Service

Spring servicing: Get ready for your first customers

Posted By: Tracy Martin
Post Date: 01/17/2014

They’ll be here before you know it, so be ready with batteries, tires and other items they’ll need off the bat.

MANY ENTHUSIASTS’ magazines run stories in their September or October issues about how to store motorcycles or ATVs over the winter season.

These articles typically offer useful advice about how to prepare batteries, tires, engines and other components to survive cold winter months with the goal of easy spring “reactivation” of two- and four-wheel vehicles.

While you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it add fuel stabilizer to the gas tank or connect a smart charger to the battery.

In a perfect world, if your customers followed the advice that these articles suggest, they would not have many of the problems that show up in your service department at the end of winter. While you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it add fuel stabilizer to the gas tank, or connect a smart charger to the battery, and this annual neglect of powersports vehicles stored in garages, sheds or outside provides an opportunity to sell parts and service come spring.

You know they’re coming. Phone calls like “My bike won’t start,” or “Do you offer towing service?” Pickup trucks or trailers transporting motorcycles that show up in your parking lot with non-running engines. Now is the time to get your service department ready to deal with spring.

PREPARE YOUR INVENTORY

Let’s start out with inventory — after all, when spring customers show up you have to have the right parts and accessories to sell them. The two most common items are batteries and tires. Make sure that you have these in stock for the most popular vehicles that you sell.

Batteries are usually shipped dry, but you should have some filled, charged and ready to go. When a customer shows up with a bike that had to be jump-started, and you install a new battery, they won’t be happy if they have to wait while you charge it before they can leave.

In addition to your usual inventory of tires, look back at what motorcycles you sold two and three years ago. These are the vehicles that will typically need new tires, especially if owners only ride a few thousand miles per year.

Having sufficient quantities of air and oil filters, and spark plugs is an inventory no-brainer for the start of a busy season, but there are some non-OEM parts that are not as obvious that should be stocked.

If your loading dock is tied up, or you don’t have one, you’ll have to use ramps to unload all those bikes with dead batteries. Your customers may have used a 2×6 board and three people to muscle the bike into the bed of a pickup truck, but with the right set of ramps it’s a one-person job.

Use this opportunity to demonstrate how easy it is to unload a bike from a pickup or trailer using a set of ramps that are available for sale. Check out Ramp Master for aluminum ramps that fold and will fit into a pickup bed. While you’re showing them the benefits of using real motorcycle ramps, talk about tie downs and wheel chocks. My favorite is the Pit-Stop/Trailer-Stop Wheel Chock by Condor.

Because you will be replacing lots of dead batteries, it’s a perfect time to sell customers a smart battery charger. Yuasa has a new 1 amp Automatic Battery Charger & Maintainer that is an excellent choice for powersports home charging. In addition, you can upsell the battery charger with an easy way to connect it to the vehicle’s battery. Powerlet Productsmakes all types of electrical connectors and adaptors for just about anything that can be connected to a motorcycle or ATV.

TIRES AND BATTERIES

As mentioned before, tires and batteries are probably the two most replaced spring items. For any motorcycle that comes into your shop inspect the tires for tread depth (3mm or less and it should be replaced) and for sidewall cracking or hardness and overall condition of the rubber.

Use the date code on the tire’s sidewall (located next to the letters DOT) to determine its age. The first two numbers represent the week of manufacture and the last two are for the year. A date code of 0611 shows that the tire was made in February, sixth week of the year, in 2011. Tires that are three to four years old or older will have relatively hard rubber and should be replaced.


Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Md., came up with a clever marketing idea for selling tires — the Tower of Shame. The tower (see image, right) is easy to create. Just stack tires that should have been replaced long before they actually were (tires with the cord showing, bubbles, blowouts, etc.) and place it where customers can see what rubber other riders trust their lives to. It’s a great way to start a conversation about tire replacement.


Just like tires, batteries should always be tested even if the vehicle is in for other service. It’s a familiar story: if a motorcycle, ATV or watercraft leaves your shop and soon after the battery goes dead, it’s going to be the dealer’s fault, so be proactive when it comes to batteries.

Battery testing used to be somewhat time-consuming, because the battery would have to be charged and then load tested. This is not true anymore, and there is battery test equipment that measures a battery’s internal resistance. Yuasa’s Digital Powersports Battery Tester (part number YUAOOBTY01) checks a battery’s health, state of charge and if it’s good, bad or weak in about 30 seconds — and the battery does not even have to be charged or removed from the vehicle for testing.

A final tip: if a customer brings in a vehicle that’s been stored over the winter and the engine is running rough, or it’s hard to start — put some fresh gas in the tank. It’s amazing how many problems rotten gasoline causes, and this simple fix provides an instant tune-up.

Author’s note: Many thanks to Chris Buell, Service Manager at Bob’s BMW, for his assistance with this article.