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Unconventional Ways To Improve Fuel Economy (Part 4)

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There are quite a few unconventional ways to go about improving fuel economy on your vehicle. By taking a closer look at the fluids your vehicle uses there arises an opportunity to service these systems to maintain or improve your vehicles efficiency. One of the most critical and over looked fluids your vehicle requires is transmission fluid.

Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is the most complex of all automotive lubricant fluids. Not only does it have to reduce friction to prevent wear like all lubricants but it also has to allow a certain level of friction so clutch materials can engage.

Transmissions have seen array of continuous improvements in the past few years including new fuel-efficient transmission designs, such as the Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) and the Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). Most manufacturers use proprietary frictional materials to create their own blend of fluid that meets the specific demands of their vehicle.

To improve the fuel economy of an already efficient system would be tough. However, with a vehicle that has 30000 miles or 48 000 kilometers or more there is hope. Over time transmission fluids degrade like all lubricants do due to temperature, hours of operation, and load. This degradation of fluid leads to a decrease in efficiency and also fuel economy. The best thing to do is to replace this fluid as per the vehicles recommendations. Also, the fluid for most vehicles is proprietary so there is no need to add any additional additives since the fluid is designed to perform optimally from day one.

In summary, replacing the transmission fluid according to the manufacturers recommendations will ensure this system continues to deliver smooth driving with optimal fuel economy.

VW Jetta Maintenance Light Reset

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Here is a video showing how to reset the maintenance light on 2005-2010 Jetta's after the oil change.  The instructions are also available on the home page of OilReset.

Buying Windshield Wipers on a Sunny Day

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Windshield wiper blades fall under the category of preventative maintenance. This means that the part should be replaced within a specified time period regardless of condition to ensure optimal performance. For as long as I can remember, wiper blades have been recommended to be changed every six months. The rationale, to ensure the wipers performance would not decrease driver visibility. However, recommending a change of wipers to a customer whose blades are performing well can be a challenge.

It appears that the windshield wiper industry has responded to this consumer buying pattern of “Why replace it if it’s still working?” Bosch has announced that its latest Icon wiper blade line will last beyond 12 months.Bosch Wiper Blade

The key to replacing wiper blades is to follow the preventative maintenance recommendation of every 6-12 months depending on the wiper blades you use and not wait for them to be wiping poorly during the rain. I always found the best way to recommend wipers to a customer was to ask “How well were your wipers working the last time it rained?” This would always work for me even on a sunny day. However, nothing beats that first snowfall and the line up of customers who want their under performing wipers changed!

Article first published as Buying Windshield Wiper Blades on a Sunny Day on Technorati.

Staples – Great Memory

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When printing large documents or multiple colour documents Staples Print & Copy Centre is this writer’s most convenient choice. A few clicks of the mouse and the documents are in cue to print. The neat thing about their service is you receive an email acknowledgement of your order, when it is being printed, when it is ready for pick up, and every once in a while a personal phone call to tell you it is ready for pick up.

The order was ready for pick up the following day. Upon approaching the customer service desk, Kathleen, greeted me with a smile and welcome greeting. This is where the experience gets unique. She immediately pulls out her file folder and begins to thumb through while I say “I have an order to pick up and I think it might be under my last name.” All the while Kathleen is listening to me and acknowledging my statement. “Found it” Kathleen says. Incredibly she had found the order without me ever having to say my last name or provide a reference number. “How did you do that?” I asked in amazement. “I remember you” replied Kathleen. In most cases it’s my good looks that make me memorable but in this case it was purely Kathleen’s ability to remember her customers even if they were not frequent. Based on this experience, Staples, and Kathleen have acquired a customer for life as well as a recommendation to others!

The lesson to other retailers and front line employees is your customers want to feel appreciated and when it’s done in a unique way it stands out. Simply checking the name on a customer’s credit card and referencing their name can create a wow experience. This was and continues to be one of the secrets to my success in business.

Article first published as Staples - Great Memory on Technorati.

Cost of Preventative Maintenance Rising

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The cost of commodities has risen year over in many major consumer categories.  Some of these categories include groceries and automotive fuels/lubricants.   The latter seeing the greatest increase in year over year prices of 20% from February 2010 to February 2011.   This means, that the cost of maintaining your vehicle is getting more expensive.   However, with more vehicle systems being managed by electronics and less by mechanical inputs it is even more critical to perform preventative maintenance.

In many current vehicles the transmission is more costly to replace than the engine its self.  This speaks volumes since the transmission is often neglected during routine maintenance.   It is far more critical now to ensure vehicles being serviced receive a thorough inspection and the owner is made aware of the impact of putting off preventative maintenance.  A great example would be the impact of not changing the oil when the reminder light comes on.   A direct impact would be seen on fuel economy but a more indirect and long term impact may occur on the mechanical components of the engine that are being forced to work with degraded motor oil.

The message is simple, preventative maintenance is important even if the cost of engine oil and parts continue to increase because the cost of replacing components on a new vehicle due to lack of maintenance is not what it used to be.

3000mi Oil Change Intervals – Obsolete?

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"PureOne Oil Filter"

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One of the key fundamentals in the quick lube industry is the 3000 mi/5000km oil change interval.  This interval has been a long standing recommendation by car enthusiasts, mechanics, lubricant companies, and has been passed on for generations.  However, this recommendation has been squashed by Jiffy Lube when on June 14 they announced they are abandoning this recommendation and advising consumers to follow the manufacturer recommendation.  This means that quick lubes will continue to see the trend of customers only returning for service when their oil change reminder light comes on. 

One of the key concerns around waiting for the oil change reminder light is the fact that most conventional oil filters are not designed for longer drain intervals.  This could result in premature engine wear and decreased fuel efficiency due to a harder working oil pump.  The message to consumers is simple, follow your manufacturer recommendation but pay close attention to the quality of oil filter you are using and request the best quality possible.  This may mean quick lubes having to stock premium filters for common applications to give the customer the option.

 It’s clear that extended drain intervals are here to stay but are filter manufacturers and consumers ready for the change?

How Much Automotive Oil in a Barrel of Crude?

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Barrel of Crude

Have you ever wondered what is in a barrel of crude oil?  A crude oil barrel measures 42 gallons or 159L and can be refined to deliver over 11 different products.  The biggest use for crude oil is gasoline which makes up 19.5 gallons.  To put this in perspective, it takes roughly one barrel of crude oil to fill a large SUV!  Out of the total 42 gallons only .5 gallons can be used to make lubricants.  The term lubricants is inclusive of engine oils, additives, gear oils, and the list goes on.  It's pretty clear that it takes a lot of crude oil to produce a very small amount of engine oil.  So the next time a customer says that your prices are expensive just let them know that your prices are relatively low in comparison to the cost of refining and producing the oil.  On second thought, this might need be a good idea if your customer pays attention to market prices and expects lower prices when the price of crude is on the decline.

The fact that only so little lubricant is derived from crude is probably a key driver behind more advanced oil life management systems, extended drain intervals, and mandates from government bodies to improve engine efficiency through oil lubricants.

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