Starting a Mobile Oil Change Service

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  • OilgutOilgut subscriber Posts: 0
    Shoemaker...
    Never say NO!! Unless you just can`t or you won`t make money! LOL
    I wanted to have my clients drum up extra business so that I had 3 or 4 to do when I showed up >> But I had to realize that my business was customer service centered and they I was trying to provide the most convenient service available to basically spoil my clients into not going anywhere else again... So making them work for their oil change was only going to make them procrastinate and keep them from getting their car serviced... I now just ask them (if they are at work) if anyone else in the office needed to get theirs done while we there anyway.>> Let them feel like they are doing their coworkers a favor instead of you. It is very typical to pick up 2 or 3 extra per stop doing it that way >> Although it makes it hard to keep to a schedule... I find that it is much easier to call you next appointments and tell them your running late than it is to try to schedule the extras for later >> You will make more money and save a lot of fuel.
    I tried the express van Idea... but I found that I couldn`t carry the materials that I needed... I service a State contract that requires rerecycled oil (stupid.. I know) so I need the ability to carry 4 types of oil... I also needed a minimum of 50 gallons apiece (sometimes more) and enough waste capacity for them... Plus water and washer fluid etc... to operate all day without having to make a special trip back to the warehouse to dump waste and refill before I had completed my route. The van would be great for light schedule days but I just needed a heavy cap. rig because I service a lot of heavy equipment and diesel trucks.
    I have a Gooseneck cargo trailer that is 23` overall length with tandem 5200lb axles... It is big but here in Texas I haven`t had too much of a problem getting in and out of places.
    The referral offer got me a lot of business when I promoted it >> I haven`t promoted it in years so I can`t remember the last time I had a customer earn one... Most people will give you referrals with asking for anything >> I will comp them an oil change when they do pass on some good leads just as a way of saying thanks... It is funny to see their face when I write up their invoice and total it up by writing "thank you" on the line. Then you really see a flood of NEW refferals and refuse to take a freebie (those are GOOD clients!)
    OG
  • froggiefroggie subscriber Posts: 0
    Juior77 et al
     
    We do not use a vacuum system to remove the oil from the car`s engine - this really doesn`t 
    work because you don`t get all the oil out, nor any of the debris that collects in the bottom of the oil pan.  Our trailers are designed with a lowered floor so that we have easy access to the whole underside of the vehicle to allow proper draining of the engine oil and any debris plus the removal of the oil filter and greasing as needed.
    You can get more detailsat  www.lubeguys.com 
     
    Froggie 
  • jithieljithiel subscriber Posts: 0
    Do you know of anyone who has purchased a sage oil vac system or a lube and go system  with pumps and do you have any recommendations on which system is the best? Which would be best an open trailor or an enclosed trailor?
  • shoemakerspshoemakersp subscriber Posts: 0
    I have been operating the travellube system with pumps for almost a year now in Wisconsin with good luck. I like the idea of the Sage system, but one of the lessons I learned this year is that the one thing the cold has an effect on (other than me) is the air lines. On the -10 degree days any cheap or ill fitting component in my air system started gushing air causing the compressor to pump constantly. It occured to me that this may be a bigger deal with the sage system. Please if weigh in if anyone has operated the Sage system in the extreme cold. Other than that the Sage system seems more modular and simpler.
     
    I spent the first month or so in the spring replacing and retaping couplers (travel lube had used a "brush on sealant" that I didn`t find to work well) and then a month ago I replaced the cheap water seperator I had as it was leaking when cold. Keep in mind that you have alot of air lines with any of these systems. I now have one line running from the compressor to the back and then through a filter/regulator and into a manifold. Off of the manifold there is a spare port, the line that runs "the unit" and a hose reel for "shop air." I use the "shop air" to fill tires, use the air bag jack and run the impact gun. BTW I would get at least a 35` reel hose if not 50`. Mine is 25` and barely makes it to the back opposite tire of an extended Express van. Also make sure that one is a rubber hose as they are much easier to manage when moving around the vehicle.
     
    As for the trailer question that seems to be preference. I started with a 6x12 trailer and just moved everything to a van. I will be selling the trailer shortly. I feel that for me still starting out in a small town, it is better to have the manueverability, ability to enter parking garages, and small footprint. As much as I would love to move vehicles inside to work in the winter, it just doesn`t seem to work here (had been previously tried by someone else) due to the smaller businesses and tiny parking lots. Some of our parking lots lost much of there size due to snow piles this winter. At this point my dream rig is to have the van like I have now plus an open trailer to pull cars up onto. This trailer would have a pit drain and jacks like at a shop. This was I can use it when possible and leave it when I can`t use it. Another thing to keep in mind with "pull in" trailers is what type of vehicles you will be servicing and if you can get them inside and work. Also I was storing the trailer in a storage unit 1 1/2 miles from my house so anytime I needed it I had to drive there and hook up. This also meant backing it into the storage unit every night. It got to be a real pain and I found myself trying to avoid pulling it when not needed or parking it at my house (not good for parking) when I had to leave early. This meant that my best form of advertisement spent alot of time hidden in a garage. Also I was glad I had 4wd when towing the trailer, while the van seems to be fine with all of the weight inside. Not that everyone deals with the climate I do, but they are things to consider.
     
    If you haven`t purchased your equipment yet, you can`t ask too many questions. It is a big decision that you will be living with for some time to come.

     
  • OilgutOilgut subscriber Posts: 0
    I have used both systems and I have to say that the "Sage" styled system is by far the best design.. I still have the LubeNGo setup in a van and it works ok... But the sage style system is better in pretty much ever way...
    You need a compressor either way you go,,, but the Oil Vac eliminates the need for pumps all together.
    I built my rig from scratch using propane cylinders and I have not had one problem in the 3 months I have had it in operation >> Funny thing >> It cost much less to build this style rig than a traditional "lubeNgo" type.  You still need guns, reels, and compressor but if you get condemned propane tanks they only cost me $50 for the 215 Gallon... and they gave me all the 100lb tanks I wanted >> I hooked 2-100 lb tanks together for each type of oil I carry and stood them up on end. They hold 75 gal each and I have 4 setups. I only had to weld one bung on to the bottom of the tanks and then flip the over so that the factory welded bung is on the oil side. Very easy to do.
    My shop is right next to Nabors Drilling (oil field group) and they have a very elaborate Sage system on an open gooseneck trailer >> I can tell you that mine cost 1/3 of what they paid and it is MUCH easier to use and just as effective.
    Open trailer setup is ok but you will be missing a lot of storage for oil filters, air filters, case oil, wipers, and all the other little bits and pieces that you don`t necessarily want out in the weather. I custom build a low profile gooseneck cargo trailer so that I can use as much space as I possibly could inside... I am even building some rolling shelves that slide up into the gooseneck area so that it is not all wasted space.
    LubeNgo systems are good for starting out... But make sure you get pump rebuilding kits and exploded diagrams so that you can take one apart and get it back together quickly... If you have to send the pump off to get it repaired you will be down for a week and if you try to tell a client that they need to wait a week for you to get there... They will find someone else to do the job... Fleets also.
    OG
  • OilgutOilgut subscriber Posts: 0
    Good morning Shoemaker!
    Buy some 110volt heating pads from Northern Tool that still onto the lower section your tanks so that you can plug them in at night... When it was in the 20`s and 30`s here (Texas Winter) the oil stayed around 70-80*F and pumped really well.
    On the hoses... I am now using PEX inside the trailer and I used the crimp on fittings so that each hose run is a custom hose >> I also use the yellow teflon tape for the threaded connections because it is thicker for less wraps and it is also oil resistant. White will cause leaks if there is any oil in the lines >> Even air lines.
    I also agree about the 50` hoses!! I started out with 20` and I hated them!! Now I can reach my own front tires on the truck which is a very big deal if you ever have a tire go down. Also 50` on the oil hoses and water/washer fluid hoses... That give you a lot of flexibility on your setup in a parking lot.
    OG
  • shoemakerspshoemakersp subscriber Posts: 0
    Oil guy,
     
    BTW I am still working on that group forum (I want to make sure all of this great information is available and easy to share).
     
    Also I am very intrigued by the DIY sage system. I am looking for a couple of "add on" tanks for synthetic and I currently don`t have tanks for washer and coolant. Would you be willing to share a picture of one of those tanks with me. That propane cylinder idea sounds like a good solution at least for the synthetic.
     
    I may add the heating pads this upcoming winter. I didn`t last year because my rig was parked in an unpowered space. Now that the van is at my house I can do that. I didn`t find I had much trouble pumping even in the extreme cold, though I was using the 5w-20 and 5w-30 guns, I didn`t get to use the 15w-40, that may have been a little tougher. Fred at travel lube just had me get a larger diaphram pump for the waste (which gets cold quickly) and it worked awesome. It actually seems more efficient that my three supply pumps.
     
    To everyone, take what I say about temperatures with a grain of salt, because when I say cold I mean -10F:-). Yes, I am insane... As an example check out this testimonial done by a customer on a local networking site.
     
    -shoe
    shoemakersp3/23/2009 9:49 AM
  • jithieljithiel subscriber Posts: 0
    Thanks a lot for your valuable information on the systems. It has been a great help to me already and I have not even gotten started yet. I have had a tough time on deciding which system would be the better but now I think I have a better understanding on which system would be best for me.
    I wanted so much to stay away from an enclosed trailer; however, I want to keep my filters from getting wet so it looks like I am going to be going with the enclosed trailer also here in metro Atlanta you need the option of keeping your equipment locked up. If you have anymore wise advice that you can send me on starting a business please don`t hesitate to send it to me. I look forward to getting started.
    Thanks again
  • ngarza789ngarza789 subscriber Posts: 0
    oilgut, shoemakers
    what is the differnce between travel lube and sage style systems?
    ya`ll and melrics are a good thing.
    thanks,
  • michaelgarbermichaelgarber subscriber Posts: 0
    Hello everyone! I`m looking at getting into the mobile oil change business and have a couple general ideas. I have a job currently and hate to drop it completely to put everything I have into a mobile oil change business so I`m thinking about just giving the business a shot mainly on Saturdaysand occassional evenings to start and see what kind of response I get. I will advertsise on my truck itself and won`t initially spend too much on advertising. To start I`m looking at trying to get permission from companies that hire many employees (shopping malls, factories, etc) and trying to get to where I can schedule the large companies in on weekends occassionally weeknights. Does anyone have any suggestions on 1)how they schedule and 2)sample letter ideas to hand out to business owners? Thanks so much!


    Mike
  • OilgutOilgut subscriber Posts: 0

    Juior77 et al We do not use a vacuum system to remove the oil from the car`s engine - this really doesn`t work because you don`t get all the oil out, nor any of the debris that collects in the bottom of the oil pan.  Our trailers are designed with a lowered floor so that we have easy access to the whole underside of the vehicle to allow proper draining of the engine oil and any debris plus the removal of the oil filter and greasing as needed.You can get more detailsat  www.lubeguys.com  Froggie 

    I agree with Froggie on this issue...
    Sucking the oil through the dipstick idea is NOT the way to operate... Unless you want to take all day to service a handful of units... Pull the plug... It is faster and you have to pull the filter anyway.. Pulling the filter is going to be the messy part so if that is the reason for sucking it through the dipstick then your plan to stay clean will fail.
    The only time I suck the oil out of a motor is if the drain plug is not accessible... Most of the time this happens on service rigs with built in air compressors/pumps/generators Also boats and some specialized equipment where the designer had their head up their....
    OG
  • OilgutOilgut subscriber Posts: 0

    Hello everyone! I`m looking at getting into the mobile oil change business and have a couple general ideas. I have a job currently and hate to drop it completely to put everything I have into a mobile oil change business so I`m thinking about just giving the business a shot mainly on Saturdaysand occassional evenings to start and see what kind of response I get. I will advertsise on my truck itself and won`t initially spend too much on advertising. To start I`m looking at trying to get permission from companies that hire many employees (shopping malls, factories, etc) and trying to get to where I can schedule the large companies in on weekends occassionally weeknights. Does anyone have any suggestions on 1)how they schedule and 2)sample letter ideas to hand out to business owners? Thanks so much!
    Mike

    Having advertising on your truck will get you some business... but not very much.... I probably pick up 2 or 3 new customers a week from trailer advertising..
    As for starting out part time and working your way out of a job >> I was going to do that as first >> I even switched over to the night shift so I could work my business during the mornings or days.
    I found that I was going to be overwhelmed because of the way we marketed our business >> It grew so fast that from the first day that I only had to keep my job for about 4 to 6 weeks before I had to quit to keep my sanity.
    One of the things I found with this business is that over all people want to know that they can trust you... They want to know that you are commited and that you aren`t going to be a fly by night business.
    If you start part time >> Be sure to be up front and honest with your clients... People call you and want to schedule a time that is convenient for them >> Not you! They want you to pamper them and work around their issues and schedule and not the other way around... I can see starting part time with coworkers, friends, family, and neighbors...and then getting a few small fleets on the weekends... but if you want to really make some money and turn it into a business you have to hit it hard and keep hitting it hard for at least a solid year to have a base that will sustain you long term.
    Also >> Sending letters to business owners asking for their business is going to fail.... You will be seriously disappointed... You have to see these people face to face >> It is the ONLY way to get any decent success. And again >> If you want them to give you their business >> They are going to want to know you are committed to serving them >> It is going to be very hard to convince them of that if you are only working this part time.
    I am not trying to put down your plan or ideas... I am just being honest and up front.
    You can probably make it work but I seriously doubt it.
    OG
  • shoemakerspshoemakersp subscriber Posts: 0
    ngarza789,
     
    I don`t see where this was answered and I may not be the best to answer as I only have experience with the "travel lube" style setup.
     
    Functionally the "travel lube" style (which is most that I have seen) use air powered pumps to deliver fresh oil and an air powered, reversible diaphram pump to transfer waste oil from the drain pan on the ground to an on-board tank. The travel lube tanks are also welded together into a single unit that is forklift and crane movable. It makes for a tidy package, there are even cubbies under the reels that can be used to store the drain pan and most of the tools that I constantly use. Each of the supply tanks also has a handy sight glass tube on the front to keep tabs on your oil levels.
     
    The sage systems (as I understand them) use pressure differentials to transfer the liquids. Meaning that by applying positive pressure to a tank and then squeezing the trigger on your dispenser guns it will allow the liquid to flow. If you apply a vacuum to the tank and stick the suction end in your bulk tank it will refill and you would use the same method to drain your pan. The "sage" systems seem more modular as they are comprised of seperate tanks, but may take up a little more room due to the round tanks. As oilguy has pointed out these have a marked advantage of fewer moving parts and fewer components to service. He has also peaked my interest by suggesting that this style may be easier to replicate as a DIY project. I am considering adding a small tank or two to carry my less popular weights of oil and washer fluid(assuming it works with lighter fluids).
     
    A down side I see (please correct me if I am wrong) is that you cannot carry a full tank of anything as you will need an airspace to create pressure or vacuum and I would imagine that the transfer slows as the tank begins to fill. I experience this with my "Sure Shot" sprayer that I use for brake cleaner. It is rated at 16oz, but you can only fill it 2/3 with liquid. The top 1/3 is left for pressurization. It is fine if you are aware and get a large enough tank to carry the actual amount of liquid you want (please chime in with the actual ratio for the Sage tanks).
     
    Both units will require an air compressor, mine is a 6hp/4gal gas "wheelbarrow" compressor. You will also need the reels and guns for dispensing. I bought in to the need for seperate guns for each tank and enjoy having it that way.
    -Sean
    shoemakersp3/27/2009 6:23 PM
  • shoemakerspshoemakersp subscriber Posts: 0
    Michael,
     
    Your plan has some simularities with the way I started and I have since been really inspired by Oilguy and made some major changes to my strategy. I think you probably can start out part time (if you are much better than me at managing multiple things) as long as you are ready to move quick. I encourage you to read "Oilgut`s" previous posts (around page 4 and 5) to get an idea of how he started (and I think still operates). I would recommend following that approach if you want to put the business ahead of the expenses. I have spent a year going to businesses and asking to get onto their property and then trying to figure how to market my business within that property. It does work, but it takes alot of time and trial and error all while the bills are coming in. I find my biggest successes where it is either a small company and I get to meet everyone or it is somewhere where I am known and people are comfortable with the concept of the service.
     
    Some of this depends on your area or operation. My town is 180,000 people max and most work at smaller employers. I was chasing after the big employers (there are about 30 over 500 employees) and ignoring the 180,000 individuals. I am now flipping it to focus on the 180,000 people instead of the 30. This approach has already made a profound difference in the conversations I have with people I meet at networking functions. I used to meet someone and hope they might know someone in the HR department of one of 30 companies or a fleet manager, but now I am speaking directly to them as a potential client. If they use me and like the service they are much more likely to remember me when they talk to their friends as well.
     
    I will still persue companies, but I want my reputation to proceed me. If the individuals I meet door to door happen to work for one of those big companies than they will probably use me there while they are at work and save me a trip to their house anyway.
     
    We, as an industry, are about bringing our service to the customer, that is our unique market advantage. Make sure you design your business to use your natural advantage. Setting up in a parking lot and waiting for people to sign up is the semi-passive way I have been operating and I have been able to pay my bills. I am confident that a much more active approach will allow me to grow quickly. I will admit it seems daunting and I am not looking forward to some of it, but for me I need to break out of the routine or give it up.
     
    Hope that helps,
    -Sean
  • shoemakerspshoemakersp subscriber Posts: 0
    Hello all,
     
    I have great news for those that are interested. I have set up a forum just for us. At this point there is not much to it, but feel free to add posts and I will work on organizing them. The website is www.mocog.com which stands for Mobile Oil Change Operators Group. For those that are new to the business and prospecting this can be a great resource and for those in the know this can be a great opportunity to answer a question once.
     
    My hope is that by sharing useful information we can build a community that drives this industry forward. My view is that this industry is the future of automotive maintenance and if we don`t build it someone else will.
     
    I can see this being utilized for the types of conversations we are having here as well as product reviews, maintenance tips, vehicle quirks, and brainstorming. I truly hope to see all of you there. This forum will also allow for the future addition of a blog and more features.
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