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    • By Counterman
      Let’s face it: Competition is fierce in the automotive aftermarket.
      In major metropolitan areas, it’s not uncommon to see an AutoZone across the street from an O’Reilly Auto Parts that’s next door to an Advance Auto Parts or NAPA Auto Parts store (or some combination of these four chains in close proximity to each other).
      The Big Four retailers spend large sums of money trying to differentiate themselves through marketing – and they’re pretty darn good at it. Anyone who has listened to a baseball game on the radio likely has at least three jingles committed to memory:
      “O-O-O-O-Reilly!” “NAPA Know How”   “Get in the Zone – AutoZone!” Advance might not have an indelible jingle (yet), but the retailer hit a home run with its “DieHard Is Back” mini-movie/commercial, which aired Oct. 18, 2020, during a FOX NFL telecast.
      Recently, I stumbled upon an absolute gem of a commercial on YouTube. Posted in 2011, it’s a 30-second spot for NAPA, featuring an expressive counter pro who knows what he’s good at – and what he isn’t good at. You can watch it here:
      My favorite aspect of the commercial is the counter pro’s facial expressions – he really sells it. And the customer goes from lying on a hospital gurney to grooving in the store in a heartbeat.
      If you have a favorite parts-related TV commercial or marketing campaign, let us know at [email protected]
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    • By Counterman
      In spite of the skyrocketing cost of fuel, I’m still looking forward to a couple of summer road trips. While there’s nothing we can do about the prices at the pump, keeping our vehicles properly maintained can help those gallons go further.
      Getting ready for a long trip is the perfect excuse (not that you really need one) for your customers to check off a number of maintenance items that can help make their time behind the wheel more enjoyable. It also can make it a little less expensive!
      Many people wait until the last moment to do a “pre-trip inspection.” How many times have you had a customer tell you that they need a laundry list of items “immediately” because they’re planning on leaving for a long trip “tomorrow?”
      Sometimes these requests are easy to fulfill, especially if they’re simple maintenance items. Other times, the customer really should have addressed the issue long before now! Either way, we can help in a number of ways to get them on their way safely and efficiently.
      While the traditional “tune-up” is fast becoming obsolete, one of the essential items from this service is still a common sale.
      Changing the engine air filter is a quick and easy way to ensure proper airflow into the engine, and that filter also is the first line of defense against dirt and other contaminants. A clogged, dirty or damaged filter also can expose the MAF sensor to contaminants that alter its signal to the PCM, which can lead to a rich condition, wasting fuel. Examination of the filter also can indicate if there are worn piston rings or a fault in the PCV system. While examining the air intake, also look for cracks or gaps in the tube between the airbox and the throttle body, which can allow unmetered air into the engine, skewing sensor readings and altering fuel efficiency.
      Changing the cabin air filter not only will make the trip more comfortable, but it also can potentially lessen the strain on the HVAC system. Turning up the A/C to compensate for a clogged cabin filter can increase the load on the belt-driven compressor and therefore the engine. While you’re at it, have a look at the belt(s) too. Worn, glazed or slipping belts can cause noise, friction and even cooling-system or charging-system issues – which may leave you on the roadside rather than at your destination.
      Battery condition and state-of-charge should be tested periodically, and a pre-trip inspection is a great time to offer this service to your customers. No-start conditions are inconvenient at any time, but can cause much more anxiety when you’re miles away from familiar territory or service providers.
      Breakdowns become more inconvenient and time-consuming if you’re travelling to your destination on a tight schedule, or if you’ve drawn the “late-night” driving shift. If you do break down after dark, having functioning lights (especially your four-way flashers) makes you more visible to passing motorists, as well as emergency service providers like police or roadside assistance.
      Lighting and visibility checks also should include topping off the washer solvent, making sure your washer nozzles and pump are functioning correctly and changing wiper blades as needed, including the rear blade (if equipped).
      Fluids, filters, belts, wipers and electrical items all are tangible products, but one of the most important road-trip essentials is actually invisible … AIR! Properly inflated tires can have positive effects on fuel mileage, handling, braking and even passenger ride quality. Most of the vehicles on the road today have TPMS sensors to keep tabs on the tires, but it’s not a bad idea to get out the old-fashioned tire gauge now and then to double-check their calibration. On most vehicles, the spare tire is not TPMS-equipped, and should be checked manually for proper inflation.
      If a vehicle is not equipped with a spare, verify that the on-board compressor or emergency fix-a flat is accounted for!
      Speaking of inflation, the cost of the old “penny test” for tread depth has gone up to 25 cents. The old rule of thumb was that if you placed a penny into your tire tread, the top of Lincoln’s head should NOT be visible on a good tire. The distance from the edge of a penny to the top of Abe’s head equates to a tread depth of 2/32 of an inch, which is the DOT minimum before recommended replacement.
      Many tire manufacturers now recommend the use of a quarter for this “test.” The top of George’s head is 4/32 from the edge of a quarter, which gives consumers a little more warning before needing to discard their current tires. I still prefer to use an actual tread-depth gauge, but pocket change still works in a pinch. Wherever the destination this summer, your customers can save money, save fuel and save time by spending a little on preventative maintenance before they pack the car and pull out of the driveway!
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    • By Counterman
      The University of the Aftermarket Foundation (UAF) has introduced a new corporate-support aspect to its popular UAF Coffee Club recurring-donor program.
      Called the BARISTA level, the new donor program provides organizations with a pathway to join individual donors in “pouring it forward” to benefit of the automotive aftermarket through education.
      “We are excited to offer this unique new program to give aftermarket organizations a chance to ‘expresso’ their support and help provide scholarships and educational opportunities for the next generation of industry professionals,” said Mike Buzzard, UAF trustee and chairman of the UAF Coffee Club sub-committee.
      Organizations that donate a minimum of $3,600 to the UAF that is earmarked for the Coffee Club campaign will be recognized as BARISTA at the UAF Coffee Club event during AAPEX on signage, the UAF Website, UAF newsletter and other UAF communications. BARISTA donations apply toward Lifetime Trustee status.
      “BARISTA donors will join UAF Coffee Club members at a special networking event at AAPEX which has proven to provide a valuable venue and professional connection springboard for those new to aftermarket careers to interact with industry veterans,” said Buzzard.
      To learn more and become a BARISTA, contact UAF Executive Director Jennifer Tio at [email protected] For more information about the University of the Aftermarket Foundation and its available scholarships, or to make a donation, visit
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    • By Counterman
      I swore for years that I would never buy a brand-new car. I didn’t even want to make a car payment. You see, I’ve always owned cheap (read “broken”) cars. The way I see it, you either make a monthly payment to the bank, or to the parts store. Since I’ve been working on cars for most of my adult life, it made more sense to keep driving cheap cars and doing the work myself.
      That all changed when my 2003 Nissan Altima left me stranded on the side of the highway on my way to pick up my daughter from daycare. I was so thankful she wasn’t in the car with me yet; it was icy, snowy and just downright dangerous.
      I started looking for a new (to me) car that night. I couldn’t justify driving half-busted cars any longer, and I certainly didn’t want to put my then-3-year-old daughter in danger.
      Thanks, COVID …
      Fast forward a month or two, and it’s March 2020. Ohio shuts down, and there’s a lot of uncertainty. I was still searching for a newer car to buy at this point, and I was leaning toward a gently used VW Golf Alltrack. Then, in April 2020, VW offered 0% financing on its new cars.
      When I did the math, the payment on a new one was the same as the payment on a used one. So, I hurried up and scooped up a brand-new 2019 Alltrack, and it’s been my primary vehicle ever since. Mind you, this is the first nice car I’ve ever owned, and I was pretty excited to drive something that was still covered under warranty. But my inner car guy has a lot of influence, and before long I started to make some upgrades.
      Upgrades
      It started out slow. First, a set of WeatherTech floor mats. Then, I picked up some protective film for the headlights, taillights and fog lights. Next, I bought an auto-dimming rearview mirror with built-in HomeLink garage-door-opener functionality. I bought an entire arsenal of car-cleaning products, from microfiber towels to a DIY ceramic coating kit. This was the first nice vehicle I’d ever owned, and I wanted to protect my investment!
      Then the “real” upgrades started. Bigger front and rear sway bars helped to keep the body roll in check, and completely transformed the way the car drove around a corner. Aluminum skid plates underneath for added protection from whatever the roads in Ohio could throw at me. A set of projector headlights with HID lighting gave me unparalleled nighttime visibility. Then, I got the opportunity to test out a prototype 1.25-inch lift kit. Sure, it’s not much, but a touch of added ground clearance is always nice. It also brings the car up to the height that it should have been from the factory, in my opinion at least.
      The truth is, I simply can’t leave a vehicle alone. I have to make it my own, one way or another. But I enjoy the process, and it’s satisfying to watch it slowly evolve into exactly what I want it to be. I share this to help you get inside the minds of some of your more passionate DIY customers.
      Growing Opportunity
      I can’t help but look for things to change, upgrade or improve whenever I buy a vehicle. Doing this might not make sense to everyone, but it’s how I make my vehicles better for me. However, I suspect that I’m not alone in this mindset.
      With new-vehicle prices skyrocketing, it makes sense that someone might choose to repair or upgrade their current vehicle instead of trading it in for something else. And that’s a huge opportunity for the automotive aftermarket.
      According to the 2022 SEMA Market Report, U.S. consumers spent a whopping $50.9 billion on accessorizing and modifying their vehicles last year – an all-time high for specialty-equipment sales. Trucks are a major driving force behind this sales trend, accounting for nearly one-third of those sales.
      Considering that the Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States for many years – and the top three best-selling vehicles in 2021 were pickup trucks – this should come as no surprise. According to the SEMA report, sales of “utility accessories” such as truck bedliners, truck caps, racks, truck-bed covers and trailer and towing products are expected to grow from $3.79 billion in 2021 to $3.87 billion this year. If you’re not stocking truck accessories, you might want to give this category another look.
      Here’s the bottom line: Every time somebody buys a new or used vehicle, there’s an opportunity for us as counter pros to help them find the accessories they need. The question is, what are you doing to capitalize on this exciting category?
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    • DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.


      DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.


      DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at eManualOnline.com! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.

    • By Counterman
      Continental has expanded its line of hybrid-battery cooling fans to provide coverage for some of the most popular hybrid models on the road today.
      The growing line now delivers direct-replacement fans for Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, KIA and Toyota hybrid models from 2003 to 2021.
      “As the average age of hybrid vehicles on the road continues to climb, it is very important that the ‘air-cooled’ technology used to keep the battery and battery cells properly cooled continues to operate to OE specifications,” said Christina Bergstrom, Continental senior product manager. “That is why we have continued to expand our hybrid-battery cooling fan coverage to popular model years of the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala and Volt, Ford C-Max and Fusion, Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Toyota Camry and Prius, and more. The battery packs on these vehicles can begin to weaken after only five years of service and the cooling fans may need to be replaced in the seventh and eighth year in order to maintain required cooling performance.”
      Designed as an exact replacement for the original fan, Continental hybrid-battery cooling fans restore the original battery cooling performance to the vehicle. Ensuring that the fan is properly functioning is critical to maintaining the health of the battery and the vehicle’s overall fuel economy. The fans feature an OE design, including identical mounting locations and plug-and-play electrical connections, that helps ensure an easy installation.
      For more information, visit
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