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Management Side
Technical Side

Tricks of the trade

There are a lot of tricks in the auto trade, things dealers do to inexpensively improve the salability of a car. We can learn from these and apply them to our own vehicles either to improve longevity if you're keeping the vehicle or the attractiveness of the vehicle when you sell it. All it takes is a little effort.

Tires. All four tires should be the same brand and style and be about the same tread depth. So what do you do if one or two of your tires are worn badly but two are in good shape? This happens a lot with most modern cars needing four wheel alignment. The trick: Buy a used tire or two that exactly match the good tires. The downside is you lose any guarantees you had with the one or two original tires. The upside is you get two matching tires for way less than two new ones would be and chances are your exact tire is no longer available new. I've tried this and am still happy after 4000 miles. Shipping is free at most sites and transit time is three days more or less even from the west coast.

Cleaning. A clean car lasts longer. Dirt and sand get into upholstery and break down the threads, causing the seams to fail. Dirty cloth upholstery is unattractive as is also subject to premature wear. The worst issue with newer cars is the disk brake dust that rapidly accumulates on the front rims. My rims don't stay clean a week. The trick: Just clean the rims weekly. Clean rims make even a slightly dirty car look good. If you're selling a car, have it professionally detailed inside and out, an exercise that can exceed $100. All dealers do it either in-house or through a third party.

Operational. Everything should work. Everything. All lights, switches, controls, windows, gauges, and comfort items. The on line sites that help set a value for your vehicle assume this even for average condition estimates. Don't assume - oh it's only a headlight bulb. The bulb replacement for my wife's 2007 car was $220. $170 of that was for the bulb.

Major Maintenance. Every vehicle has a maintenance schedule that includes an elephant. In older Lexus and Toyotas it was the 90,000 or 100,000 mile cam belt replacement. The front of the car was stripped to gain access, so the water pump was also replaced along with idler pulleys and the like. Cost was in the $2000 range. If you perform this maintenance elephant before you sell, be sure to have ironclad documentation. If you're keeping the vehicle, this cost is essential.

Gene Canavan is a retired West Point Graduate and Paper Mill Utilities Manager and lives in Prattville, Alabama, USA.


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