BendPak BlogOctober 31st, 2016
A few years ago, a bunch of DIY’ers were asked about how much they save by doing their own repairs. They told researchers they save hundreds or thousands of dollars each year on regular maintenance and car repairs. Not surprising! While some jobs are best left to professionals, there are certain things you don’t need to lean on the shop to do for you. However, trickier jobs that involve work on the engine, exhaust system, shocks or suspension might not be manageable without a lot of experience or a buddy you trust. Regardless of your experience level, we’re approaching the end of fall, which means this is a great time to learn a few tricks to get your car ready for the months ahead.
With true/meteorological winter about a month away, a lot of people will be flocking to their local auto shops for some basic tune-ups, fluid checks, brake/wheel work, etc. If you live in a warm-to-moderate climate, you may still face the occasional cold front or winter storm. Winter, as you know, is unpredictable. Case-in-point: the winter of 2014-15 produced an unprecedented weather report for the country, with the West experiencing unusually warm temperatures while the East got blasted by cold and snow. Parts of Southern Canada and the U.S. were hit by an ice storm that took out the power for hundreds of thousands of residents. The year before, most of the country found itself chilled at one point or another. Snow and freezing temperatures remain possible in Florida, Texas, California, etc. Therefore, we think winter car checks should be considered non-negotiable for just about everyone.
Even knocking off a few items on this list at will save hundreds in costs at the shop. While some definitely require more experience than others, here are a few basic home maintenance jobs and repairs that you can do yourself, just in time for winter.
Tires, tires, tires
We put tires first on this list because it affects most winter drivers—less so if you live in warm-weather states. In general, tire pressure drops 1 psi for every 10-degree drop in temperature. Because under-inflated tires heat up during use and put undue stress on the tire structure, visually inspect your tires whenever the temperature changes significantly. As a rule of thumb, take an official pressure reading at least once a month. If you notice the telltale bulging at the sides of the tire, the cold weather may be causing your tire to deflate. Inflating your tires isn’t really a “repair,” per se, but it’s necessary preventative care.
If you’ve been driving around on your tires for a while, and especially if they’ve been under or over-inflated for an extended period of time, the old penny trick is a good test for tire wear. If you stick a penny in the tire tread and can see all of Honest Abe’s head, your tread is worn and your tires won’t be reliable in adverse weather. All-weather or cold weather tires are always advised for the winter months ahead.
When a mechanic changes your air filter, you’re paying a premium for cheap parts and easy labor that you can do yourself quickly and efficiently. Even if they tell you during a routine winter tune-up and inspection that your filters need to be changed, you’re not going to break your car by waiting a few days to order and install the part yourself. Tire and auto shops will often boast that they can change your air filters in less than 10 minutes. Sure, but so can you for about 10 dollars. This step-by-step guide on changing your air filter is useful, but don’t be intimidated if you don’t have compressed air. If you don’t have a ton of accumulation in your air filter housing, wiping it down or even washing it with soap and water will do the trick. Just make sure the filter housing is dry before putting it back in your car.
This one has people split in terms of ease-of-handling. While vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Tacoma make the DIY experience a lot friendlier, Porsche, the Ford Fusion and a number of other muscle/sport cars (to reference a few) have reputations for being time-consumers when it comes to oil changes. There’s a nice thread on easy/difficult vehicles to do oil changes on that is especially useful if you’re looking for a good DIY car-buying guide. Generally, if you’re ready for a bit of a mess and have all the right materials, you’ll get through your oil change without much fuss. By the way, if you’re new to vehicular DIY jobs in general, consider a Wrangler for your first fixer-upper.
The downside to doing your own oil changes is that you might not save much buying your oil filter and oil, and for some people, it’s not worth the time and hassle. If you really don’t like the idea of doing your own oil, don’t fret. No one will blame you for outsourcing the work. Our advice: oil changes shouldn’t cost more than $40 – $70 (the upper range for high-performance synthetic oil), so be sure you don’t overpay if you get your oil changed at a shop.
Adding Coolant / Radiator flush
Adding coolant is easy: open the coolant reservoir cap when your car is off and cool, and pour in the coolant. We’ll get to the more involved radiator flush in a minute. Especially as winter approaches, everyone needs to make sure their coolant has the right mixture of antifreeze, but too much can cause problems with fluid circulation and over-heating. A 50/50 ratio of coolant-to-water is most common. Extreme cold weather may call for a 70/30 mixture, but the added antifreeze makes it more difficult for your engine to cool. Conversely, more water helps the engine cool but reduces vehicle efficiency in cold weather. Your engine sensors are likely calibrated to give readings at the 50/50 mixture, so don’t mess with that unless you contact your vehicle’s manufacturer and find out if it’s safe.
We’re rating the radiator flush “medium,” but that’s more due to safety precautions you need to take rather than the actual difficulty of the task at hand. Every couple of years, your radiator will need a good flushing. The process is similar to an oil change, in terms of the draining that takes place. Car and Driver put together a great video that covers the basics, but we have to say… if you’re putting out a DIY guide, safety first! He should be wearing gloves. And so should you, if you’re flushing your radiator.
If you have two hands, 30 minutes, $50 and recently put another 30,000 miles on your vehicle, you qualify for a DIY spark plug change! (Note: some spark plugs are rated for more mileage.) The trickiest part about this job is that spark plugs need to be replaced in the right order. Only change one at a time, and reattach the wire to each before moving on to the next. This is one of those great repairs to do at home because of how easy it is and how cheap the parts are relative to what you’ll pay in a shop. Shops charge between $115 – $240, so it’s a real head-scratcher why people pay for something so cheap and easy to do themselves.
Difficulty: Medium – Hard
This is the most difficult DIY cost-saver on our list because a lot can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are more steps involved, including jacks and stands or a car lift. Brake pad changes require a serious understanding of your vehicle. You need to be able to look at your brake rotors and see if they need a resurfacing, which requires a professional brake lathe machine. Of course, you could always buy new rotors at $25 – $40 per rotor, which isn’t terribly expensive. The steps involved in this repair take the lingo to the next level, so if a phrase such as, “Compress the brake piston. Get out your C-clamp and put the end with the screw on it against the piston with the other end on the back of the caliper assembly,” has you flummoxed, don’t even bother. Take your brakes to the shop. With the money you saved doing the other repairs on this list, you’ll still be looking at one of the lowest repair totals of your driving life. Still, brake pads are not too difficult once you know what you’re doing, and you’ll save a lot of money changing them on your own; put this on your personal to-do list and set a goal, something like, “By next Christmas, I’ll be able to change my own brake pads.”
If you have questions or an article you’d like to see, drop us a comment! In the meantime, check out our shop equipment if you’re getting serious about taking your DIY skills to the next level or want to expand your shop’s capabilities with the best auto service equipment in the business.October 27th, 2016
If you want to skip this article and read the official government code, Title 40, Chapter I, Subchapter I, Part 279, you’ll learn everything there is to know about used oil disposal and recycling. For the rest of us, this article will serve as a brief guide to what you need to know about disposing of used oil and oil filters.
The oil change “discount”
Maybe you’ve had this happen to you: a sign is plastered outside your local quick-lube service: “Half off your next oil change!”—a seemingly great deal. You take in your car, stand in line in the lobby area and eyeball the chemically enhanced air fresheners that never actually smell like “New Car.” (What is that smell, anyway?) Finally, they ring up your tab, and it’s at least twice what you expected to pay. You smile knowingly and say, “Sorry, I think you forgot to add my coupon.” The guy behind the counter looks over his glasses and says, “Nope, that’s right.” Maybe he kindly explains that the hidden fees are related to waste disposal efforts for used oil. Maybe he just burps and blows bubbles with his gum.
Much to some people’s surprise, the fine print on certain so-called coupons and discounts on oil changes comes with baggage in form of extra fees. Most of these fees go toward the disposal of used oil. It’s not uncommon for half the cost of every oil change to be a cost-share with the business to cover EPA and state disposal fees.
Why are there fees?
Regulatory fees are in place to protect the environment and ensure bad stuff doesn’t get into our water, land, air, etc. To put things into perspective, the used oil from your last oil change is enough to contaminate one million gallons of water. Yikes! Now, it’s not BendPak’s official stance to get you riled up about the costs of doing business, because frankly there’s a way to turn all these regulations to your advantage and make a profit. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Government agencies consider free-flowing oil to be hazardous waste
In addition to federal EPA regulations, individual states can craft their own laws around waste disposal. California has recently tightened its shop oil regulations, and by “tightened” we mean imposed more punitive fees for businesses that improperly try to dispose of waste oil products.
Effective October 2016 (hey, that means the laws are in effect now), any oil filters that the government collects that have not been crushed, punctured and/or drained of oil will be subject to additional charges and fees than days past. Not only that, the government reserves the right to change a business’s generator status from “small quantity” to “large quantity,” which means heavier regulations and fees on top of heavier regulations and fees for all future filter disposals. Double yikes! It’s not just California: all 50 states have evolving laws around this. Fortunately, when oil filters are crushed and their oil is removed, you wind up with two items to recycle and/or re-purpose, often at a profit: the filters and the oil.
While it’s mainly the shops that stand to benefit financially for oil and filter recycling, individual DIY’ers need not worry about being fined for doing their own oil changes. In fact, stores like Wal-Mart, as well as most auto shops, will take your unwanted oil waste off your hands free of charge. Auto shops may be especially keen on this, as the collected oil can be re-purposed in different ways. Some shops keep their oil in-house and use it to power waste oil heating devices.
Oil filter crushers solve every business’s problem
If your shop regularly works with oil waste, there’s no reason not to have an oil filter crusher. We at BendPak / Ranger make a particularly good one with the RP-50FC Oil Filter Crusher. The most important feature of any crusher is how much oil it removes as it flattens the filters. The RP-50FC, for instance, efficiently removes 95% of residual oil. If you already have an oil filter crusher that doesn’t get the oil out to your state and federal governments’ complete satisfaction, you’re going to get fined, and your crusher will become a useless expenditure against your bottom line. As you should already know, the government will show no leniency when it comes to fee collection.
When oil filters are recycled, they are no longer considered hazardous waste. Steel producers will gladly re-purpose them as scrap feed. The waste oil itself can be re-purposed or re-refined into usable oil, avoiding hazardous waste fees, as well as the higher costs of constantly buying virgin oil. Some shops efficiently re-refine the same oil over and over again. There’s no limit on how many times oil can be re-refined, and re-refined oil is just as good as virgin oil.
When all is said and done, with an oil filter crusher, you no longer have to worry about paying exorbitant disposal fees. You’ll also be able to offer more competitive price points and draw a better profit from your customers because you won’t be paying half your profit to the government. So fret not, oil shops and DIY’ers. With the right attitude and plan in place, you’ll never have to pay hazardous waste disposal fees again. Cheers to that!October 7th, 2016
We searched the Internet to find the worst car lifts ever built, and they come from all over this great nation of ours. Seriously, folks. Buy a real car lift before you attempt to replicate any of these hilarious-yet-stupid makeshift heaps of beautiful junk.
1. 101 Ways to Use a Lead Pipe You Found Sticking out of the Ground
Keep an eye on the back-right chassis corner when he lifts it up. It totally doesn’t scare us one bit.
2. Do Away with Pesky One-Touch Button Controls
Ancient man probably lifted his chariots this way. Ancient man also had a life expectancy of 35 years.
3. “I’m Not Saying It FELL… I Feel Like You Aren’t Listening.”
We shared this photo with our engineers, sales team and customer service reps, and no one is in total agreement on this one. Is it Photoshopped? Is the bed supposed to be… bolted on? Someone help us out here.
4. But… they said I should use frame cradle pads on my truck!
We’re all about the frame cradle pads. But, did we say smash them against the vehicle chassis, nowhere near the lifting point, without using the necessary truck adapter set? How long do you think it took for them to go from “well, it’s still crushing the frame, better lift it higher,” to whatever the opposite of that thought is?
5. “Honey, Your Car is on the Fritz Again. Grab my Log. And my Really Big Stick. And My Tractor. No, the other Tractor.”
We’ve probably said all we need to say.
6. Just in Time for Halloween
This looks like something you’d see in a zombie movie when they try to rebuild society using PVC pipe and duct tape. Someone get this guy a scissor lift, please.
7. Caught Playing Transformers on the Side of the Road
Never mind that the truck is perfectly capable of towing the car. Ignore the incredibly unsafe center of gravity this rig creates. Forget about the immense effort, timing and planning it must have taken to get it up there in the first place. Let us focus on the achievement. Let us argue over whether they called the police or got pulled over. And yes, let us remember the time two grown men tried to make a real-life Transformer out of their cars. In the rain. We give thanks to the person who pulled over to capture this moment.
8. 50% Ramps, 5% Blood Alcohol, 100% Worst Car Lift Ever Built
We’re not saying it’s Redneck. Someone else said that.
This link will take you to a place where you can rest your eyes. If you have more crazy car lifts that you think represent the worst ever built, share them with us, and we’ll all have a laugh.September 30th, 2016
Men, there’s something about that period of time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving that gets kind of… repetitive. The holiday season is still a ways off, the weather is suffering from an identity crisis and the work week is really starting to drone. Your motorcycle has been covered on a parking lift in the garage all summer. Your Corvette’s suspension needs a little tuning. The Honda needs an oil change. Your Camry’s spoiler has graffiti all over it and needs a paint job because Camrys with spoilers are super sweet, you keep telling yourself. Basically, you need a reason to get out of all that life stuff they’re making you do and chill in the garage. If they can’t handle that, doesn’t matter, ‘cos they’ll have no idea where you are or what you’re doing. When you can’t find another way out, here’s how to get it done without getting caught.
- Call in sick
Level of difficulty: Easy
Risk of getting caught: Low – Medium
The old Ferris Bueller routine. Of course, this only works as a “weekend getaway” if you actually work on the weekend, but you can always choose to extend your weekend into Friday or Monday. It’s easy to pull this one off; most of us have done it at one point or another. A simple email or phone call is all it takes. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t even need to “sound sick,” and you should never provide excessive detail. Don’t make up a long story you have to stick to, remember and defend later.
I woke up with a sore throat and have a doctor appointment this afternoon. I won’t be able to make it in today but expect to be back Monday. Thanks.
The less you say, the better. If you don’t have any sick days to use, this probably isn’t the best option, but those sick days are yours, so you might as well use ‘em! (Just hope you don’t need those days in case you actually get sick.)
The beauty of the call-in, especially if it’s a weekday, is that most distractions are avoided: friends and family all assume you’re at work, and the kids are at school, so no one is there to bother you. Still, we’re calling this a medium-risk operation because your story may depend on a few factors. If you live alone or manage to get everyone out of the house, it should be no sweat. If you’re married, hopefully the wife understands and lets you have the day without offering a list of life chores she feels you might as well accomplish if you’re going to be home, anyway.
If you need to hide this little thing from everyone, spouse included, you run a few extra risks. For one, your wife loves you (hopefully) and might come home at lunch to check up on you. She might even take off early. It’s not like you’re cheating (hopefully), but it won’t look good if she hears Toby Keith blasting halfway down the block and finds her supposedly sick hubby happily covered in grease and oil. Low places, indeed.
For an easy operation, however, the sick day is a classic for a reason. It’s easy to pull off and probably won’t carry many risks. Whatever you do, just don’t over-explain yourself at the start. Think how you are when you’re truly sick: you don’t say much, life sucks and you hate everything. Channel the rage, men. Channel the rage.
- Arrange a sleepover or playhouse-type for the kids
Level of difficulty: Easy
Risk of getting caught: Low
It might be that your partner is totally cool with whatever you do in your free time. That’s why you married her, right? But those kids! They’re needy, loud, unpredictable and gosh, we just love ‘em! We’d do anything for them, of course. So why not get them out of the house while also being the cool dad? That’s two dad wins right there. This one’s easy to set up, but it may take some planning. Getting a parent you trust to host a sleepover isn’t really a big deal, and you’ll have an extended period of peace to get things done in the garage. Life is on hold when the kids are away. Holding your brand new, zinc-plated steel coil over spanner wrench, that is.
As an alternative to the sleepover, look to the playhouse for escape! If there’s another parent who can supervise the rug rats as they run around Chuck-E-Cheese, for instance, they’ll get to sip watered-down light beer and nibble on the yellow-stained cardboard they pass off for cheese pizza until those repetitive, goofball songs blasting out of an old set of dying speakers jammed inside four or five horrifying human-sized animatronic dolls actually start to sound like something that resembles real music. If you need to close this deal badly, offer to pay for the whole thing and offer to supervise the next favor. Of course, it might be that your kids are old enough to handle themselves without adult supervision. A simple drive out and back, and you’re golden!
This one’s low-risk because you’re not really sneaking out of anything. However, we could increase that risk to medium if it’s actually your turn to chaperone. If this is the case, we recommend hitting the sick button. Use whatever’s realistic for you: if you’re prone to migraines, fake migraines. Sore throats, green tummies, locked bathrooms, etc. are all good options to sell the falsehood. Just know how much time you have to work with and don’t get caught under the car, or you’re in the doghouse for a long, long time.
- All-day spa treatment & massage for the wife
Level of difficulty: Low
Risk of getting caught: None
The only downsides to getting the wife out of the house this way are (1) it costs a bit of money, and (2) you have to align your garage time precisely with when she goes. At the same time, you can always use your gift to her as leverage for getting time alone in the garage. You can’t get “caught” when you’re not lying, so there’s no risk involved here. We don’t recommend framing to your beloved that you need her out of the house so you can get some time to yourself, obviously. Just enjoy the husband points and play it off like it’s all a loving token of your appreciation. There are certainly worse things than this, gentlemen.
- Just fall off the grid
Level of difficulty: Medium
Risk of getting caught: Medium
This may be our personal favorite. Falling off the grid is the easiest thing to do in the age of the smart phone. At first glance, it seems difficult. For one, people assume you’re available on your phone 24/7, 365. If you don’t answer, they might get suspicious, offended, worried, etc. Two, it’s just kind of hard to keep away from the tech that surrounds us because it freaking surrounds us. But here’s how to fall off without being caught.
Option 1: Turn off message receipts on your phone. If people can see what time you open their texts, don’t open their texts! Alternatively, just turn off that feature in your settings menu, or it will be obvious that you’re ignoring them. Like how you know last week’s Tinder date who blew you off last night without a word isn’t “just seeing this text now” because you can see she certainly opened it two days ago and posted random stuff all last night on Facebook from the bars when she said just two days ago how she was all excited to hang out with you but you know what forget it you don’t need her anyway she’s not even that hot so it’s totally whatever just tell the truth you know? We’re not getting off topic, are we? Naaaaw.
Option 2: Turn your phone off. Simple if you have the discipline, or you can invest in this Kickstarter campaign aimed at getting people off their phones by literally locking them (the phones, not the people) in a timed lock-box for a set period of time. The horror, though, of being without your phone for several hours at a time.
Option 3: Tell people you dropped your phone in the toilet and had to dry it out all day in a bag of rice. “Works great now, Dad!”
Option 4: Likewise, maybe you “left it in an Uber,” and the driver “took a few hours longer than you thought” to get it back to you. If you’re gonna fib, keep it short, simple and ultra-believable.
- Plan to attend a group outing and bail out last-minute
Level of difficulty: Hard
Risk of getting caught: Medium – High
This is where you get to play Ocean’s 11 with everybody you know. Maybe that’s intimidating. Maybe it’s the most exciting thing since sliced bread. Either way, this method is not the recommended path to take if any others are available. If we’re being totally honest, though, sometimes enough is enough. Last week you visited the in-laws; the week before was your cousin’s wedding; the week before that you had a family vacation to the Dells; the week before that you tried to get some work done, but your youngest came down with the flu and required constant attention. Etc. Etc. Etc. You know how it goes. The world is always playing hardball with your time, so sometimes you need to play a little hardball back to settle the score.
The risks here are substantial. If you can’t get out of it, you’re gonna look like the big jerk who always tries to bail last-minute on your commitments, which, let’s face it, you sort of are doing, but let’s not think about that right now. Let’s just work on getting your plan sealed like the valve chamber in your car lift’s hydraulic cylinder: no leaks.
First, make sure the event is something your partner/kids/friends won’t cancel as a result of you bailing on them. Day trips are the best events to bail on because you can always make it up later that evening. Letting less than 24 hours pass between the thing you were supposed to do and the make-up event is the smart approach. You’ll come off as still being interested and engaged, and ultimately, there’s less risk of you damaging your personal relationships. There is one very important detail to consider, however: whether you say you’re going to be out of the house or at home at the time you bail. There’s pros and cons to each choice, so you’ll have to decide which fits your situation.
“Sorry man, my grandma’s coming over, and she’s like, ancient, so I can’t get out of it.” If someone swings by your house, you’re going to have some ‘splainin’ to do, especially if your garage door is open and your feet are sticking out from under your portable car lift. Good luck redeeming yourself from that one. On the other hand, if you’re home, it might be less of a problem to be spotted because you’re right where you said you’d be. Up to you to work out the kinks.
This is tricky because you’re not going to be where you said you’d be. If you’re spotted at home, game over. On the other hand, people are less likely to be in the area if they don’t think you’re around. No one’s going to make that last-ditch effort to show up at your doorstep and try to convince you to come out.
The above scenarios work with friends, but what about escaping family? They’re in your house, after all, and are pretty hip to everything you have tried, are trying or might try to do. Lying to family is risky and less advised for many reasons, but among them is the fact that you don’t want to set a bad example for your kids. You also don’t want a suspicious wife. Like we said, if you’re making the decision to play hardball, you need to go all out. No halvsies.
- Don’t use your friends as an excuse. Friends stick up for you no matter what, and they’ll gladly place a well-timed call to get you out of a jam. You know that thing people do when they want out of a bad date, so they have their friend call with an emergency that requires their immediate attention? Yeah, basically just never do that. It’ll create and/or reinforce the idea that your friends take precedence over your family.
- Use work as an excuse. Nothing is sure but death and taxes, right? Your work is your livelihood and takes precedence over virtually every social call outside weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries. You can’t pull on this string all the time, or the thick, wooly sweater that is your lie will unravel and leave you naked and exposed. So what should you say? It really depends on the situation.
For the office employee: “Ugh, my boss needs me to come into the office for a major project. If I don’t show, I’ll never get that promotion.”
For the teacher: “The entire curriculum is changing and I have to make new lesson plans to accommodate. This is ridiculous. They treat us so bad there.”
For the salesman: “I forgot about a mandatory training on a new product. I can’t miss it. I’m so sorry.”
You get the idea. Again, you probably only get one work-related excuse per year if you really want to stay under the radar, so fib wisely.
Word to the wise
If you’ve ever watched Jerry Springer, he ends each episode with a “Final Thought,” a reflection on life, love and/or relationships. The moment stands in stark contrast to the rest of the show because it’s quiet, kind and everyone keeps their clothes on. Here’s our “Final Thought” moment. Lying your way through life is the way to unhappiness and sets you out on a pattern of selfish behaviors that compromise your character, as well as your relationships. Sometimes we need to get away with little things here and there for our own sanity, but don’t overly abuse the light-hearted advice we’re offering to the point it has a damaging impact on your life. That being said, definitely find some time to work on your car this weekend. You’ve earned it.
Chapter 1: To Catch a Millennial
There’s a myth going around these days that Millennials just need to “grow up” and face the facts of life when it comes to cars. Business Insider recently published a pretty scathing piece against Millennials that sounds like it came straight from the mouth of your cranky grandfather who missed his mid-day nap.
The piece argues that previous generations had to put up with the inconveniences of car ownership and doggone it so should the kids. So let’s put this all-too-common refrain into perspective before getting into why the Gen-X’ers and Baby Boomers who own the dealerships and auto shops need Millennials more than Millennials need them.
First of all, it’s really, really unfair to tell college students and those entering the workforce to “get over” the cost of vehicle ownership. It’s more than just offensive to people’s life situations: it’s bad logic. Let’s pretend for a minute that, like a majority of Americans, we’re not car fanatics, and we don’t know cars inside and out. For most people, car ownership isn’t about custom designs, greater horsepower, racing shocks, etc. It’s about getting to and from work without spending a fortune. Virtually every urban center has some form of public transportation (sorry L.A., you tried), and it’s much easier and cheaper to get a monthly pass for the train than it is to suffer long commutes and traffic congestion, in addition to gas and maintenance costs. The extra “freedom” a car offers may not be worth the financial burden to those who can get around using one on a daily basis. Given that a massive swath of the Millennial population lives in cities with public transportation access, it’s weird to call them whiners and complainers just for being cost-conscious.
Perhaps the article’s strangest moment is when it states, “Buying a car… is like setting money on fire and throwing it down a hole. But that’s the way it has always been,” and then goes on to accuse Millennials of veering away from this terrible, money-sucking trend. The whole “in my day we walked ten miles to school and liked it” routine is simply beyond parody at this point. Aren’t Baby Boomers the “smart” generation that knows how to save? Wouldn’t they applaud a young decision-maker who wants to save up for less costly endeavors, whatever they may be? Could we say this is about buyers’ rights, and Millennials are just tired of being taken advantage of?
You might be wondering why we’re being so hard on the older generation. After all, BendPak is an establishment business that deals mostly with middle-aged crowds. The reason is that while we’ve been supplying customers with quality car lifts and shop equipment for half a century, there are new buyers in town (Millennials) that are not always convinced that they should be buying. Simply put, the people we sell to need to be selling to them. This article will examine how the auto industry needs to adjust its methods to attract Millennial buyers.
Chapter 2: Remember LILLLP: Low Interest, Long Loans, Low Payments
We’ll uh… work on that acronym. First things first, we mentioned that Millennials in urban centers aren’t really in the car market. This is true, but ultimately, there are still plenty of young, enthusiastic car buyers outside those markets. The catch is that they’re not buying unless they can get low monthly payments. We’re talking 70+ month loans. We’ll have to monitor how much this loan length increases in the years to come, but loans are getting longer as payments shrink. If you’re in the business of selling cars, Millennials are a fairly large market, with 35% of loan originations coming from buyers in the 18 – 35 age range. Smart financing is so important to dealers looking to capture on this newer, more finicky demographic.
Millennial car buyers have also shown an interest in buying when interest rates are low. Low payments, low interest rates. Combined with the extended loan periods, this sounds like a “have your cake and eat it, too,” scenario, but many of these loans are relatively small and are being used to pay off less expensive used cars. The Millenial trend is to wait; more young people are living at home for longer periods of time, and they’re taking their time getting out of the house and making big purchases, like cars. This isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing; it’s just the way it is. They’ll wait for the low interest rate and the good loan to appear if it isn’t offered at the moment.
Last but certainly not least, the smart dealership needs to use low-pressure sales tactics to attract Millennials to their businesses. Anyone willing to wait on making a big purchase is going to be turned off by an aggressive sales strategy. Don’t be pushy, but do be patient. Younger buyers are more likely to shop around. Be the bigger, better, more with-it dealer and it will pay off in the end. Remember: LILLLP. Keep in mind that if you do decide to play it old-school, Millennials will just cut you out altogether and do their shopping online, so there’s that.
Chapter 3: Your Marketing Stinks!
A recent NerdWallet survey found that 43% of Millennials surveyed found owning a car to be a hassle. This isn’t the most scientific study ever conducted, to be sure, but it’s a peek into the Millennial mindset. The appropriate industry response is as much a question for top-level marketers as it is for the dealerships. If Toyota, Ford and Chevy want to sell to the next generation, they need to meet them where they’re at and convince the young folks that purchasing their particular brand will ensure a virtually hassle-free experience.
As previously mentioned, if the marketing isn’t convincing—or even if it is—Millennials have shown a willingness to delay major purchases. For industry insiders, it’s simply not good enough to throw up both hands and say, “Well, that’s just not the way all this works,” because that’s a sure-fire way to lose customers, as well as the respect of potential clientele. We should be asking young buyers, “What would make you more willing to buy a car in the next 6-12 months?” Not a radical idea in terms of salesmanship, and there are certainly companies that are going to great lengths to reach Millennials.
Nissan is one example of a company staying ahead of the curve. They ran their own survey and found that 76% of Millennials questioned wanted an eco-friendly car. It should be no coincidence that a Sustainability page is prominently placed on their website. If you follow that link, there’s no flashing neon sign that says, “Millennials Look Here.” They simply cater to what Millennials are looking for: environmentally friendly, zero-emission, more safety features, etc.
When it comes to better marketing to Millennials, the truly forward-thinking folks out there are jumping on social media. Honda even ran a Snapchat filter with the slogan, “They see me rollin.” Their own social media manager acknowledged this is a new sort of advertising that’s necessary to reach younger buyers, and not everyone in the industry is comfortable “going there.”
If you’re still not convinced that reaching Millennials for business requires new tactics, you’d do well to take the advice of MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer at Ypulse, a Millennial-oriented research group, when she says, “It’s not as appealing to [Millennials] as it was to previous generations to own a car made to ‘show off.’” Millennials make up the largest generation that’s ever existed, so the auto industry needs to be sure it’s doing what it can to attract the next generation of big-time shoppers.
Chapter 4: I can’t. Even. (Do basic repairs.)
The scene opens on a warm summer day. A gray-haired father in his earlier 50s is having “the talk” with his 16-year-old son. (Not the talk you’re thinking of.)
Dad: Son, now that you have a license, I need to show you how to change a tire in case you get a flat. It’s important to be able to learn to take care of yourself. I won’t always be here t–
Son: No, Dad! Ugh! I can’t even right now!
Dad raises his fists to the heavens.
So in what was perhaps the worst representation of father/son relations since Shakespeare, we just presented an all-too-common scenario in the American household. Millennials are much less knowledgeable than their parents about cars. If you think back on what we covered in Chapters 1 and 2, Millennials are actually more cost-conscious and careful about making big purchases than previous generations. So, if 1 + 1 = 2, Millennials would be doing DIY work like there’s no tomorrow, right? Whatever cultural spin (i.e. they’re lazy) you want to put on it, 1 + 1 = 4 for Millennials who want to save money while not doing their own repairs. If you run a business, big or small, you should smell the money grab on this one.
As discussed earlier, Millennials make trust-based decisions. They’re not likely to give repeat business if they feel like they’re “just a number.” One way to get business is to make sure Millennials trust you enough come to you when something happens with their vehicle. To build that trust, it’s a great idea to offer customer education classes and workshops once in a while. Teach young people how to change a tire, do their own oil and establish a vehicle maintenance schedule. There’s so much power in that, and you don’t have to be a major establishment to make it happen. Not to mention, it’s not a cost-heavy deal, and it only takes a few hours of your time.
Since it’s 2016, no matter the size of your shop, there’s no excuse to not have a website. When people Google the nearest car repair shops in your region, they’re going to get a list of shops, a Yelp page and the actual websites of the local companies, among other ads and listings. If you’re second on a list of the “Ten Best Auto Shops in Pasadena, CA” but don’t have a website, you look unavailable and suspicious to younger shoppers. You should have a personalized, well-designed site that you’re willing to put a little money into doing the right way. And just to reiterate, don’t just make the crappiest-looking web page you can and think that’s enough. If your layout, spelling and contact information isn’t professionally handled, you risk doing harm to your business by looking lazy. So in other words, the Millennials we may criticize for being ignorant about their cars will be just as critical of a company with a sloppy online presence. It goes a long way if potential customers, young and old, can easily access your hours of operation, contact info, parking information, deals you’re running, etc. A good website will also help you compete with the larger establishment chains (e.g., Firestone). At the end of the day, we don’t want to see our lovely four-post lifts go to waste in empty garages and service bays across the country.
Chapter 5: Making Up
For the record, we think Business Insider and its author are both great. We just happen to disagree with this idea that there’s something “wrong” or “broken” about the Millennial generation. It’s a complex world: there was the Great Recession, cars are expensive and most members of this demographic are in their 20s, still figuring out who they want to be. Tap into their mindsets, market accordingly and help them along rather than criticize them. You’ll probably make more money along the way.
You don’t have to be a DIY’er to enjoy the amazing car tech of 2016. In fact, of the eight wish list items featured here, only a couple of them are really geared at the DIY community. Sometimes you need a break from “doing it yourself,” and you just want the tech to do all the work for you. More importantly, it’s never too early to think about the holiday season, so this list is just in time to get you thinking… and saving. BendPak auto service equipment makes a great gift, but we’ll keep ourselves out of the equation.
We kept a few things in mind when making this list:
Keep it classy, not trashy
We tried not to include the *cheapest* items out there. Like, come on. TREAT YOURSELF. (Note: if the wish list item we like is too expensive, there are always other models of the same concept you can look into.)
Never a phone charger
For whatever reason, cutesy phone chargers seem to be the latest craze in car tech. At the end of the day, charging your batteries isn’t really much more exciting than doing your laundry (guess it depends on the laundry, but we digress).
It genuinely makes life better
If you put this wish list item in your vehicle or use it while driving/working, it should measurably improve your life. It should be cool (i.e., not just a phone charger).
- The Automatic Pro 3G Car Adapter
There are quite a few engine diagnostic tools out there, some of which are relatively inexpensive, some of which have neat features, such as a driving coach, fuel efficiency tracking, car locator, dashboard indicator diagnostics, and more. As an alternative, Hum is an interesting OBD reader that features a lower sticker price but requires a monthly subscription fee. The Automatic Pro really caught our eye due to just how much stuff it has available to you.
We like just about everything about this car adapter. Their website is clean, easy-to-navigate and helpful in directing you to the app’s purpose and features. There are dozens of integrated apps to choose from: parking locator, car/driver tracker (for the teen driver in your life), gas mileage recorder and more. Plus, the app design is among the most user-friendly made up to this point, and in 2016 (going into 2017), convenience is the name of the game. Even if you never thought you’d need something like this, the clean design makes it so, so appealing. In the event that your check engine light turns on unexpectedly, the Automatic Pro provides an easy-to-read diagnostic on your phone screen.
In the age of augmented reality (not talking about Pokemon Go), we can literally point our phones at our cars, and our phone can tell us how to conduct a repair, or they can explain the function of a certain feature. This is the direction car tech needs to take, and we love it. For a neat example of augmented reality,
For a neat example of augmented reality that’s unrelated to the Automatic Pro (but in the same ballpark), see the video below:
The Automatic Pro isn’t quite at this level of user-to-world interaction, but it’s getting us close. It’s an awesome tool that will keep you connected to your vehicle in a way that’s non-intrusive and feels fun.
- Wide Angle HD Car Dash Cam by TaoTronics
Is a full-HD dash cam a bit excessive? Obviously not. When you’re in an accident or become a victim of insurance fraud, you want full proof and evidence of what went down. While there are certainly more expensive options out there, we tried to think big-picture with this one. First off, the 30 fps, 150-degree camera angle is crystal-clear and offers a full view of the road. It looks great at night, as you can see in the video above, and it contains a microphone for full sound recording. Its accident detection feature will lock in data from being overwritten, so there’s no risk of losing that crucial moment due to mindless technology. More expensive options don’t really offer much more by way of features, although some, like the Garmin Dash Cam 20, let you take still images (but the Garmin costs $244.95).
Perhaps the biggest reason to go with a less expensive dash cam model is the fact that a single dash cam only protects you from one angle: what happens if you get bumped in the rear? You can buy two of these babies for a little over $100. Place one in the front and one in the back, and you’re covered for just about everything the road can throw at you.
- Torras Aluminum Magnet Center Console
Okay, so this one is a little more on the budget side, granted, but there’s just something so insanely practical about a magnetic center console that we felt it belongs on this list. There are a number of devices out there designed to keep your phone from sliding all over the car (e.g., sticky pads, seat gap fillers), and most of them are a bit on the tacky side. You know what no one ever said? “That sleek, almost invisible magnet that lets you position your phone upright is just too ugly.” The Torras magnet console features a slim base with an attached magnetic plate; a magnet that’s essentially flat sticks to the back of your phone, and it works through a case, as well. What Torras offers is simple and effective. There are a few color options: gold, red and gray, so you can kind of blend your device in with the look of your car. Plus, for 20 bucks, it’s the perfect grab-bag gift at work. Looks like somebody’s doing Secret Santa this holiday season, right? Just look at you, participating socially in things…
- TrapTap – Wireless Legal Speed Trap Detector
While we do include an amazing trap/radar/laser detector further down on this list, the TrapTap is an affordable device that does something a little different. If you’re not quite ready to drop a few hundred on a top-end radar detector, the TrapTap offers some unique middle ground. It doesn’t actually detect radar and laser devices, but rather contains a community-driven database of highly ticketed zones across the world. School zones, red light cameras, speed traps, etc. can all be added to the database to help out both you and your fellow drivers. Because it doesn’t actually look for radar or lasers, you’re on your own if you get unlucky on the road, away from the designated trap zones. Still, for the price, you’re getting heads-up access to those high-percentage pull-over zones, and that’s worth the price of admission. If you already have a radar detector that doesn’t recognize the trap zones, this is a great purchase that will get you into the 21st century of car tech without costing you an arm and a leg. Not to mention, it’s barely bigger than a quarter and sticks to just about any surface you can think of. Thanks, TrapTap!
- Hudly – Full Color Heads-Up Display for All Cars & Phone Apps
Unfortunately, it’s hard to exactly know how to feel about Eric Lee’s labor of love. He and his company Hudly recently launched a Kickstarter for this awesome-looking HUD phone display but only raised about half of their goal before the pledge period expired. We’re not sure where this leaves Hudly or the company, but we’ll update here as information becomes available.
Hudly looks like a better version of what’s out there: the glass projection screen is completely transparent, and it can be placed just out of your driving line-of-sight. It sits similar to most GPS or phone setups, except the display is prominently featured on your windshield. Hudly plugs into your OBD2 port and uses your car battery for power, so it never needs charging. The full-color display just amazing, futuristic and sure to impress you and everyone who sees it. Voice control lets you text back or make calls hands-free, and you can see the screen display without turning your head. This thing is pretty underground at this point, so you’ll earn bonus points for getting into cool tech at the ground level.
- Escort Passport 9500ix Radar Detector
Arguably one of the better radar/laser detectors out there, this Escort device offers the full suite of ticket prevention. While TrapTap (mentioned above) is certainly useful and budget-friendly for identifying speed traps and red light cameras, the 9500ix does all that plus full radar detection, false alarm prevention, comprehensive laser detection and an AutoLearn “artificial intelligence” feature that supposedly makes its detecting abilities better and more accurate the more you use it.
Escort is a top name in radar detection at the moment, so you’re paying for the premium quality and name-brand recognition, as well. The voice alerts are a little clearer than the other brands, the display is simple and to-the-point… we could go on here, it’s just one of those “this is it” devices. Heck, it even looks sexier than the other designs out there. If you have the cash to spend, this is the radar detector to shoot for.
QuickJack is one of the sleekest, most awesome aftermarket car items around. It’s safer and easier to set up than jack stands, more affordable than a full-size car lift is being celebrated worldwide for doing exactly what it says it does: operators touch a button and bam, QuickJack is up 20” in 30 seconds; the safety locks automatically engage; the integrated hydraulic flow divider makes darn sure it never collapses on you.
People really are excited about the QuickJack portable car lift system. We recommend you check it out, and if you own a shop or fancy yourself a DIY guy or gal, you’re going to love what QuickJack offers. Its made from the same people who engineer BendPak car lifts, so quality and issue is never in question. And just like that, our self-promoting plug is over.
Okay DIY’ers, we’re saving the last one especially for you! RaceDeck is not one of those gifts you go and buy for just anyone. This flooring is for the serious garage professional or DIY enthusiast. If that’s you and you’ve never heard of RaceDeck, you’re about to have your mind blown. Click here to commence mind-blowing.
If you work on vehicles from home and your garage is what you would call your own personal getaway, RaceDeck is your high-end, one-stop shop for gorgeous flooring designs that personalize your garage space. The graphite flooring is 100% chemical-resistant, waterproof and comes in several state-of-the-art designs. Let’s face it, you’re not getting RaceDeck flooring because it’s waterproof; you’re getting it because you want to turn your garage space into a destination, a place to hang out with friends, relax, sneak that morning cigarette away from the wife, work on your cars, bikes, trucks or all of the above. The RaceDeck website does a fantastic job of showcasing the product, and whoever owns the garages in which RaceDeck does their photo shoots must be very happy. In terms of price, it all depends on the size of your garage, but it’s possible to outfit most garages for a few hundred dollars.September 15th, 2016
One of the most important aspects of owning and/or operating a car lift is performing periodic maintenance. We pride ourselves on making our lifts (two-post, four-post, etc.) as low-maintenance as possible, but there are still a few chores you’ll need to complete from time to time. All of this is listed in your owner’s manual, of course, but we’d like to offer a fresh reminder.
Required Monthly Maintenance
Remember this little gem from your manual? You should! Even a rugged BendPak two-post or four-post lift needs a little love now and again. If you’re currently having an “oh, shoot” moment, but you didn’t say “shoot,” go ahead and finish this article, then go make yourself a little inspection and see how your lift is holding up.
The Monthly List
- Check all arm adjusting locks for proper operation.
- Check all cables connections, bolts and pins to ensure proper mounting and torque.
- Visually inspect safeties for proper operation.
- Lubricate posts with grease.
- Inspect all anchors bolts and retighten if necessary.
- Check all posts for squareness and plumb (straight) fit.
- Inspect all pivot arms pins making sure they are properly secure.
- Check cable tension and adjust if necessary.
- If the lift is equipped with overhead micro-switch, check for proper operation.
Wire Rope Inspection and Maintenance
We’ll spend the rest of this article on how to inspect the cable system. All lifting cables should be replaced every three to five years or when damage is visible. The better you take care of your cables, the longer they’ll last. One of best things you can do is keep your cables lubricated with 90-WT gear oil or ALMASOL® Wire Rope Lubricant. These oils/lubricants get deep into the fibers to prevent damage. Lubricate your cables every three months (four times a year). Mark it on your calendar at home or work to remind you when it’s car lift and cable maintenance time.
Since you’re right there anyway when your lift is in use, take that easy opportunity to inspect your cables. This takes what, a minute or less per column? If there’s damage on any cable, remove it and replace it immediately. Don’t risk everything just to finish an extra job or two. So, does that mean we’re telling you to replace every cable that’s been discolored or looks “less than brand new” after a year or two of heavy use? Not necessarily!
A little wear is to be expected over time. Here’s our official, factory-recommended rule-of-thumb: if in the course of a single day, you see six random wires sticking out over the length of a single cable (when examining all strands), the entire cable needs to be replaced. Additionally, if you see three broken wires in just a single strand over the course of a single day, you also need to replace the entire cable.
In other words, when you start to see wires sticking out of strands, whether they’re all on a single strand or spread out along the length of the entire cable, you need to replace that cable. You don’t necessarily need to replace good cables that just happen to be near the defective cable(s).
How Do I Look for Cable Damage?
1) Relax your rope to a stationary position and move the pick-up points off the sheaves. Clean the surface of the rope with a cloth or a wire brush, so you can see any breaks.
2) Flex the rope to expose any broken wires hidden in the valleys between the strands. Look for broken wires. One way to check for crown breaks is to run a cloth along the rope to check for possible snags.
3) With an awl, probe between wires and strands and lift any wires that appear loose. Evidence of internal broken wires may require a deeper rope examination.
Be Your Own “Cable Guy”
While some wear is to be expected over time, once the cable has worn down by 10% of its original size, it needs to be replaced. So if your original cable is .5” in diameter, it should be replaced once it reaches .45”. That difference may seem small, but 14,000-lb. rated cable that loses 10% tensile strength will be rated at 12,600 lbs., assuming no other structural damage. This is a big difference in any circumstance but especially when lifting heavy-duty vehicles.
If the wires appear to have corrosion, pits or kinks, or if there is evidence of kinking, crushing, cutting, bird-caging or a popped core, the cable needs to be replaced. Also look for evidence of heat damage.
Cable Sheaves and Guide Rollers
Any points at which the cables make contact with the sheaves need to be inspected. Look for signs of wear. If the surface has been compromised or made rough, it’s going to affect your cables. Checking these parts is easy: simply look and lubricate. The sheave axles take standard wheel bearing grease, and the sheaves and guide rollers take 90-WT gear oil or similar heavy lubricant. To get the oil on, you can pump it, spray it, brush it, smear it on by hand or swab it. Just keep it greasy. Do this every three months at the same time you inspect your cables (to keep things easy). Make a thing of it. Have a car lift cleaning party. Bring cake?
Smart buyers look for value when they shop, and value comes in different ways: price, quality, durability, etc. But how should you balance those things out? Will savings now cost you more in repairs down the road? What does that word “quality” really mean, anyway, and how should you look for it? This list will help you be a smarter car lift buyer.
- Good or bad, look for lots of reviews
There are many would-be “biggest and best” companies out there, but when you look them up, all you get is an old website that’s never updated, bad or broken links and more questions than when you started. That shouldn’t be the case. The sheer quantity of information on a car lift company should be staggering!
Pretend you find a car lift made by “Big Bob’s Car Lifts Inc.” (This company doesn’t really exist, we promise.) It’s better to find 50 reviews from people who think this company stinks to high heaven than just one review that seems to be written by the company owner and does nothing but brag and brag and brag. Even if you’re finding a mix of positive and negative reviews, at least you have a starting point for your research to sort out the smart, experienced mechanics from the angry whiners and attention-seeking liars who don’t know what they’re talking about. Hundreds of millions of people in the country are on the Internet, and people on the Internet ALWAYS talk. If hardly anyone’s talking about a particular car lift company, stay away! Think: “Houston, we have a problem.”
- Know who actually manufactures the car lift
The best car lift manufacturers are proud to display their name boldly along the columns of their products. Yet, caught up in this mix of quality professionals there are lots of off-brand companies peddling cheap, generic, non-ALI Certified garbage. These lifts are made in industrial sweatshops overseas with little to no quality control. They’re “discount” for a reason. You may even see them bill their companies as “exclusive suppliers.”
If you’re a businessperson, go ahead and roll your eyes. There’s very little reason for most lift companies not to go through distributors (unless they’re allergic to work and money, or something). Furthermore, if the major distributors aren’t willing to even carry and market a certain car lift, that’s a huge red flag (i.e., it’s time to look elsewhere).
- Measure and re-measure your garage
We hope you’re as excited—more excited, in fact—about installing a car lift in your own garage as we are to supply you with one. But it happens every once in a while where an enthusiastic buyer gets ahead of themselves and winds up with a car lift that doesn’t fit their space. This means returning the big lug, which generally voids the free shipping policy on the original delivery, as well as the replacement. Car lift companies do not hold themselves responsible if you don’t report the correct dimensions of your garage. (In other words, it’s your own darn fault if you mess that up.)
If a friend or nearby business has the car lift you want, visit them and tour of their garage. Compare what works for them with your needs. If you have your dimensions figured out, make sure you know where your electricity is (including amps and voltage), if you need a compressor to operate the locks and if your concrete can handle the bolts should you be required to secure your car lift to the floor. Basically, it comes down to really getting acquainted with your garage. One great way to keep track of everything is with a quick-reference notebook containing some of the more important dimensions of your garage, so that you stay prepared with your installation information at all times.
- Research the company’s reputation
This may be the easiest step on the list. Speaking from experience, BendPak doesn’t kid around when it comes to our reputation. We are in deep with the auto repair and DIY service community. We encourage you to Google us, as well as the names of our competitors, and look for yourself! You can even call up professional garages and ask them if they’re happy with their car lifts. Have them explain why or why not.
- Conduct a price comparison
When it comes to “20 smart ways to get value on your car lift,” please notice that price only gets one space. It’s not the first thing you should consider, nor is it the last. Car lifts make for special purchases. For instance, when we shop at Wal-Mart for enough peaches to feed our family (no idea why it’s peaches, just go with it), we know we get the same nutrients from them as we do from the expensive, organic Whole Foods peaches, but we get them at Wal-Mart for a lower price. In the case of the peaches, the quality difference doesn’t really affect us much in terms of health (some may argue). Likewise, deodorant, laundry detergent, shampoo, etc. come in dozens of brands, prices and bottle sizes. If you can find Tide cheaper one day and the next week the store’s generic is on sale for half the price, the decision is almost made for you. Few catastrophes can reasonably occur because you went with the “cheap” option.
With few exceptions, a car lift is not a bottle of laundry detergent (warning: sarcasm detected). The vehicle(s) you raise is the second-most expensive investment to your home. Oftentimes, tens of thousands of dollars are at stake with each lift and each repair. Very few people can afford a disaster that occurred as a result of “discount shopping.”
Plus, that cheap, discount “Tuxedo” lift you see advertised everywhere is constructed who-knows-where by who-knows-who using who-can-say quality equipment. Trust your instincts: if Brand A sells a 9,000-lb. capacity two-post car lift for $2,000 and Brand B sells a lift-capacity-equivalent lift for $1,200, you need to explore the difference. It almost always has to do with engineering standards, materials used for construction, safety features, availability of customer service and the product warranty. Don’t let saving a few hundred dollars, a relatively small cost at the end of the year, be the reason you sacrifice your own personal safety, as well as the safety of your property. There are smarter ways to get value: go with the best quality car lift you can find.
- Examine the warranty
A lot of things can go wrong with a piece of machinery. The most common errors on well-made car lifts are human errors, but we recognize that sometimes unexpected failures can occur. Either way, you should be covered by a good warranty. A warranty is an expression of honesty: some companies let you extend their standard warranty even further, and that’s always a good sign. Look at how many years the parts and structure are covered. Generally speaking, labor and hydraulic systems will be covered for a year on a good warranty, while the car lift and its components should be totally covered for up to five years.
- Find the ALI Certificate
We’ve done some sneaky competitor research where we’ve called up manufacturers of non-certified car lifts and asked them, posing as innocent customers, what makes their lifts safe? We heard answers like, “Because we make them ourselves to the highest standards!” When we asked what standards, they said things like, “The ones everybody uses!” Such a shame. The ALI standard exists for one reason: to make car lifts as safe as possible for people who aren’t able to eyeball good or bad mechanical workmanship from a mile away. Every single one of the large and respected auto lift brands in the world is a member of the Automotive Lift Institute and submit to ALI testing and re-testing for just about every product they develop, so clearly it’s a priority to them. Obviously, BendPak falls into this category.
It’s no easy feat to join the Automotive Lift Institute, let alone build a car lift that passes certification. There are additional expenses involved to get tested, and ALI sets extremely strict UL, ETL and ANSI manufacturing safety standards that must be met in order to qualify for certification. While you’re scouting out different cars lift, it’s very likely that you’ll find a ton of non-certified lifts out on the market. It’s just as likely that the manufacturers of these lifts will try to persuade you (con you) into believing their standards, even if they can’t name them, are up to code.
- “Practice call” their customer service
There’s a myth that floats around startups in the business world that smaller companies are able to provide more attention to their customers. Sometimes the owner of a small company will answer the phone when you call the so-called service line. While this may sound intriguing, it’s a bad sign for business down the road. A large company that has been dealing in car lifts for 20, 30, 40, 50+ years has dedicated teams that are ready to take your calls and provide service at all times. They rotate their shifts so there’s no “lunch gap.” They’re smart because they’re held accountable for their service through training and listening to their recorded calls. You’ll find out the difference quickly. In fact, your first contact with a company’s customer service center will set the tone for all the rest of your dealings with them. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to make a “practice call” and ask them about their warranties, return policies and what steps they’ll take for repairs and parts replacements.
- Understand the features offered and what you want
Once you know whether you want a four-post, two-post, mobile column, scissor or alignment lift, there are still a ton of customizable options. Car lifts come in extra tall, extra wide, short, narrow, asymmetrical and clearfloor varieties that best suit your needs. You may need truck/SUV adapters, telescoping arms, rolling bridge jacks, frame cradle pads, casters and/or frame extensions. To tie this back to #8, the customer service representative should be able to guide you through this process if you are unsure.
- Ask about their engineering report
This is true, even when it comes to professional mechanics: most lift buyers aren’t car lift experts any more than most car shoppers are car experts. The easiest thing you can do, if you’re not sure of the quality of the lift you want, is to look for the ALI Certification. Some companies over-engineer their lifts beyond what is required by ALI, which results in longer-lasting products with less maintenance required over the course of ownership. Reputable companies complete FEA (finite element analysis) engineering reports made with sophisticated computer programs that simulate stress loads.
These reports are verified with long-math calculations, field testing (called quality assurance, or QA), re-designs, etc. Every aspect of engineering and testing is designed to make car lifts safer, faster, more efficient and longer-lasting.
- Compare lift columns, cables, hydraulics, etc.
Companies will always try to talk up the structural integrity of their lifts through their marketing efforts, but even when comparing two ALI Certified lifts, the differences can be shocking and very, very revealing. You might start to ask questions you may have never thought of:
Why aren’t their lifting cables as thick?
Why is this company’s column made from a single piece of steel while others are made from multiple pieces?
Why is their warranty so much better?
Does it matter that the telescoping arm is three-stage and not just two-stage?
Etc., etc., etc.
All of these things matter for a long-lasting lift: thick, aircraft-quality cables; single-piece column construction; wider, taller, thicker base plates; throttle valves integrated into hydraulic cylinders to regulate flow and fluid pressure; reinforced carriage/pin hole sites; a five-year parts warranty; and so much more.
- Don’t confuse lift capacity with safety
Mistaking lift capacity for greater safety is what we call the “rookie mistake.” If Company A makes a lift rated at 10,000 lbs., and their lift includes more of the safety features and expert engineering you really want, but Company B makes a lift rated at 12,000 lbs. for the same price, which should you get? This is a tough decision, isn’t it? On the one hand, Company A has wider base plates, a better overall warranty, thicker cables, slack-cable detection, a more durable hydraulic cylinder (with a longer stroke) and a number of other superior safety features. On the other hand, Company B’s lift can hold 2,000 lbs. more, so its engineering must be improved on some level, right? Not necessarily.
When we go beneath the surface and see how lift capacity is rated, we see that the listed capacity is only a small piece of the puzzle. We could go on all day about this, but instead, we’ll focus on one crucial aspect of four-post lifts: the lifting cables.
ALI Certification demands that different aspects of the lift structure are over-engineered to handle at least 300% of the car lift’s official lift capacity. It’s possible that Company B, rather than engineering a more powerful lift, tacked on an extra 2K to their rated capacity by staying just above that 300% mark. On the other hand, Company A uses aircraft-quality stainless steel cables rated to hold 14,400 lbs. each, meaning the lift can handle 600 – 800% more than their rated capacity by the strength of the cables alone. Company A can back up these claims with FEA reports to prove their engineering superiority and uses rigorous testing procedures to put the math to the test. Can you guess which company, Company A or Company B, more resembles BendPak? (Hint: it’s Company A.)
- Trust that a company’s history matters
There are companies that have been making car lifts for 50+ years. There are also plenty of cheap, discount brands that are new to the business and try to sell you on their hackneyed version of “affordability.” Real, honest value comes from trust, not penny-pinching, and trust is built over a long period of time. If a company has been around and growing for 50-some-odd years, there’s a good reason for it.
- Check online presence (e.g. social media accounts, blog updates)
Business practices change over time. Online presence is one way of finding out what a company is like, the personalities of the people in charge, how responsive they are to their customers, etc. Companies that care will make themselves available to you. They’ll spell words correctly on their websites and fix mistakes as they come up. (Seriously, correct use of grammar and proper spelling are tell-tale signs of a company’s overall professionalism.) Most successful companies have a blog and update some portion of their content regularly.
- Sign up for car forums and see what people are saying
We can’t stress this enough. The DIY and professional service car communities combine to make up one of the largest, smartest and most vocal groups out there, so pay attention to what they say! These guys and gals don’t suffer fools, so make sure you understand the etiquette of the forum before you go blabbing or spouting uninformed nonsense. They’ll tear you apart in there!
See what’s being said about car lifts on the market, know your garage dimensions and lifting needs and don’t be afraid to ask questions. In our experience, these forums have been like free marketing for BendPak: we proudly make the best car lifts, and people simply rave about us on the web. It’s actually pretty awesome how that all works out.
- Expect free shipping and a fairly priced installation service
Shipping fees are a thing of the past when it comes to car lift freight. If a company is charging you shipping, it means they’re either 1) misrepresenting the actual price of their lift with hidden fees, or 2) they’re not a reputable company and have fallen behind on the times. This one is pretty simple and standard. Likewise, the certified third-party service that installs your lift should only charge a few hundred dollars. It’s a one-time cost that’s incredibly beneficial to anyone who isn’t a car lift installation expert.
- Look for good resale value
Every smart buyer is in a position to be a smart seller. Whether it’s been a few weeks, months, days or years, sometimes people just need to sell their lifts. The resale value of a lift is a huge indicator of its quality. We will inject here that BendPak lifts keep their value over time. It’s important, of course, to have the lift inspected to make sure all weld points are intact, the telescoping arms (if applicable) are in good condition, rubber pads aren’t torn and chewed, cables and airlines are cared for properly, etc. You might ask them to replace certain parts that have worn down over time, or you might decide to do that yourself. Like we said, a good car lift will last for many, many years, so unless the previous owner was totally careless about lift capacity and/or periodic maintenance, there’s no real reason to think a used lift is a bad idea. Know your seller! BendPak offers open-box deals from time-to-time, which is a great way to find a top-quality, discounted lift (the only time we’ll use the “d”-word).
What are some of the other ways you look for value? Drop us a comment!September 2nd, 2016
Dash cams serve two purposes. BendPak doesn’t make dash cams, but the more we hear about them, the more vital we think they are. Dash cams are a good investment: they’re cost-effective and give you peace of mind. Dash cam footage will back you up in court when it captures crimes and other illegal acts. Because they keep recording, they reveal incredible moments that end before you can say “Snapchat.” Dash cams cost between $20-$200, with the average being around $60, which is a small price to pay for this kind of security. These are the situations where a dash cam really comes in handy.
1: Bust ’em for the hit-and-run
This has got to make you happy to see. Some dude is driving down the road, minding his own business when suddenly he’s clipped by an SUV that refuses to stop and pull over. Only a dash cam could have captured this moment and made sure justice was served. We love the list of charges that runs at the end.
2. Insurance scammers beware
Insurance scammers from across the globe are caught red-handed by these dash cams. Look for the incredible moment that they seem to realize they’re on camera and slowly just walk away like nothing ever happened. (Those guilty expressions, though!) If this happened to you and you couldn’t prove that your would-be victim screaming and clutching their would-be injuries was faking, what would you say to the police when the crowd of bystanders all say they didn’t see the accident happen, per se, but they did see a man clutching his foot underneath your car? A dash cam would clear all that nonsense right up.
Imagine if your best friend broke your two-post car lift while you weren’t there and blamed it on a faulty cable, but a camera in your garage showed that he improperly loaded the lift. Friends don’t improperly load their friends’ lifts. Everyone knows that.
3. “How’s my driving?”
Excuse our PG-rated French, but it sucks to get stuck in front of, behind or next to a bad driver (e.g. road ragers, dangerous mergers). When someone does something as common as turning without using a blinker, we don’t recommend calling 9-1-1 and wasting county resources (as well as your time) with a full-blown report about your hurt feelings. On the other hand, if said driver’s merge is the cause of an accident, you’ll have all the proof you need to settle up without getting lawyers involved.
4. Time-lapse videos are awesome
There’s something that seems to draw us toward time-lapse videos. Take something boring, like a 1,000-mile stretch of highway, film it with your dash cam, and suddenly you have proof of a pretty amazing journey. There are many memorable stretches of road you might want to make into time-lapse, and dash cams are the perfect way to make that happen.
5. Pics or it didn’t happen
Keeping your dash cam on 24/7 is a worthwhile idea. Things always seem to happen out of nowhere, and most of the time it’s our word against people’s willingness to trust us. We’ve all seen some hilarious stuff on the roads that would make for a great story… if only we had a dash cam to prove it really happened. This video is incredible beyond words.
6. Capture what happens when you park
7. No unjust violations or citations
If you’re speeding and a cop pulls you over, you’ll probably get a ticket. After all, it’s hard to fight against radar evidence. On the other hand, what if you were scratching your ear and a police officer thought you were using your cell phone? It happened to one Brooklyn resident, and if he didn’t have a dash cam to show the cop he wasn’t on his phone, he would have been unjustly ticketed.
8. Injustice revealed
In one incredible case, a dash cam captured police officer misconduct, which was only possible because of the recording. Some of the things you see and hear in this news clip are pretty shocking. But it’s not just citizens who need a little help from their friend (i.e. dash cams). Sometimes it’s the police who need to back up their actions, especially in life-and-death situations. We’re not posting the video directly due to the graphic nature of the content, but from the link, you can choose to watch the fatal shooting, which occurs off-screen. Both officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing. It’s powerful, convincing evidence for dash cams.
9. Assist your insurance claims on fender-benders
Insurance claims made easy! If you’re in an accident, even a small fender-bender, your dash cam will catch it all. In this video (the action starts at 1:47), the dash cam belongs to someone not even involved in the accident. His YouTube description says it all: “The guy who caused the accident told a completely different story and was pretty mad when he found out that what he did was recorded.” As soon as the accident occurs, the driver realizes he managed to capture something important. It’s great how he pulls over right away to help out.
Even though most people carry smartphones capable of recording video, dash cams bridge that split-second gap that is the difference between seeing something and missing it entirely. It’s the moment you’d otherwise spend digging in your pocket and getting the camera ready. By that point, the vehicle collision has already happened; the insurance fraud has been committed; the police officer-involved shooting already took place; the funny, once-in-a-lifetime experience has come and gone. There’s definitely peace of mind with your dash cam running, and it comes cheaper than most GPS systems, smartphones and other electronic equipment. We can’t recommend them enough.
This blog has discussed the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid and electric vehicles, but self-driving cars may be the biggest auto tech we have yet to cover. In some ways, it’s hard to imagine this is even real.
Well, we can all pinch ourselves. It is real—maybe a little too real—and it feels like completely different territory than anything we’ve seen thus far from the auto industry. With industry giants like Apple, Google and Uber paving the way for self-driving car tech, we can rest assured that the technological competition is going to be fierce.
A looming question is now dominating the Internet as we consider how quickly this technology is arriving, and it’s straight from the Philosophy 101 textbook: what are the ethical consequences of putting millions of non-human entities on the roads, computing life-and-death decisions in less than a microsecond? And what about jobs? Are the machines taking over?
Historically speaking, there have always been game-changing moments in technological development. The McCormick reaper of the mid-19th century changed farming practices that had been around since the dawn of agriculture itself and created a near exponential population growth in that time; nothing like it had ever been seen. The iPhone freed us from the work desk in ways that are still being discovered. And now, self-driving cars will alter how we live, commute, spend recreational time, etc. They may also threaten jobs. So, what can expect the future of self-driving cars to look like?
Philosophy, Ethics and Self-Driving Cars
This headline reads like a college undergrad Philosophy course. (Class of 2027, anyone?) If you’ve read the classic science-fiction novel I, Robot or seen the adapted movie, you know that author Isaac Asimov’s first rule of robotics is that robots may not hurt humans or allow humans to be hurt by outside means. Oh, how things have changed! The issue of “car ethics” has been raised by a recent study, published in Science but here cited from a CNN article, which contends that self-driving cars are arriving soon and bringing with them ethical issues that are pretty scary to comprehend.
For instance, if you were driving in the pouring rain and suddenly saw a crowd of people right in front of you, you might determine that your options were to swerve off the road and risk only your own life or brake and risk the lives of others. Before you roll your eyes, we know what you’re thinking: 1) “I wouldn’t have been driving in the first place in those conditions.” Fair enough. 2) “Is this really one of those what-would-you-do things? What are we, 12 years old?” Good points all around. But should it happen, you only have seconds—or less—to make a decision. The dilemma is very real when it comes to self-driving cars, and it was raised by Jean-Francois Bonnefon, co-author on the recent study. He claims that a self-driving car must make these ethical decisions by using math. So, what should come first, the passenger or the world?
Furthermore, this might as well be a study in how people give contradictory responses when you ask them variations of the same basic question. According to the study, 76% of people surveyed said it is “more moral for a driverless vehicle to sacrifice one passenger rather than 10 pedestrians,” while “81%… said they would rather own a car that protected [the passenger]… at all costs.” In other words, people believe that society is more important than the individual, as long as that individual isn’t them. Jonathan Handel, adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, refers to this as the “not in my backyard” problem (or “back seat problem”). People are less likely to concern themselves with outcomes that do not affect them personally.
Much of this discussion stems from what is known as the “Trolley Problem,” which refers to a situation where the conductor of a train sees a family of five that will surely die if the train’s route is not altered, but if a lever is pulled, the train will veer off and kill one lone man who is completely unaware of the train. The conductor must make the choice. The Trolley Problem asks us to determine which scenario is worse: the one where we do nothing and can’t be held responsible for five deaths, or the one where we choose to take action but save more lives in doing so.
Of course, it’s not just the Trolley Problem that’s at play here. Sometimes animals fly or run out in front of us, and we have to decide whether or not to brake. What will self-driving cars do about ducks in the road? Squirrels and birds? Deer? As humans, we calculate these risks and make decisions quickly, sometimes in less than a second. It’s reasonable, isn’t it, to ask that companies like Google and Uber reveal their risk-calculating software to the public? We think so.
If you’re playing devil’s advocate, you may scoff at the idea that this ethical concept has landed front-and-center in the self-driving car discussion. After all, should the mathematical “ethics” of self-driving cars concern us deeply if these sorts of occurrences are few and far between? Many thousands are already injured or killed annually from traffic collisions due to human errors. It’s hard to imagine technology mucking things up worse than we already have, in terms of safety. (Here’s hoping I don’t have to eat my words.) So how important is this issue of non-human ethics? Survey says…
Are Self-Driving Cars Job Killers or Job Savers?
No discussion on auto technology is complete without considering the economic impact of the change. We’ve discussed here how mechanics need to continually update their maintenance and repairs to keep ahead of the curve (i.e. electric cars, digital dash displays). If self-driving cars hit the market by way of millions of units, it stands to reason that fewer drivers in front seats means fewer jobs for commercial drivers. Or does it?
If you ask Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber’s track record of creating jobs (made possible by the advent of mobile phone apps) and adapting to new technological circumstances is proof that self-driving cars will afford workers new opportunities for employment. By comparing the upcoming change to phone operators who all lost their jobs once phone switchboards were no longer a thing, he seems be admitting that the role of drivers is going to change, even disappear. Without supplying a timeline, Kalanick says that self-driving cars are still a long ways away. Uber is still figuring out simple things like bridge-crossing, so yeah, it sounds like there’s time.
It’s interesting how aware Kalanick is of his company’s problem: if he’s not “tied for first” at the end of this race for the perfect self-driving car, he knows Uber is finished as a company. It’s not easy to take away the drivers who make Uber possible and change up an entire business model. Google, in light of its own self-driving car endeavors, earlier this year announced dozens of manufacturing positions. One engineering position included this in its job description: “approving fixture designs used in the assembly of electronic modules for the self-driving car.” Tantalizing! How roles like these, as well as more numerous low and mid-level labor jobs, will expand remains to be seen. Unlike Uber, which already has millions of drivers in its global network, Google is just entering into the driving marketplace, so they don’t have to worry about losing a labor force (drivers) who will eventually be replaced by self-driving car tech. This might make the change more difficult for Uber.
In the long run, it’s hard to say how jobs will be affected. For one, there are no clear timelines here, so it’s difficult to think about long-term planning. If you’re an Uber driver, maybe there is some reason to be concerned for your job. Is this enough to make you want to get up and quit before you’re let go? Second, who knows how many jobs will really be created. It’s easy to see manufacturing positions that were once held by humans be replaced by machines. In fact, that’s nothing new in today’s manufacturing era. This is sure to be a major discussion in the years to come.
In either case, if you live in Pittsburgh, let us know how those free self-driving car rides feel. As it turns out, the weird, wild future of self-driving cars is pulling up shortly.