Association of the month

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It’s always a pleasure to be able to share news about our association with other industry members; to inform them about how we work, which issues we’re focusing on at present, and how we are addressing them. 

We specifically wanted to focus on maintaining and improving standards within our membership base in this issue. It remains a key priority for 2021 and something we all need to focus on to remain compliant and grow our businesses. 

We were therefore extremely pleased to be featured as the Association of the Month in the April edition of Automobil. Be sure to check out our profile by clicking here, and read up on our efforts to develop and uphold high industry standards and help members grow their businesses.

You can find digital editions of all the Automobil magazines by clicking here.

Paying attention to the small glitches can stop them growing into big problems

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Motorists are always looking for ways to save on their vehicle maintenance – especially now that recent petrol hikes are placing them under even more pressure. 

One way to put a brake on expenses is by making sure the car is in good running order. Although most modern vehicles are equipped with warning lights and other alerts intended to warn owners about malfunctions, there are other, smaller tells that may provide a heads-up even before these issues develop. By attending to these glitches before they become big problems, motorists stand to save a lot of money.

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Photo: Enis Yavuz on Unsplash

Here’s what to look out for:

  • A warning light is, of course, an obvious sign that something has gone wrong – and yet, all too often, drivers feel they can ignore these signals. It’s critical to advise your clients about what warning signs mean, and to remind them that attending to them is a matter of urgency.
  • A grinding or squeaking sound made when the brakes are depressed are a sign that brake discs are coming under pressure and should be replaced before they give way to far more costly (not to mention dangerous) brake failure.
  • Tyres that have worn unevenly indicate that there is something wrong with the car’s suspension or alignment. If the steering wheel vibrates, even when driving on smooth surfaces, it’s an even stronger call to get the car checked. Drivers can avoid this altogether by ensuring their wheels are rotated with every oil change or regular service.
  • Even a small windscreen crack can grow into something more serious over time, posing a risk to the driver and passengers by threatening the structural integrity of the car. Fixing cracks is usually quick and easy, and is covered by most insurance companies.
  • A juddering steering wheel tells you that the car’s suspension needs to be seen to, or that the wheel bearings may fail shortly. It’s easy to address this problem by balancing the wheels.
  • A car that slowly starts to use more oil is trying to tell the driver that it’s time to change the oil and check oil filters. Smoking oil and reduced performance are also giveaways that there may be problems on the horizon, even before the oil light starts flashing.
  • Leaking radiator? It’s time to replace the unit, which most likely has been affected by corrosion and may soon start causing the car to overheat.
  • When the starter motor starts giving hassles, it’s important to take the car for a professional assessment. These problems may have any number of causes, from electrical issues to damage to the solenoid, or it may be the motor itself which needs to be replaced.

Right to Repair Tier 1 Sponsor: Spotlight on GUD Filters

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GUD Filters is an iconic filter brand that has provided motorists with great engine protection for 71 years. With an extensive range of over 1 900 part numbers for 3 500 vehicle applications, GUD has a filter for over 95% of the vehicles on SA’s roads. GUD premium quality filters offer OE quality and reliability, supported by a comprehensive product warranty, making it the number one filter choice across the African continent.

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GUD has recently launched a new website with an interactive Filter Finder catalog, which now also includes an image of the filter being searched for, allowing workshops to quickly identify the right filter for the vehicle application. The Filter Finder has mobile functionality making it easy to view on a cellphone and saves you having to page through a catalog. Visit www.gud.co.za and see for yourself how easy it is to use.

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GUD Filter Kit

GUD continually seeks to innovate, with the Filter Kit being one such example. The filter kits contain all the filters needed for a major service in one convenient pack, offering a fitment-ready product solution for workshops and mechanics. There are 52 filter kits in the range, covering the most popular vehicles on South African roads.  

GUD Filters has been a Right to Repair member since 2018. We believe consumers should have the freedom to fit quality aftermarket brands to their vehicles at the workshop of their choice. We encourage all consumers to support local manufacture and South African businesses.

Magic memorabilia

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A workshop is a workshop is a workshop – right? Not if you have some fun and interesting décor to spruce it up. That’s where the beautiful laser-cut cars made by Mary Roos come in – they’re a great addition to any workspace.

Mary, who runs River Lodge on the banks of the Vaal River with her husband Jan, started Biki van Als as a hobby back in 2017 and was discovered by Peter Van Mosseveld. 

It all began when she decided to make a clock, using a jigsaw and a hand file. It took her a full day to create a perfect circle by hand – which is why she decided a laser cutter was a must for her toolkit.

It’s an unusual hobby for a granny of 55 – but, then again, Mary believes that anything is possible. It’s a motto that applies to her business, too, which is why she never hesitates when her clients ask her to make something specific, no matter how unusual. 

Not that it’s always easy, though. Mary admits that she has spent many sleepless nights trying to understand how to make certain items and that the initial three-hour CorelDraw programme just didn’t make sense.

Her perseverance has paid off, however. She has come to include a variety of materials in her offering, including wood, Perspex, vinyl, and leather, and as word of her products has spread, she has received orders from all around the country.

If you are looking for something special for your workshop or home or even a novel gift for one of your clients or suppliers you are welcome to give Mary a call on  082 872 6975.

Getting the key of the door

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A twenty-first birthday is always a reason for celebration – especially when the business in question started off with little more than a toolbox, and has weathered such challenges as Covid and significant dips in the economy.

So, how has D&T Servicing managed to reach this memorable milestone? The workshop has a motto, explains Teresa Spenser-Higgs, MIWA Border Chairperson, whose husband started the enterprise: Skilled labour isn’t cheap, and cheap labour isn’t skilled. Guided by this ethos, the workshop strives to provide honest, reliable service at a fair price.

Today, D&T Servicing concentrates predominantly on vehicles with recently expired warranties, aiming to offer a home to customers who expect the same quality service they would expect from a dealer. The difference is that Theresa and her husband know every customer by name, developing relationships with them that go well beyond simply servicing a client. This was evident when the couple thanked their customer base for 21 years of loyal support with a discount balloon promotion.

Their advice to vehicle owners? Take care of small problems as soon as they occur so that they don’t develop into big problems, and remember that servicing your car at a reputable workshop every year will extend the life of your vehicle.

The power of collaboration

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This month marked a milestone in the relationship between RMI and the German Chamber of Crafts Erfurt, also known as Handwerkskammer Erfurt (HWK), as industry stakeholders – including a representative from the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Service SETA (MerSETA) – flocked to Iqhayiya Campus at Port Elizabeth College to discuss the progress of the partnership.

The two organisations joined forces last year in an attempt to boost skills training in the Eastern Cape, by driving vocational training in the automotive aftermarket. This is especially important, given the speed with which modern vehicles evolve.

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Zizipho Sikhom

According to Erwin Stroebel, Regional Manager in the Eastern Cape for RMI, the partnership has made a significant impact: to date, 18 TVET lecturers and teachers from nine institutions have received training through the initiative. These trainers have attended several courses with a practical orientation, specifically designed to address the skills gaps that had been identified. Several of these courses have been hosted in Germany and attended online, while practical training takes place at an accredited training centre.

The exposure to international trends made possible through the German Craft Chamber is particularly valuable, as technological advances in the automotive aftermarket sales, repair and maintenance sectors continue to be challenging and many companies are struggling to find staff members equipped with relevant skills.

Louis van Huyssteen, Training Director at RMI, says that upskilling apprentice facilitators and lecturers is a central step in lecturer development and crucial if South Africa is to offer quality training.

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Bridget Finn from Finn Auto Repairs and Diagnostics

Beneficiaries of the programme have also provided positive feedback. Bridget Finn of Finn Auto Repairs and Diagnostics in PE has employed two artisans and said that she would encourage other companies to take advantage of the training opportunity. As an added plus, MerSETA has indicated that member organisations will receive support through training funding.

HWK’s Birgit Mac Mahon has said that the progress of the campaign is highly encouraging, and points to the possibility of extending the initiative to other provinces.

The Code of Conduct and you: Your responsibility, your protection

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In a perfect world, every job would proceed smoothly and without problems. In the real world, however, workshop owners are bound to come across challenges, including opportunistic customers who claim that long-standing damage to their vehicles was caused after it had been delivered by the workshop.

Your best defense against such claims is total compliance with service and repair check-ins – which is why adherence to the South Africa Automotive Code of Conduct is so important, according to Deon Rademeyer, RMI Consumer Affairs Specialist.

This Code of Conduct states that members undertake to provide goods and services that are safe and at prices that are fair and reasonable; honour both the letter and spirit of any warrantees that accompany the sale of goods and services, and publicly acknowledge the consumer’s rights to be heard, to be informed, to have the right to safety, the right to choose, and the right to redress with regard to the South African Automotive Industry.

With this in mind, it is imperative that workshop owners do their utmost to provide outstanding service, not only because this is the customer’s due, but because it protects them against fraudulent claims. Rademeyer points out that it remains the owner’s responsibility to safeguard the company against such claims, which is why it’s a good idea to pay special attention when vehicles are both accepted and delivered, and to have written, signed proof of all interactions. Added to this, the following actions will add an extra guarantee for workshop owners who may fall victim to claims of damage that were not, in fact, inflicted at the workshop:

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Photo: Francesca Grima on Unsplash
  • When accepting a vehicle, do a walk-around with the customer to point out and make a note of all existing scratches, dents, and marks. Pay special attention to the condition of the hubcaps and wheel rims, and whether valve caps are present.
  • Make sure the customer signs his or her acknowledgment of these defects by signing the check-in or -out form.
  • Take photographs of these defects before work commences, and attach the photos to the job card.
  • When delivering the vehicle, present the original sign-in form confirming the prior existence of the defects.

You can obtain all necessary documentation from your local RMI office.

You can also listen to the podcast by clicking here if you prefer.

Avoiding autumn blues

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The changing colours of the leaves is all very lovely until it hits you that winter is on its way, the many challenges associated with the pandemic still have to be overcome, and we’re not even halfway through a year that has presented more than its fair share of difficulties. 

Many of us are accustomed to dealing with winter blues, but this seasonal sadness may start setting in even before longer nights start setting in.

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Photo: Jenny Hill on Unsplash

These small steps may help you keep your chin up:

  • Look after your health. Even before wellness became the most pressing priority for many, autumn signaled the onset of flu season. By now, you’re probably well versed in what you can do to keep your immune system strong – up your dose of Vitamins C and D, make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Keep up these habits, because a cold can up the misery quotient significantly.
  • Get some sunshine. It’s tempting to closet yourself indoors when the temperature starts to drop, but natural light is an important factor when it comes to beating the blues.
  • Keep active. The thought of a run may seem unappealing when it’s colder, the mornings and evenings are darker, and your energy naturally takes a seasonal dip – but it’s one of the best ways to up your immune system, produce feel-good endorphins, and keep your energy charged throughout the day.

From the Director’s Desk, April 2021

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Ever heard that quote: “I didn’t come this far to only come this far?” Those of us who have read one negative headline too many may feel a strong temptation to roll their eyes at this optimistic attitude – but have you ever thought that there may be a point to it? More than that, have you considered how you might change your life if you chose to think more positively?

I think that we in South Africa have become highly attuned to the bad stuff. We’re bombarded with news about how corrupt our government is, how our economy is hopeless, how our vaccination programme simply isn’t gaining traction. It’s almost as though we are primed to seek out the negative, so it’s not surprising when we find it. 

Looking for good news or experiences takes more effort, which is why it’s less appealing in the first place. I recently learned that Amazon is setting up headquarters in Cape Town; an incredible development that is bound to have a huge impact. I almost missed this story in the newspaper, though, because it wasn’t on the front page – most likely it had been pushed towards the back of the paper to make way for something more sensational. But imagine how good we would all feel if we checked our news feeds, and the first thing we saw was something that gave so much hope? Isn’t it worth digging beyond the obvious so that we can find that feeling?

Your day is probably full of other small examples of incidents that make you feel good. For me, it was renewing my drivers’ license; a chore I usually hate, but one which was made far more pleasant thanks to the great service I received.

If we all focus on these reasons to feel optimistic, no matter how small, we can change our outlook completely. The key to overcoming that feeling of drowning in bad news may be something as simple as finding a reason to believe, then focus on it intensely, deliberately, and with clear intent, until that reason drives out all the ‘noise’ of the negative. 

Pieter Niemand, MIWA National Director