Why it's important to support independent mechanics


#1

Today I checked out a new mechanic for the first time (couldn’t make in to my regular man) to have some tire noise diagnosed,



And then it hit me:

If Independent mechanics don’t stay in business, 20 yrs from now I will be taking my car to Wal-Mart for all it’s needs.



This has strong implications in a small town like the one I go to school in, where Wal-Mart has a strong presence.



The Wal-Martization of society perhaps?



This isn’t a rant against wal-mart



But it is nice to be able to talk straight with your mechanic rather than some snot nosed service writer at a dealer, or XYZ oil change place.



Not only are you saving $ on your car maintenance and getting better attention, you’re supporting local business and thus local talent.



This has been a public service announcement (kinda).




#2

I like the independent shop because the mechanic rolls out on his creeper from under a vehicle to discuss my problem. I’ve often had a problem getting through to some service writers to get them to understand the problem. In all fairness, I have dealt with some really good service writers at dealers who do understand cars, but I have also had service writers whose automotive knowledge is even more limited than my knowledge.
Most of my work is done by an independent shop. The prices aren’t a lot lower than the dealer, but I know that the job will be done properly and that is important to me.


#3

If Wally-World had to hire REAL mechanics to perform real mechanical work, they would be the highest-paid employees in the store, except for the pharmacist…They are NOT going to hire ASE mechanics…They will stick with tire-busters and lube-rack people…


#4

I have many conversations with service writers where they are unable to answer my questions. When that happens, I ask to speak to the mechanic. It isn’t a big deal. If the service writer says no, I leave and don’t come back.

I would love to go to an independent mechanic, but a good one is so hard to find, and when I have found good independent mechanics, they were so busy they couldn’t serve me in a timely manner. When something needs to be fixed or maintained, I don’t want to wait two weeks for an appointment, only to have it take another week to get my car back after I drop it off.

I do a lot of my own maintenance, but for some things I can’t do or don’t want to do, I go to a local national chain tire seller. Unlike an independent shop, where they may only have one or two employees, this shop has resources to get my car in without waiting and get the job done quickly.

I am usually not in a hurry to get the work done since I frequently ride a motorcycle to work, but they always have my car in and out on the same day, even when I tell them there is no rush.


#5

My mechanic is not cheap ($90/hr), but he can fix things that would require a complete replacement by the dealer, at some hideous cost, or no fix at all from Walmart or a tire franchise.

Two examples:

  1. Our Nissan Sentra was leaking oil out of the front of the engine at 65,000 miles. The dealer would have pulled the engine an virtually rebuilt it. Our mechanic did an in-situ fix, and custom machined a new seal that solved the problem. Cost was $375 and the car has not leaked since, current mileage 125,000.

  2. Same Nissan had the dash light go off due to failed rheostat in the dimming feature. The local tire shop wanted to get a new headlight switch assembly from Nissan ($250) and 2 hours labor to install it. Our mechanic, on my instructions, short wired the dash light to stay on permanently when the headlights were on (they were not that bright to start with), all for $50.

This same mechanic builds fuel dragsters and refurbishes classic cars.

Years ago a friend of mine was driving through rural Minnesota in an obsolete car (Hudson, I think). The car hit something and put a hole in the gas tank. There was a local shop nearby and the mechanic fixed the hole with a custom-cut gasket patch and rust-proof self-tapping screws. He did tell my friend this was a “temporary” fix. My friend was a student at the time and finsihed his 4 college years with the same car, same patch.

He later dropped by the shop after 5 years and gassed up his car. The mechanic was surprised the patch had held on so well after all these years.

Today’s dealer mechanics only replace things with factory new stuff, drivng up the cost. Chains only replace things with their after market stuff. Neither actually is really good at repairing things. The independent mechanic, if he is any good, thrives on this and makes a good living at it whilesaving his customers money.

Many of today’s mechanics are parts hangers, and lack diagonstic skills to deternime the root cause and best fix. That’s why so many fixes we hear about don’t work.

So, lets hear it for the independent mechanic, even if his name is not Gus Wilson!


#6

I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about taking a car to WM for all of its needs. They will remain strictly a TBA store (tires, batteries, accessories) and will never get into brakes and whatnot.

The WM service centers are not even owned by WM; they’re a sublet operation and rely strictly on items that turn over quickly and services that are easy to perform.
WM auto service has a ratio of gross income to outlay that they rely on (35-38%???) or something like that and veering away from tires and batteries would likely upset that ratio quite a bit.


#7

I know of a couple good independent mechanics. They are very hard to find. As for getting service…one of them only books 3 days in advance. That way he gets repeat customers. The other guy will book appointments out even months in advance. For a simple inspection the next appointment he had open was 3 weeks PAST when my inspection was due.

MANY of the chains (in fact I don’t know of one who doesn’t) their mechanics work on commission. So it’s in their best interest to FIND things that are wrong with you vehicle…which leads to them finding things that AREN’T there. And unfortunately there are many independents who do the same thing.


#8

If I have to pay a hefty price but the job is done right, I soon forget about the price. However, if I have a job done that wasn’t done right, I don’t forget even if I paid a low price. Click and Clack used to say “It’s the stingy man that pays the most”.


#9

Absolutely Triedaq. We have always had a policy to seek out good mechanics. Once I dealt with a cut-rate guy to replace the heat riser on my Dodge Dart. The guy put it in upside down and made for poor driveability as well as burning the valve guides. That was the most expensive “cheap job” I ever had.

Select you dentist, doctor, and mechanic with great care!


#10

That is my experience in McAllen as well. (The good ones can’t get you in.) In my case, though, the Toyota dealer has a really old hand in the writing department, a friend of my son-in-law’s, and somehow he has an idea or two on cars and what is involved with repairs. Maybe they haven’t found him out, yet, heh, heh.

Of course, it also helps that I really haven’t had many serious repairs on my 2002. And, in many cases, I am able to troubleshoot it myself.


#11

Things used to be better in the old days. I have had a caliper rebuilt at Woolco once. You could have supper there too. We didn’t have credit cards by the ton. Blah, blah. I do have hope for the independent mechanic; If maple syrup is still a reality, auto mechanics should still be around for a while. That syrup business is tough.


#12

It is a competitive business, indies have a hard time competing and depend imho on a clientele that appreciates proper diagnosis, quality parts and repairs. We have heard many stories chain place screw ups, but I think it boils down to 2 things.

  1. People go for brand name recognition and an assumed idea of consistency, such as McDonalds, fair price for fair work and all things considered it is a good marketing strategy though not always the best option for car repair.
  2. There are unscrupulous shops out there and finding a good one is a matter of friends referrals, reputation in the community and sometimes dumb blind luck.

That stated the average consumer would rather try 3 repairs at a chain vs 1 repair at a local, I use locals and the good ones are great for referrals for things they don’t do. I recommend the good ones to friends and they go there. The average joe the plumber or joanne the plumeress, sees Joe’s car repair or Midas and picks Midas.


#13

A note on Walmart- they have become the most expensive standard oil change place in our area, $30 for their brand oil and filter.


#14

Changing oil, replacing batteries and mounting tires is very profitable. Most of the time, no problems arise when doing these jobs. My neighborhood WalMart store doesn’t do anything else–no brake jobs, wheel alignment, etc. Jobs that take a diagonosis, removing rusty fastenings, tracking down electrical problesm, and so on, are time consuming and often not profitable. Even spark plug changes on V-6 engines on front wheel drive cars wouldn’t be profitable for WalMart.
One thing that WalMart did well for me in the automotive department was that they cut a couple duplicate keys for me for my front door. I went to Lowe’s and the key cuting clerk didn’t have the right blank, so he sent me to the automotive department of WalMart. They made the keys for me at a very reasonable price.


#15

I have a trusted independent Mechanic that has 4 techs. working for him. They are courteous,through,reasonably priced with some freebies thrown in now and then.

Independents, like this guy and his crew are truly gems in todays world. Nice to have a pro to talk to,and who answers questions.


#16

old,

I pay $32 after tax for my independent to change it. $$ well spent though because I know they won’t screw it up and they take good care of the car while it’s in there. He also gives you a $0.00 oil change after 3 paid ones. Plus I can WALK home and watch TV and surf the web while I wait. Yep, literally a neighborhood mechanic.

I would do my own o/c but what I lack is correct tools.


#17

I lack the motivation but thought 27 for 7 qt with castrol was expensive, not to mention the total check they do, and ask about replacing any burnt out bulbs for their cost in addition to greasing the replacement stabilizer bar links etc., and wal mart charges how much? incredible.


#18

Well, first of all, most dealerships aren’t equipped to custom machine seals or any other parts. 90% of work at a dealer is warranty work anyway so replacing rather than rigging is preferred. I have found that people who bring their vehicles to a dealer for repairs are aware that the dealer is more expensive than an independent so their expectations that the repair be done properly is much higher. When I was at the dealer, if I rigged a repair to save the customer a couple of bucks and that vehicle came back because my rigging failed and caused more damage or the customer discovered the repair wasnt done properly, my service manager would have made sure my tool chest was on the closest flatbed and docked my final paycheck the cost of repairing that customers vehicle. By using dealer parts, if something goes wrong, the dealer, not me pays for the replacement and labor.

transman