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Trailer bearings: a hidden moneymaker for auto repair shops

by | Sep 20, 2022

You already can see where I’m going with this based on the title. Trailers are the simplest things in the world, and yet unless you’re at an RV shop, a dedicated trailer shop, or you live in a rural or coastal area (ag and marine use), you probably rarely see trailers coming in for service. But you know where I see ‘em getting serviced often? On the side of the road, by a sweaty, dirty owner. I’d love to know how many trailer bearing replacements happen in a breakdown lane or in an auto parts store parking lot.

A trailer axle bearing repair occurs outside a shop

Replacing bearings in an RV park isn’t exactly what most leisure travelers have on the schedule. Photo by sshepard.

So why not save your customers the hassle and service their trailers? With the exception of your landscapers and equipment haulers, most of your customers pulling a trailer for pleasure aren’t going to have tight schedules—perfect work for slow times. A postcard from your shop gently suggesting an annual (at minimum) bearing repack, adjustment, and brake check might be all someone needs to hook up the trailer and drop it off.

If you happen to deal in tires, this is a perfect time to take a look at those, too. (If you aren’t a trailer-tire expert, they’re almost all bias plies, and no one ever rotates them, and they sit outside most of their lives except when some maniac is pulling them at 80 mph underinflated on the freeway. They lead short lives.)

Trailers await service.

It’s not bad to have a lot full of work that’s not immediately pressing. Photo by Yaraslau Saulevich

You get easy work that’s not particularly time-sensitive, and the parts for Dexter or Dexter-pattern axles (the popular choice for most applications) are readily available at your local auto parts store. You get some money in the till, and you have a customer who’s almost guaranteed not to get sidelined with a seized bearing on a holiday weekend with screaming kids in a very hot camper.

Especially if you have a parking lot of decent size and techs who aren’t unwilling to take some tools and a rolling seat out into the sunshine, this work doesn’t have to tie up bays for long (if at all). It’s nothing but work for good, established customers you already know. Dust caps, castellated nuts, grease, and cotter pins aren’t objectionably expensive to them, and they’re usually high-margin pieces if you get them from my favorite source.

So suggest some service to a few of your customers, and if the jobs go well, maybe plan a sales campaign pushing for that extra work. It’s perfect to offer as the summer season winds down, before RVs, toy haulers, and landscape trailers are put up for the winter.

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