Eric Frankenberger, previous AOCA Operating Member of the Year and current Board Member, is president of Oil Changers (Pleasanton, Calif.) and operates 58 oil change locations. Frankenberger has been very active with the AOCA over the last 28 years, regularly speaks at iFLEX conventions, and sits on multiple industry committees supporting the industry and operators across the country.
As told to NOLN
For years, a 10W-30 was a 10W-30 was a 10W-30. Today’s motor oils are more complicated; you can’t look at an oil cap and believe any 5W-30 will work. Shop owners and technicians across the country need to more fully understand the requirements of the vehicle—not only is the correct-grade oil important, but the specifications to the vehicle are as well. We carry four 5W-30s at Oil Changers—other shops may carry three and some may carry seven or more. But just because you carry it and it says 5W-30 doesn’t mean it’ll simply work in every vehicle that comes through your bay.
It’s concerning, because the more time I spend with shops across the country, the more I find some shops not differentiating. You need to look at your oil program and understand the specifications. There’s liability as a shop owner putting the wrong oil in the car.
The need to understand exactly what a car requires is only going to get more prevalent. Owner’s manuals do a good job of spelling it out, but only looking at the grade may be misleading. The performance standard could be different. You need to be proactive in understanding and accounting for both—it’s not just grade, it’s not just performance, it’s performance and grade together.
One problem we have right now is that today’s new hire (or whom we’ll hire three or four years from now) may be in high school. Meanwhile, many more city centers and urban places have actually done away with high school auto shops and the training on cars that goes with it.
A generation or two ago, it was much more common for parents to teach their kids to change oil and work on their car; it was normal. Mine did. The hires of tomorrow, though, typically have very little or zero automotive experience, so it’s crucial to have training standards in place. The AOCA can help—its resources and participants are only getting more savvy—but the training and career path curriculum is sorely lacking in many places where we need it most.
On the other hand, if you’re good at training people and educating your staff, and if you’re patient and can bring people from 0-100 over time, you’ll be fine and have a serious advantage over the competition. What I see out there in the industry and what excites me about our ability to grow is that with these complexities in the automotive repair market, many professionals and organizations are enjoying or creating market opportunities to distinguish themselves while other operators are pulling out.
When a repair shop says, “Oh, we don’t service that car anymore,” an opportunity in the market arises. And that’s exciting—that’s good for those invested in the future and who want to put the time and effort into their staff, our industry, and our associations.