Val Schepens of Val & Mike’s Auto Repair in Huntington Beach talks auto repair shop!
Val Schepens: You know, I was going to do this really nice presentation. I went out there and I think this group is going to appreciate this more so. I was so impressed with Terry’s presentation last week so I went out there and my guys are working on some talk about cooling systems and I’m going to talk about that in just a few minutes. I went out there with my phone camera and I’m videotaping the radiator being replaced and the reservoir bottle going on and…
Val Schepens: Yeah. And I go in to download it onto my computer and guess what. I shut it off when I was recording and when I thought I was stopping it I was just walking around talking to them.
Male: How’d that work?
Val Schepens: So I said this group will appreciate that and we’re just going to wing it today. So there we are. But, Val and Mike’s Auto Service. We are a Triple A approved auto repair shop. We are a smog and repair station. We have, of course, a smog technician and we have ASE certified technicians there. We have actually two master techs. We have Dan and my husband, Mike. They have many years of experience in the business.
Why is that important? Today cars are very technical. You don’t even know what’s going to be happening down the road here and how sophisticated cars are and the computers that are in them. And the repairs are going to be less but when they break down it’s going to be a very technical situation. When you start taking your cars to a mechanic, it’s going to have to be someone that’s computer savvy. It’s going to be almost to an engineer level. And then we’re talking way down in the future but that’s what’s coming up in the near future or coming up.
And you need to continue to help your technicians to realize that and keep them educated, and that is one thing that we do. For example, just the young man that I have working for me right now. He’s a porter, I guess you would say. He wants to be a technician and he’s learning how to change oils and we’re paying for his schooling at Golden West College. They have a great automotive, and so that’s what we do is help and encourage along with making sure they get their ASE testing and any time there is any classes in regards to technical so we can keep up on that.
The reason why that’s so important, too, is that cars, you know they don’t talk to us. When you go to the doctor you say “Oh, I’ve got a pain in my side” and they’re going to let you know if it’s gas or if it’s appendicitis. But cars do not do that. A lot of their symptoms mimic each other. For example, when we have a car that has a check engine light, and check engine light is very involved. But, for example if it’s the catalytic converter and that code comes up you know we replace the catalytic converter but further testing has to be done. Because there was a reason why that catalytic converter failed.
One of the reasons is a lot of times the O2 sensors, but the computer doesn’t see that right away. They see what the immediate failure is, replace that, then it would be the O2 sensors. A lot of times the O2 sensors are okay. We are not in the business to replace parts just to replace parts. A lot of dealers will go ahead and and just replace the catalytic converter and the O2 sensors. That way they don’t have the customer coming back saying “You didn’t fix my problem.” Sometimes the O2 sensors will be okay so we might as well just let the customer drive it for a while, see if everything is okay, and go from there.
Let’s see. As I mentioned we have to make sure our techs are savvy, just with computer diagnostics, electronics, and there we talked about education. One of the things we pride ourselves in our shop and in our business is we like to be problem solvers. And it is a process and it takes time to diagnose cars, and I’m going to give you a few examples of this. And just recently, these people just recently came in the last two days, so they’re nice and fresh in my mind here. But we had, and I had it on my Facebook. I don’t know if you saw it but we had a car towed in, a 19, it was a Toyota Camry, I can’t remember the year. But he waited for the tow truck. The tow truck broke down. The tow truck axles, the wheel broke while he was driving the car. You talk about a hairy ride and then the tow truck got towed. So you had two tow trucks with a car behind it.
Anyway, the first thing is he had overheating problems. He’s a regular customer so he had that trust with us. The initial diagnosis, of course, was a radiator and a water pump, thank you. And one of the things after looking at it, and we actually got the authorization to do those repairs but we wanted to make sure because the car did overheat. Before we even did those repairs make sure there weren’t any further problems with that and so they did a block test before doing that and found out the head gasket was blown. So with that, Mike was able to call him and give him his options so he could make an informed decision. And he decided to get another car, but he came in appreciating that because a lot of other shops, they would replace the radiator, they would replace the water pump and then drive it. And the customer might not have an overheating problem for maybe, what, a month or so down the road and then all of a sudden start overheating and that’s when the head gasket would have been identified.
We also had a young man that had a Ford Ranger coming from Fullerton. He was a guy that loved to live on the edge. Man, that car was overheating. He’d stop, let it cool down, put some water in it, turn the heater on, drive a little ways. And he did that until he got back to Huntington Beach. And so, new customer. Now that one was really scary because that could end in some major engine damage. So from there, the radiator just had a huge crack in it and that was obvious, absolutely obvious, and we replaced that. But then we had to test drive it and it had an engine miss. Now, we needed to do further diagnosis on that just because was that coolant that got on the spark plug wires causing that, it would eventually dry out and be okay or were they arcing?
And then after that they were finding out that it was actually he needed spark plug wires, also. He chose not to do that and that’s fine. At least we were able to tell him, document it, and that can be something he’ll save his pennies for at another time. But it takes time with a car. So, being a new customer he kept calling me. “Did you figure out what’s the problem with my car yet? Did you figure out what’s wrong with my car yet?” I had to explain to him the process. It’s also important to know that after you do a huge cooling system like that, you have to let that car sit, and I call it “burping the car”. All the air has to purge out of the system so you don’t have an air pocket in there to cause it to overheat. So, again time is so important to just get your car done right and safe.
And this was a customer that just happened, she spent about, I have two minutes, thank you, about a half hour of my time. She was at a very reputable shop down on Beach Boulevard, I have really nothing to say, they’re a great shop. She spent 800 dollars, distributor cap, cap and rotor, distributor, spark plugs, wires, and the car was still doing it. She brought it back there, they redid the whole job all over again, still doing it. She comes into my shop and she says “I’m giving you one hour to figure out what’s wrong with my car” and I said “I can’t do that, there is serious problem here”. And it’s so hard to have people understand that, and I couldn’t help her. I offered to get her a rent-a-car. I offered to take her to her doctor’s. I offered to take her to her home, you know, whatever she wanted. But no, she needed her car. She wanted it diagnosed within an hour and it just doesn’t happen and that’s when you have to say “You know you need to go elsewhere or go back to where you originally,” because they are a reputable shop.
So, it’s easy for us to fix cars. It really is. We just need the time and what we’ve developed is connecting with the customer. We’re building relationships. We’ve done that for the last 21 years and we have great customers. You know we appreciate that and we’re getting new customers on the internet. We’ve had over 21 years of business and we stand behind our work. We’re 24, 24, nationwide. We’re there five days a week, Monday through Friday seven thirty to five thirty. And there I am.