Coronavirus and Your Repair Shop: How to Minimize the Impact

Coronavirus (COVID-19) will impact your auto repair business.

More people are staying home and therefore driving less, which will reduce demand for services in the near term. Auto repair remains a public service, so those who must travel may do so safely.

As you continue operating your business, focus on the health and safety of your employees and the concerns of your customers. At this time, we don’t know as much as we’d like about COVID-19. The current guidance from OSHA states:

“Spread from person to person is most likely among close contacts (about six feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”

According to the Center for Disease Control:

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (at their sickest).

Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. For instance, there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

While contracting the virus is more likely through person-to-person contact, it is possible through contact with a customer’s car. Both staff and customers’ concerns should be taken seriously.

Best practices for everyone:

  • Wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face and practice social distancing (maintain six feet between you and other people).

Best practices for your shop:

  • Any employee who feels sick should stay home. Offer Paid Time Off so folks can do so without financial penalty.
  • At the shop, minimize physical exposure between staff members and customers.
  • During drop-off, businesses running Shop-Ware can gather customers’ pre-approvals by sharing the estimate via the application, so the in-person exchange is not required at the counter. (For example, customers can leave their vehicle in the parking lot and keys in a dropbox.)
  • Clean the counter at least once a day. Use antimicrobial wipes or spray (Lysol, Clorox, any product that says “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial” on the label).
  • Use the same treatment on vehicle keys.
  • Consider closing your waiting room.
  • Staff with extra concern can wear an N95 mask within a vehicle and keep the windows rolled down.
  • Staff can follow the same precautions for delivery/vendor interactions, but the risk of exposure is lower. Focus staff attention on the interactions that have higher risk.
  • Shops running Shop-Ware may share work orders and invoices digitally, to minimize in-person exchange (including during pickup). You can collect payments by keying in credit card numbers directly in terminals. (Remote Pay is coming ASAP; stay tuned.)
  • Consider leaving a note in the car thanking the customer for their visit, or use a CRM service to follow up shortly to make sure they feel your appreciation despite less in-person interaction.

When to wear gloves

  • Instruct all staff, not just techs, to wear disposable gloves (latex/nitrile) when physically interacting with a vehicle:
    • Wear a pair of gloves during the entire interaction (opening the door, driving or moving within the shop, or touching interior surfaces).
    • Technicians can wear the same pair inside and outside the vehicle (under the hood etc.)
    • Dispose of the gloves after the interaction is over and immediately wash hands.
    • Put on a new pair of gloves before working on the next vehicle.
      Avoid touching face, hands, or eyes when gloves are on.

Your business can promote these efforts to customers to help mitigate concerns and reduce unnecessary contact at the counter.

These efforts will:

  • Minimize staff contracting COVID-19 from customers and vice-versa
  • Avoid inadvertent transfer of COVID-19 between vehicles (however unlikely)
  • Show leadership to your staff and customers with an informed response

Since this is an evolving issue, stay up to date with your local health department’s recommendations and regulations.

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