Who is the mark and where is the marketing?

This is the internet and whatever I say is true, right? I’m superman, I am super intelligent, I am blah, blah, blah, etc, etc.
The problems really only come when you start believing it yourself or worse still, you try to maintain an unrealistic facade off-line.
I recently attended a seminar on e-commerce where the presenters were a particularly well known and successful Irish on-line car parts sales company. As I had only recently entered the on-line sales arena myself, it was an ideal opportunity for me to learn first-hand from those who set the industry standards and can call upon such exacting personal experiences.
The day was at times highly productive and informative when covering certain areas. However, it was also disappointing, if equally understandable, that the speakers did not delve into too much depth in terms of detailed data and figures relating to the business (i.e. how certain actions yields particular results, how some investments, financially or time-wise, are worth more than others). Essentially, the company did a fine job in outlining their own IT knowledge and business acumen in running an e-commerce and distribution operation.
However a number of presenting members of the company continuously proclaimed “we love car parts”. Strange, I thought, but ok I thought, giving them the benefit of the doubt. That they then reinforced it with the assertion that “every time a new range comes in we all go down and unpack the boxes, anxious to get our hands on them”, however was a step too far in the deep end for my own liking. This is, what some in the movie business refer to as ‘jumping the shark’ i.e. the point when the plot loses all credibility and becomes hard to believe.Image

This proclamation was cringe-worthy to say the least coming as it did in a room full of professional business people. However, to their credit they were not silly enough to try and justify themselves as experts in car parts. Like everyone I love good food, but I’m still pretty useless in the kitchen!
I have been in the coalface of the car parts supply business since 1984. I also employ mechanics in my workshop and work closely with them to gain knowledge and insight. Despite my vested interest lengthy career, and the life it has afforded me I maintain that you cannot love car parts. Is it possible to love brands? Sure! It might even be plausible to favour certain fitments and mechanical repairs over others, providing you are technically minded. You can love the business and all the activities it entails, but if I were to ask anyone which they prefer, the driveshaft of VW Golf or that of a Polo and why, I’d be met with some very strange looks, and rightfully so.
In reality I don’t imagine too many people in the room would be bothered whether their on-line protestations were true or not as it would have been excused as marketing, but to carry on the façade off-line was a mistake. Represent your brand but stay honest to yourself. Marketing your brand should be about identifying and duping marks. It should be about presenting yourself in a way that highlights all that is good (and true) about your business.

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A stitch in time

One of the lessons I have learned in life is that a very young baby will only cry for a reason. They might be hungry, tired or in pain but there is always a reason.

People should generally take this into account too when it comes to their car. When something unusual appears like a bang, knock or scraping noise it is happening for a reason. “A stitch in time saves nine” is never truer than when it comes to vehicle issues. Preventative maintenance is the key to low vehicle repair costs.

I served a client recently who called to purchase new wiper blades and during the transaction I was asked if I knew why there was a squealing noise when the brakes were engaged. I went out and inspected the vehicle to find the front brake pads were almost worn to the back plate but the situation was much worse with the back brakes.

Braking

Not only was the friction material of the brake pad worn through, the backing plate of the brake pad had cut grooves onto the brake discs badly damaging them as the metal backing of a brake pad is a stronger and more course metal than that of the brake disc. Unfortunately the client now needed to spend an extra €116 plus labour to rectify the issue.

A common habit is to avoid the knowledge and cost of what the problems may be but they rarely rectify themselves. Garage workshops are not like going to a doctor whereas they will generally inspect and diagnose an issue without charge and only bill you for the repair.

The next time you have a problem, speak with your mechanic early and avoid the major bills.

Happy driving.

Mountain climbing in slippers or winter tyres

You don’t need the roads covered with snow and ice to benefit from winter tyres. Winter tyres certainly come into there own with snow, slush and icy roads but that’s not the only time you benefit. When temperatures are low, Winter tyres also give better grip and traction on wet roads with their asymmetric tread pattern better designed to give more bite. Put simply, would you prefer to climb a mountain in a pair of slippers or with a chunky soled hiking boot?

Standard tyres are produced with a different rubber compound and perform better during warm climates but when temperatures drop below 7˚C they are greatly surpassed by the silica base mix on winter tyres which ensures that they remain soft in the colder temperatures.

With snowfall practically guaranteed again this year and the normal seasonal low temperatures in Ireland, October to March are the recommended months to drive on winter tyres.

Tyre retailers in Ireland have yet to experience a consistency and market to economically justify fully catering for the panic demand and are hampered by availability when the demand is high. As with all commodities, when they are scarce and in demand, the supply chain prices increase.

So the choice is left with you. If you decide on winter tyres this year, I advise you act early and pre-book them.

The downside of course is the cost of changing and storing the tyres when not in use. This begs the question, how would winter tyres perform during warm summer months? With summer tyres of comparable quality, wet cornering and breaking would be better by approximately 10% and as much as 15-20% in dry breaking so it makes sense to change back to a rubber compound more suited to the warm conditions.

Whatever you decide, please drive carefully this winter and always remember that other road users may not be as well prepared as you.

Should you have any further questions on tyres or indeed technical car issues, then simply ask. I would be happy to help.

Coolant and Antifreeze, the important facts

The advent of an oil change as opposed to a car service has become popular in recent years resulting in the increase of larger repair issues. Oversight of the antifreeze/coolant concentration levels is a major factor of longer term substantial damage.

Topping up the coolant level may not be good enough

Antifreeze or engine coolant, which are now one, are depleted in use and need to be changed every two years to replenish the additives that protect the cooling system from water, which pits the metals and causes rust and corrosion. Additives also prevent foaming and electrolysis. Your vehicles cooling system should have an antifreeze/coolant concentration to water of 50% in Ireland, up to 70% in colder climates and 35% in hotter climates. Older vehicles inevitably have higher friction levels and are susceptible to generating higher temperatures.

Vehicles using Long Life antifreeze, should be changed every 4 years or in and about 80,000 Km.

The importance of antifreeze/coolant.

Alcohol was used in cooling concentrations in the early days and worked well to prevent freezing but achieved nothing in the prevention of corrosion. Chemicals and additives are used in modern solutions to prevent water from both freezing and over heating, particularly in vehicles with air conditioning. The solutions now also give engines protection all year round and do not damage the rubber and plastic components. It also stabilizes the viscosity, preventing thickening and foaming.

Demand for space under the bonnet has exacerbated in the modern vehicle. When coupled with the consistent introduction of higher performance additions and smaller more powerful engines and the necessity of plastic components, the demands of the modern solutions are much more severe. Average engine temperatures run at 140 degrees C so the proper amount and concentration of coolant in your engine is vital to protect it.

Water running over differing metals develops a small electrical charge which will damage and pit engine surfaces and can cause ruthless damage to your car’s engine components. The additives in coolant neutralize this but they are depleted over time.

So how will you know if the coolant level is correct?

It is not as simple as making sure that it is topped up to the max level in the coolant bottle. As models differ it is best to consult the vehicle manual for the correct type and capacity. Conventional coolant which is Glycol based and blue/green in colour can be checked using a hydrometer but a refractometer is needed for the (red/pink) Long life coolant which is a propylene glycol, as it has a specific gravity much closer to water.

Select your typefrom you vechilce manual

With the use of a multimeter it is possible to measure the voltage content. Simply place the earth probe on the negative pole of the battery and place the top of the positive probe in the coolant. A reading above .20 volts is high and damaging, and signifies you need to change your coolant.

Alternatively call to your local mechanical garage and have them check it for you.

*Antifreeze Concentration Chart

TEMPERATURE c. ANTIFREEZE/COOLANT CONCENTRATION WATER CONCENTRATION
32 35% 65%
25 33% 67%
20 33% 67%
15 33% 67%
10 33% 67%
5 33% 67%
0 33% 67%
-10 39% 61%
-20 44% 56%
-30 48% 52%
-34 50% 50%
-40 52% 48%
-50 56% 44%
-60 59% 41%
-70 64% 36%
-84 70% 30%
 

Blog Target

I have spent the last 24 years in the Motor Parts industry and also over the past two years in the Tyre and Mechanical repair business, dealing with customers and giving them advice with their vehicle issues as my knowledge of the products, problems and processes are vast. I have been dealing with everything from cars to light commercials but not heavy commercials/trucks.
Some problems are repetitive, for example which is the right oil for my car and which brand should I use? And of course new ones come along all the time like the current issue with E marked tyres. So I have decided to create this blog to share the knowledge and help as many people at once as possible. I would be delighted to help you so please let me know what it is I can do for you.