When a shop is called Smith Auto Repair, you have to do something special to stand out a bit. Fortunately Smith’s reputation is firmly founded on electrical repair, when they started off rebuilding generators, alternators and starters nearly 70 years ago in Yakima, Wash.
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|At A Glance: Smith Auto Repair|
|Location: Yakima, Wash|
|No. of Locations: 1|
|Years in business: 69|
|No. of Employees: 7|
|No. of Techs: 2, with one service writer|
|Shop Size: 2,000 square feet for auto repair, total building size is 6,000 square feet|
|No. of bays: 1 bay that holds four vehicles|
|Annual gross for automotive: $200,000; gross sales for total business are $950,000|
|Shop Affiliations: ASA, ASE, BBB, ERA, APRA|
“We’re in a high agricultural area, so we did everything for everybody,” explains Jim Thomas, the current owner. “We did heavy equipment like agricultural tractors, commercial vehicles—and still do. We have always tried to be the shop that could find the solution for these different pieces of equipment. What we did as a rebuilder was to bring the unit in, such as a starter motor, tear it down and analyze it.”
Like CSI investigators, Thomas’ technicians can deduce if a starter had a tune up issue or bad glow plugs, since evidence of excessive cranking is pretty obvious once it’s taken apart. But knowing the market as they do, their insight sees beyond the technical problems.
“We can look at these units and tell the owner, ‘maybe you’ve got a guy with a hearing problem; he’s trying to start the equipment while it’s running,’” elaborates Thomas. “We are able to give our clients feedback like this, which is invaluable to our customer base--and that’s a value-added type of approach to business.”
“A lot of that work has to do with our experience level,” Thomas maintains. “When you’re an auto electric specialist, certainly a lot of those problems are figured out pretty quickly, (to where) we’ve developed a close working relationship with area dealerships, auto parts stores and other repair shops. Plus we now have all the proper test equipment and scan tools.”Of course if an equipment owner also had an errant Cadillac that won’t crank over when hot, or experienced issues with early Chevy generators that had power steering pumps mounted on the back, these ‘oddball’ projects found their way into the shop, which helped Smith Electric evolve from rebuilding and supply to all-out repair.
For example, Thomas reports they use a Midtronics battery tester, which is a little more sophisticated than the more commonly used load tester. “We find problems that get by a lot places, even the dealers. But then we’ll use a load tester and sometimes find problems that the Midtronics misses, so now we do both because we‘ve learned over the years that you’ve got to be sure what the battery is capable of doing, otherwise you’re dead in the water.”