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A cool way to make money!

xBy John Cannell

Over 60% of all passenger vehicles produced in 2006 will be equipped with air conditioning. This rises to nearly 100% when you move into the mid-range and luxury models. We take A/C for granted. Too warm? Turn down the temperature . . . aaah, that’s better.

The only time we do not take it for granted is when it stops working. There is nothing worse then that sinking feeling you get, when the controls are at “MAX COLD”, and all you get is warm, moist, air blowing on your perspiring face.

As little as twenty years ago, A/C was still considered a luxury and we would remark on the extravagance of those ordering their bread-and-butter cars so equipped. Not so, anymore! Even with the ‘luxury surcharge’ added to the price, air conditioning is a good investment which adds considerably to the resale value when you trade or sell your vehicle.

It seems there is little doubt that, just like the heater, some form of air conditioning will, eventually, be standard equipment on all vehicles. This offers the technician a growing and vital market, even in Atlantic Canada where summer is considered to be the first two weeks in August.

Air conditioning service requires a much smaller investment than many other automotive service specializations, but you are only wasting potential income with inferior, used, or, outdated equipment, plus you run the risk of huge fines should you vent refrigerant into the atmosphere. Your first priority should be a sophisticated Recovery, Recycling, Evacuation, and, Recharging machine such as Robinair’s 34700Z.

This is a fully automated machine allowing the technician to program the unit for recovery, recycling, evacuation, leak test, and recharge, while he is able to do other profitable work, or, to prepare the next vehicle. The tech does not need to operate any panel valves. An improved User Interface prompts him all the way through a service. It is as simple as following instructions with your teacher by your side. Semi-automatic machines are available at lower cost.

An example would be Robinair’s 34135-2K. It will perform all of the functions of the automatic unit, except it requires more participation on the part of the tech who has to manipulate valves and hold down buttons.

This type of machine is ideal for a low-volume shop or small dealership, where AC service is a sideline, however, if you plan to focus on AC as a profit center, go with the automatic model. It will pay for itself in the first month! Other recommended equipment would be a refrigerant identifier such as Robinair’s #16900 which will clearly identify the gas (or, air) in any system you are servicing.

Another model, #16910 performs all the functions of the 16900, but, in addition it automatically purges the damaging air and has a built-in hydrocarbon alarm should flammable substances such as propane be detected. An efficient leak detector is a must. The world’s most popular is the TIFZX-1 a Tif product available from SPX. It is actually guaranteed for 25 years! Another excellent product is the 16600 from Robinair.

You may also want a UV (Ultra-violet light) leak detection package which is extremely efficient at detecting leaks of all automotive fluids, as well as A/C systems. A very popular model is #16350, again from Robinair. A/C systems should be flushed when servicing for maximum efficiency and customer satisfaction. This can be accomplished by an automated flush machine such as Robinair’s #17580, or an economical, hand-held version such as Robinair’s #17595. Again, speed and payback are the criteria you apply when making your decision.

You also need a pocket thermometer such as Robinair 10945 or 43230. These are not only good for A/C work but for many other automotive applications. Infra-red type thermometers are very popular, and they have diminished in price considerably.

These enable you to simply point at an object and easily read the surface temperature, plus they perform double duty as a diagnostic tool, for example, measuring comparitive manifold temperature at the exhaust ports on an engine, or checking for “hot spots’ in radiators. Tif # 7610, 7612, or 7620, are good examples

There are, of course many other devices, tools, and accessories you can buy to improve the speed and efficiency of your climate control service. Our AC service season is a relatively short one. Very few people take advantage of advertised “Air Conditioning System Annual Check-ups”, or, “Beat the Rush - Check your AC now” etc., so, every vehicle owner coming in your door is, probably, in a panic, even though his/her AC has not worked since the previous Fall!
When you contemplate the purchase of a new piece of equipment or tool, ask yourself the question,

“Will this save time, and reduce comebacks?” Time is of the essence, and, of course, time is money! Ask your favourite jobber for catalogues and flyers, or go online to a website such as to see what is available. Then shop around for a price.

Sometimes you can improve production by simply increasing your inventory of AC parts and fittings, so you do not have to waste precious time waiting for a required item, or trying to make the wrong part fit.

IMPORTANT! Prior to hanging out your “We fix Air Conditioning” sign, either you, or your technicians must be certified to handle CFC (chlorofluorcarbon) refrigerants. GWP (global warming potential) and ODS (ozone depletion substances) training and certification is available from DATS CANADA LTD at 1-902-401-5436. (Dave Giles).

Remember, you are only as good as your equipment, combined with the your knowledge and ability to use it… KEEP COOL!! You can contact John in Saint John here.