Superheroes and Villains of the Service Bay

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Some of the best stories are ones of good versus evil. If you’ve ever seen “Star Wars,” “The Dark Knight” or “The Amazing Spiderman,” you’ll agree. Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on your acting abilities — life isn’t a movie, and your quick lube isn’t a set. However, servicing some cars can feel like a case of Batman versus Joker — they’re out to get you. In keeping with tradition, we looked at the responses from the 2015 Fast Lube Operator Survey to find out which cars were the easiest and hardest to service this year. We’ve narrowed it down to the top three superheroes and villains of the service bay.

Superheroes

An easy-to-service vehicle is straightforward under the hood and doesn’t throw kinks into the oil change process. It makes money and reminds you why you got into this business in the first place. It helps you uphold the standard of fast, honest and dependable service and leaves you and your staff looking like superheroes in the eyes of the customer.

Despite their different capes and superpowers, heroes of all kinds have a core similarity. They are good. In the same way, even though cars may have different body styles, some look the same under the hood and in the pit, despite their model. For example, coming in at No. 3 on our easiest vehicles to service list are the Dodge Neon and Chrysler PT Cruiser. Although on the outside they look like two completely different cars, they are virtually the exact same under the hood having the same engine, transmission and chassis. That’s why we’ve grouped them together on our list.

It doesn’t take a superhero to understand accessibility and ease of service go hand in hand. The GM half-ton pick-ups like Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra — and therefore the Tahoe, Yukon and Suburban (for the same reasons the Neon and PT Cruiser are grouped together) are the perfect example. These vehicle models have easily accessible air filters and oil filters and the drain plug is placed in an ideal spot. Replacement parts are easy to get ahold of and not astronomically expensive. They also have plenty of room for techs to work under the hood. Their convenient, hassle-free design is probably what launched them to the No. 2 spot on our list.

While the winner for “Easiest Vehicle to Service” is not big, it packs a punch in the service bay. The Honda Civic may be small, but it’s mighty coming in at No. 1 on our list of easiest vehicles to service.

Villains

A difficult-to-service vehicle is time consuming, has expensive parts and is hard to work on once you’re under the hood. It leaves the customer wondering, “what’s taking so long” or “why is this so expensive” and puts you in less than ideal situations like explaining why a drain plug is stripped or why a vehicle needs a new drain pan all together. “Evil cars” don’t make anybody’s job easier.

No surprise, a fleet of Volkswagen models battled against Toyota Tundra while the Mini Cooper got a piece of the action. In the end, VW came out victorious ending the five-year reign of the Tundra, knocking it to No. 2. Close behind was Mini Cooper, rounding out the top three hardest vehicles to service.

Tundra’s infamous skid plate is probably what kept it leader of the villains for so many consecutive years. Tundra’s skid plate not only hides the drain plug, but because it’s bolted to the frame of the truck, if a thread or bolt is stripped the frame must be retapped. However, VW has always been close behind. This year VW’s combination of problems, including canister filters, difficult drain plugs and the possibility of stripping the oil pan, got the job done, earning it the not-so-coveted Hardest Vehicle to Service title.

Let’s not forget about the Mini Cooper either. Although it is small, it presents a slew of technical applications like its oil filter gasket seat design that make things troublesome for technicians. Big problems most likely also result from its — you guessed it — skid plate.

What’s with those darn skid plates after all? If the skid plate is the common denominator for making vehicles more venerable to expensive damages and harder to work on, why have them at all? Thank CAFE standards. CAFE standards placed on manufacturers are causing automakers to come up with solutions to make cars more fuel-efficient. Since skid plates aid in making vehicles more aerodynamic, they’ve become one of the solutions to the fuel economy challenge, so don’t expect them to go anywhere anytime soon.

Of course, it would be nice if things always ran as perfectly as they seem to in the movies, but face it, that’s not realistic. It’s a good idea to have a plan of action — if you don’t already — for cars you know are difficult to service.

For instance, if you accept the challenge and service VWs, make sure you communicate especially clearly with the customer and document what you find every time you work on their car. A customer will be more understanding when you tell them their drain plug is stripped if you’ve already warned them it could happen.

While we can’t guarantee the good guys will always win, we like to think they will! Be the good guy whether you’re servicing a superhero or a villain. The end.

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