Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Employee Profile: Tanner Hamilton

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

airdrie mechanics

 

Tanner is our newest employee, and has proven to be a valuable addition to our team. Though he’s a second year apprentice, he’s been servicing vehicles and building performance cars for most of his life; he has more real-world experience than many licensed technicians. He built his first engine at 14 years old, and pushing his performance engines to their limits remains a big part of his life.

When he’s not at the race track, Tanner spends 40 or 50 hours a week with us doing less exciting repairs. His quality of work is very good, and he really cares about getting the little details right. Tanner also displays an exceptional ability to see things “from the customer’s perspective”, and really cares about the people who use our services every day. Obviously, this is a quality that we really appreciate.

Tanner came to us because he felt he was no longer being challenged at his previous workplace. Like many shops, this business would “sub out” or turn away complex repairs and seek out the easier work, while we’re quite the opposite and actually have a reputation for figuring out the “tough ones”. Tanner wants to keep growing and learning as a technician, and we’re happy to keep throwing challenges his way.

Here are Tanner’s stats:

Position: Automotive Service Technician Apprentice

Shop nickname: Tanner is the new guy, so he gets pestered lots. In the course of a day, the poor guy goes by everything from “Hey Jack*ss” to “Hey you over there”.

Years in the trade: 14

Previous employment: Certigard, Self-employed

Currently lives in: Airdrie

Born in: Edmonton. He says they were “just passing through”, and he’s no Edmontonian!

Specialty/favourite automotive work: Engine removal/replacement/repair.

Least favourite automotive work: Oil changes.

What attracted him to Tools in Motion: The challenges discussed above, and the broader range of experience it provides. Tanner appreciates that our shop is willing to take on tough jobs; often fixing things instead of replacing them. He also appreciates that we really care about our customers, and don’t view them as (in his words) “dollar signs walking in the front door”.

airdrie auto repair

 

Favourite part of working at Tools in Motion: The positive atmosphere in the shop.

Least favourite part of working at Tools in Motion: Tanner is playing it safe and not telling us for now. Once we figure it out, we’ll let you know!

Favourite car brand: He says Chevy. We say it’s actually anything he can cram a turbocharged LS V8 into.

Hobbies: Building performance vehicles and drag racing.

Cats or dogs? Dogs.

In pictures: Changing a tire, step by step.

Monday, September 19th, 2016

“Tire season” is almost upon us, where many motorists trade their worn-out rubber for something that will work better in the coming winter months. We’ve already been super busy with tire work over the last couple weeks, and thought it would be fun to do a little write-up for you. Just what are you getting when you pay a professional $20-30 to mount and balance a tire? Read on!

(And yes, you caught us… we certainly didn’t clean up our busy shop for any of these pictures!)

 

airdrie tire sales

We’ll skip to the point where we’ve already got the car inside, and the wheels off. The first step, before dismounting the tire, is to remove the old balancing weights. If we don’t remove them first, they can get caught by the tire changer and damage the wheel.

 

best airdrie auto repair

Next, we clean all this nasty corrosion from the wheel’s centre hole and mounting surface. This will allow them to align correctly to the balancing machine, and will help prevent the wheels from coming loose on the vehicle later on.

 

airdrie auto repair

Next we break the bead, separating the tire from the wheel. Over time, they can become quite stuck together! The hydraulic arms of this expensive machine do most of the hard work for us.

 

honest mechanic airdrie

Next, we use the tire changing machine to remove the old tire from the wheel.

 

airdrie mechanics

Here’s an important step: cleaning rust and corrosion from the bead surface of the wheels. This will help ensure a leak-free seal.

 

calgary mechanics

This looks better!

 

auto service airdrie

Next, we install a new tire valve.

 

calgary tire repairs

A special lubricant applied to the new tire helps to prevent damage on installation, and contains a corrosion inhibitor to help protect your wheels.

 

airdrie tire repairs

On with the new tire! Especially when dealing with pressure sensor valves, we must be very careful about where we start and stop the machine, to avoid damaging the sensor.

 

airdrie winter tires

This tire has an asymmetrical tread pattern, designed to provide a better compromise between handling and wet traction. These tires are usually fairly clearly marked as to which side of the tire faces outwards.

 

best mechanic airdrie

On to the wheel balancer we go! After mounting the wheel to the machine using specific adaptors, we spin it up. The machine identifies the heavy spots on the tire/wheel combination, and tells us where to add weight to correct for this.

 

airdrie car repair

We carry many different types of weights, in order to fit all of the different wheels out there. Many newer wheels also use adhesive weights that stick to the inside of the wheel; we have those too!

 

airdrie auto technicians

Here’s one of those “little things” that honestly does make a difference: we apply the wheel weights with a rubber-headed hammer, to avoid breaking the coating on the weight. This goes a long way to preventing unsightly corrosion of your wheels.

 

airdrie tire balancing

All good! This tire is now balanced, which will prevent vibration in the vehicle, especially at highway speeds.

 

airdrie car inspections

Finally, the wheels can go back on to your car! We use a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Not too loose; not too tight! The torque should be rechecked again after 100 km of driving.

 

airdrie wheel alignments

A wheel alignment is always a good idea when installing new tires. The alignment procedure involves adjusting many angles of your vehicle’s suspension, to make sure there will be no premature tire wear.

 

Are you looking for some new tires? Does your vehicle have a vibration; a pull to one side; or any other issue that might be tire related? Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any of your tire – or mechanical – questions.

PS: The Kumho Solus TA11, featured in these photos, is a big seller for us. It provides a lot of tire for the money, and customers are sometimes surprised by how little it costs to step up from a generic store-brand to a quality, brand name all season tire.

In the Beginning

Friday, August 26th, 2016

 

quality mechanic airdrie

By Chris Dekker

 

This is a “Scotchlok” wiring connector, and you might say that these things are part of the reason our business exists today. Allow me to explain:

These connectors are the fastest way to splice into a circuit on your car. Just wrap it around two wires; push the metal blade down; and you’re done. The blade pierces through the insulation of both wires, and connects them together. They’re also the worst way to make a wiring connection on your car. Since the connection is neither secure nor sealed against moisture, using these connectors often results in electrical issues; corrosion of the wiring; and expensive repairs down the road.

I spent the first six years of my automotive career working in a what we call a chain store, or chain shop. Like most “____ Tire” franchises, all of the technicians (including myself) were paid on commission. That is to say that we received no hourly wage, and were instead paid by the job.

One job that I performed regularly was to install aftermarket daytime running light kits in vehicles imported from the United States, which do not have daytime running lights. This involved mounting a control unit; running a bunch of wiring; and making 5 connections to different circuits under the hood. We were paid 0.5 “units”, (or half an hour’s labour) to do this install. If we did the install in 10 minutes or two hours, it didn’t matter; we were paid for half an hour of our time.

Doing a good quality install in half an hour was impossible. If you wanted to securely mount the control unit; loom/tape/protect all of the wiring and route it nicely; and make good quality connections to the vehicle circuits, it usually took about an hour. So I was faced with a choice: Do I perform a quick (and in my opinion, lousy) install, or do I do it right but lose half an hour’s pay every time?

Now, I know what you’re thinking: There isn’t even a real choice here. Just do the good quality install, right? I wish I could say that was the choice I always made. I’m still not happy about it, but I did many installs that I’m not proud of – including using the cheesy “Scotchlok” wiring connectors that came in the kits. I was there to make a living, and trust me: It isn’t easy going home at the end of an 8 hour shift and telling your wife that you only earned 4 hours pay that day. Try doing it 4 or 5 days in a row! I still remember how in the slow winter months, it could be a challenge to put food on the table.

Now, to be fair, I did earn some of this “lost time” back on other jobs that I could complete more quickly. During the busy summer season, a skilled technician can earn a good wage on commission. But here’s my point in all of this: A flat rate or commission pay structure can force even the best technician to perform lower quality repairs that are below their standards. I was being forced by my employer to make a choice every day; between doing things right, or getting paid fairly for my time. That’s completely unreasonable. It’s a choice I wasn’t comfortable making anymore, and so I moved on.

It’s a choice that we’re not comfortable asking our technicians to make either. It’s not fair to them, or to our customers, who expect the absolute best quality repairs. This is why everyone in our shop is paid a fair hourly wage, with no incentive based pay system in place at all. Our quality of work needs to be good, not “good enough”.

The best quality and the best value in the region is what we promise you, and we do everything possible to achieve that. It starts with taking proper care of the gentlemen servicing your vehicle.

Are you being sold a “wallet flush”? Examining maintenance schedules!

Monday, May 9th, 2016

By Chris Dekker

A transmission fluid flush on a vehicle with 36,000 km. A brake fluid flush once every year. A coolant flush on a two year old vehicle. Do you really need this stuff?

Most people know that maintaining their vehicle is important. Over a vehicle’s life it will need fluid changes; filter replacements; various adjustments and more. But when should you perform these services? The answer is usually no further away than your owner’s manual. All vehicle manufacturers (automakers) release recommended service schedules that, when followed correctly, will provide all of the protection your vehicle needs. They usually list a normal maintenance schedule, and a severe service schedule. Most Canadian vehicles fall under the latter, in part because of the extreme temperature ranges that our vehicles see.

Here’s a problem we have with our industry: You’d think that if any service shop was going to follow the maintenance schedule as recommended by a given manufacturer, it would be a dealership representing that brand. Unfortunately, as we’ve experienced more and more recently, this couldn’t be further from the truth; and it’s making our whole industry look bad.

We have lots of customers with near-new vehicles, many of whom service these vehicles at the dealership of purchase because of “free oil change” programs, or other incentives that were thrown in when they bought the car. Lately we’ve received phone calls from some of them, concerned that the dealerships were trying to sell them maintenance services that they didn’t yet need; like the examples at the start of this column. We checked the vehicle manufacturers’ severe service schedules for these customers, and found that most of the services recommended were not yet required. Take the owner of the 2013 Ram 1500, for example. He was being sold a transmission fluid change at 35,000 km, but Chrysler Canada does not recommend one until 96,000 km; almost three times his current mileage! This kind of excessive maintenance has been jokingly coined the “wallet flush” by some in our industry, since a lighter pocketbook is really the only benefit a customer is receiving.

So, what’s going on? Instead of following the recommendations laid out by the folks that built your vehicle, these dealerships have cooked up their own in-house service schedules, sometimes printed on very official-looking paperwork complete with the automaker’s logo. These schedules are usually much more aggressive than the factory schedule, often recommending services years before the manufacturer actually does.

Some dealerships, like a local Hyundai dealership that a customer called us from last week, stoop so low as to tell customers that their warranties will be void if they don’t follow the in-house schedule. This is, of course, completely false. No wonder our industry gets a bad name, and some people don’t trust us.

airdrie honest mechanics

Here is a screenshot from one of our service information programs, where we are browsing the factory maintenance schedule of a 2013 Ram 1500. Circled are the items that should be attended to around 100,000 km.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that this problem isn’t confined just to dealerships. And in some ways, making up your own maintenance schedule isn’t wrong – as long as you do it honestly, and fairly. We can think of a few examples of where the manufacturers’ recommendations aren’t enough – like late model Ford trucks, who don’t require a differential fluid change until 240,000 km. The only problem with that number is that the differentials often fail and require a full overhaul by 150,000 km, if the fluid is not changed. But these are rare examples, and many of the in-house service schedules we’ve looked at lately are – in my opinion – fraught with greed.

Don’t be mistaken; vehicle maintenance is very important – and many vehicles on the road are not being properly maintained. Many businesses have just lost sight of the fact that looking after the customer who owns the vehicle – and looking after their budget – is just as important as looking after the car itself.

I use the words many businesses because there are still lots of honest auto service businesses out there. We know of several great shops, just in Airdrie alone, who are genuinely looking after their customers’ best interests. Of course, we’d like to include our own business in that group. Since starting our company almost three years ago, we’ve been able to make a real, positive impact in the local auto service world. Customers seem refreshed by the type of honest, low-pressure environment we run.

So we’re not telling you to stop maintaining your vehicle, just to be careful about when you have certain services done, and who you choose to perform those services. If a service recommendation sounds a little off to you, get a second opinion from another business. If you’re ever wondering about when a certain service should be performed on your vehicle, just give us a call. We’d be happy to look up your manufacturer’s recommendations, and happy to help – whether or not you choose to do the work with us!

Race To The Bottom

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Should you pay for diagnosis when a shop fixes your car?

By Chris Dekker

 

Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to secure fleet maintenance contracts with many small, and several large companies. This month, I had a chance to earn the business of another commercial client, but lost that chance over my unwillingness to compromise on one thing: charging for diagnostics. The customer felt that they shouldn’t have to pay for time spent diagnosing an issue if they went ahead and repaired that issue with us; a commonly-held belief among some car owners. I had to explain that giving away diagnostics may have been common many years ago, but is an antiquated business model that no longer works today. For a modern auto service business, it’s a race to the bottom.

Why is this? Years ago, cars were simpler; and all very similar. Diagnosing problems required fewer (or no) expensive special tools, and took less time. Repairing these vehicles was also simpler, and more profitable. For a repair shop owner, it made sense to give away a quick, cheap diagnosis if it meant gaining a lucrative repair.

Today, things are very different. Diagnosis is complicated, and expensive. Vehicle quality is much better, and vehicles break down less. Many of the most profitable repairs are gone, and vehicles usually require far fewer parts replaced over their lifetime. Many repairs now involve replacing no parts at all!

 

Examining today’s diagnostics:

Performing diagnostics and software programming work at the highest level requires a very substantial investment in scan tools; service information; and technician training. That last part, regarding our technicians, is important. Technicians who are capable of quickly and accurately troubleshooting today’s vehicles are hard to find, and therefore command a higher wage; adding to the cost of the diagnosis. As we’ve discussed before, it’s very early in the diagnostic process that the scan tool is of no further help and the human brain must take over, so good technicians are a very important piece of the puzzle.

While we hope to add more tooling and capability in the years to come, we already own tens of thousands of dollars in scan tools (dealership/factory tools, and aftermarket or “multi-vehicle” ones), which each require thousands of dollars in software updates each year. Purchasing genuine service information and specifications from each vehicle manufacturer costs thousands more. We estimate that the cost of offering full, dealership-level capability on just the “big three” domestic manufacturers’ vehicles is about $23,000 per year at today’s exchange rates, before factoring in wage costs or any of our other normal operating costs.

Diagnosing issues on today’s vehicles not only costs more; it often takes longer, too. While the first fuel-injected cars of the 1990s had one on-board computer, modern vehicles have 20 or more, and they communicate with each other over high-speed data networks. The wiring diagrams detailing every electrical circuit on a vehicle can now span dozens of pages. The carbureted vehicles of yesteryear could be contained to 3 or 4.

airdrie car diagnosis

Here we are using an oscilloscope to determine if an engine’s valves and fuel injectors are opening at the right time. Checking this kind of thing used to require hours of mechanical diassembly, but not any more!

airdrie mechanics

This is a “known good” waveform from our one of our information resources, which we can compare with.

For those willing to embrace the technology and challenges that newer vehicles bring, our job can be very satisfying, though! Being able to provide an accurate diagnosis only gets more important every year, as parts continue to get more expensive. “Throwing parts at a problem” never was a good idea, but is an especially bad one today. The cost of installing one part that doesn’t fix the problem could easily pay for a good diagnosis by a qualified technician.

 

Examining today’s repairs:

Auto repair today is less profitable than in decades past, as cars continue to get better.  A lot of the “easy money” is gone, as vehicles need fewer hard parts replaced. Many ball joints, tie rod ends, and other steering components now outlast the vehicle. Exhaust systems are all stainless steel and rarely need replacing. Spark plugs last for 160,000 km instead of 40,000. Antifreeze needs replacing every five years instead of two. Gasket and seal technology has come so far that even leak repairs are much less common today.

Repairs have become more complicated, too. Granted, our trade still involves lots of nuts, bolts and grease; but electronics are creeping into everything we do. On some cars, even the brakes can’t be replaced without a specific scan tool: the electronic brake calipers must first be commanded to retract so the new pads can be fitted.

airdrie brake mechanics

Here’s an example of a brake caliper with an electric parking brake motor inside it.

Many repairs today involve replacing no parts at all! More and more issues can be rectified with software updates and changes. One really cool example of this, which I always share with people, involves a BMW with wind noise from the sunroof at highway speeds. BMW released a software update to fix this! They changed the sunroof control unit’s calibration so that when the driver pushed the automatic close button, it would run the sunroof motor for a split-second longer, sucking the glass into the weatherstripping a little more tightly.

Today we regularly fix hard transmission shifting, electrical issues, and even engine noises with software changes. It’s easy to see how the line between diagnosis and repair becomes blurred, as one of the first steps in a good diagnosis is making sure the vehicle has the latest available software calibrations installed; a process which will sometimes fix the issue by itself. Other issues may also be repaired indirectly as part of the diagnosis, such as bad electrical connections; blown fuses; or corroded grounds.

 

Hopefully this helps to demonstrate why the cost of a good diagnosis is a necessary, and valuable expense.  Thinking of having us diagnose a vehicle problem for you? Here’s how the process works in our business:

  1.  We’ll gather as much information from you as we can, regarding what your problem is; when it happens; etc. We may sometimes ask to go for a drive with you, so you can show us what’s going on.
  2. We’ll ask you to pre-authorize a certain amount of diagnostic time. Most of our diagnostics is billed at a rate of $150 per hour. Most warning lights and simple problems are diagnosed within an hour, with 96% of issues being diagnosed within two.
  3. If we haven’t come to a diagnosis within the time you have authorized, we’ll contact you with an update on what we have done so far, and a request to authorize more time. We’ll let you know what we have already tested; what tests we’d like to perform next; and how close we think we are to having your answer.
  4. We’ll never “throw parts at your vehicle” as part of a diagnosis. Once we have informed you what needs fixing, and we finally perform the repair, it will be the repair that fixes your problem – guaranteed. If we tell you that you need a certain part replaced to correct your issue, and the new part doesn’t fix the problem, then you don’t pay for that repair. It’s just how we run our business.

 

On a side note, we welcomed our 5000th customer to our shop today! We would like to thank everyone who has chosen us for their auto repair needs over the past years. Our business has grown like crazy through word-of-mouth referrals over the last two years, and our team has grown to eight great people. It is your business that makes it possible for us to do a job we love, every day!

Share this post!

Brent’s February Blessing!

Friday, February 26th, 2016

At the start of this month, we ran a contest on our Facebook page where we asked people to nominate someone deserving of a $250 Tools in Motion gift certificate. We picked a winner, and had their vehicle in this week. As it turns out, we ended up doing a lot more for our winner than anyone involved first expected!

The winner we picked was a local woman named Chris; a single mother who hasn’t had an easy life over the past year. Among other things, she has been fighting breast cancer for many months. Her 2002 Oldsmobile is her and her young son’s only means of transportation. The car had a coolant leak, so she brought it in with the hopes that the $250 gift certificate would be enough to pay for a repair. We performed a no-charge full inspection to start, and soon discovered that the coolant leak was the least of her worries.

 

Calgary Automotive Repair

Chris’ car in the shop for inspection!

 

The old Oldsmobile needed a lot of love, and we struggled with what to do, realizing that the $250 would barely put a dent in the repairs that this car needed. We couldn’t even pick a “most serious” issue to address first; there were too many safety-related issues. Tim and Brent made a decision: Let’s do a more than $250 in repairs for Chris… like a lot more.

Brent reached out to some of our suppliers to see if they were interested in helping. Boy, did they ever, donating hundreds of dollars in parts to the cause:

  • Auto Value Auto Parts in Airdrie gave us – at no charge – two new front wheel bearings; a front outer tie rod end; rear brake pads; and rear brake rotors.
  • Napa Auto Parts in Airdrie kicked in a new power steering pump.
  • Tire Wholesalers in Calgary gave us a set of tires at their cost.

 

Airdrie Tire Install

Thanks to Airdrie Auto Value and Tire Wholesalers! Auto Value came in huge for us, donating hundreds of dollars in parts for Chris’ car.

 

Airdrie Steering Repairs

Replacing the power steering pump – thank you Airdrie Napa!

 

Richard and Klayton mounting the new tires.

Richard and Klayton mounting and balancing the new tires.

 

Airdrie Auto Repair

The boys hard at work!

 

Airdrie Auto Diagnostics

Eric working under the hood.

 

We paid for the rest of the required parts, fluids and supplies to complete Chris’ repairs, and also kicked in all of the labour. Tim, Klayton, Eric and Richard set to getting the Oldsmobile all fixed up before our tight end-of-day deadline. After an afternoon of the boys doing what they do best, we had completed over two thousand dollars of repairs on Chris’ Oldsmobile, just in time for closing – at no charge to Chris whatsoever!

 

Airdrie Auto Service

Our very deserving winner!

 

Thanks again to our suppliers who helped with this one big time, and to Brent, who did most of the legwork when it came to securing these awesome parts deals, and getting all of the materials together in time.

Big Tools in Motion update!

Friday, January 15th, 2016

AIRDRIE AUTO REPAIR

This update is coming two weeks later than planned, because we have been SWAMPED at the shop! We thank all of the awesome customers who’ve helped keep us so busy during this normally slower time of year. 2016 is here, and we’re rolling out some exciting new changes that we’ve been working on for a while.

 

First, we wanted to mention our new Service Manager, Brent.

Many of you have met him already, and we hope many more people will soon. Brent has been with us since late summer of last year, and we’re super happy that he’s part of the team. Brent is a licensed mechanic as well, and we’ve known him for over a decade. When it was time to look for some help up front, Brent was high on a very short list of people we’d trust to look after our valued customers; and he’s been doing a great job so far.

They say that if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backwards. With that in mind, we’ve got some awesome new business changes to announce:

 

We now offer a 3 year/60,000 km parts & labour warranty on every repair! 

We’re very confident in the quality of every repair that we do, and now we’re prepared to stand behind those repairs like nobody else will. This will be the area’s only no strings attached, no BS three year warranty. There are no hoops to jump through to in order to maintain this warranty, including no mandatory annual inspections. Just have us complete a repair, and it’s covered –  for three years. Period.

But wait, there’s more! (Sorry; couldn’t resist…) The first two years of this warranty are North America-wide! If we install an alternator for you – for example – and it fails while you’re on a road trip, we’ll pay to tow you to one of over 30,000 repair businesses who can perform the warranty repair, across the continent.

 

We’ve got a great new tire warranty, too!

For an optional $6.95 per tire, customers can purchase a road hazard warranty that entitles them to a free replacement of that tire if it can’t be repaired for any reason. Nail in the sidewall, or other non-repairable puncture? It’s covered! You recieve a new tire at no charge, regardless of how much tread is worn off. Blow a tire going down the highway? That’s covered, too. Back over your kid’s bicycle and damage both rear tires? Even that’s covered. The warranty will cover every new tire purchased for five years, or until it reaches the tread depth of 1.5mm or 2/32″, when it is considered legally worn out.

We’re also taking this to a new level for our industry: Let’s say your tires are half worn, and it wouldn’t be safe or advisable to install just one new tire on your vehicle in the event of a tire failure. (All wheel drive vehicles come to mind). If necessary, we’ll install two, or even four new tires for free.

 

Roadside assistance: a little “thank you” for our loyal customers!

Starting next month, you’ll receive a free roadside assistance card with every service visit! These are good across North America; valid for one year; and provide a $100 credit towards towing, flat tire changes, boosting, etc. Customers who visit us at least once a year will basically be enrolled in the program all the time – which could save you a lot of money!

 

A better pre-purchase inspection!

A pre-purchase inspection is the best money you can spend when picking out a used vehicle. Last year, dozens of people hired us to provide an honest assessment of a vehicle’s condition before choosing to buy it. Now, all of our pre-purchase inspections (which cost $120) include a vehicle history report from AutoCheck! This will provide you with information about ownership history, past accidents, and more.

We can also provide you with an AutoCheck report separately for $19.95, which is 40% off the regular consumer price.

 

We’re now stocking more genuine, OEM fluids than ever before.

Over twenty different kinds of transmission fluid wasn’t enough. We’re now stocking even more genuine OE (original equipment) transmission fluids, antifreezes, and other fluids. It’s all part of our commitment to doing the little things right. New additions include Honda Dual Pump II rear axle fluid and Mitsubishi Diamond SP-III ATF.

 

Customer supplied parts:

Like most auto service businesses in our area, we used to have a strict “no customer supplied parts” policy. This was for two reasons:

  1. Like every other automotive service business, we purchase parts at a discount and then resell them for a price closer to what you would pay. This mark-up is part of what pays our bills, or “keeps the lights on”, so to speak.
  2. In the event of a parts failure, there is a legal “grey area” when it comes to determining blame. Let’s say we install a timing belt that you supply, and it breaks, causing massive damage to your engine. Was it your part that caused the failure, or something that went wrong with our installation of the belt? (If we supply a timing belt and it breaks, causing engine damage, we can go after our supplier to cover the cost of a new engine – we’ve done it!)

However… we’ve decided to relax this policy in order to try and help more people. We’ll now install customer supplied parts, but we charge a higher labour rate of $150 per hour. This helps make up for the lost revenue from point #1, and makes the repair worth doing for us.

But here’s the good news! We’ll also provide you with a one year parts and labour warranty on that repair – using your parts! Nobody else in the industry is doing this.

 

Regarding our labour rate:

We’re holding the line on labour pricing in Airdrie. This will be our third straight year at our current general labour rate of $110 per hour, with no plans to increase it in the immediate future, despite our costs increasing.

We still don’t charge for “shop supplies” or environmental fees on top of our labour rate, so $110 really means $110; another Tools in Motion exclusive.

We’re still looking out for your bottom line. Our longtime customers know that we do lots of little things that never make it onto your invoice. They also understand that real value is hard to measure, but worth so much; how we provide honest discounts for labour overlap between related jobs, and stand behind our work like nobody else.

 

Our diagnostics & programming labour rate is increasing to $150 per hour.

This isn’t to help pad the walls of the Tools in Motion vault! We’re using this increase to pay for:

  1. Wages. We employ some very intelligent, skilled technicians; the kind of top techs that are rare in our industry. Naturally, these technicians deserve a wage that is in line with their skill level.
  2. The increasing cost of diagnostic equipment, and purchasing new equipment. We are making substantial investments in our diagnostic arsenal this year as we strive to stay ahead of most businesses in this area, and stay on the leading edge of our industry.
  3. The low Canadian dollar. When we perform software updates, we purchase programming licenses and software files from your vehicle manufacturer in American dollars. Because of the poor exchange rates today, software files that used to cost us $50 now cost us almost $80!

But you know there’s an upside: our diagnostics are now guaranteed! But to be fair, this isn’t really something new – it’s the way we’ve always run our business. We just want to promote our diagnostic guarantee because it really is different. “If we’re wrong, you don’t pay” means just that: if we tell you that your vehicle needs a specific part replaced to correct a problem, and it doesn’t fix the problem, then we’ll refund the cost of the diagnosis – and of course you’ll never pay for a part that you don’t need.

 

And last, but not least…

airdrie auto diagnostis

Next month, we’re launching a new business division, Tools in Motion Diagnostics. Through this business, we’ll be providing diagnostic support and vehicle programming to other repair shops in the Calgary area. This is something we’ve dabbled with in the past, with about a dozen shops that currently use us, but it’s not a part of the business we’ve tried to grow – until now. Stay tuned for more information on this soon.

 

Thanks from Chris, Tim, Brent, Richard, Dan, Eric, Klayton and Alyssa for your continued support! We look forward to serving you in the future.

Out of Province inspections, and why people won’t like us anymore.

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

By Chris Dekkerairdrie car inspections

OK, maybe not liking us anymore is a bit of a stretch, but read on…

As our business grows, we’ve been excited to add more equipment and offer more services to our awesome customers. In January 2014, ‎we started offering full air conditioning system service. In September last year, we started selling tires and performing wheel alignments.

Now, another development: We are now a provincially licensed inspection facility, which means we can offer Out of Province and Commercial Vehicle inspections. This is exciting for us, but there’s some nervousness there, too. Why is that, you ask?

Unfortunately, the Out of Province inspection can be a matter of contention for some vehicle owners. The inspecting technician can often come out looking like the “bad guy” simply for doing their job properly. This is because the inspection standards that we’re required to follow for these inspections are very strict. The provincial inspection manual is an inch thick!

To pass an Out of Province inspection, vehicles must be in almost showroom-new condition. Are there any warning lights on? That fails. Many fluid leaks and windshield cracks also won’t pass. Most aftermarket modifications (exhaust, window tint, headlights) also fail.

What makes this even more frustrating for some customers is that cars already registered in Alberta basically never get inspected – and some of them are in pretty rough shape – something we don’t agree with. It seems like a bit of a double standard.

What some customers don’t realize is how strictly Alberta Transportation tries to police the inspection process. They actually mystery shop inspection facilities, having somebody bring through vehicles that they have installed “bugs” in, to see if we will catch these problems. We’ve personally seen a newer 4-door sedan in which they had disconnected one of the rear interior door handles, so the rear door wouldn’t open from the inside. A couple years ago, tons of shops got caught on a vehicle where one of the rubber exhaust hangers had been removed. For the repair shops that fail these tests, there are consequences: The shop is fined thousands of dollars, and the technican is personally fined as well. Repeat failures can lead to the technician losing their inspection license.

You can see why a technician would want to perform their inspection by the book!

Sure, there are shady shops that will pass a vehicle sight unseen for a quick 200 bucks. We’ve already had customers ask if we’re willing to accept some cash to “look the other way” and ignore some pretty serious issues. (The answer is no, of course.)

So, while we can’t change the rules, we can help our customers by following them honestly. Honesty is something our business is known for, and it’s probably the number one way that we save people money every day. After all, a great price for a repair that you don’t actually need is still a bad deal!

Repairing vs Replacing Your Vehicle

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

By Chris Dekker

 

There comes a point in every vehicle’s life when it’s time to let that vehicle go. Displaying the kind of honesty that is rare in our industry, we’ve actually talked several customers out of fixing their vehicles recently, because it just wasn’t worth it. However, that point where it makes sense to put your vehicle out to pasture usually comes a lot later than you may realize! We often hear from customers that their vehicle “is starting to cost too much money”; but when we take an objective look at their vehicle maintenance costs, they’re often surprised by how inexpensive operating their older vehicle actually is.

There are many valid reasons to purchase a new vehicle. New vehicles are much friendlier to the environment, and (sometimes) offer better fuel economy. Maybe you like the feel of a brand new vehicle, or appreciate their features. However, if you’re considering replacing your 5-15 year old vehicle for financial reasons, you’d be interested to know that it almost never makes sense (from a financial perspective) to let your old car go.

Just like owning a home, keeping the second largest investment of your life – your car – operational costs a lot of money each year. These costs include:

  • Depreciation
  • Financing charges/interest
  • Maintenance & repairs
  • Fuel costs
  • Insurance & registration

 

Examining new vehicles:

Your largest expense with new vehicles is depreciation. A recent study by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) shows that over the first 5 years driving a $30,000 vehicle, you lose about $3.50 for every 10 kilometers you drive in the form of depreciation. Have a 20 kilometer commute to work? That’s seven dollars – each way! Depreciation costs make up most of your financing payment, and all of your lease payment.

New vehicles offer an initial break from most maintenance expenses, but by year two or three – while the car payment continues – the new vehicle starts to require maintenance as well. Some filters and fluids require replacement as soon as 30,000 km. Brakes, tires and other “wear-out” parts not covered by the warranty usually follow between 60,000 and 100,000 km. Maintenance costs are estimated to average about $800/year over the first five years of vehicle ownership.

Vehicle insurance always costs more with a new vehicle, and any vehicle that is being financed is usually required to carry full-coverage insurance.

 

Examining older vehicles:

Older, paid-for vehicles may have no monthly car payment and cheaper insurance costs, but come with higher maintenance and repair costs as the vehicle ages. Groups such as DesRosiers Automotive Consultants say that the owner of a 10 year old vehicle should expect to spend around $1100/year on maintenance and repairs. We estimate that in the real world, this number is actually much higher at between $2000-3000 per year – and this is the number that has some car owners upset.

It seems like a lot of money, but what if we told you that your older vehicle is only costing you half as much as a new one would? Take a look at this chart for comparison:

vehiclecosts

Even after we reduce the fuel economy of the older vehicle (to 10  l/100km for a fair comparison), your annual cost of driving is still almost half with the older vehicle. Think about it: if you had a chance to buy gas or car insurance for half price, you’d be all over it! Why do we look at the total cost of driving any differently? In the example above, the older vehicle owner could spend over $7700 per year on repairs before the new vehicle became cheaper to own. That’s almost impossible – it would be like replacing your engine and transmission every single year!

Today’s vehicles are built much better than in years past, and vehicle owners should fully expect at least 400,000 km of reliable service out of their vehicle with proper maintenance. Most of today’s vehicles don’t become less reliable, or much more expensive to own over time like their predecessors did. There’s nothing wrong with buying a brand new car, and we’re happy to see a longtime customer get into a new set of wheels. We just want to tell a side of the “repair vs replace” story that’s poorly understood.

Of course, keeping your older vehicle from becoming expensive or unreliable also depends on one other factor: finding a repair shop that always has your best interests in mind – and that’s where we are happy to help!

There’s a person driving that car!

Friday, March 13th, 2015
airdrie calgary auto repair

Don’t use your phone when you drive. We don’t fix body damage!

 

There’s been a lot of buzz in the automotive industry recently about self-driving cars. Most of the major auto manufacturers are working on some sort of vehicle with “auto-pilot” capabilities. But today, we’d like to talk about those vehicles that are still operated – and owned – by real people.

We’re getting close to the end of what has always been the slow season in our industry. This year was especially slow because of the mild weather; cars just weren’t breaking down as much! But we at Tools in Motion were very lucky. Despite being the newest auto repair shop in town, we’ve been told by various auto industry sales reps, travelling tool salesmen and others that we managed to stay busier than most facilities in the area.

For this, of course, we have our awesome customers to thank. I don’t know of any other business that is blessed with such a loyal group of long-time customers. Why do I think we’ve been able to earn this kind of a following? I firmly feel that it’s because we will never forget there’s a real person driving those vehicles. Real people, with real budgets, real problems, and real lives. So many people in our industry seem to have forgotten this.

Just the other day, we repaired a truck with a broken airflow door inside the heater box. This is a very common problem, so we were surprised when none of the local dealerships had the door in stock. Speaking with a technician at one dealership, he explained that this was probably because they almost never replace the broken door, but instead replace the whole heater box because “It’s easier and faster”. Nevermind that this adds another $1000 in parts to the customer’s repair bill, for a savings of only $100-150 in labour. That hour of trouble you just saved yourself comes with a price; but there seems to be no concern for this. It’s like this technician had totally forgotten that a real person needs to pay for this repair at the end of the day, and they probably have a better place to spend that $1000.

We had an elderly lady who came to see us this week (thankfully) for a second opinion regarding a $4700 quote she’d received at a Calgary dealership for a coolant leak repair. Over $2000 of the quote was to replace perfectly good parts (the steering rack, etc) that were completely unrelated to her issue, but “might fail in the future”. “Why not replace them while we’re in there?” was their reasoning. Come on, guys! Really?! Sometimes this thinking makes sense, like replacing a timing belt driven water pump at the same time as the belt,since if the pump fails, the entire job must be re-done. This wasn’t one of those repairs. We’re all about keeping our customers’ vehicles reliable, but there comes a point. A real person needs to pay for all these extra parts! Are we going to start replacing our customers starters and alternators every year, just in case they fail?

As it turns out, the leak had been misdiagnosed anyways, so the customer left our shop with a $750 repair bill, and a steering rack/alternator/etc that should continue to serve them well for years to come.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m picking on dealerships, because there are some really awesome service advisors and technicians working in dealerships across this country. This is an industry-wide problem.

What’s causing this? Is it because most service shops only employ flat rate technicians who are always chasing that next 1.2, 3.4, or 0.5 hours of pay? Or because most service advisors in larger businesses are paid near minimum wage and must depend on sales bonuses and commissions to earn a good living? Have today’s important repairs become nothing more than numbers on a piece of paper for these folks?

Maybe the pay structure is only part of it. Maybe it’s laziness. Have some of us have gotten so lazy that in some twisted way, we can talk ourselves into charging a customer an extra $900 in order to save ourselves an hour of work, and feel like that’s okay?

Is the it organizational structure of most shops nowadays, where the technician is totally isolated from the customer; hidden away and separated by a layer of service advisors that they must communicate through? Does this provide the “disconnect”?

In some ways, I feel that not knowing how an automotive repair business is “supposed to be run” may be our greatest strength. Every day, we work hard and do everything we can to take care of the real people driving the vehicles we service. Saving a real person even $100 might not seem like a big deal, until you step back and realize that most of us have to work many hours to earn that $100, and probably have many places where we could use that extra money.

In conclusion, rest assured that we will never forget about you – the real person who drives your vehicle; the real person from where our wages come from. You’re the reason we can come to work every day and do a job we love, and we’ll never stop appreciating it!‎