It’s Not Always the Part

It’s Not Always the Part
Rob Ingram owns and operates Eldon Ingram NAPA Auto Pro in Stratford, Ont. You can reach him at autoingram@gmail.com. (Photo : Jack Kazmierski)

How you install is just as important as what you install.

It’s not uncommon for service providers to see repeat repairs or parts replacement. We’ve seen cases where a customer brought a vehicle into the shop, such as a particular model of Volvo, to have the lower control arms and ball-joints replaced. The technician starts the R/O does the work and customer is soon on their way. A few months down the road, the customer comes back, with the same problem. So, the shop orders another replacement part, the work is performed and the customer heads out again, only to see the same problem resurface.

Make or break

At this point, things can become very difficult. The customer and the technician might think the part is bad and the customer may think that the shop is using poor quality parts, even if the warranty covers the replacement cost for the part.

In the case of this Volvo, it turned out that the technician wasn’t installing the part correctly. Instead of using a hammer to drive the ball joint into the spindle, a small slot on the back and a dome on the lower part of the ball joint, allow the spindle to slide in place. By not knowing this information and using the traditional technique of hammering the ball joint into the spindle, the technician was unknowingly flattening the dome on the bottom of the ball joint, changing the tension and causing it to wear out prematurely.

It was only from calling the parts manufacturer (after experiencing repeated failures) that the problem was finally addressed. Ultimately, the issue proved to not be the part itself, but the way it was installed.

And this incident is far from isolated. There are many other cases where components fail because they weren’t tested or installed properly. A common issue concerns the electrical system, including the battery, alternator and starter. If a battery is neglected and not holding a charge, it can damage the alternator and the starter. Too often, we see cases where a vehicle comes in and the entire electrical system isn’t tested. If the battery is bad, chances are the alternator will fail and maybe the starter will as well. And if you find yourself with an angry customer who’s had to replace two or three alternators in a relatively short period of time, it might often be because the battery was never tested when the car was brought in for inspection.

Correct procedures

Parts do fail, there’s no question but how they are installed and how maintenance/repairs are performed is a critical piece. We are lucky in that the network we are part of warranties parts for 24 months/ 40,000 km across North America, meaning that if we installed a part at our location and you drove to Florida within the warranty period, you could still have that part replaced at no charge. Nevertheless, the warranty is there for peace of mind and if the part was installed correctly to begin with, it’s likely the customer won’t need to have it replaced under warranty.

Today, with vehicles becoming ever more complex and the number of different parts required for specific models increasing, as well as running changes taking place during a vehicle’s production run (even within a single model year), it’s important for shops and technicians to research and educate themselves. It might mean the difference between having a loyal customer or losing one for life.

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