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Time is one of those things that you cannot get back once it is gone. This is the same for you as a shop owner or mechanic as it is for your customers.


Many times, customers come in and we want to get them in and out as quickly as possible. This means that mistakes can happen and you need to be aware of this. The cause is because many times we take the wrong perspective on the issue of time.


Time is perhaps the most valuable commodity we have yet we don’t always do everything in our power to use it wisely. Most of what I teach involves investing some additional time up front before any payback can be realized. When presenting ways technicians and shops can make more profit from the brake jobs they are currently performing while at the same time reduce comebacks one of the most common responses I get is “That all sounds great BUT I don’t have the time”. Much of the time I spent coming up through the ranks was spent in busy shops. I know the demands this type of environment puts on everyone involved. I also know what happens when too many corners get cut in the name of getting one more car in. Getting that one extra ticket in may seem like the top priority but how much did it cost to accomplish it?

Balancing the demands of high volume and quality work is not an easy task whether you are the technician putting the work out or the person managing the work flow. We have all heard the saying “Nothing good in life is ever easy”. It is no different in this scenario. Accomplishing both goals in a consistent manner is what truly sets the TOP shops apart from the rest of the pack.

The brake inspection process is often shortchanged in an effort to maximize work flow. Common short cuts taken include no pretest drive, no underhood check, pulling only 2 or 3 wheels and never pulling the calipers. The perception is that by taking these and other shortcuts it is helping the shop’s busy volume. What is not considered is the “dead” bay time the comebacks caused by these shortcuts cost the technician and the shop or the loss of credibility that takes place each time a customer has to come back. The few extra minutes it would take to turn an incomplete inspection into a complete one will pay big dividends including more legitimate profit per job and less unproductive bay time. Here are some real life examples of how shortcuts cost money.

Seized wheel cylinder

1.1 Seized wheel cylinder

Figure 1.1 shows what a shop found when they went to bleed a system out after selling $600 worth of wheel based brake work. They never opened the hood until after the work was completed. The system had been contaminated with power steering fluid and required $800 in additional work. You or I wouldn’t want to be in the manager’s shoes who had to tell the customer would we? We have to ask ourselves was the time this shop saved in not performing an underhood inspection on each car worth it?

Swollen Diaphragm

1.2 Swollen Diaphragm

Figure 1.2 shows one of two seized wheel cylinders found on the third visit. The reason for each visit was warranty of the loaded calipers installed. The front brake pads on the vehicle were only lasting 2,000 miles. On the third set of warranty calipers, the shop finally took the time to check if the wheel cylinder pistons were actually moving – guess what they weren’t. This vehicle should be braking with a 60/40 front to rear split but because of the seized wheel cylinders it had zero rear braking. The braking balance on this vehicle was 100/0!

Missed Conditions

1.3 Missed Conditions

Premature pad wear, over heating, drag and brake noise can all be related to proper caliper function but how many shops check the function of the caliper during the inspection? Very few shops I see in the field ever take time to pull a caliper during the inspection. Not pulling the caliper can lead to missing both pad and caliper related conditions. Figure 1.3 shows some of what can be missed by NOT pulling the caliper.

Failure to pull some calipers will cost the shop the brake job in some  cases. The friction and caliper will look good on the outside but have hidden problems. The shop will give them a clean bill of health and miss the sale OR it could cost after the job is sold. If the shop sells based on the outside inspection and then finds other needs after the job is started it can get pretty ugly going back to the customer with additional costs.

A good technician should be able to perform a complete 4-wheel inspection on a typical vehicle in 15 to 25 minutes without missing anything. This is about 10 minutes more than what is being spent currently in most shops. That extra 10 minutes will work for you or against you depending on how you use it. The additional time spent to do a thorough inspection, should yield happier and safer customers because you are going to find things you may not have found otherwise.

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