Make The Sale!
This month, Counterman presents one of its more popular annual Features: Counterman’s Technical Sales Seminars. As in past years, we again present technical and sales information written to help parts professionals better understand what they are selling and ways to be better at selling them. The Technical Sales Seminars are full of solid technical information and smart sales tips too. What’s different this year is the number of product categories we present: nearly two dozen technical sales seminars on a wide variety of parts.
Calipers & Brake Parts
Caliper service is required if a caliper is leaking brake fluid, if a piston is sticking or frozen – or if pads show uneven wear.
Many brake experts recommend rebuilding or replacing the calipers on high-mileage vehicles when the brakes are relined. Like any other mechanical component, calipers wear and corrode with age. Every time the brakes are applied, the back-and-forth motion of the caliper pistons produces a slight amount of wear on the piston seal and piston bore. Moisture contamination in the brake fluid adds to the problem by allowing corrosion to attack the piston bores and the caliper pistons if they are steel or aluminum. As the surface of the pistons and bores become pitted and rough, the seals wear even more and may begin to leak.
As the pads wear, the caliper pistons gradually move outward, exposing more of the piston to potential contamination and corrosion from dust or moisture. If an old corroded piston is then shoved back into the caliper when new pads are installed, the piston seal will be riding on a rough surface. It won’t be long before the seal fails and the caliper starts to leak.
Brake fluid leaks are serious because they can lead to brake failure. Brake fluid can also contaminate the brake linings causing the brakes to grab or pull.
Even if a caliper isn’t leaking, it’s still aging. Rubber piston seals and dust boots lose elasticity with age. Square-cut piston seals help retract the pistons and pads when the brakes are released. If the seals are old and hard, they may not pull the pistons back, which allows the pads to drag against the rotor. When dust boots get old, they often crack or split and allow dirt and water to enter the piston bore area. The result can be accelerated seal wear, piston corrosion and sticking.
Rebuilding or replacing the calipers when the brakes are relined restores the system to like-new condition, improves brake reliability and reduces the risk of leaks.
One thing to keep in mind when selling replacement calipers is the importance of brake balance side-to-side. If only one caliper is being replaced, the replacement caliper should have the same type of piston (steel or phenolic) as the one on the opposite side. Also, if you’re selling a loaded caliper assembly, the friction material should be the same as the other side.On low-mileage vehicles, the caliper hardware should be cleaned, inspected and lightly lubricated with a high-temperature, moly-based brake lubricant. Ordinary chassis grease should never be used for this purpose. Badly corroded or damaged caliper hardware must be replaced.
Any caliper that is cracked, damaged, has worn mounting or slide surfaces, elongated pin or guide holes, bore damage or severe bore corrosion must also be replaced.
Repair options include new or reman calipers and loaded caliper assemblies. Loaded calipers are really popular these days because they include everything the technician needs in one box. A loaded caliper includes a new or remanufactured caliper housing, new or reconditioned pistons, new friction pads, plus the shims, bushings or other hardware needed to install the caliper.
Preassembled calipers also help eliminate some of the common mistakes that are often made when replacing calipers, things like leaving off antirattle clips and pad insulators that prevent noise, forgetting to bend pad locating tabs that prevent pad vibration and noise, and reusing corroded caliper hardware that can cause a floating caliper to hang up and wear the pads unevenly.
Other items your caliper customer may need include new brake hoses, brake fluid and special brake tools to bleed the brakes.Loaded calipers are also a good choice for replacing rear calipers on vehicles with four-wheel disc brakes. Overhauling a locking rear caliper is not an easy job because the self-adjusting mechanism inside the piston is difficult to disassemble, clean, lubricate and reassemble correctly. In many instances, the parts are too badly corroded to be reused anyway, and replacement parts may not even be available.
Over 80 percent of all the cars on the road today are front-wheel drive (FWD) with constant velocity (CV) joints on their halfshafts. Many minivans are also FWD, and most four-wheel drive trucks, SUVs and all-wheel drive cars also have halfshafts with CV joints. Thats a lot of CV joints and a huge potential replacement market for both shafts and joints.
CV joints are pretty rugged and will generally go 75,000 to 100,000 miles or more without a complaint. But a number of things can cut a joints normal life expectancy short. The number one killer of CV joints is boot failure. All it takes is a small crack or hole in a boot to doom the joint. Within a few thousand miles, the joint will throw out most of its grease leaving it with little or no means of lubrication. A leaky boot also allows road splash and dirt to get inside and contaminate the joint. Before long the joint is ruined and must be replaced.
The classic symptom of a worn outer CV joint is a clicking or popping noise when turning. The joint usually remains silent when driving straight ahead. Worn inner CV joints act more like a U-joint and may produce a “clunk” or shudder when the vehicle is put into gear or starts to move. Worn inner joints can also cause driveline vibrations that come and go at various speeds.
If a CV joint is making noise or vibrations, it needs to be replaced. If a boot has failed but the joint is still silent, it may only need a boot ∇ provided the grease inside still feels smooth and has not been contaminated with dirt. CV joints can be disassembled for inspection, but doing so requires removing the halfshaft or driveshaft, removing the joint from the shaft, then taking it apart to check the balls, cage and races for wear or other damage.
If a customer only needs a boot, recommend a premium boot that will provide added durability.If a CV joint needs to be replaced, you can offer your customer several options: a new or remanufactured replacement CV joint or a complete shaft assembly with new or reman joints on the ends. Most professional technicians prefer the complete shaft assembly because the shaft is ready to install, saves time and reduces the risk of a comeback.
Selling your customer a complete shaft assembly eliminates the need to change and repack the joints. A complete shaft assembly also reduces the risk of mismatched parts. Many shafts that come with new joints also come with a lifetime warranty.If a customer opts to replace just the joint and not the whole shaft assembly, hell still have to pull the shaft out of the vehicle to change the joint. The opposite joint should be carefully inspected to make sure it is still in good condition before it is returned to service.
Removing a CV joint from the end of a shaft can be tricky on some applications if the joint is held in place with a snap ring. The ring must first be released before the joint can be pulled off the shaft. Others use a circlip, which allows the joint to be tapped off.
Replacement joints usually come with a new boot, special CV joint grease and boot clamps. Ordinary grease must not be used in a CV joint. To install the joint, part of the grease is packed into the joint, and the rest goes into the boot. The boot and joint are then installed on the shaft. Special tools may be required to tighten some types of boot clamps.
On some vehicles, there is no choice as to whether to replace the individual joint or the entire shaft assembly. On vehicles that have “tripod” style outer joints (Toyota Tercel and Nissan Stanza), the joint is part of the shaft, so the entire shaft must be replaced.
Theres a lot of variety in CV joints and shafts, so when looking up a replacement joint or shaft you need to correctly identify the application. This is especially important on older Honda and Chrysler applications, which used shafts from a variety of OEM suppliers. With individual joints, the spline count, diameter and length of the joint must be the same as the original. With shafts, the overall length must also be identical. If the vehicle has antilock brakes and the wheel speed sensor ring is on the outer CV joint, make sure the replacement joint or shaft has the same ring and that the number of teeth match.
Sell the best. It’s that simple. When a customer asks for a set of replacement brake pads or shoes, recommend a premium grade product – not the cheapest linings on the shelf.Premium linings outperform standard and economy grade linings in almost every way: more stopping power, longer pad life, better fade resistance and quieter braking.
Premium linings cost more because they are made with superior materials. They also deliver better overall value than economy or standard grade products. Longer-wearing materials extend lining life and push the next brake job thousands of miles further down the road. Better stopping power and fade resistance reduces stopping distances and the risk of an accident. Quieter operation is easier on the ears ∇ and rotors, too.
When you point out the advantages of upgrading to premium replacement linings, most customers will agree and buy the best. Surveys have shown the aftermarket is now selling more premium-grade products than ever before. People are keeping their vehicles longer and are putting more miles on them. The cost of the linings is only a small portion of the labor and other parts that go into a typical brake job, so more people are opting for premium grade linings.Historically, many aftermarket brake suppliers have offered three grades of linings: good, better and best. The least expensive ‘value line’ economy grade products are targeted primarily at the retail DIY market. These products are strictly for bargain hunters who can’t afford a better grade of lining or who don’t want to spend a dime more than is absolutely necessary to fix their brakes.
Economy pads are as safe as any other grade of replacement lining, but don’t expect them to deliver the same kind of lining life or stopping power as standard or premium linings.
Standard grade or OEM-equivalent linings generally offer similar braking performance and service life as the OE linings on the vehicle. In recent years, the distinction between standard and premium has become blurred because of all of the changes that have been taking place in friction-material technology.
For some time now, brake suppliers have been upgrading their product lines to keep pace with improvements in friction-material technology in new vehicles. ‘Application specific’ linings whose friction characteristics are modified to more closely match the performance of the OEM brakes they replace are now commonplace. Most premium grade linings are now application specific, but so are many standard-grade linings. What’s more, many brake suppliers have introduced new product lines specially designed for trucks, SUVs and import vehicles. Many of these products are premium-grade linings because of their performance and price.
Premium-grade linings, which are the best the aftermarket has to offer, typically are equal to or exceed OEM performance in all categories. Various ingredients are used to enhance the friction materials including ceramics, titanium, copper and a variety of other fibers and materials. Some also have special coatings to help seat new pads and dampen noise. Most premium pads also incorporate such features as chamfers, slots and special shims to control noise and vibrations.
Some premium pads are also ‘preburnished’ to eliminate many of the problems that can occur if the pads are not broken in properly. When brake linings are manufactured, the resins that bind the ingredients together are not fully cured. When the linings are later installed on a vehicle, the heat produced by normal braking bakes the linings and cooks out the residual chemicals from the resins to improve the friction characteristics of the lining. But if the brakes get too hot before the linings are fully cured, it can ‘glaze’ the linings causing noise and performance problems. To eliminate the need for a break-in period, some brake suppliers now add an extra manufacturing step to fully heat-cure (burnish) the linings.
Good brakes are absolutely essential for safe driving. When the brakes are relined, the goal should be to restore the entire brake system to good-as-new or even better-than-new condition – not just to replace the worn linings and nothing else. Installing premium linings can help accomplish that goal, as can inspecting the entire brake system and replacing any other parts that are worn, damaged or out of specifications.
The condition of the rotors is especially important, too. Rotors that are rough or have too much runout must be resurfaced to restore the friction surface for the pads. Rotors that are worn to minimum thickness specifications, have hard spots, cracks or other damage must be replaced. If a customer needs new rotors, recommend premium rotors. Economy rotors do not have the same metallurgy as premium rotors, nor the same manufacturing tolerances. As a result, economy rotors may be noisier, wear faster and/or increase the distance required to stop the vehicle.
Most all parts store move a lot of friction material off their shelves. Knowing what questions to ask and being able to communicate the specific differences between the various lines and grades of brake pads will help your counter staff be better at selling this important item. And since brakes are a safety-related product, many customers are less resistant to a suggestion to upgrade to a higher-quality pad.
Ball joints have been around since the 1950s, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t changed with the times.Ball joints have become more sophisticated and more important in terms of good steering return, steering feel and handling. The traditional steel-on-steel ball joints began to change in the 1970s. To reduce friction for improved steering return and better overall ride quality, ball studs were made smoother, and new types of bearing materials were introduced.
In the 1980s, low-friction ball joints with polished ball studs and polymer bearings came into widespread use on a variety of vehicle applications, including European and Japanese imports, domestic front-wheel drive passenger cars and even trucks. At the same time, joint seals and boot materials were improved to eliminate the need for grease fittings in many instances. Many premium joints now use urethane rather than neoprene or synthetic rubber boots.
Steel-on-steel ball joints are still available for many older vehicle applications and work just fine. But on newer vehicles, it’s important to use low-friction ball joints. Replacing one type with another may cause a noticeable increase in steering effort and harshness, and it may also reduce steering return.
Ball joints are classified according to their location or function in the suspension. There are upper and lower ball joints. Short and long arm (SLA) suspensions have two uppers and two lowers, as do wishbone strut suspensions. Ordinary MacPherson strut suspensions only have two lower joints.
Some ball joints are load carrying, while others are not. The loaded variety may be compression joints or tension joints. Compression joints carry loads that bear down on the ball stud. So, most joint wear occurs where the ball stud presses into its bushing. This type of joint is found in SLA suspensions where the spring is mounted over the upper control arm. Tension joints, by comparison, carry loads that try to pull the joint apart. Wear occurs in this joint at the point where the shoulder of the ball stud pulls against its seat. The lower ball joints on SLA suspensions, where the spring sits on the lower control arm, are tension joints. Tension joints are also found on modified MacPherson strut suspensions (Mustang, T-Bird and Camaro/Firebird) where the spring sits on the lower control arm rather than on the strut.
Other suspension parts that may also need to be replaced include tie rod ends, idler arms, suspension bushings, shocks or struts. And don’t forget grease if the joints are the type that have grease fittings.Ball joints that are not loaded include the upper joints on SLA suspensions where the spring sits on the lower arm, the lower joints on suspensions where the spring is over the upper control arm and the lower joints on MacPherson strut suspensions where the spring is around the strut.
All types of ball joints need to be replaced if wear exceeds factory limits. Inspection procedures and specifications vary from one application to another, so it is important to refer to a ball joint specification chart for the particulars.
Many load-carrying tension-type lower ball joints on General Motors and Ford rear-wheel drive applications have a built-in wear indicator to show how much wear has taken place inside the joint. This same type of joint is also used in the rear suspension on some of GM’s big front-wheel drive cars (Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile). Load carrying ball joints usually wear faster than unloaded counterparts. Consequently, the lower ball joints on an SLA suspension typically wear out before the upper joints. Symptoms of worn ball joints include front wheel shimmy at low speed, steering wander, clunking noises from the front suspension and camber (shoulder) wear on the front tires.
When one joint is badly worn, chances are its companion joint on the opposite side will also be worn or near the end of its service life. The other joint may still be marginally within specifications, but for how much longer is anybody’s guess. Replacing both joints at the same time can save the vehicle owner some down time and future inconvenience.
Some ball joints are difficult to replace because they are pressed into the control arm. If your store has a hydraulic press, you can offer this service to your customers. Other joints may require the removal of mounting rivets or the complete replacement of the control arm, which means your customer may need additional tools (bushing tools, ball joint separator, etc.) to replace the joint.
Contrary to popular belief, the strongest distributors are not necessarily traded on Wall Street.Exhaust system parts include more than just mufflers, pipes and cats. An important component of the exhaust system are the exhaust manifolds that route the hot exhaust gases into the rest of the system.
Exhaust manifolds are hot exhaust products these days thanks to lean fuel mixtures, lighter-weight OEM castings, welded tubular steel manifolds, an aging vehicle fleet and good old wear and tear. Exhaust manifolds can fail for the same reasons as any other exhaust component. Heat, thermal stress and corrosion can produce cracks that result in leaks and noise.
Exhaust manifolds are not replaced as often as mufflers, pipes or even converters, but when a customer needs one, youve got to have a product line you can offer. New aftermarket replacement manifolds are available for a wide variety of popular engines even some that arent so popular but that have a high incidence of failure. Two of the most common applications for replacement exhaust manifolds are 302 V8 Ford pickup trucks and 350 V8 Chevy trucks. People drive old pickups forever, but the manifolds often dont go the distance. Another application is the exhaust manifold for 1987-90 Jeeps with the 4.0L engine. These are also a good mover.
Heres a related sales item: motor mounts. Loose or broken motor mounts will allow the engine to move excessively. This can increase the strain on the exhaust system parts that may lead to metal fatigue, cracks and exhaust leaks. When a manifold cracks or warps and loses its ability to hold a tight seal against the cylinder head, exhaust escapes into the engine compartment. The hot gases can burn nearby wires and hoses, causing additional problems. Worse yet, carbon monoxide vapors may find their way into the passenger compartment with potentially deadly results.
The first sign of trouble may be a whistle, a sputter or a roar from the engine compartment signaling an exhaust leak at the manifold. Sometimes the leak will be blamed on the exhaust manifold gasket if no cracks in the manifold are visible. But if the mating surface of the manifold is no longer flat due to heat distortion, the manifold will have to be resurfaced or replaced.
Pipe hangers and heat shields should be inspected to make sure none are broken, loose or missing.If a manifold has cracked or a bolt ear has broken off, some people will attempt to find a cheap replacement at a salvage yard. Good luck, because many manifolds that end up in salvage yards are only good for scrap iron. New aftermarket replacement manifolds are not that expensive, and theyll provide years of service something which cant always be said for used manifolds.
Another advantage offered by some aftermarket manifolds is an improved design. If the OEM manifold has a thin spot or weakness that leads to cracking and failure, the aftermarket manifold may be redesigned to improve the manifolds crack resistance and durability.
Some aftermarket suppliers also offer reconditioned exhaust manifolds. These are used manifolds that have been inspected, cleaned to remove rust and scale, and resurfaced to ensure a leak-free installation.
In addition to the manifold itself, your customer will also need new manifold gaskets and possibly any air-related plumbing (if so equipped) for the smog control system. You should also recommend new fasteners for the manifold. Reusing old rusty, corroded bolts is asking for trouble and a poor seal.
Replacing an exhaust manifold can be a time-consuming job if access is limited or the manifold is buried under other components. Your customer should use this opportunity to inspect the rest of the exhaust system to see if anything else may need to be replaced, too.
The catalytic converter, pipes and muffler all need to be carefully inspected for leaks or damage. If corrosion has gotten the upper hand, your customer may need a whole new exhaust system.Head pipes, particularly those on front-wheel drive cars and minivans with transverse-mounted engines, are subject to a lot of flexing as the engine rocks back and forth. Many import cars use a special flex pipe section in the head pipe to handle these motions. The flex pipe often cracks and leaks, so it may also have to be replaced.
WHEEL BEARINGS & HUBS
When auto makers started using sealed wheel bearings back in the 1980s, many technicians thought wheel bearing service was a thing of the past at least for newer vehicles.True, sealed bearings don’t need any maintenance or adjustments, but that doesn’t mean they last forever. Like any moving part on a vehicle that is subject to wear and contamination, wheel bearings can and do wear out.
The first symptom of wheel bearing trouble is usually noise a rumbling, growling, chirping or cyclic noise from the vicinity of the wheels is a good indication that the bearings need to be inspected without delay.
Wheel bearing noise is usually proportional to vehicle speed and does not change when accelerating, coasting or decelerating (which distinguishes it from differential, transmission or U-joint noise). The noise may change when turning, or become louder or even disappear at certain speeds. But it shouldn’t be confused with the clicks and pops produced by a worn outer CV joint on a FWD car. A bad outer CV joint usually only makes noise when turning, not when driving straight ahead.
If a sealed bearing assembly is noisy or feels rough when the wheel is spun by hand, the bearing and hub assembly needs to be replaced.
When looking up the replacement unit, you may have to ask your customer whether or not the vehicle is equipped with antilock brakes. On some cars with ABS, the wheel speed sensor is part of the wheel bearing and hub assembly.
On older vehicles with serviceable wheel bearings, the bearings and races must be removed, cleaned, inspected and repacked with grease every 30,000 miles or according to the recommended service intervals. The bearings should also be inspected if the vehicle is experiencing steering looseness or wander, or if the bearings are making noise or feel rough when a wheel is spun by hand.
If the rollers, balls or races are worn, pitted, cracked or show any damage, replacement is required. These types of wheel bearings and races must always be replaced as a matched assembly.The bearing hub bore should also be inspected for damage and proper bearing fit. Heat discoloration of the bore or bearings would indicate loss of lubrication or overtightening. If the bore is damaged or does not hold the race snugly, your customer will need a new hub, rotor or drum.
Spindles on rear-wheel drive vehicles also need to be inspected for straightness, damage or cracks.
Customers who own boat trailers and other utility trailers should also pay close attention to the wheel bearings on their trailers especially if the wheels are in water frequently. Bearings on boat trailers should be cleaned, inspected and repacked annually.When serviceable wheel bearings are repacked or replaced, new grease seals must also be installed. Reusing old grease seals is risky because they are easily deformed during removal. Grease leaking past an old seal can contaminate the brake linings and increase the risk of bearing failure from the loss of lubrication.
Wheel bearings require special high-temperature grease such as #2 NLGI lithium-based grease or a synthetic wheel bearing grease. Ordinary chassis grease must never be used to lubricate wheel bearings. Make sure your customer gets the correct type of grease. No grease or maintenance is required for sealed wheel bearing and hub assemblies.
Serviceable wheel bearings must be adjusted after they have been installed to achieve the proper clearances or preload. Sealed wheel bearing and hub assemblies are preset at the factory and require no adjustments.
If serviceable wheel bearings are not adjusted correctly, they may cause steering problems and/or fail prematurely. Tapered roller bearings on the front of RWD vehicles are never preloaded. They’re snugged up with no more than 15 to 20 ft. lbs. of torque while rotating the wheel to make sure the bearings are seated. Then the adjustment nut is loosened 1/6 to 1/4 turn, and locked in place with a new cotter pin. As a rule, end play should be about .001 to .005 inch. On FWD cars, the front bearings typically have zero play or a slight preload. Too much play can allow steering wander, which may be mistaken for worn steering components or the need for an alignment. Bearings should be adjusted according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Don’t forget to ask about special tools, too. Some bearings can be difficult to remove and may require a special hub puller for disassembly and/or drivers to install the new bearings.
Alternators are a hot selling product today because the electrical loads in today’s vehicles are higher than ever before. Aany alternators put out nearly twice the amperage that was commonly required only a decade ago. Even so, the combination of higher loads and hotter underhood temperatures often proves lethal. Consequently, alternator sales are up.
The rising popularity of high-powered aftermarket sound systems has also created a booming market for high-output alternators. It takes a lot of amps to keep the subwoofers throbbing on many of these systems, more than many standard alternators can produce. Several aftermarket suppliers now offer special replacement alternators for extreme audio applications that crank out more amps to keep the decibels flowing. Some units are rated up to 200 amps, which is nearly double that of the stock alternator they replace. The higher outputs are achieved by beefing up the stators with more windings and reducing the air gap between the stator and rotor to boost efficiency.
Recommend a high-output, “police-special” alternator for these kinds of applications. Like the alternators designed for extreme audio applications, alternators designed for high-load emergency vehicles feature special heat-resistant construction that is far superior to the parts used in a typical reman or even a new alternator. The most common applications include the Ford Crown Victoria and Chevy Impala.To handle the heat, some of these units have housings plated with high-temperature ceramic coatings. Stators may also be wound with Nomex insulation, the same kind of heat shielding used in flame-resistant clothing. Soldered connections are coated with silicone to reduce corrosion and protect against heat and vibration, and high-temperature diodes are used for maximum durability.
Another trick that helps boost the amps is a smaller diameter pulley. Reducing the size of the pulley increases the rpm of the alternator at idle so it can produce more amps.
These special high-output alternators for extreme audio applications cost more than standard alternators, but when you consider what it costs to replace one stock or reman unit after another because they can’t take the heat, a high-output alternator is well worth the bucks.
The same goes for many police car applications. Squad cars are alternator killers too. Most of these vehicles are constantly on the go or sitting for prolonged periods of time with the lights, heater or air conditioner and communications equipment running. The emergency lights alone can suck up to 85 amps from the alternator, which is a heavy load. That’s why alternators in police cars typically last only about a year or so.
For your average customer, you can offer him a new or reman product. Even in these applications, overloading is a common cause of premature alternator failure, especially in heat-sensitive, high-output units such as Ford IAR and Delco CS Series alternators. For these kinds of applications, a high-quality replacement product is essential.Some electrical rebuilders cut costs by reusing old bearings, slip rings and other parts that should probably be replaced. Some only polish the slip rings, which can cause the brushes to bounce if the rings are out of round. This creates electronic noise that may interfere with the operation of other onboard electronics. Voltage regulators, rectifiers and diodes should be tested and replaced as needed to assure reliable operation. Ask your electrical suppliers what parts they typically replace and what kind of warranty they offer. Then recommend the best products to your customers.
Bench testing a customer’s old alternator in your store can help determine its condition and eliminate unnecessary warranty returns. Many “defective” alternators work perfectly when bench tested, so the problem is obviously elsewhere in the electrical system. Helping your customer sort out these problems before he replaces the alternator can save everyone a lot of trouble.Other points to keep in mind: replacement alternators should a