however, a single product may meet a variety of needs. A lubricating/penetrating aerosol spray, for example, can help loosen rusted or frozen fasteners, lubricate door hinges, locks and other sliding mechanisms, quiet squeaky parts and help repel moisture.

One specialty product that is often misused is brake cleaner. This product is primarily designed for brakes, but also can be used to remove grease, dirt and grime from other components. However, the ingredients in some brake cleaners may be harmful to certain plastics or painted surfaces. So always read the warnings and directions on the product label to ascertain what the product is recommended for, how it should and should not be used, and any usage precautions that need to be followed.


In recent years, the VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) content of most aerosols and many other products has been reduced in order to comply with clean air regulations. This change has also made many products safer to use by eliminating certain chemicals that may be toxic or dangerous to breathe.

You should also keep specialty chemical products in mind when selling other parts. If a customer is buying brake parts, he could probably use a can of aerosol brake cleaner. If a customer is buying spark plugs, filters or other maintenance parts, you might recommend a can of fuel system cleaner, throttle cleaner and/or engine top cleaner.


More specifically, a customer who is buying motor oil for an older, high-mileage engine may benefit from a specially formulated “high-mileage” motor oil or a crankcase additive that contains chemicals to help reduce oil leakage or burning. For an older, performance engine with a flat tappet cam, you might recommend a ZDDP anti-wear additive to help protect the cam and lifters against premature wear. If the customer is replacing internal engine parts, he may need assembly lube, gasket sealer or RTV.

As a final point, do your best to identify and utilize related specialty chemical sales opportunities. If you suggest products that can help, solve problems or address your customers’ needs, you’ll often get the sale and a satisfied customer.

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