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VIDEO: Do Your Customers Understand Their Power Steering?

Scott Shriber is a veteran of the automotive industry with four decades of experience. His 27 years with Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, Mich.) included senior management work in the areas of customer service, field technical training, dealer profitability, fixed operations and warranty, as well as national marketing and sales experience. He has a deep understanding of both direct and indirect parts sales channels, as well as distribution through the aftermarket. During two joint venture start-ups, he gained extensive collision, IT and medium-duty truck experience. Scott joined Babcox in 2008 as publisher of BodyShop Business. In 2010, Scott was also named publisher of Counterman magazine and AMN. He remains a devoted car enthusiast and continual student of the automotive industry.

Be prepared to explain the differences in today’s steering systems. This video is sponsored by The Group.

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A customer goes to a shop with his 2008 Toyota Highlander. He says his power steering is not working. He says he tried to check the level of the power steering fluid but could not find it under the hood. And when he checked all the parts stores he says all they had were manual racks.

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Have you already diagnosed the customer’s problem?

The answer is that his Highlander comes standard with ELECTRIC power steering, not hydraulic. The motor for this system is mounted on the steering column between the firewall and instrument cluster. So, there is no fluid, no pump and the rack is a manual. The electric motor provides the assist, not hydraulic pressure

One advantage of an electric power steering system is that it makes the engine more efficient at higher speeds when assistance for steering is not required. The electric power steering also helps to quiet down the engine bay, and the technology is enabling collision avoidance systems in current and future generations of vehicles.

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What does electric power steering mean for your customers and your shop? The first item is diagnostic labor for inspecting steering complaints. Just like drivability problems, an electric power steering can’t be solved with just a test drive. Curing a complaint will require scan tools, service information and diagnostic procedures. Billing an hour of diagnostic labor to find the source of the steering problem should be a standard practice at all shops.

If the source of the problem the electric power steering assembly on the column or part of the steering rack, it is not “plug and play.” The technician may have to perform a programming procedure so the new unit can communicate with the other modules on the vehicle. Even after the unit is programmed, they might have to complete a calibration procedure requiring a scan tool and maybe a test drive. All of these must be a part of the estimate and final bill.

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The next time you get a customer in your shop claiming they can’t find their power steering fluid reservoir, you should first check to see if the steering system is electric. Then, verify that other vehicle systems are not interfering with the power steering system’s operation. Be prepared to explain to your customers the differences in today’s steering systems – they may be surprised to learn that what they thought they knew is totally incorrect.

This video is sponsored by The Group.

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