Body shop manager Joe Hershey leads a visitor to a nondescript locked door at the back of the shop. On the other side of that door, you hear machines running, air compressors mostly.
But the room also contains two big square boilers plumbed to a 12,000-gallon tank filled with used motor oil.
The oil comes from the dealership's Quick Lane service center in Livonia, Mich. Between 80 and 100 cars per day visit the store from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days per week, for oil changes, each leaving behind roughly a gallon of used oil.
Before the oil gets to the body shop tank, it is collected by a company and cleansed of impurities, such as radiator coolant, fuel and metal filings, then returned to the store. It is held in the storage tank until needed by the boilers for winter heat.
The boilers heat glycol, which is sent to radiators under the shop's floor and to air units above. There are also gas burners, which run when needed. The shop temperature is kept at a steady 78 degrees in the winter.
The oil-fed heating system shaves about $3,500 off the body shop's monthly heating bill. In southeastern Michigan, a dealership's heating system could run six months a year, from October through March, so the savings is substantial.
It helps the body shop show a profit, Hershey said.
Dealer Ed Brown saw the system displayed at the 2002 National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans and had it installed a year later at a cost of $395,000. Since then, the system has reduced the shop's heating bill by nearly $250,000.
The heating system has other benefits, Hershey says, other than keeping the 40,000-square-foot shop warm.
"In a body shop, you are often on your knees," says Hershey. "When you are in a shop that has forced air, the heat often stays up high, and the floor is cold. In our building, the warmth really starts at the floor.
"So, a guy who is kneeling on the ground ... he's very close to the heat source. In the wintertime, that's a wonderful feeling."