To be a true Jalop is to be a person who looks after their car. We ourselves take pride in the many repairs, modifications, and maintenance tasks that we’ve completed with our own hands. That said, we love our cars, and we are not professional wrench-turners. Years of cocking about with cars has imbued us with a fine sense for when we’re about to horrifically screw something up. So what is a Jalop to do in these situations? Why, hire themselves a Jalop-worthy mechanic of course!
Which, sadly, can be easier said than done. Like in all trades, some “qualified professionals” are better than others. Adding complication to that fact of life is the complex sociological web that ties people to their cars. Many Jalops do not match the standard description for car owners and can sometimes want things done to their cars that no ordinary driver would ask for. Some Jalops have sketchy rides that they are familiar enough with to operate safely, but would be disastrous in the hands of a stranger. Other Jalops are kinda broke, and/or want to do some of the work themselves; then have a pro take over just for the tricky bits.
All of these hypothetical Jalops would get some major side-eye from most mechanics. Certainly almost any mechanic at a franchised dealer will balk at such odd requests. Unusual jobs are often treated as a burden and definitely as something that’s “gonna cost a little extra”.
So explains the acrimonious interactions that Jalops can sometimes have with mechanics.
The root of the issue here is when Jalops seek the aid of mechanics who are not Jalops themselves. This is simply a recipe for unhappiness and the only way to remedy it for sure is to find a properly Jalipnik shop.
As said before, this isn’t always a simple matter. For the uninitiated, we have constructed this handy guide.
Signs that you’ve found a Jalop-worthy shop:
Shop dogs are always a good sign, especially if they are to be found in the customer waiting area. Extra points if the shop dogs are old, whiny, or otherwise high-maintenance. This signifies a willingness of the shop’s proprietors to put up with long-term projects. Also, a collection of motley shop dogs signifies that the owner of the joint is weak to puppy-dog eyes. You can always use this fact as a last-resort bargaining tool so long as you have no shame.
Cool Old Steel
A parking space is valuable real estate these days, and the price of scrap is always rising. So it is becoming increasingly rare for shops to keep cool old cars laying around. Painfully often, salvageable classics are sent to that big parking garage in the sky. A collection of proper vintage iron is the mark of a shop that is home to genuine gear-heads.
An extremely promising sign at any shop is if they are doing regular work for local businesses. Incorporated services in contracting, lawn care, agriculture, and so on all use a fleet of vehicles as part of their operations. As businesses, they’re less tolerant of bad value than the general population. They’ll only remain repeat customers if they feel they are getting the absolute most out of their money. If, for instance, a local hospital trusts a mechanic with their ambulances, then it is a pretty safe bet you can trust them with your car.
Sorry to be such hipsters about it, but, in our experience, independently owned shops do much better work at fairer prices than corporate-owned chains. The problem with chains is that on-site management can often “pass the buck” up the corporate ladder when there are problems. They have nationally recognized marketing to lean on, so even if they ruin their local reputation new customers will continue to come in due to name recognition.
There are exceptions to this, of course. More franchise-style chains such as Tire Barn have weak corporate control over individual locations. More is left up to the franchise holder and this leaves more room for their business to resemble a locally-owned operation. In our experience, this means better service.
The ideal mechanic is himself a gear-head through and through. This means they will inevitably have car projects of their own. Personal projects that get worked on over weekends and down-time are always a good sign, especially if they are motorsport-related.
By now, you should see a theme starting to form. Even if the shop isn’t locally owned, you’re looking for a facility that puts all the emphasis on individual owners. You’re looking for someone who will work with you on what you need and always respect your vehicle. It is getting easier to recognize these qualities as even very small shops are starting to show up on social media. Strong local support on the likes of Facebook is always a good sign.
Now, while we are emphasizing the need to scrutinize a new mechanic, we must mention that it is important not to over-do it. Don’t get hung up on superficial crap like the neatness of the shop or the luxuriousness of customer accommodations. Always be asking yourself if various aspects of the business are really going to help give you more value per dollar. Nice chairs, slick marketing, and a manicured facility aren’t going to help fix your car. Also, don’t be surprised if your best option turns out to be a little further away than you’d expect, especially if you live in an inner-city area.
Inner-city property and tax costs are much higher than in rural areas. It is far more difficult for a lean, independent little shop to survive at an inner-city location. Some do, but you will more often find them on the outskirts of urban areas. This gives them lower operating costs and more space to work with.
Don’t think that a mechanic being more rural means they only know how to work on trucks. A good mechanic has the knowledge and resources to take on most makes and models. If a mechanic refuses to work on a particular make of car (Mercedes, Jag, VW, etc) then keep looking.
Our own go-to mechanic encapsulates all of these values. Adam’s Complete Auto Repair is located a few miles outside our city limits. The owner is also the chief mechanic and he personally signs off on every single car that leaves his shop. His small crew of talented wrench-turners have a wealth of hard-earned wisdom. Adam’s most senior mechanic has decades of experience and hails from Australia. He’s done work on a staggering array of vehicles including lots of amazing steel from South East Asia. He has been right at home working on Project Hoondy and has taken a bit of a shine to the car. Also, he doesn’t even blink at the likes of this Mercedes CLA:
As much as Adam’s business seems like a perfect one-of-a-kind operation, it really isn’t. There are still many independent shops spread all across the USA and the rest of the world. The last couple of decades have been rough on establishments such as these, but the modern age of social media is bringing them back with a vengeance. Just the same way that craft brewers are now tearing down corporate juggernauts such as Budweiser, independent mechanics are nibbling away at their big-business competition. Now it’s up to enthusiasts like us to re-discover these hidden gems and bring them back to prominence.
Go fourth our fellow Jalops, and discover the awesomeness!