Chris LaPlante (chrisla) wrote,
Chris LaPlante

I *Heart* luscious garage

I've been going to the same mechanic for years (On Track Automotive - Burlingame, CA ; Still a great garage) but having adopted a hybrid, I needed / wanted a place that specializes in them. It turns out a really great one was started in SF.

I emailed them to say "Hey your prices seem similar to the dealer, why should I go with you?" unfortunately they did not get back to me (she apologized for that). We ended up taking the car to the dealer for regular major service. In addition to the routine stuff, the dealer found some additional things that required immediate attention, and recommended some things that sounded like dealer shenanigans to me (600 in valve inspection work when the car is running fine otherwise anyone?).

This lead me back to LG, I called and got the owner on the phone (A woman!) and we were really impressed with the depth of her knowledge, and that she offered to do 15% or more better than the dealer on cost.  It was a unique experience, the shop was very clean and modern, run all electronically on a mac (bonus points for custom opensource ruby on rails software), and as I mentioned, women, running a garage! They did a great job, and came in with 15%+ off. They also had an all electric conversion they were doing in the shop

My initial impression was so great that I piped up that I had a beater pickup outside, that was also long overdue for some mechanical lovin. Most notablly one belt had chunks missing and threads comming out. I asked her if she would be interested in fixing that, or did they only work on hybrids? She responded that they primarilly work on hybrids, but in this economy "paying customers were gladly accepted". 

She checked out the belt, and said the belt would be 7, and labor would be around $30. I was again impressed that she calculated out how long it would really take and charged based on that, and not "well I have to do this 5 minute thing, and we charge $120 an hour, so $120.." I came back later and they were ready to change the belt.

I asked if it was ok if I watched what they did, and he (she employs a guy, and the most sterotypical greasmonkey lesbian looking type ever) said sure. I'm more used to most garages being too paranoid at insurance risk to really allow you in the shop. He changed the belt, and was extemely patient in answering my questions and showing me what he was doing.  We ended up going thru the underbody of the truck head to toe and comming up with a list of everything it needs. He also figured out that the long standing "mystery sound" the truck has is a bad speedometer cable.

It felt really good to go thu that. The truck is a total beater, but they just don't make mini-trucks anymore. Ford sells a current 2.4L engine pickup, but it has one of those redicously short beds. If you want any sort of bed you have to get a much bigger engine, and fuel econmy goes out the window. Only the hybrids have an equal gas millage to this 89 (shame).

After going thru it all, he said he would give me an estimate on all the things we went over on Tuesday, which he did. The prices seem very reasonabe to me. Which leads me to the best part. In my responce, I asked if it would be possible for me to do the work myself while being supervied / told what to do. He agreed to that. I've been wanting to find essentially high school autoshop for adults for years. I have a fair bit of mechanical ability, but not much practical experience working on cars. This combo leads me feeling frustrated at paying for car repair, b/c I feel alternatively like "I could do that" and "replacing the seals on my engine sounds scary".

So if your car needs repair, I'd say go talk to them, and support a fledgeling local business run by cool freak/burner types.

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