RETRO: Auto Repair Shop Uses Safety To Build Brake Business

Shops seldom use safety as a reason to sell service. Most of the time price trumps the possibility of brake failure. But, in the 1930s, it was a blood bath on the roads with a high probability that death or injury in a car crash would happen often. In a brake industry trade publication from 1936, the publisher profiled shops that marketed safety. 

Sell Safety and Build Brake Profits


SAFE DRIVING is the keynote of the business getting the appeal of the Birmingham Brake & Steering Service, Birmingham, Ala. This subject is stressed in newspaper and radio advertising and on the show window of the shop is a painted sign as follows: “IS A CHILD’S LIFE WORTH THE PRICE OF A BRAKE ADJUSTMENT?”

“Loss of lives in traffic accidents is always a matter of public discussion and concern,” says B. C. Nichols, proprietor. “Safety responsibility laws are up for passage in states Which do not already have rigid drivers’ laws. So by stressing safety in our business, we are only capitalizing on a subject which is before the public mind at this time.”

Nichols has gotten excellent results from advertising announcements over a Birmingham radio station, coming on just after a chain news broadcast at 5:30 P. M.

He figures this the best time since many people listen to the newscast. Also, the need for good brakes is still fresh on the minds of those who have just reached home through the afternoon traffic jam.

Radio Script

In these radio announcements a free inspection service is offered as noted in the following script for one of the broadcasts:
“Do you test your brakes on children, telephone poles and other people’s cars? Don’t take that chance. Testing brakes is a specialist’s job and there is a place here in Birmingham where they will do it free. The Birmingham Brake & Steering Service will give your brakes a thorough inspection and it won’t cost you a cent.”

Another radio program carries the following announcement:
“5.35, Central standard time and a good time for all you car owners to think about brakes. Every day last year an average of nearly 100 people were killed in automobile accidents and most of these happened because they couldn’t stop. Don’t take this risk. Drive to the Birmingham Brake and Steering Service tomorrow for a free brake test. If your brakes need attention they are in expert hands.”

Newspaper Ads 

In its newspaper advertising the company stresses the same subject of SAFETY and invites motorists to come in for free inspections. Along with these advertisements the newspapers are glad to publish pictures in the news columns showing the company’s equipment for handling brake, steering and headlight jobs. Nichols says that persons coming in for free inspections usually leave their cars for any work that is found needed.
“All this discussion of safety is beginning to create a sort of safety complex among many automobile owners,” said Mr. Nichols. “They are inclined to have any needed repairs or adjustments made as Quickly as possible with the interest of themselves and families being given first consideration. Yet figures show that three out of every four vehicles registered have defects in safety equipment, brakes being defective in a third of the cars and headlights in need of adjustments or lights out in nearly ’70 percent of the cases. Consequently there is quite a field of operation for the serviceman.

Headlight Tester

“In the interest of providing safe driving lights for our customers we use a headlight testing board of our own design and make. It is let down as needed by a windlass from the ceiling and the automobile whose lights to be tested are placed 25 feet away, this distance being marked by a yellow line on the floor.
“If the headlights on the car are placed on 30-inch centers (as is often the case) we likewise place two vertical strings on the board 30 inches apart as a guide. Know- ing that headlights when properly adjusted should have one-inch drop in every 25 feet, to hit the road 200 feet away, we adjust a perpendicular line on the board accordingly. Where this line crosses the two vertical lines gives us the two points where the two headlights should strike with the most brilliance. If this is not the case we then adjust them accordingly. This adjustment is for the driving lights only and not for the courtesy lights which strike the road closer to the car.

He Tells ’Em and Sells ’Em

“Carrying our safety theme even further, we have a little cardboard notice which we slip over the choke button of cars on which we have performed jobs. Say, for instance, that the car was left us for a brake relining. We would inspect it for other safety needs and might check off on the board such items as ‘windshield wiper sluggish’ or ‘rear view mirror needs replacing.’
We want the owner to feel that we are looking out for his interest and are genuinely interested in his safety. He can, of course, have the defects remedied or not at his discretion, but the little card on the choke button Will serve as a reminder unless torn off. “We endeavor to act as safety specialists for our customers just as a safety manager employed by a corporation stresses safety first on every occasion.”