Every automotive service facility is looking for ways to squeeze additional profits out of the jobs they are performing on a daily basis. For those shops offering exhaust service, or thinking about expanding their services to offer performance exhaust services, a pipe or tube bender will help reduce the amount of money spent on pre-bent exhaust systems, while reducing the amount of time each vehicle sits in the service bay waiting for parts. Exhaust service is very price competitive, so it is essential that you keep looking for new ways to keep your profit margins in the black.
Having a pipe bender allows your shop to just stock straight pipe, flanges and mounting brackets, which will save on a lot of inventory space that was previously used to stock pre-bent pipes. Your shop will also have a lot less money tied up in exhaust inventory. Stocking straight pipe also means you will be able to turn around jobs much quicker, which will allow you to offer better pricing to your customers.
Let’s say that a 10′ length of 2″ diameter straight plain steel pipe can be purchased for $10. With the help of a pipe bender, this $10 pipe can be transformed into a custom pipe that would sell for between $45 and $60, or more.
As with any expensive piece of shop equipment, you want to thoroughly investigate the various pipe benders available and decide which best meets your shop’s service needs – and best fits into your budget. Before you start your search for a pipe bender, decide where you are going to position it in your shop. After you have pinpointed a spot where you feel your technicians will get the most use out of the bender, measure this space.
Pipe benders are large pieces of equipment. It would be quite frustrating if you had an area all prepared for the bender, only to find out on the day that it was delivered that it is too large for the allotted space. Also remember that some pipe benders require a 220-volt AC power supply. Careful planning in the beginning can eliminate many headaches in the end.
Finding the Right Pipe Bender
There are many pipe benders on the market today and you’ll want to find one you will be comfortable using. The quicker you are at completing the job, the more profit you can generate in the long term.
The least expensive benders come with manual controls. These basic machines take more skill to operate and are more labor intensive.
High-end benders, with automatic controls and computerized bending data cards, are much quicker and easier to use. However, the expense may be hard to justify for a shop that may only use the bender two or three times a week. With proper training, both manual and computerized benders will allow you to perform an accurate bend the first time you try.
Many benders come equipped with tools for swagging (reducing), flaring or expanding the ends of the pipe. Depending on the types of vehicles you work on, and the sizes of the pipes you use, you want to make sure the bender you choose is equipped with all the necessary accessories and bending dies to handle the jobs you need to complete.
A pipe bender can serve your shop for many years so it’s important that you pick one out that meets your needs today and can accomplish, or be upgraded to accomplish, any jobs you foresee doing in the future.
Securing Your Investment
Since it’s a piece of equipment that you will have for awhile, be sure to take a close look at warranty and service packages. Warranties can range from limited two-year up to lifetime. Be sure to ask your salesperson to thoroughly explain what is covered under the warranty. Be sure to also ask about service. The last thing you can afford is to have a broken pipe bender sitting idle for a month or two while you wait for a repairman to come inspect the machine and then order the necessary parts.
You will also want to ask about training. The quicker you can get your technicians up-to-speed on how to operate the new equipment, the quicker you will start earning some return on your investment.
A pipe bender can open up new service opportunities for your shop. And once you are doing your own bending, you can offer custom and performance exhaust work, for which you can charge a premium.
Performance and custom work used to be more of a niche market that was left for the specialists. However, today upgrade opportunities exist for just about every vehicle on the road. Many performance upgrades include pipes that are slightly larger than stock and may require special bending equipment and dies to bend pipe larger than 3″ in diameter.