December 1, 2022

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How to Successfully Add a Quick Lube Bay

SHOP STATS: Midas Kalkaska Location:  Kalkaska, Mich. .  Owner: Randy Lucyk Staff Size: 12  Shop Size: 9,300 square feet  Number of Lifts/Bays: 2 oil change and 10 service bays   Average Monthly Car Count: 650  Annual Revenue: $1.78 million

SHOP STATS: Meineke Car Care Center Lewes no. 1954 Location:  Lewes, Del.  Owner: Dave Repass Staff Size: 19

  Shop Size: 10,500 square feet  Average Weekly Car Count: 310 (200 as oil changes)  Annual Revenue: $3.2-3.6 million

When Dave Repass opened his Meineke location more than 10 years ago, Meineke wasn’t known for oil changes. Still perceived as “Meineke Muffler” at the time, Repass wanted his location to be full automotive repair, covering what all the mechanical shops were doing plus tires and oil changes. 

For many repair shops, the thought of adding quick lube services through a dedicated bay or bays is an afterthought, especially with business booming for many shops across the country. 

Repass sees that as a mistake. 

“Right now, the way prices are and now short on people, shops are stopping doing oil changes,” he says, adding his shop does about 160 oil changes weekly. “But somebody is going to do it and that somebody is going to have an opportunity to have their business for much more than an oil change.”

Randy Lucyk, owner of a Midas location in Kalkaska, Mich., agrees. 

“There’s no argument it will grow traffic and, if done well, will be profitable,” says Lucyk, whose shop ranks inside the top 10 percent of most profitable Midas locations. 

So how do you ensure an investment in time, space and manpower to take on more oil changes becomes a fruitful endeavor for your business? Repass and Lucyk share their top tips for any shop that is thinking about adding a dedicated quick lube bay. 

Profit can’t be the main motivator. 

While a profitable quick lube operation is attainable for repair shops, shop owners are approaching it incorrectly if that is the main motivator for making the addition, Repass says, and profit shouldn’t be the only way to measure if it is successful. 

For his Meineke location, oil changes serve as relationship builders. Because it is a necessary, cheap box that all vehicle owners must check off, it gives the shop an opportunity to get to know the customer and show them the quality of the operation in a low stakes environment. 

“The oil change is not about the oil change,” Repass says. “Oil changes are often a loss leader, which is why the full service place doesn’t want to do an oil change… but they’re not looking at the benefits past that.”

Repass does an inspection for every car that comes in for an oil change. Often the customer decides not to do that work and it may take the customer three or four oil changes before they say yes to more work, but it is a way to build trust in an industry that lacks it with many customers. It also gets the vehicle in the system for future communication. 

Doing the oil change also gives the shop a reason to check the brakes, air and other fluids, which increases the work opportunity. 

“The extra thousand dollars you’re making or losing isn’t going to matter much, it’s about the customer getting comfortable, seeing that you do good work and establishing trust,” he says. 

The potential lack of profit at the beginning and the subsequent retracting of resources, is a common reason Lucyk sees repair shops fail at adding a quick lube bay. Lucyk says shops quickly lose interest and suddenly the 15 oil changes they do daily falls to 10. Then to five. 

Pick your vendor wisely.

To Lucyk, the top logistical piece that needs to be in place to run a successful quick lube bay is a supportive vendor. 

“You can’t overemphasize the importance of a quality vendor,” he says. 

Repair shops looking to get more involved in quick lube service should first look at their current supplier. How much business do they do with other quick lubes? Do they provide training for quick lubes? Are they committed to the industry and willing to supply the venture? And most importantly, do they have the supply necessary to support the business? 

Those questions are important to ask, Lucyk says, and not all suppliers that work with repair shops are suited to work with quick lubes. Some don’t have the capacity to handle heavy oil change businesses and some view it as a headache, he says. So understanding if another supplier is needed is key. Lucyk calls his supplier, Raleigh Brothers, a great “partner” that cares about the success of his business. The relationships have caused many headaches to be avoided and have been additive to the business. 

Make it a team effort.

If a shop dedicated one bay to a quick lube, it’s very easy to then dedicate just one technician to that bay to handle all the work. But that isn’t the best strategy, Lucyk says. 

“It’s such a fast-paced business, there needs to be a team approach,” Lucyk says. “If a tech doesn’t show up, or isn’t cutting it, there need to be back-ups in place.”

Lucyk recommends a free-flowing approach. So while there may be one tech, often a low-level tech or apprentice, that is tasked with a bulk of the work, all techs should share some responsibility. Lucyk’s shop has five employees that make up the oil and tire team. Every day, a combination of three of those employees are tasked with manning the shop’s two oil change bays. The other employees help the rest of the staff with the shop’s remaining 10 bays. 

While some experienced techs may see this as a nuisance, Lucyk sees it as an opportunity for them. It provides them work during down times and, again, it allows them the opportunity to connect with the customer, who may want that specific tech to continue working on their car every time they come in. 

Understand your space. 

Adding a dedicated quick lube is not for everyone, Lucyk says. For a three or four-bay shop with six total employees, the return on investment is going to be very difficult to meet based on the financial realities of doing oil changes, Lucyk says.

But for a shop with a higher bay count and room to grow, it makes a lot of sense. In that scenario, one of the first decisions that needs to be made is what the workflow is going to look like. Does the shop have the capacity for a drive-thru? Are the vehicles going to be hoisted on a lift or will a  pit need to be installed? Is the customer going to stay in their car or wait in the lobby?

All those questions will have unique answers based on the space. A drive-thru option is great if you can get it to increase car count, Repass says, but bringing the customer inside gives the shop another avenue to establish a good connection. 

If the customer does stay in the car, make sure your technicians are prepped and ready to answer questions. Are they personable enough to have that constant face-to-face interaction? Or would it be better for the service advisors to be fulfilling that role? 

Above all else, don’t try to be Jiffy Lube or Take 5, Repass says. They fulfill a specific role in the marketplace and they spend 100 percent of their day on it. Trying to copy their model isn’t likely to work. 

“I don’t care what the Take 5 is doing or the Jiffy Lube… good for them,” Repass says. “There’s a need for some for that service, but I do believe we offer a more appealing and better service. Showcase that.”