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O'Reilly: Our Stores, Your Stories - Derek (Beat)


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    • By Advance Auto Parts
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      link hidden, please login to view Promo Codes At Your One-Stop Automotive Parts Store
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    • By Counterman
      Online ordering is a great way of marketing your products to both commercial and retail customers. It’s a convenient way for them to engage with your store and your merchandise on their own terms.
      For the customer, there are many advantages to using your online portals over calling or visiting your location. They don’t need to leave their shop or home, they don’t have to wait on hold and they don’t need to rely on your personnel to guide them to the correct parts, pricing and availability information.
      Convenience, Speed, Availability
      Online ordering attracts the sort of consumer who is in search of convenience, speed and availability. These are the people who don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time in-store or on the telephone. This could be a commercial account that wants minimal interruptions to their workflow and needs parts found, quoted and delivered quickly. It also could be a retail DIY customer with very well-defined needs, shopping for a specific brand or price point, or simply researching a future purchase.
      For the store itself, online ordering may reduce the number of incoming calls or “drop-in” visits, and it may expose your store to new clientele who might not have otherwise purchased from you. You may consider fewer calls and visits as a negative outcome, but in reality, both of these outcomes can actually improve profitability.
      Existing customers who have embraced your online resources are still buying – they’re just buying differently. By placing their own orders remotely, they’re also giving your parts specialists an added opportunity to serve another customer (on the phone or in person), and to perform daily storekeeping tasks. A reduction in commercial phone traffic also allows your in-store personnel to spend additional time working on more complex parts requests, and helping close sales with those customers who require additional attention.
      There are drawbacks to online sales. Online shoppers don’t get your closely managed “in-store” experience, and they may receive less exposure to your other products, services and marketing. This has more impact on the retail trade, as commercial customers are most likely contacting you to fulfill immediate and specific needs, and are less interested in impulse items or the attractiveness of your plan-o-grams.
      For both types of customers, their “relationship” with your store might be put at risk if they don’t feel connected in a meaningful way. It’s important to use these online purchases as a gateway to building confidence and recognition for your store as a partner in vehicle repair and maintenance.
      Implied Commitment
      Offering your inventory online also represents an implied “commitment” to the customer. Online pricing and inventory availability must accurately reflect what’s actually on your shelves. Accurate inventory counts are crucial to any store operation, but some online sales also require an added element of scheduling. When an online platform allows for the customer to order non-stocked parts to be delivered from your DC or another store location, it creates an expectation of arriving at your store on schedule. The online portal has made the customer a promise that your store now must fulfill.
      Acknowledging or accepting any incoming order must be done promptly, and final processing or delivery of that order must be completed as promised. Keeping the customer informed in the event of any delay is even more crucial to online success, because of the “remote” nature of the transaction.
      It can be extremely frustrating to get a quote or place an order and then discover that the part is out of stock when you arrive to pick up the merchandise. This becomes even more of an inconvenience if the part has been ordered and pre-paid online. Many online-purchase platforms place a preauthorization hold on the purchaser’s credit/debit card. Depending on the card issuer’s policies, this “hold” may not drop from the account immediately. For some customers, this may prevent them from having enough money in their account to purchase the same part elsewhere until those funds are released. The repair can be delayed, and often, blame for the situation is assigned to you for “holding their money.”
      High-Maintenance Customers
      The final consideration when choosing to steer customers toward your online offerings is the customers themselves. We all have that customer who never seems to give us the correct application information, or even worse, insists that you send “both options” when a choice exists between two parts. This sort of customer is not the ideal audience for online ordering or “self-checkout,” as you may find yourself processing a large number of returns for unwanted or incorrectly ordered parts. It also will increase the number of “second deliveries” required to complete the job, and overstock for parts that are returned to the store.
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    • By Counterman
      For 2019 Counter Professional of the Year Pete Chapman, the key to his success at Car Parts Warehouse (CPW) boils down to one principle: If you want to grow your business, you have to “grow your relationships.”
      Cultivating customer relationships is more of an art than a science. It starts with outstanding customer service, of course. But it’s also about the little things – like making sure customers know that you value their business. And Chapman could teach a course on customer appreciation. 
      Chapman, who has been the manager of CPW’s Warrensville Heights, Ohio, facility since it opened in 2012, goes out to dinner with customers, and invites them to his home when he and his wife, Laura, are hosting a get-together. During the holidays, he sends dozens of Christmas cards to his customers, and delivers personalized gifts to his top accounts. Over the years, he has hosted a Christmas Eve fish fry at CPW’s Warrensville Heights facility, where he and Laura cook 40 to 50 pounds of catfish for his commercial and DIY customers.
      Saying “thank you” to customers is a familiar practice for Chapman. His father, Elvin, owned a repair shop in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Growing up, Chapman remembers how parts suppliers would send gifts to his dad – ranging from confections to Indy 500 tickets.
      “And I just saw the way that the different parts stores and vendors took care of him,” Chapman says. “They weren’t buying him. They were telling him ‘thanks.’”
      For Tony Wiederhoeft, an outside salesperson for the Auto Value stores in Mankato and Waseca, Minnesota, customer appreciation comes naturally. Like Chapman, Wiederhoeft attributes his success to the relationships he’s developed since joining Auto Value in 2019. In March 2021, Automotive Parts Headquarters (APH) recognized Wiederhoeft as the 2020 Auto Value Salesperson of the Year.
      “Once you build a relationship with [your customers], everything just kind of clicks,” Wiederhoeft says.
      Depending on the day, Wiederhoeft might visit a handful of shops or he might make it to 15 or more shops. No matter how many calls he makes, Wiederhoeft has embedded customer appreciation into his routine.
      “Sometimes, if they need a car pushed in, I’ll end up helping push a car in,” Wiederhoeft says. “Or if it’s a one-man shop and they need somebody to bleed the brakes, I might sit in the car and bleed the brakes.
      “The way I look at it, I work for them and I work for Auto Value. … They’re more than customers – they’re friends, they’re family. I’m not there just to sell them something. I’m there for them.”
      Wiederhoeft credits his employer, APH, for fostering the family atmosphere. On any given day in a normal summer, you’ll find one of APH’s events trailers setting up shop in one of its markets, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers for the local technicians. In the smaller communities where APH does business, “word gets around and we pretty much feed the community,” adds Jim Pascale, APH’s vice president of store operations.
      On especially hot summer days, APH delivery drivers bring ice-cold bottled water and even ice-cream treats to its professional customers.
      link hidden, please login to view Saint Cloud, Minnesota-based APH celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2020. To commemorate its centennial, APH had planned a number of customer-appreciation events throughout the year. The centerpiece of the yearlong celebration was going to be its 1952 International Metro delivery truck, which was completely restored and ready to deliver 100,000 ice cream treats to customers across APH’s six-state market. While the pandemic forced APH to scale back its in-person events in 2020, the Metro delivery truck hit the road the following summer.
      In September 2021, Wiederhoeft got behind the wheel of the vintage delivery truck to delight some of his customers. Of course, he made a point to visit his top accounts. But he also swung by a few shops “that I don’t do a lot of business with.”
      “I drove that ice-cream truck all day,” Wiederhoeft recalls. “We put some serious miles on it. I was in five towns in one day, and they loved it.
      “ … We opened up the side panel and everybody from the shop would come out. Some of them are looking at the vehicle, some are enjoying the ice cream, some are signing up for prizes. But I didn’t have anybody say, ‘I don’t have time for that.’ Every single one of them came out to check it out.”
      Getting Personal
      How do you build strong relationships with your customers? It’s not complicated. You have to spend time with them and get to know them, Wiederhoeft explains.
      “They tend to open up more to you when you open up to them,” Wiederhoeft says. “So I’ll buy them pizza or donuts or whatever, and sit down and just hang out with them.”
      By spending time with his customers, Wiederhoeft gets a good feel for their hobbies and interests. He takes some of his shops hunting and fishing. In August, he took some of his customers to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals drag races at Brainerd International Raceway, after receiving tickets for being the 2020 Auto Value Salesperson of the Year.
      “Instead of just taking my family, I also took a couple of my customers,” Wiederhoeft says. “They had the best time of their life, and we’re going to go back no matter what this year.”
      For one of his top customers, the event was his first drag race. “He was like, ‘Dude, we have to go back.’ He wants to bring a couple other people and make a whole weekend out of it this year. It’s the little things like that, I think, that make a world of difference.”
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    • By Counterman
      Nineteen sixty-five was a unique year for the Chevrolet Corvette. It was the first year for disc brakes, and they came on all four wheels. The odd part about it was you still could order four-wheel drum brakes as an option, and receive a substitution credit since they were less expensive than disc brakes. Most people were ecstatic about the change, but there were some who stuck with old faithful: the drum brake.
      Drum brakes work very well – for many reasons – but there’s one overriding factor that led to the popularity of disc brakes: heat dissipation. All brakes are nothing more than a way to convert mechanical energy into heat energy. When the brakes are applied, the friction of the pads or shoes slows the vehicle down and generates heat in the rotor or drum as that mechanical energy is transferred to heat energy through friction.
      The challenge with all braking is what to do with that heat. When too much heat builds up in either the fluid, the friction material (pads or shoes) or the rotors or drums, there’s a loss of braking force, which is known as brake fade. The goal with all braking systems is to remove the heat. The more heat that’s removed, the more you can put back in. Disc brakes do this very well – especially those with vented rotors. They have a constant airflow passing over them and through them, allowing them to dissipate heat rapidly.
      Heat retention is the only real drawback to drum brakes. Even though most of the larger drums have cooling fins cast into them, it’s still inherent to their design that the heat is trapped inside the drum and simply takes longer to dissipate. Early on, no one had problems with drum brakes. Over time, as cars got faster and auto racing became popular, the weak point of drum brakes became more evident.
      But I still like drum brakes, and one of my favorite historical points of interest is that prior to 1965, the top (drum) brake option for the Corvette included heavy-duty metallic linings, special drums and forced-draft ventilation. The design and ultimate use of the disc-brake equipment required considerable research and engineering because the performance drum brakes worked so well that it was questioned whether they could match that performance with a disc brake. It’s for this reason that the very first disc-brake design on the Corvette featured four-piston calipers at all four wheels – a design that would outperform the current drum brakes.
      Drum brakes still are commonly used as rear brakes, especially on trucks. It’s true that drum brakes are less expensive – and some will cite that as one of the main reasons – but that’s really only a small factor related to their use.
      Advantages of Drum Brakes
      Operationally, drum brakes have many advantages over their disc-brake counterparts. One is that they are self-energizing. What this means is that as the brakes are applied, rotation of the drum will draw the shoes into it, effectively applying additional pressure to the brakes without additional effort from the driver.
      If you’ve ever driven an old vehicle with four-wheel drum brakes – even one without power assist – they stop very well without a great amount of effort. The self-energizing feature of drum brakes contributes to this, but it’s important to note that the self-energizing feature of drum brakes makes brake modulation difficult, which is another reason that disc brakes are preferred for performance driving. Brake modulation is the ability to precisely control the desired amount of braking force.
      Have you ever wondered why drum brakes seem to last so long? Quite often when you perform an inspection of drum brakes, they’re still in good condition, even when you’ve already replaced the front brakes on the same vehicle two or even three times. This is because the surface area of the shoes is much greater than that of disc pads, so the brakes can perform the same amount of work with less effort. Even though front brakes are responsible for the majority of braking, if you have two comparable vehicles – one with four-wheel disc and one with front disc and rear drum – you still will replace rear disc brakes at least twice, if not more, compared to how often the drum brakes would need service.
      Another advantage of drum brakes on the rear is the parking brake. The levers and mechanisms that make the parking brake work are of basic mechanical design, and are easily and inexpensively incorporated into the drum brake. In addition, the self-energizing property of drum brakes not only works in either direction, but also adds to their gripping power, so the parking brake is very effective for heavier or loaded vehicles, as well as forward or backward (meaning parking on a hill is no problem).
      The effective nature of a drum brake as a parking brake is why most trucks that have four-wheel disc brakes have a small brake drum machined in the center of the rear rotors, and a complete set of drum brakes (cable-operated only) that are there for the sole purpose of a parking brake. Oh yeah, and the 1965 Corvette had the same setup for parking brakes.
      How They Work
      Now that we’ve gone over the basic theory and some of the pros and cons, let’s look at how a typical drum brake works. I use the term “typical” here, because there are many different functional drum-brake designs. But overall, the theory behind them is the same.
      The brake shoes are mounted onto a backing plate, held in place by springs that allow them to move and pivot as required during use. The shoes rest against the backing plate on multiple contact points. In between the shoes, usually located at the top, is the hydraulic actuator, referred to as a wheel cylinder. There also is a brake adjuster between the shoes, and a number of springs that aid the return of the shoes to their normal rest position after braking.
      Most drum brakes also contain a self-adjusting mechanism. As the shoes wear, it keeps them adjusted close to the drum, so they contact it right away under braking. Drum-brake shoes need spring assist to return during non-braking, so they don’t continue to self-energize. For these reasons (unlike disc brakes, which are self-adjusting by design), drum brakes must be adjusted on a regular basis. They’ve always had adjusters, but it was a manual process and a normal maintenance requirement. The self-adjusting mechanism eliminated regular maintenance.
      When the brake pedal is depressed, brake fluid is forced into the wheel cylinder, and the pistons in the wheel cylinder are then forced out, applying pressure to the brake shoes. The shoes are pushed into the drums and the self-energizing effect takes place, increasing the braking force. When the pedal is released, the springs between the shoes draw them back in and the fluid returns to the master cylinder.
      Service Life
      What makes drum brakes wear out? Naturally, the brake shoes can wear out, and the drums as well. All brake drums have a wear limit for the inner diameter. In many cases, the drums can be resurfaced on a brake lathe. However, if they’re outside of their wear limit, they must be replaced.
      Since the shoes typically last a long time due to their surface area, the lining itself is often OK. Some of the most common problems include leaking or seized wheel cylinders; rusted or broken springs and hardware; leaking axle seals, which allows differential oil to contaminate the brake linings; and seized parking-brake mechanisms and cables. Rust also can take its toll on the backing plates as well.
      Some brake shoes are made with the lining riveted to the shoe; on others, the lining is bonded to the shoe. In some cases – primarily related to age – the bonding will begin to fail, and the lining will separate from the shoe.
      link hidden, please login to view When it comes to service, it’s not uncommon to find drum brakes that are in good condition, but the wheel cylinders have begun to seep fluid. It’s acceptable in these cases to replace only the wheel cylinder (as long as fluid has not gotten on the linings), clean the hardware and lubricate the brake-shoe contact points.
      On the flip side, if the shoes are worn out or contaminated or if hardware is rusty and old, it only makes sense to replace shoes, hardware and wheel cylinders at the same time. Even if the wheel cylinder isn’t leaking, if you don’t know its age, you’re better off replacing it. It’s not worth risking a leak a short time down the road. 
      When replacing brake shoes, a common practice is to do one side at a time, so you always have one side assembled for comparison. This is always a good idea. Even if you think you’ll remember where everything goes, when you start to put drum brakes back together, the pile of springs and hardware can begin to look more like a Rubik’s cube than anything else.
      One of the most important details is the cleaning and preparation of the backing plates. Commonly overlooked are the contact points between the shoe and the backing plate. These often get grooved where the shoe rests, and/or rust builds up around the spot, creating the same affect. These contact points should be cleaned or sanded until they’re smooth, so the action of the brake shoe isn’t restricted. If the contact points cannot be smoothed out or if the backing plate is rusty and disintegrating, it should be replaced.
      A DIFM Shopping List
      While the standard brake-drum repair includes shoes, drums, wheel cylinders and hardware kits, there’s a lot more that you can recommend. Brake fluid, of course, is on the list, but here’s a complete list of items to turn it into a professional job:
      1. Standard hardware kits. Standard hardware kits include return springs; hold-down springs, pins and cups; and adjustment window plugs. There usually are a few extra parts since the kits are designed to fit multiple different applications. It’s important to note that the standard kits don’t include specific parking-brake adjusters or hardware.
      2. Parking-brake adjusters and hardware. Parking-brake adjusters and hardware are not part of most hardware kits, but they are an essential part of brake operation. Even if the original adjusters look OK, close examination usually will show that there’s enough wear on the self-adjusting mechanisms to prevent them from working properly.
      3. Brake lubricant. It can handle the heat of brakes, it’s designed to stay in place and not wash away and it’s designed not to damage any of the rubber seals and components it comes in contact with. Use it sparingly on the contact points of the shoe to backing plate and brake-shoe pivot points.
      4. Parking-brake cables. If there’s any question about cable condition, this is the time to replace them. They should operate smoothly and freely.
      5. Backing plates. Often ignored but readily available, if backing plates are severely rusted or grooved deeply where the shoes rest, they should be replaced. Once the brakes are disassembled, it’s usually not much extra work.
      6. Since the majority of drum brakes are on the back of trucks or vans, it’s not uncommon to have an axle-seal leak. If this gear oil contacts the brake linings, it will ruin them. At minimum, axle seals will need to be replaced, and sometimes there are worn bearings or axles that are the culprit as well. This opens a lot of doors for additional sales for rear-axle service.
      7. Special tools. You may be able to get by without, but there are several special tools for drum brakes that make the job go much easier. Hold-down and return-spring tools save a lot of time, and brake-adjusting tools also are very useful. Final brake adjustment always is performed with the drum on, and brake-adjusting “spoons” work a lot better than screwdrivers.
      8. Brake/parts cleaner. A must for drum-brake jobs.
      Tips for DIYers
      A do-it-yourselfer might have a lot of questions about drum brakes. Replacing drum brakes generally isn’t hard, but it’s important to take your time. Here are a few pointers that could help your DIY customers get the job done right:
      1. Primary vs secondary shoes. When you look at a set of brake shoes, you’ll see that the linings are different lengths. These are referred to as the primary and secondary shoes. During braking, the rotation of the drum moving in a forward direction will draw the front (primary) shoe into the drum. That motion then is transferred into the rear (secondary) shoe. This, again, is the self-energizing effect. Because it initiates with the front shoe, the front shoe provides a greater braking force. So, in order to balance the force of the two shoes, the rear shoe has a greater surface area of lining. I will cautiously say this is always true. But, this highlights the importance of doing one side at a time. As mentioned before, there are many different functional drum-brake designs, and it’s possible that there’s an application where this could differ. So, always advise on the side of what you know is true the majority of the time. But, if someone is working on an oddball application, make sure they research it.
      2. The balance of the brake drum is very important. Just like a wheel that’s out of balance, a brake drum can cause severe vibration for the same reason. Most of them have weights welded on the outside when they’re balanced during production. These weights can interfere with some aftermarket wheels. If that’s the case, the drums will have to be balanced in a different manner. Don’t just grind away or break off the weight.
      3. You’ll see a lot of vehicles with rear drum brakes, but very few with front. They’re out there, however, and they will appear from time to time. On vehicles with four-wheel drum brakes, the front brakes are larger in size from the drums to the shoes, so the parts will be different.
      4. If drums brakes aren’t properly adjusted, it will result in a low brake pedal and uneven wear, and the vehicle can pull to one side during braking. When it comes to adjusting them, the best procedure is to adjust them by hand until they’re close to the drum, but so you can still slide the drum on and off easily. Once you reach that point, with the drum installed, seat the brakes by depressing the brake pedal multiple times. If wheel cylinders have been replaced, they’ll need bled at this point. The brake pedal should feel good if the initial adjustment is close. Finish up the adjustment with the drum installed, using a brake-adjusting spoon through one of the access holes in the backing plate or on the drum itself. Adjust the shoes outward until the drum begins to drag moderately, then back off the adjuster until the wheel spins freely. This usually takes three to four clicks of the adjuster. Very slight drag on the drum is acceptable. Experience is the best teacher.
      5. Last but not least, clean, clean, clean, and prepare the backing plates so the shoe contact points are smooth. Replace the backing plates if necessary, and all hardware.
      Armed with these tips, you should be able to get your customers everything they need for successful drum-brake replacement and answer their questions. So, all that remains is what do you want on your classic Corvette?


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    • By Counterman
      As part of its 50th-anniversary celebration, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is featuring ASE-certified professionals through a series of
      link hidden, please login to view showcased in ASE communications, including its website and social media platforms. To submit a profile, ASE-certified professionals interested in sharing their story should visit
      link hidden, please login to view, complete the online form, upload their photo and click “submit.”  ASE plans to recognize and honor ASE-certified professionals throughout the year, including during Automotive Service Professionals Month in June. 
      Established in 1972 as a non-profit organization, ASE is a driving force in the transportation industry. As an independent third party, ASE upholds and promotes high standards of service and repair through the assessment, certification and credentialing of current and future industry professionals, and the prestigious ASE Blue Seal logo identifies professionals who possess the essential knowledge and skills to perform with excellence.
      Today, there are approximately 220,000 ASE-certified professionals at work in dealerships, independent shops, collision repair shops, auto parts stores, fleets, schools and colleges throughout the country.
      For more information about ASE, visit
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