Identifying ride control concerns requires educating safety
Kansas City, Mo.—It used to be a lot easier checking for bad shocks and struts on a car, Jerry Singer, owner of Singer Automotive, said. “If the car bounced when you pushed the front and rear bumpers, it probably needed work.”
As suspensions have improved over the year, Singer’s technique doesn’t work like it used to. “The technology is much better, parts are more complicated, but also built to withstand much more than they used to,” he said. New technology and new tools haven’t slowed Singer, though, who still thoroughly inspects his customers’ cars when they come in for maintenance and repairs.
In 1976 Singer bought the Sinclair gas station he had worked at as a mechanic from the retiring owner. “The shop was older, and so were the tools,” Singer said. After breathing new life into it, Singer moved the business to its current location in the Waldo neighborhood in 1981. “A lot of our customers are second generation now,” he added.
Ride control and safety is a growing subject Singer educates his customers on. “A car might come in for an alignment, but need something else altogether,” he said, adding he looks at tread wear on tires, inspects ball joints and tests shocks and struts. “Worn or leaky valves are a common sign of bad struts,” Singer said. The suspension on front wheel drive cars are especially important to go through because of the extra parts and stress on the front axle. “I want to go through a car completely and look at everything, not just what brought the car in,” Singer said.
When a vehicle does need new shocks and struts, he uses Monroe, Bilstein and KYG. “I always use a complete strut assembly too,” Singer said, adding it’s better to replace everything, including the bearing plate, boot and coil spring. He also suggests replacing shocks every 30,000 to 50,000 miles and inspecting the entire suspension even when a car comes in for routine maintenance.
Using a Bartec scan tool, Singer inspects all TPMS on vehicles when they come in for service. “Customers don’t always understand these systems, so we try to explain their importance when we can,” Singer said, who is seeing more TPMS issues and the cost for maintenance increasing. “Foreign cars in particular can cost hundreds to replace,” said Singer. When replacing a TMPS sensor, Singer prefers to use OEM parts.
Tires are another important component of ride control and safety for Singer. “We look at tread wear but also inspect for signs of age, like cracks in the sidewall,” he said. “Even a tire with good tread should be replaced if it’s five or six years old.” Singer Automotive uses a Snap-on wheel balancer and uses the Firestone store up the street for tires and alignments. Singer has three Rotary lifts and a single-post lift that has survived from the Sinclair station with service from Myer’s Brothers.
Singer Automotive is a full-service shop offering more than just suspension repair and tires, however. “We do everything from oil changes to engine replacement,” Singer said. The shop uses a Verus Pro and Autel scan tool for diagnosing, which is a combination, Singer said, that make sure they’re covered with almost any car that rolls through. With the help of his daughter, Debbie Bell, and technician, Roy Keyes, Singer enjoys having a quick one or two day turnaround.
“A big key to our success is treating our customers like family,” Singer said. Singer Automotive stays busy with help from online and print advertising, and maintains a healthy Web presence.
Singer and his staff have attended every ASA-MW Vision show since its inception. “I was a part of the group that started the first Vision 2000 Show, known today as the ASA Midwest Vision Hi Tech Training and Expo,” Singer said. When the group first started meeting, there were 15-20 shop owners that got together on Saturday mornings. “It was a great opportunity to talk with other shop owners and discuss business.”
Keeping up with technology and training is a top priority for Singer. The staff also gets continuing education through CARQUEST, CTI Training, and ASA Midwest. “We’ve been a CARQUEST Tech-Net shop for 15 years and a AAA Approved Auto Repair Shop for 29 years.”