Like most car owners, you likely have a fall checklist of things that you need to do to get your car road-ready before the snow flies.
Snow tires? Check. Washer fluid? Check. Emergency roadside kit? Double check.
One item that likely isn’t on your list, but really ought to be according to Gary Hoffman, is an underbody oil spray to prevent rusting.
“It coats everything and repels the water and keeps the salt out and it creeps into all the nooks and crannies,” said Hoffman, the owner of Hoffman Auto Oiling Ltd. He moved his business to Elmira during the last winter season but says that this time of year is the best time for drivers to consider his service.
The oil is specially-designed and includes wax to prevent it from dripping too much, and he uses compressed air and oil heated to about 180 degrees to evenly spray the underside and door sections of the vehicles to keep the rust out.
“You need heat and oxygen to create rust, so what the oil actually does is it seals everything up and it repels the salt and the moisture in the wintertime.”
One particularly vulnerable spot for vehicles is the bottoms of the doors. Water gets into that area when it rains or snows, and never gets completely dried out, which can eventually lead to rust. While most new cars contain a significant amount of plastic that can’t rust, the bulk of cars continues to be comprised of metal parts, and “metal still rusts,” he smiled.
For the best results customers should get their cars treated while they’re still new, and to do it once every year depending on the number of kilometres they put on it, because the oil does eventually get washed away by rain, snow and the car wash.
“And you know, once you get a little bit of rust, it just grows from there,” he said.
Hoffman has more than 30 years of experience treating cars. He started back in 1979 on his family’s farm near Waterloo with his brother, Mark. The two of them worked together for about five years before Hoffman decided to rent some more space in town.
He found a spot on Northfield Drive and stayed there until last December, when he moved his business to 20A Arthur St. N. in Elmira. He now has one car lift and about 2,400 square feet of space.
He hasn’t always made a career out of crawling under other people’s cars, though. For years he worked in construction, but said the lack of jobs in the fall and winter required him to branch out and be a little more entrepreneurial so he could pay the bills.
Nowadays he even has to hire someone to work Saturday’s in October and November because of the extra rush. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete the work on one vehicle, depending on the size and the amount of spraying that is required.
“By November it’s a zoo. I could use two hoists,” he laughed.
Most of his business has come through word-of-mouth, and he has retained a loyal customer base throughout his career. He has even begun to see grandchildren of his earliest customers come to him with their new cars.
There is a growing concern among new car owners that spraying the underside of their vehicles with oil is bad for them because dealerships scare them into thinking it will interfere with the anti-lock brakes or the sensors, but Hoffman says that is simply not true and is merely aimed at promoting their own brand of undercoating – which can cost up to 10 times what Hoffman charges.
“If a dealer can sell an undercoating job for $800 or $900 that pretty much doubles what they will make on that car. Prices of cars have come down over the years and the profit margin isn’t there as much,” he said.
His prices range from $65 to $85, a fraction of the cost at a dealership.
The past 30 years has seen very little change in the industry, he said, but he notes that he has to take extra precautions from an environmental standpoint.
All of the oil that he uses is recycled and he has to ensure that he uses only the right amount of oil in each job.
“There’s a fine line between spraying the right amount of oil. If you spray too much it just comes off, and so you just spray enough so it covers and creeps into all the nooks and crannies.”