Tire changes bringing business to repair shops during COVID-19

It’s tire-changing season again on P.E.I. and because of COVID-19 this essential service is helping bring in some much-needed business, though appointments are down slightly.

Just Joes Automotive in Charlottetown had to cut hours and lay off some staff when the pandemic first hit the Island — but now with tire-changing season, appointments are on par with last year, says part-owner Joe Sawler.

“Now that tire season is going in full swing we’re able to open up our full hours and we were able to hire back some of our staff,” he said.

“We are down a little bit in the back bay area for technicians. I’d love to hire more people back, but I am trying to respect the six-foot distance rule,” he said.

Sawler said tire appointments are about the same as last year.

Sawler says winter tires are an investment and running studded tires on dry pavement can wear them down quickly. (Joe Sawler)

“People are definitely wanting to get their summer tires on. They’re sick of hearing the noise from their winter tires,” he said.

Studded winter tires have to be removed from vehicles on P.E.I. by May 31.

Slight decline for some

The start of tire season has been slow for Brudenell Tire Centre, but it has picked up over the last week, said owner Randy MacDonald, though numbers are down from last year.

“We would be about 25 cars per day depending on what was needed but somewhere in that range. Right now we are probably doing 17-18,” he said.

MacDonald said he is busy enough and hasn’t had to lay off any of his regular staff, but he also hasn’t been able to hire anyone else.

“Right now I probably would be pushing it to get 25 done in a day with the staff that I have,” he said.

They’re coming in for their brake work and their suspension. Stuff that can’t wait that needs to get looked at right away.— Joe Sawler, Just Joes Automotive

Cornwall Auto and Tire is also seeing a small drop in business this year.

“It is busy, but not as busy as other years,” said owner Keith Schurman.

He said the shop would usually have about 17 tire change appointments a day — this year that is down to 13.

“We’re a couple weeks out for tire appointments where other years we’ve been three.”

He said the season is going to be more spread out and it is likely going to take around two months to clear all the appointments.

Sawler says shops are having to adapt to follow the public health guidelines for physical distancing. (Joe Sawler)

Schurman said he also had to lay some staff off — but he is hopeful tire season will be busy enough to take back some staff or at least offer them a few hours.

“I think we will be sustainable for a couple months. My concern is that if the restrictions don’t get lifted, what is going to happen in June?” he said.

“With COVID-19, I think there is still going to be a lot of restrictions on how much people can travel and get out and about.”

Schurman said while people are still booking tire appointments, not a lot of customers are doing regular maintenance such as oil changes and repairs are typically an “emergency.”

Everybody’s been really good they’re wiping down their keys and their steering wheel before we get in.– Joe Sawler, Just Joes Automotive

Sawler said it is the same situation at his shop.

“They’re coming in for their brake work and their suspension. Stuff that can’t wait that needs to get looked at right away,” he said.

Sawler said he thinks tire changes are top of mind for many.

“Winter tires are an investment. People spend a lot of money, they want a good tire that is going to keep them safe,” he said.

“The longer you keep that on the road when it doesn’t need to be the quicker you are going to wear them out.”

Adapting to health measures

Sawler said the way appointments are done looks a little different during the pandemic.

“We find a lot of people are choosing to drop their vehicle off and leave it with us and return at the end of the day,” he said.

If people have to wait, Sawler said, the business has an open area they can wait in to maintain physical distancing.

“Everybody’s been really good,” Sawler said. 

“They’re wiping down their keys and their steering wheel before we get in and all staff are following pretty strict precautions on glove use and sanitization.”

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

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