Indy mechanics offer tips for car repair
Only one more college move. That’s all Carmel member Louisa Chiasson needs from her 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan. But sometimes the vehicle’s 160,000 miles conspire to thwart her desire to keep it running long enough to move her college-aged daughter back and forth to school. In January, Chiasson learned the van needed a new starter, so as she’s done for nine years, she called highly-rated Miller Auto Care.
“I don’t feel at all intimidated by them,” she says of the Carmel auto shop, which has been in business since 1968, and owned by Keith Stockberger since 1986. “They are very polite, very respectful.” Although Chiasson clearly doesn’t like spending $300 to fix the starter on her van, she won’t go anywhere else to get the job done. “The guys there know their cars, they know what they are doing … and they’ll give you a straight deal.”
Typically, blood pressures soar when drivers see their autos’ warning lights flash, hear unidentifiable clanks and bangs, or feel brakes slipping. But successfully steering through auto repair and standard maintenance needs, experts say, starts long before the first problem takes hold. For great service, highly rated providers say customers should build a relationship with a qualified mechanic before they need one, research pricing and labor costs and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Communication is key,” says Stockberger. “A lot of it is listening and finding out what the customer wants or needs for their car.”
Building a relationship
Fred Kuhn, owner of highly-rated Glendale Automotive on East 62nd Street, says he tries to get to know his customers before turning a single bolt. Kuhn, who’s owned the shop since 2002, says unfortunately his industry doesn’t have a great reputation. “The first concern when somebody walks in is, ‘I’m going to get screwed,’ ” he says. “We’re known for being honest, well, brutally honest.” Like Stockberger, Kuhn says he reviews options with customers and receives their approval before doing any work.
Member Nevin Phull says he appreciates Kuhn’s approach so much that he drives from Avon to Glendale for his auto repair. “It’s the honesty and integrity factor,” Phull says. For $598, Kuhn recently replaced the brakes and pads on his 1999 Honda Accord. In another instance, Kuhn told Phull that a repair to a universal joint wasn’t likely to make a difference in how the car drove, so Phull opted not to repair. “They focus immediately on ‘What is your goal for the vehicle’ — a perfect vehicle or one that just stays running?”
Nora member Lynne Hart says Glendale Automotive maintains several vehicles for her family.“They always call and give a very realistic estimate of dollars and time,” she says. “The owner does a lot of communicating with the customers.”
That’s key not just for repairs, but also body work, says Bruce Kelley, president of highly-rated Passwater’s Auto Specialists, which has operated in Broad Ripple since 1960. “Nobody trusts us when they walk in the door,” says Kelley, who took over the shop last year. “The ones who care are the professionals. They are going to try to explain things to their customers, not in real technical terms, but in simple terms. I look at it as trying to make people happy, not trying to make a profit.”