Will Your Shop Be Able to Navigate the Curves in the Road?

Monday, April 08, 2019

By John Hubka, owner, H C Auto Repair, Bryan, Ohio

My name is John Hubka and I own/operate a small multiple bay independent general automotive repair shop in Bryan, Ohio. I graduated from Michigan State University in 1982 after studying business management. I opened H C Auto Repair in 1991, and most of the time work by myself. My wife does some bookkeeping, and I have one other person who works for me part-time as needed. I face the same challenges as other shops, and some that are unique to a small operation such as mine.

Challenges are opportunities, aren’t they? Technology is a challenge that all repair shops face today. Oh how things have changed since the first day that I opened my shop. Today, I work on systems that we didn’t have just a few years ago. Today, I/we need to know how to work on the newer technology, such as electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, tire pressure monitoring systems, advanced driver assistance systems, electronic power steering systems, telematics, or the newer 1234yf refrigerant just to name a few. I need to know not only how these systems operate, but since I work on vehicles made by different manufacturers, I also need to know how they work across different vehicle lines. 

Tooling is another challenge that all repair shops face today, but with the cost of tooling skyrocketing, it becomes an even bigger challenge. Not only do I need to know about the newer technology, and how to work on it, now I have to tool up to work on this stuff. In my case, one of the biggest expenses I have each year is buying new equipment to work on my customer’s vehicles. My first consideration in buying a new tool is will it do what I need/want it to do? If it doesn’t fit my needs then I don’t care what it costs. The second consideration is what is it going to cost, and how long will it take to pay for itself? Next in regards to tooling is how long is it going to last? Will this new tool be useless in a year, or will I still be using it 10 years from now? And last but not least is the question of how much time/effort will I have to invest to be able to use this new equipment.

So how do we as shop owners, managers and technicians keep up? Where can we turn to find out what is happening in regards to the new vehicle technology that we are currently dealing with? Where can we find out what is going to be the next big technological advancement for the vehicles that we will be working on? Where can we see and experience the new tools and equipment that we will need to work on these systems without the pressure of a salesman telling us what they can or can‘t do? The answer is SIMPLE.

My wife and I have been attending the AAPEX show held each fall in Las Vegas, Nevada for the past 22 years. The AAPEX show is where the more than $1 trillion global automotive aftermarket industry gathers each year. It is here that you will have the chance to speak with the people who designed and built the systems that you and I are working on. It is here that you can talk with the people who develop and make the tools that we need to service our customers’ vehicles. With over 2,500 exhibiting companies, underhood demonstrations and training in the Mobility Garage, and seminars that range from hiring practices to how to service alternate fuel vehicles, this is the one place where all repair shops can come to find the answers they need to tackle the challenges they face.

The automotive repair industry has a long road ahead of it. Those of us who have been around long enough know that sometimes this road can be filled with curves. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, I urge you to attend this year’s AAPEX show. I hope to see you there. To register, visit aapexshow.com.