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Business Management

Insurance and Ethanol: Best Practices from a Shop That’s Doing it Right

Over the course of the last several years, ethanol has become a real problem for motorcycles. It clogs carbs, ruins fuel lines and rusts gas tanks. Team Charlotte Motorsports in Charlotte, N.C., knows how to combat this issue.


Over the course of the last several years, ethanol has become a real problem for motorcycles. It clogs carbs, ruins fuel lines and rusts gas tanks. The question I have for most service departments is, “Can you fix these problems efficiently?”

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One of the best shops I have visited in a long time is Team Charlotte Motorsports in Charlotte, N.C. The heat and humidity in the South seems to cause the group to run into rusty gas tanks almost weekly. They first started to fix these tanks by purchasing cream and applying it into the tank themselves. However, this process was time consuming and had the potential of ruining the customer’s paint, causing the service department to have to pay for a tank repaint. After several mishaps, they sourced a local radiator repair vendor that picks up the tanks at their shop, coats them and returns them when they are finished with the job. They treat the billing for this just like they would for any outsourced labor job — add a few dollars to it and let it roll. Outsourcing the repair of these tanks reduces their liability for repainting a tank and allows the technicians to move on to other jobs during the busy summer months.


Team Charlotte Motorsports also purchased a Safety-Kleen Immersion parts washer. This little device is perfect for cleaning carbs. All they have to do is disassemble the carb and all the jets, drop them in the little basket, turn it on wash and let it go. The process is pretty similar to your washing machine at home. It just sits there and spins until everything comes out clean. I have watched this little washer save them tons of time compared with the process of cutting open a Coke can and boiling the jets in brake cleaner with a propane torch.

I have heard recently that several service department managers boast that ethanol has been the greatest thing for their department because they make money cleaning carbs, but how long do think your customers are going to continue to pay for these carb cleans? When someone comes in with a stuck carb, your service writers and manager should be educating them on how to drain the gas from their tank and drain the fuel from their float bowls when they are not using the unit. There are also several good ethanol fuel stabilizers on the market, which may be good items to display on your service counter or even to stock in your parts department. Educating your customers on how to take care of their unit will keep them up and riding and in the industry for many more years.


The other thing that Team Charlotte does an excellent job of is negotiating with insurance companies. Over the last five years, insurance companies have been busy developing solutions to help them process collision claims more efficiently internally. While I think this is a great plan because it allows them to reduce the cost of the insurance for riders, it sometimes leads to problems for dealers and the consumer. Some of these estimating platforms have inaccurate information because they do not keep their labor times or parts prices up-to-date. Some of them are not even developed by powersports experts and can generate inaccurate estimates.


Team Charlotte Motorsports staff members understand that just because an insurance company develops their own estimate, it doesn’t mean they have to do the work for the insurance estimated price. Many times when I talk with service writers and managers, they feel like they have to take whatever estimate the insurance company provides. Team Charlotte Motorsports generates an estimate for every bike that arrives for collision repair. They balance the negation between the insurance company, the consumer and the dealership very well. They justify any cost differences between the two estimates by pulling up a current labor guide and explaining to the adjuster that parts prices can change every 30 days from certain OEMs. This leaves any system vulnerable to errors. It is the job of the service writer  and service manager to negotiate with the insurance company to try and get the best solution for the dealership and the insurance company. Ultimately, this can put your customers in the middle and can cause a sticky situation. Make sure you explain to your customer that, with most policies, they have the right to choose where that repair gets done.


Insurance work can be profitable if you do it right and keep a good relationship with the local adjusters. 

C.R. Gittere and the Service Manager Pro team specialize in service department efficiency, elevating customer service and increasing department profitability. His monthly column focuses on best practices and unique ways to get the most out of your service department. More information about Service Manager Pro can be found at

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