Archive for March, 2014

Examining Auto Repair Pricing: The Value of Honesty

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Happy Customers - Airdrie Alberta Auto Repair

Our industry is funny one. While most people understand that regular maintenance costs are a normal part of owning a vehicle, the average customer doesn’t exactly look forward to spending money on servicing their car. (I have a friend who works in a golf store; many of his customers are thrilled to spend their money with him, lucky guy!) Because of this, we receive many inquiries from customers about pricing.

In an attempt to determine how expensive we are, (or aren’t), most customers ask about our labour rate. This is when we try to illustrate the difference between price and value. Price is measured in dollars and cents and easy to understand. Value, however,  is a little trickier. Let’s dig deeper.

At first glance, our labour rate looks about the same as most local auto repair businesses. However, because we do not charge a “shop supplies” fee on top of the labour rate, our effective labour rate is already $10-15 lower than most competitors. There are also many other factors that affect the overall value – see “What is your labour rate” in our FAQ section for more on this.

I want to talk a little more about one of these factors: honesty.

This week, a customer brought us an estimate from another auto repair business. They had been quoted around $2500 for a list of repairs and services required to bring their vehicle up to mechanically 100%, and were wondering if we could offer a better price for these repairs. As it turns out, we could; but not for the reasons you might expect. When all was said and done, we got the customer’s vehicle to 100% mechanical condition for around $1300.

It’s important to note that with the 6 items we repaired on this vehicle, we only saved the customer around $100 over what they had been quoted previously for these 6 specific repairs. So where did the other $1100 in savings come from? This is where the honesty factor comes in.

We did not perform 5 of the repairs listed on the customer’s original estimate. These were two maintenance services that had been recommended well before the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule called for them; one repair that had been recommended as a result of a misdiagnosis and would not have fixed the customer’s issue, (we made an adjustment that corrected the problem); and two other repairs that (in our opinion) were not required at all.

We hope that this example helps to illustrate the real value that an “auto repair business that really cares” can offer you.

ABS Brakes Explained

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

We know ABS brake repairs!
















The perfect photo for a cold day, we just had to post it! These little guys do the best illustration I’ve ever seen of anti-lock brakes in action.

Introduced in the nineties, ABS (or anti-lock brake systems) are a great safety feature that allows you to retain steering control under hard braking. On a skidding car a wheel that is “locked”, or not turning cannot steer; the car will continue to slide in the same direction regardless of where the steering is pointed. ABS brake systems automatically pulse the brakes for you, allowing the wheels to turn a fraction of a rotation every pulse, so you can control your steering direction while pushing firmly on the brake pedal.

How Far We’ve Come!

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

New car safety features sure have come a long way. Bigger and heavier doesn’t always mean safer, as illustrated in this crash test between a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air and a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu.

Stop Changing Your Oil

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Airdrie Calgary Oil Changes


In this month’s car care article, I’m not actually telling you to stop changing your oil. I am, however, telling you to stop just changing your oil. What does this mean?

Let’s start with a little background. Decades ago, engines (and engine oils) weren’t nearly as good as they are now. Engines didn’t last nearly as long as they do today, and quite often when car owners finally had to get rid of their old car, it was because the engine or transmission itself was worn out. Over the years, consumers learned that regular oil changes were a very important part of making their engine (and therefore, their car) last for its intended lifespan, and became very good about changing their oil regularly – too good, almost.

Soon, small “lube shops” started popping up everywhere, capitalizing on car owners new-found commitment to regular oil changes. Customers would faithfully drive in every 3000 miles (5000 km), have their oil changed, and drive away satisfied that they were taking great care of their vehicle. What they didn’t realize, though, is that they were only addressing a small percentage of their vehicle’s needs; and overpaying to do it. We’ll get to the overpaying part later; first let’s talk about proper vehicle maintenance.

At Tools in Motion, we always talk about “complete car care”. This means taking proper care of your entire vehicle and every one of its systems. When we recommend vehicle maintenance services, we’re actually following the recommendations of your vehicle manufacturer – we do not use overly aggressive or unrealistic “in-house” service schedules as found elsewhere.

I have randomly selected one vehicle that we serviced this week; a 2008 Hyundai Veracruz.

Let’s examine this car’s needs: Hyundai recommends an oil change on this vehicle every 7500 miles (12,000 km). At every oil change, they also recommend a tire rotation, and a complete inspection of the brakes, steering system, driveline, evaporative emission system, electronic throttle control system and more. Every second oil change, Hyundai recommends replacing the cabin air filter. As the mileage gets higher, other items get added to the checklist, and other maintenance items are due to be replaced at different intervals. After 50,000 km or so, brake parts, tires or other “wear and tear” suspension parts may require replacement.

You’ll notice that this Hyundai doesn’t call for an oil change anywhere near every 5000 km. This is the norm today, and this is where the “overpaying” part comes in: many lube shops, and even dealership service departments continue to install oil change stickers encouraging customers to come back every 5000 km for an oil change that honestly, they don’t need yet. The money for these extra oil changes could have been much better spent on some of the other required services that aren’t being done at these shops.

Most vehicles today have an oil change interval of 10,000 km or more, which means that the average driver will only have two opportunities per year to have their vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic. We encourage every driver not to waste these opportunities, and have these oil changes done by a team that will service their vehicle as a whole. At Tools in Motion, besides installing your manufacturer’s recommended oil and a premium filter, we will rotate your tires and provide you with a full vehicle inspection at every oil change, performed by a journeyman technician. We’ll let you know if you’ve reached the mileage where, according to your vehicle manufacturer, any other service items are due, as well as advise you if there are any overdue services that may have been missed in the past.

Every day, these inspections catch important safety/reliability issues that the vehicle owner might have never known about if their oil changes weren’t being performed by a business with this “whole vehicle” approach to maintenance. And with our highly informative, but low pressure sales experience, customers drive away satisfied because they know we’re on their side, and that we’ll work with them to prioritize repairs in order to keep their vehicle safe and reliable while staying within their budget.