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Why Support Locally Owned Businesses?

Why Support Locally Owned Businesses?

A study highlighted by the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) assessed two independent, locally owned businesses in Austin, Texas (record store Waterloo Records and book store Book People), finding that they recirculated over 200% more money into the local economy than the estimate of what a Borders Books and Music location would have given back to the city.


The return of money to the local Boulder economy is a major reason to support locally owned, independent businesses. It is just one of many though. Let’s look at these reasons, explore a concept called the multiplier effect, and specifically review the satisfaction advantage of locally owned auto repair shops.


11 reasons to support your locally owned businesses


The Boulder County Independent Business Alliance (BIBA) notes that corporate franchises have become the standard for a huge range of products and services, such as coffee, groceries, and hardware. Big box stores often drive independent local businesspeople into having to shut down their shops. In turn, towns around the United States “are becoming marked by stark uniformity and lack of human scale,” says BIBA.


Here are 11 reasons to shop local, from BIBA and the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR):


  1. The money stays in the local area.

The entire local area will be boosted when people are buying more products and services from their neighbors rather than from corporate chains because a significantly larger chunk of the revenue from local businesses is reinvested locally (as indicated above).

  1. It enhances the sense of local community.

A business that is owned and run locally strengthens the community by giving to local charities and creating a more cohesive sense of place, creating a fabric of interconnected relationships between consumers and businesses, both economic and personal. Town centers are often revitalized by local entrepreneurs too.

  1. It gives your area a unique character.

When business and life are increasingly dominated by sameness and the overhyped supposed predictability advantage of large brands, being distinctive offers an advantage.

  1. Keep control at the local level.

The people in the local community will be most impacted by decisions that are made regarding the local area. By supporting businesses that are independent, you also support the independence of the area’s decision-making. As corporations accrue more power every day, they increasingly are able to control policies in local communities, explains BIBA. Think about companies that are absentee-owned being able to increasingly pressure and control local governments. In that sense, these companies threaten the democracy of the local area, according to BIBA. One example is subsidies and tax breaks that may be available to corporations to choose a certain place for a new store. Beyond that, huge companies can use their global presence and incredible funding to sidestep environmental and human rights laws through physical or financial transition to nations, states, and cities that do not have as many rules in place.

  1. Get access to a broader range of products and services.

A cookie-cutter model within a national franchise is expected. Within local businesses, though, you can find more diversity of offerings. When there are more small businesses, the needs of local people are the point of focus, leading to better access to a larger number of items locally.

  1. You have more competition, which cuts down the price.

Most people know that competition is a fundamental precept of a thriving capitalist economy. You both keep down the costs and see more innovation when there are hundreds or thousands of small businesses. When Walmart was studied in Iowa, the researchers found that 84% of its business was taken from local merchants. Box stores and other corporate chains mean less competition; prices may start low but gradually will rise over time.

  1. Buying local is a commitment to sustainability.

Independent shops often have agreements with local companies, reducing the need for shipping. There are fewer executive plane flights. Plus, independent local companies improve walkability – minimizing pollution (emissions), habitat loss, and sprawl.

  1. It increases pay and improves employment rates.

A typical local business generates more jobs locally than a corporate chain does. Pay and benefits are also often preferable to what is offered by chain stores.

  1. Your tax dollars are better utilized.

Everyone wants their tax dollars to be used as intelligently as possible. The costs and advantages of an independent company are both better; these businesses utilize public services more efficiently and do not have as much need for infrastructure as strip malls and box stores do.

  1. Buying independently is an investment in entrepreneurship.

Upward social mobility is central to the American dream. The entrepreneurship that is built into an independent business provides opportunities for people to move more solidly into the middle class. It also enhances innovation.

  1. It reduces costs for anyone local who wants to start a business.

Large Wall Street corporations force everyone in the area to pay more for their leases, since these heavily funded organizations can pay for huge amounts of space.


Multiplier effect


In the above list of reasons, we noted how local businesses tend to reinvest in the local economy. The extent to which independent shops reinvest locally is incredible. The impact of the difference between locally owned franchises and absentee-owned businesses can be described in three ways, through the multiplier effect, as indicated by AMIBA:


  • Direct impact – Directly, a local small business often spends locally for business operations costs such as wages, equipment, inventory, and utilities.
  • Indirect impact – This effect is seen as the money that an independent company uses for purchases locally is recycled within the community.
  • Induced impact – This form of impact occurs as the owners, staff, and affiliates make purchases locally.


Better satisfaction ratings at independent auto shops


One way to alleviate some of the frustration of taking your car in for a repair or maintenance, says nonprofit consumer research publication Consumer Reports, is to choose an independent shop over a new-car dealership franchise. (We have reviewed this study in this blog previously, but we will provide a bit more detail here.)


The service of 121,000 cars was included within the survey. 41,000 of the vehicles were repaired at independent, local mechanics, while the remainder were fixed at chain new-car dealerships. The locally owned, independent auto shops received better scores from car owners for a broad range of factors, including the accuracy of time estimates, friendliness of personnel, quality of work performed, cost, and general satisfaction. Nearly all the independent shops reviewed by the magazine had high scores from its customers for all those categories. Dealerships did not typically have high scores.


The only dealer that had strong satisfaction was Tesla. However, Consumer Reports noted that Tesla was a new entry to the market at the time (2015), and that it did not have nearly as large a pool of customers to keep happy as the more widespread luxury automakers. As Tesla continues to manufacture more and more automobiles, the magazine suggested, quality would likely decline. In fact, the Tesla Model X has been a dud in the dependability department, making the magazine’s most recent list of 10 Least Reliable Cars.


Setting aside the possible exception of Tesla, though, independent is clearly the way to go, according to the report’s findings.


Getting your car repair from an independent shop


As you can see, there are many reasons local outperforms corporate chains and should be considered when you make purchases in Boulder.


Would you like to start supporting the local community with car repair? We originally started Independent Motors because we felt our city needed an auto repair shop that was in line with Boulder’s values — Community, Loyalty and Honesty. Meet our staff.

Why Honesty is the #1 Business Priority

Why Honesty is the #1 Business Priority

Popularity, happiness, youthfulness, timeliness, reliability, niceness, comfort, friendliness, innovativeness, uniqueness, and quality are all values that could be used to describe a business. Companies or brands can choose to embrace whatever values they want, and some qualities are deeper than others (quality having greater substance than youthfulness, for example).


What value do people appreciate most in the businesses from which they attain products and services? As residents of Boulder, we will have our own expectations in terms of how businesses behave. For instance, sustainability or community focus might be a value we appreciate more than in some other geographical areas. However, looking internationally gives us a good sense of what consumers expect from or most prioritize in businesses generally.


Before we get into the international value of honesty within business, we take a look at truthfulness as a characteristic of businesspeople. Finally, after discussing the survey results, we look at an honest option for car repair in Boulder.


Characteristics of businesspeople with integrity


We can talk about brands all we want, but what about the people? Here are a couple of characteristics that are common to high-integrity professionals, based on ideas from public speaker Brian Tracy that he described in Entrepreneur:


  • They hold themselves to honesty as a nonnegotiable standard (regardless of any immediate or long-term profit motive); and
  • They keep promises (and, in so doing, prove themselves to have candor).


Tracy additionally calls honesty and integrity the #1 sign of a strong leader. “Integrity is a state of mind and is not situational,” says Tracy. “If you compromise your integrity in small situations with little consequence, then it becomes very easy to compromise on the [large] situations.” (Note that Tracy uses the notions of honesty and integrity interchangeably, whereas the poll creates distinction between these two concepts.)


#1 worldwide business value


Now let’s get to businesses and the notion of honesty as a value within them. The issue of the most highly prioritized values was the focus of a poll conducted by PR firm Cohn & Wolfe. The survey asked consumers worldwide what value was the most important to them, and the one that received the highest number of responses was honesty. The second and third highest listed values were reliability and integrity.


The PR company polled 12,000 individuals in 12 major world markets, one of which was the United States. One of the primary researchers behind this study was Geoff Beattie, a former TV news reporter. Writing about the study in Fast Company, Beattie notes that its results seems off in terms of what we understand about how people actually do buy. For instance, it does not seem that people are necessarily concerned about the integrity of their smartphone manufacturer. However, the fact that people are saying that trustworthiness really is the thing that they want most in those who provide them goods and services should be taken very seriously by businesses.


Beattie explains that after being a part of the same poll’s research team in 2012, 2013, and 2014, he had started to believe that the Great Recession was a gamechanger in people’s expectations toward businesses – that trust and transparency have become essential, with consumers being increasingly concerned that they are part of a respectful relationship. People are setting aside polish and charm in favor of something genuine, real, and authentic.


The two reasons that Beattie sees authenticity as on the rise are these two elements:


  • While people may disagree on the causes of the Great Recession of 2009, the result is that more people are distrusting the activities and intentions of corporations. Incredibly, the study from Cohn & Wolfe found that only 1 in 33 (3% of) people in the US, UK, Italy, Sweden, Spain, and France thought that large enterprises were very transparent and trustworthy. In Germany, just 1% of people think businesses should be trusted. This focus on honesty is especially high in Europe and the US – more than in China, India, and Indonesia.


  • Since the world is becoming more digital all the time, the likelihood that businesses are exposed for not having been forthright about certain information is rising every day. Beattie says that when he first began work as a journalist in the 1980s, it was challenging to get information related to businesses that was not their own self-published materials. When you did get something that was really eye-opening, the corporation might respond by 100% denying the allegation or not issuing a comment. Today, since everyone with a smartphone can be a journalist, and since data is distributed in vast troves across the earth, companies will no longer be insensitive to these concerns. A large company with many different international locations has to think that there is at least one person within its ranks who is failing to perform their job correctly, behavior that could be uploaded to social networks (becoming a viral hit and PR nightmare).


As Beattie sees it, honesty is not an option for these large companies. They have to be transparent with people, or it will come back to haunt them.


Impact of Edward Snowden & related stories on perception


To continue exploring honesty as a worldwide concern, there is plenty of evidence to back up the idea that consumers will flee companies that hide critical data that they feel should be public. High for priorities in terms of transparency are the point of origin and other descriptors of foods, notes Beattie.


At the same time people want access, there has been a huge recent rise in the general public’s concern with information privacy and security, per the Cohn & Wolfe findings. Beattie notes that part of the reason that is the case is because of Edward Snowden and the basic truths about the invasiveness of the surveillance state that were put into the limelight by his whistleblowing.


Authenticity is increasingly a topic for the top technology providers, since they are having to adapt to meet the changing needs of their evolving customer bases. It is not easy to successfully approach this issue, since it can be confusing to summarize with proper highlighting and clarification of the specifics within a data privacy agreement (those long contracts we all sign when we get an update for our phones or software).


“We believe this is the moment for big brands to take the idea of authenticity seriously,” writes Beattie.


12,000 people: 4 characteristics of an honest, authentic company


When this group of people was asked what made a company authentic or honest, they listed what they expected from honest brands or companies in open-ended answers. The answers typically included a desire for these characteristics (among others):


  • values that do not change regardless of context
  • consistency in grounding actions within an overarching mission
  • transparent exposure of organizational policies and any major behind-the-scenes issues
  • the capacity to present mistakes while being clear about the need and intent for improvement, as applicable.


Honest Boulder mechanic


One industry for which consumers feel particularly concerned about honesty is car repair, since the automobile is such a resource-intensive and highly valued possession. At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication. See our history and beliefs.

The Power of Listening

 The Power of Listening

If it matters to the customer, it should matter to the business.


Organizations should listen carefully to what their customers say in order to better meet their needs; it’s a win-win.


Listening is a simple concept… or is it? Actually, no matter how much businesses might recognize the importance of understanding their customers, many fail to listen to “us” (as consumers) directly. Sure, many companies will put together surveys to collect data and “listen” in that way. However, collecting feedback in that manner is not the only or the most important way to listen. By going beyond an obsession with surveying for feedback and instead listening actively and broadly, avoiding “leakage,” and implementing other tactics, companies can be more effective.


Why customer surveys do & don’t work


Having a systematized way to collect feedback may be one-size-fits-all and in a different category from listening during a conversation, but these responses do help businesses. Six reasons that companies should poll customers and listen to their feedback, according to Client Heartbeat, are:


  • Useful in development of a product or service, shaping it to meet customer needs;
  • Helps you to know how satisfied your customers are;
  • Gives you guidance to craft a more powerful customer experience;
  • Helps create better retention (keeping rather than losing customers) through better information about their frustrations;
  • Offers insights so that the organization can ground its decision-making in data rather than guesswork; and
  • The business can find out who its “brand ambassadors” (customer advocates) really are.


Now, those arguments for customer surveys seem compelling. But many point-of-sale surveys are poorly constructed, according to a study by Interaction Metrics (which notably, like Client Heartbeat, is a survey company). The 2016 analysis assessed the surveys used by 51 major US-based retail corporations, rating 15 different aspects of them. The average result out of 100 possible points was an abysmal 43! The most interesting specific finding, revealing a primary reason that companies are so bad at these surveys, was that they tend to be manipulative: “32% of all questions led customers to give answers that companies want to hear,” noted Interaction Metrics.


Surveys are used to generate “customer-experience metrics.” Customers want to be heard of course, but the term customer-experience metrics should already raise eyebrows in terms of treating customers like they are numbers. Even if these metrics are not a replacement for strong individual listening, businesses can have difficulty with them. Many companies have a hard time determining how customer metrics relate to their activities. Plus, it can be difficult for businesses to get their staff excited about metrics since they are so impersonal and often fail to give insight into sudden shifts in customer sentiment.


Businesses often cannot decide whether they should focus more on metrics that have to do with customer relationships or sales. (We choose the former.)


These metrics can also be skewed because the people who complete it will not necessarily give a business a good sense of its average customer. In Forbes, Todd Hixon suggests that the subset of customers who answer surveys can be an issue, suggesting that respondents are:


  1. People who are not highly active;
  2. Older customers; and
  3. People who are irritated and want to vent.


Hixon also says that key demographics including millennials and mobile users are probably not represented well.


Beyond issues with the information collected, the process of applying feedback from customers is difficult for businesses too. According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, one of the primary reasons that businesses fail with listening in this way is that they “don’t have the culture to loop customer feedback through the front line to improve behavior or connect it to innovation.”


The importance of listening actively & broadly


To explore the topic of active and broad listening, here is the reasoning behind each element of that effort:


  • Why listen? You can find evidence of the sound value of listening within the business world in the classic organizational management text The One Minute Manager. This book, published in 1982 and authored by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard, suggested that the #1 way to create engagement among personnel is to set aside time to listen to them. While this book is about employees rather than customers, its high valuation of listening is on-point as it notes that it’s a way for managers to relate with people individually and make sure that they know their work is appreciated.
  • Why listen actively? If surveying customers can be viewed as a rudimentary and flawed effort at listening, active listening is a way to refine this skill. This technique is helpful in therapy sessions, and it is helpful in business as well. When we listen actively, we do not focus on throwing in our own opinion or solutions (unless requested) but instead repeat back what we think we have heard. This practice is an effort at clarification; if what the listener repeats back is at all flawed, the speaker can correct the message.
  • Why listen broadly? It’s not just about how we listen, but who we listen to – and our attitudes impact the extent to which we are willing to hear someone’s point-of-view. Being open to people means that you can keep revising your understanding of the world, explains therapist Rena Pollak via healthy psychotherapy network org. Pollak notes that it is important to remain flexible because our ingrained perspectives are often based on biased perspectives, misinformation, and control, such as when our parents instill in us their own insecurities, telling us that all women are liars or that we will not achieve our dreams.


Leakage: why listening cannot be faked


If you are trying to put on the front that you are paying attention to what someone is saying, but you really aren’t, you may leak out indications that you do not care, says Jeff Thompson, PhD, in Psychology Today. Thompson writes that “leakage, or unintended non-verbal communication” cues that give away when we are not listening are self-touching, eye-rolling, fidgeting, failing to make eye contact, and paralanguage or back-channel communication – the last of which Thompson summarizes as “huffing or audible noises and that teeth-sucking noise.” Seriously.


How companies & people can listen more effectively


Beyond being open to various speakers and listening actively, here are three additional steps you can take to improve the way that you listen:


  1. Be prepared. If you are underprepared, you will be more focused on understanding the basics than on deep problem-solving.
  2. Listen with both mind and body. Our bodies actually help to determine the way that we think, according to the notion of embodied cognition. Move your body so that it is positioned toward the speaker, nod, and look into their eyes.
  3. Self-monitor. Pay attention to yourself and ask yourself if you are listening in the moment. Also pay attention to whether you are conveying to the other person that you are listening – since their perception is ultimately the deciding factor in your ability to make them feel heard.


An honest boulder auto mechanic


Are you interested in working with a car mechanic that values listening to you? At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication, in what we say and how well we listen. See our beliefs.

Why Values Are Important in Business

Why Values Are Important in Business

You may think that business and values do not have much in common. Perhaps business seems directly functional, while values seem to have to do with personal perspectives and cultural background. However, values are incredibly important to how businesses operate with their partners and their clients – whether the outfit is an auto mechanic in Boulder or any business.


Why is it important for a business to have values?


Ethics is not just important to the consumer or to affiliates of an organization but to an organization itself. In fact, W. Michael Hoffman has pointed out in risk assessment publication Corporate Compliance Insights that lack of values actually increases the risk of a firm. Here are a few key reasons why business management should be values-driven:


Pressures of the market – When you have to find ways to cut costs, you may not have as many checks and balances in place to maintain proper behavior. Employees might have their own ability to act one way or another, leading to possible ethical violations.


Diversity – In the United States, there are people interacting with different genders, religions, and ages. This diversity leads to different perceptions of what it means to act professionally within a business. While there must be commonly understood codes of conduct, the way that a person comprehends the exact same scenario and information can be very different from another person’s based on their demographic characteristics.


Globalization – People from various cultural backgrounds will not all experience different situations and circumstances the same. In certain cases, ethics becomes confusing related to the issue of culture, in which case the issue is sometimes considered a cultural sensitivity rather than a simple ethical precept.


Remote workers – Since so many people are working from a distant location part or all of the time, it is important to have values that infuse the organization at the management level.


Business partnerships – Your alliances with other businesses are another area in which ethical errors might occur. Values-driven tactics are effective not just at defining the ways that interactions occur internally but with external partners as well.


Team structure – There is more of a communal, integrated, team-based notion of internal growth in business today, with merit and individual aptitude leading the way to decision-making. Removing the top-down nature in which decisions have traditionally been generated has allowed all players to feel part of the process.


Entrepreneurship & intrapreneurship – Often now, companies are advocating that members of their staff, even at the entry level, become more innovative, try tactics (within structured confines) that embrace risk, and even get to use some funding. This method, called intrapreneurship, gives anyone working at a business a chance to feel like they are the owner and assume the relevant responsibilities.


Key values within a business setting


The above elements of business tell us reasons that values are important to business. However, what exactly are we talking about? What are the most common business values?


Here are some of the top values that are used by the world’s best businesses, according to responses to a questionnaire conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Alumni of the Stanford business school were asked to list the values that were most critical within a business setting. Here are a few key values, along with the comments that were made by those who responded.


Golden rule treatment – Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff noted that he thinks the golden rule is a fundamental precept of a solid business interaction. When a person approaches others with respect and with a goal of making a strong impression in a business setting, typically the favor will be returned. You will not only gain credibility but will also have greater peace-of-mind. You can put yourself at risk by acting in a manner that assumes mutual concern; however, even if you do get hurt occasionally with this strategy, you can simply discontinue your engagement with anyone who does not treat you in kind.


Integrity – Approaching your communications with all parties from a perspective of consistency and authenticity will point you in the right direction, according to Pagatech cofounder Jay Alabraba. Taking this honest approach will mean that you are not deceiving anyone or scamming them. In other words, you want to transparently convey what you are offering to everyone, regardless whether it hurts your immediate profits. University Games CEO Bob Moog also mentioned this value as a high-priority one in a business setting, noting that he had many handshake deals with other businesspeople, resulting in beneficial relationships that had lasted decades.


Straightforwardness – People often want to see a person who is going to talk with them directly and straightforwardly, advised Thought Leadership Lab CEO Denise Brosseau. Often people will want to work with startups or other organizations outside of Wall Street since smaller and less traditional companies can often have a greater degree of directness. This direct dynamic is aligned well with entrepreneurialism and the notion of getting to hand-select the partners through which one conducts business, said Brosseau. In that capacity, a company is able to not only offer straightforwardness itself but be able to filter for that quality in its clientele.


Mutuality – Tiny Prints co-founder Laura Ching noted that trust is built into a company that creates a familial, open-communication environment. When firms look for new employees, they can specifically have a desire to hire people who care about the strength of their bonds with others. The culture of an organization can also further enforce and enhance the notion that interconnection is critical to the mission of the company. People should be able to get courtesy from one another, but also friendliness. In that type of setting, people will feel comfortable to get even better at interacting with their peers. Loyalty and retention can both be high with employees and, in turn, with customers; after all, your clients become attached to certain members of your staff. When there is an implicit sense of honesty and having one another’s best interests at heart, you are able to acquire feedback that would otherwise be challenging to attain.


Transparent messaging – When a company has many different projects occurring at the same time, conducted by a broad array of players, there can be a huge range in the perspectives – leading, potentially, to communication difficulties between different projects that are ultimately interrelated. Empowered Careers CEO Steve Poizner commented that executives at companies should promote a business culture for which truth is critical to all interactions, regardless of all other factors. Additionally, said Poizner, being strong and unafraid allows someone to make the kind of impact they want with their customers and in their community.


Gratitude – We all want to be appreciated by businesses when we give them our money and invest in a relationship with them. As indicated by Ariat International CEO Beth Cross, organizations should remember that their clients care to know that they are appreciated.


Simple value – You can find out what the client needs in various ways, as noted by Design Within Reach founder Rob Forbes. Whether you use market research or simply release your offering to the market, you would be wise to think in terms of what the customer would actually value. By creating products that are high-quality and then communicating their story to your customer, you are able to give something to others through a business context that is authentic and can improve their quality of life.


Passion – Passion is another of those terms that may seem to be antithetical to the dry and serious needs of business. However, you really do want to care about what you do for a living – and be able to say the same about the people from whom you buy your goods and services.


An honest Boulder auto mechanic


It helps to get an idea of why values are important to business, and the specific values that should be high-priority for organizations. How can this search for values be reflected in your choice of car mechanic? We originally started Independent Motors because we felt our city needed an auto repair shop that was more in line with Boulder’s values – Community, Loyalty, and Honesty. See Our History and Beliefs.

7 Principles of Great Customer Service

7 Principles of Great Customer Service

There is a reason that smart businesses value customer service, and it goes beyond good citizenship and a sense of responsibility to their local neighbors. Customer service improves your retention. A business is typically very concerned with being able to retain customers because it costs them 5-25 times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain a current one, according to figures from Harvard Business Review contributing editor Amy E. Gallo. Businesses are certainly likely to see more churn if they have poor customer service. According to customer service industry research, 70% of customers leave because customer service was lacking.


What is good customer service, exactly, though? Let’s look at a list of principles that define high-quality customer-service, according to research on the subject.


Robots are not your customer service friend.


Robots can be fascinating to watch, but that doesn’t mean you want to have a conversation with one when you are trying to get a problem solved quickly. Make it clear to your customers that you are NOT a cyborg. Personality is all right as long as it reasonably professional. Of course, people want their problems resolved, and you want to help them. However, it is not just about speed. It can help increase rapport immensely to simply introduce small talk to the conversation – about sports perhaps, or the weather. Any friendly comments will help shift the sense of the interaction to broader topics, resulting in a more human connection.


Speed is fundamental.


The speed with which you respond to customer issues, often phrased as responsiveness, will have a huge impact on how well people rate their customer service experience. Researchers at Warwick University found that whether customers said they were satisfied or dissatisfied with a business interaction, the #1 factor determining their perspective was the speed of response.


The majority of US consumers (53%) responded to a 2013 survey that they spent 10-20 minutes on hold weekly, which equates to 13 hours per year.


According to live chat firm Userlike, key metrics for customer service – especially when it’s remote (phone, live chat, etc.) – include first response time, average response time, problem resolution time, and first contact resolution ratio. These figures are of course more important for businesses that process a lot of complicated customer service issues by phone — but any business, regardless of size, should be aware of them since they have such a strong impact on perception of service level.


It is worth stating the obvious: a business can respond much more quickly to problems when the staff is broadly knowledgeable and knows how to solve as many of them as possible. Not only will a competent and skilled employee typically not have to go ask for help but will be able to help you resolve your problem (assuming it’s not too granular) without having to ask you a laundry list of questions.


Focus on relationship-building.


A business that is serious about success wants to have solid, sustainable, long-lasting relationships with its customers (a cornerstone of retention – and the reason 90% of our auto repair is repeat business). Building relationships can be confusing since the business world can seem so functional and separated from personal concerns. A four-point plan that businesses can use to improve their relationships with clients includes:


  1. Welcoming them and starting a natural interaction with them.
  2. Listening to them and indicating that you understand what they need.
  3. Recognizing that only some people are going to want what you have to offer and building relationships with those who are receptive.
  4. Be helpful, even at the level of simply giving people information, such as informing them of an event they might find useful.


Ensure the quality of your services and products.


A business needs to understand its customers’ expectations – i.e., what they understand as incredible service within your industry. Thoroughly understanding what the expectations are of those you are servicing means listening carefully upfront (which has clear engagement benefits as well).


Not meeting expectations is a core way that a business will “achieve” poor customer service ratings (markers that are extremely effective at driving away customers). According to statistics highlighted by Teradata Applications chief marketing officer Lisa Arthur, failed customer care leads to skipped sales, refunds, and departures to competition, totaling $83 billion of annual losses for American businesses. Looked at another way, nearly 4 in 5 customers (78%) have stopped in the middle of buying something because they decided the customer service was not up to par. The source of those later numbers, a 2011 survey of 1000 US 18-and-older consumers, was not all negative though: it also revealed that nearly three-quarters of people (70%) will spend more (13% on average) with businesses that they believe have customer service that is exceptionally good.


The first step for achieving high-quality service is to simply clarify what exactly you mean in terms of quality; then, in order to deliver your understanding of quality consistently, encapsulate these expectations in service level agreements and standards. You can express these standards publicly through certifications to meet sets of parameters and privately within your internal policies.


Be certain fair expectations are met.


You must ultimately hold yourself responsible to your standards if you want them to have meaning. Impress the importance of these standards on your staff. Your personnel should know what the expectations are and how to meet performance expectations (essentially, meeting needs quickly), according to consultant Matthew Harrington. Solving any ways in which service is inconsistent should be a high priority for all employees and management.


Do not try to cover if you do not know an answer.


Probably everyone has been in a situation in which they have a know-it-all person at a business “answering” your questions without really answering them. Worse yet, you may have experienced someone giving you the wrong advice, which you applied and made the problem worse than it was before. A business should know that all employees are confident going to their supervisors or other colleagues if they don’t immediately know how to answer a customer correctly. It is perfectly acceptable service to go get the answer and come back to the client when you have it; the key thing, really, is communication, as indicated by Salesforce.


Be empathic.


Especially since Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is such an advocate of compassionate capitalism, it is no surprise to see Salesforce also suggesting that a business should step into the shoes of its customers. It would be in the best interest of businesses to get a handle on this notion of empathy since Salesforce notes that it is a way to differentiate yourself from your rivals. Empathy will not go unnoticed; your customers will sense the concern and caring coming from your staff – and this tone should be central. “A company cannot be successful with a culture of apathy,” explained Salesforce. “Your service agents especially must master the lost art of empathy to deliver effective customer service.”




Do you want great customer service for your auto repair? At Independent Motors, we treat our customers the way that we want to be treated: fairly and honestly. That’s why 90% of the auto repair we do is repeat business. See our philosophy and meet our staff.

Look Out! How Can Auto Shops Deceive You?

How Mechanics Can Deceive You

It was shortly before the holidays in 2016, and a St. Louis woman had a dent on her car. She met a man at a service station who said he could help her. To gain her confidence, he said he was a mobile mechanic with two decades of experience. He offered convenience too, saying he could fix her car in the parking lot while she was working. Rather than actually repairing the bumper damage and scratches on the car, reports the Better Business Bureau, he further damaged the car and drove away.


Organizations such as the Better Business Bureau can help you learn about scams and find top-rated repair shops. However, this mobile car repair scam story is just one drop in the vast sea of complaints that car owners make about dealers and mechanics. The truism that people are not always honest with car owners starts right at the point of sale and extends throughout the life of the car. Automotive trouble is the #1 consumer complaint, according to the North American Consumer Protection Investigators and the Consumer Federation of America. The findings, released on July 27, included false advertising, deceptive sales practices, shoddy repair work, unfair lease terms, and towing issues.


Let’s zero in on those deceptive practices related to repair shops. Here are some of the most common methods mechanics use to mislead car owners:


Highway bandits. A highway bandit may work for a service station or own one. These individuals take advantage of car owners who stop for water or air. Various types of strategies are used to try to get the owner of the car to pay something to the fraudster. The con-artist might drip oil beneath a vehicle and then suggest that it is coming from a leak on your car. They might slash the tire, or they might slice a fan belt or water hose. Then the highway bandit will instill fear, creating a sense of danger so that they can sell you on the notion that you won’t be safe unless they fix this thing that’s supposedly wrong with your car (and now perhaps really is because of their malicious actions).


Overcharging. It’s a typical scenario for a mechanic to diagnose an issue with a car, make a repair, and the issue remains. When they get the car back into the shop, they then make a different diagnosis and perform a second repair to fix the second perceived problem. Finally, the mechanic is able to repair the actual real core problem, and the car owner get to pay for all the repairs along this process of discovery. Clearly, a customer should not be charged for a bunch of repairs if only one was really needed. In fact, it is unlawful to charge people for repairs that do not fix the intended problem (i.e., the issue for which the person initially brought in the car). In fact, it can be the subject of a lawsuit and a criminal investigation.


Going for a joyride. Joyriding in clients’ vehicles is, unfortunately, something that occurs often in the industry, according to Steve Lehto in Jalopnik. Lehto, who is an attorney, noted that he has represented people multiple times whose cars were joyridden by auto shops. Stories also come out in the press at times related to victims of the same offense. Dash cameras are making it clear how often this actually does occur. One thing you want to know is that you probably will not be able to get any money back for this kind of incident unless the person actually does physical damage to your vehicle.


Estimate fraud. You always want to get a repair estimate in writing. You might get a completely fair quote when you drop off the car, but then it is inflated incredibly when you go to get it. You may think it is legal to do a bunch of additional work because it is understandable that a mechanic would find something wrong under the hood once the project is underway. Mechanics sometimes leave amounts blank, in fact, when they sign repair authorizations from clients. Once the person leaves, they fill in inflated prices and services.


Repair of the weird. In order to save money, a mechanic will sometimes do work poorly, whether rapidly or strangely. The nonprofit Coalition Against Insurance Fraud tells the story of a mechanic who connected auto parts together using only bailing wire. The mechanic might also not do anything to the car whatsoever.


Used or counterfeit parts. You might get charged for a new part, but what actually gets put into your car is either used or counterfeit. When you’re out driving, the used or counterfeit part might give out. Clearly, it is not what you thought you were buying. You are at risk when a mechanic puts a lower-grade part into your car. Now, that said, you can get away with used parts in some cases, depending on the repair job. However, the key here is that the proposed work and bill match the work that was done. In this scam, the company is charging for new and installing old.


Maintenance hooks. When auto shops commit fraud, they will often have an ad in the paper or elsewhere for a really low-priced maintenance service. Once you are in for the special deal, reports Fraud Guides, then suddenly you are being turned into a high-paying customer. An oil change quickly becomes a big and unnecessary part replacement.


Transmission flush. A scheduled transmission fluid flush is not a bad idea. However, you don’t need to do a flush if you have not been paying attention to those intervals. The collected debris that starts to accrue within aging fluid “becomes the friction material in an aging clutch pack,” notes Consumer Reports. Doing a flush of the fluid in that event could mean that you ruin your transmission.


Replacing the brakes. Many times, new pads are needed for your brakes, or you might need to clean and turn your rotors. Those adjustments are relatively inexpensive. However, a deceptive mechanic will try to convince you that you need to make other replacements as well – such as the combination of pads, rotors, and calipers.


Model-wide diagnosis. A huckster mechanic might look at your car and, without having even looked under your hood, say that cars of your model that hit a certain mileage typically need a certain type of part. Now, clearly, there are many times when you should replace a part at a certain point. That information is in your owner’s manual; check it to make sure any recommendations for maintenance intervals are legitimate.


Stealing out of your car. Lehto mentions that he has heard of many different types of things being stolen from cars while they are entrusted to auto shops, including wallets and even change from the ashtray. Stereos have been taken out of vehicles by fraudulent repair shops. Performance components sometimes get removed from engines.




As you can see, there are many different ways in which a car shop can steal from you or deceive you. All car owners want to know that their vehicles are in good hands when they bring them in for repairs. At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication. See our beliefs.

Terrible News: The Most Expensive Car Repairs

The Most Expensive Car Repairs

“I have terrible news.” You have probably heard these words, or similar ones, from a mechanic. They are unpleasant words for anyone who doesn’t want to spend all their money on their vehicle – and the amount we spend on our cars each year is astounding. Let’s quickly look at the statistics on yearly transportation expenses in the United States, then review 5 of the biggest car repair expenses you can encounter.


Household transportation costs down to $9049


You may never have felt compelled to leaf through the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, it is one way to find out about prevalence of certain behaviors and how we compare – for instance, in terms of the amount of money we spend on our cars. The BLS’s 2016 Consumer Expenditures data shows that the average total expenditures for 2016 per household was $57,311, which was a 2.4 percent rise over 2015. Six of the eight major categories that delineate consumer spending increased: cash contributions (+ 14.4%); personal insurance and pensions (+ 7.6%); healthcare (+ 6.2%); housing and food (+ 2.6%); and entertainment (+ 2.5%). Thankfully, some costs did fall last year – apparel and related services (- 2.3%), and transportation (- 4.8%).


Related: “Skipping Car Maintenance Can Be Expensive”


Transportation is divided into vehicle purchases; fuel and motor oil; and a miscellaneous “other” category that includes costs such as repairs, maintenance, insurance, finance charges, licenses, leases, and rentals. The main reason that transportation spending went down was because the first category, purchases, was down significantly: 9.1%. Not only were people not spending as much buying cars, but they also were not spending as much fueling them, with gasoline and motor oil spending dropping 8.7%. (Fuel and motor oil costs, notably, have been dropping each year since 2012.) The second largest spending category within transportation is the miscellaneous category that includes repair and maintenance. That spending number was actually up 4.6%.


Here are the raw numbers for the transportation section of the BLS data from 2014-2016, with total amount and percent growth (if you really want to get in deep):


  • Total transportation spending: 2014 – $9,073; 2015 – $9,503 (+ 4.7%); 2016 – $9,035 (- 4.8%);
  • Car purchases: 2014 – $3,301; 2015 – $3,997 (+ 21.1%); 2016 –  $3,634 (- 9.1%).
  • Fuel and motor oil: 2014 – $2,468; 2015 – $2,090 (- 15.3%); 2016 – $1,909 (- 8.7%).
  • “Other” (repairs, maintenance, etc.): 2014 – $2,723; 2015 – $2,756 (+ 1.2%); 2016 – $2,884 (+ 4.6%).


As the site for NPR’s Car Talk notes, there are a few things that you really DO NOT want to hear from your mechanic. These things of course correspond to some really nasty repair bills.


Here are a few of those nightmare repair situations – those things you don’t want to hear (but sometimes have to in order to get your car back on the road):


“Your transmission is shot.”


9 out of every 10 times someone has their transmission go down, it is because the car owner simply did not change the transmission fluid, according to Auto Service Online (per Australian car service site Canstar). Many car owners do not get their fluids change as often as they should; typically, this should happen every two or three years.


Related: “The 10 Most Common Car Repairs”


Neglecting to change the fluids is not the only reason you might need a transmission replacement, though: these failures can also result from poor driving practices, whether that means pushing excessively hard on the shifter with an automatic car or “riding the clutch” with a manual model.


Price tag: If a person does not carefully monitor and change out the transmission fluid at those regular intervals, the eventual replacement (depending on your model) will typically be more than $2000 (sometime much more).


“We are retiring your catalytic converter.”


One of the most important tools on your car related to environmental sustainability is the catalytic converter. Generally one of these parts will last the entire life of an automobile. However, often a collision will hurt the “cat” (and it does not have nine lives…). Your catalytic converter can also go south if your engine is burning excess oil or if you use fuel additives that are unhealthy to the car. One thing about this expense is that you could save some money from making the replacement yourself; however, according to auto repair guide Haynes Manuals, “most of the cost is in the part, which contains precious metals like gold, palladium, and rhodium.”


Price tag: Depending on your model, the cost to replace a catalytic converter will often exceed $3000. Haynes Manuals suggests that, on average, 85% of a catalytic converter repair bill is the part itself, with labor only accounting for 15%.


“Your head gasket blew it.”


The head gasket must be in proper operational order if you want to protect your engine. That is because it is responsible for preventing oil and coolant leakage into the engine, which can lead to overheating. If your head gasket is giving out, you will often start to see white smoke, leaked coolant, or oil discoloration. Regardless the signs you see, the engine will not last long under these conditions.


Price tag: It will not cost you too much money for a gasket; however, the process to replace it can be expensive – so the labor bill can get high. The head gasket is a direct flip of a catalytic converter bill, actually; Haynes shows that the part is typically just 15% of the bill. Often the cost that will arise from a blown head gasket is greater than $1500, depending on the model.


“We must change your alternator.”


The alternator is a component that lasts a long time – usually around 50,000 to 100,000 miles. However, like other car parts, it experiences wear-and-tear that can lead to failure. Similar to the way that a blown head gasket can lead to engine trouble, a downed alternator feeds into bigger problems: it shuts off your vehicle’s electrical system.


Price tag: These parts are expensive – as with the catalytic converter, you won’t save significantly by doing the work yourself since labor is a small portion of the complete bill. The part takes up an average 83% of the total bill for an alternator replacement. Depending on the specifics, repair often costs more than $500.


“Your timing belt is out of time.”


To understand why a timing belt will fail, it helps to look to the concept of the interference engine, which is the modern design replacement for the non-interference engine. The newer variety allows the valves to open more widely and into the path of the piston as it rises. This design allows for better ventilation of the engine, resulting in greater power and more impressive fuel-efficiency. You will sail smoothly with your interference engine until something goes awry with the timing. Think about it: when the valves open, your piston is down. When the piston is up, the valves are closed and will not get in the piston’s way. “If your timing belt breaks or jumps a notch on an interference engine,” noted Car Talk, “the piston smashes the valves, and you need a valve job… at least.”


Price tag: Replacing the timing belt can often cost you more than $1500, depending on the specifics of your model. The part itself typically accounts for about 52% of the total repair cost.


Honest, independent Boulder mechanic


The above are examples of huge expenses that can result from car ownership; no matter how big a repair or maintenance job you need, though, you want to be able to trust that your mechanic is being straightforward.


Are you looking for an honest mechanic in Boulder? At Independent Motors, 90% of the auto repair we do is repeat business. See our beliefs.

How Can We Build an Even Stronger Local Community?

Building a Strong Local Community

It only makes sense for all of us in Boulder to put effort into building an even stronger local community. What does that mean though? How can we really make our community stronger? Let’s look to the experts for their thoughts on this topic.


  • 3-part connection between sustainability & community
  • 3 goals to strengthen community
  • 3 keys to community strength
  • 3 things businesses can do for community impact
  • Supporting local & independent business


3-part connection between sustainability & community


One aspect of building community is the notion of sustainability. According to urban planning and design firm PlaceMakers, there is a “triple bottom line of profits, planet, and people” involved with it. People are the aspect of the trio that tends to get ignored, argues the firm. In term of the planet, environmental concerns support an entire industry. In terms of the economy, it should remain fairly stable in a market because businesses fundamentally want it to be stable (at least relatively stable, since we also know that disruption creates opportunities).


However, the core concern is the people, notes PlaceMakers, because the social connection is ultimately the driver for the economic growth and protection of the environment. In other words, the group advocates that we first move toward one another and deepen our connection, then shift to focusing more on building our financial resources and developing lasting and dedicated environmental sustainability programs.


Whether you agree with all that or not, it does illustrate how working to build stronger interpersonal connections can help in impacting other areas as well.


3 goals to strengthen community


We can learn more about the notion of strengthening community by looking at people who are trying to help those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Now let’s look at a few goals, presented by the Guardian Public Leaders Network, that help in planning to build community effectively, from executives at nonprofit British housing associations:


#1 – Solving joblessness – Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a job, or are you unemployed or partially employed? It is wrong-headed as a community to assume that people who are jobless are ultimately responsible for their predicament, noted Erika Rushton, neighborhood director for Plus Dane Group. Lack of jobs “is under-employment and we should take collective responsibility for creating employment,” she said.


#2 – Making connections – Paul Taylor, innovation coach at Bromford Lab (a spinoff of the housing association Bromford) said that a strong community is all about interweaving and building connections. It is critical, in order to strengthen a community, that you find people with certain skills and goals, then link them with others who have the same interests or can help them become even better at what they do and more powerfully poised for success.


#3 – Talking face-to-face – It is easy to get obsessed with social media, even locally. To build community relationships, talk to people at their homes, in stores, in the park, or at the school, suggested Fintan Tynan, resident empowerment management for Poplar Harca.


3 keys to community strength


Let’s go back to the advice from PlaceMakers. These are three of the primary keys that the organization associates with a strong local community:


#1 – Great leadership – You need trust within your community if you want it to be infused with the confidence that fosters growth. That starts with competent leadership. What you need to see is city hall and other people within the community talking with one another; looking at the different angles and input; and taking action based on that deeper understanding of the situation. Leadership breeds cultural collaboration, advises PlaceMakers.


#2 – Fostering walkability – There is a reason the traditional city had a center. PlaceMakers points out that, incredibly, many best practices that build community are currently illegal in municipalities throughout the country (leading into their argument for form-based code). As possible, the walkability of a neighborhood such as Whittier should be emulated. Whittier, established in 1859, is a historic district and has some of the oldest homes in Boulder. The walkability in Whittier helps build community because everyone is walking to the Pearl Street Mall, the Boulder farmer’s market, the CU campus, parks, schools, restaurants, and retail stores.


#3 – Programs – Street fairs, carnivals, farmer’s markets, and public concerts are all chances for people in the community to meet one another. The local government does not necessarily have to initiate these types of programs. After all, it is not just about gatherings in the downtown area. You also want to have these types of engaging activities at the levels of the neighborhood and even the block. Grass-roots events can sometimes be particularly meaningful and interesting. Nationally, an example is Porchfest – which takes place in Ithaca, New York, every year. Bands perform on residents’ porches and in their front yards. Here are some happenings in downtown Boulder, from Downtown Boulder Partnership (DBP), as an example of some community-building events going on in the area.


3 things businesses can do for community impact


First, when we think about how businesses can be helpful to the community, one place to get advice is the website of self-help book The ONE Thing. Here are three ideas for businesses to make an impact, from authors Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan:


#1 – Knowledge-sharing – You may not have enough money to be able to pay for significant community development projects at this point. However, you could have skills that would be of incredible help to your local community. One really compelling story nationally along those lines is PENCIL, which is a nonprofit that helps businesspeople to meet with students, teachers, and principals. The end result of PENCIL, based in New York City, has been incredibly positive, according to the authors. In fact, 9 in 10 principals at participating schools said that their involvement with the organization had advanced the school or the test results of its students within the past twelve months. Simply be involving itself with a school, a business can make a massive impact on its community because students go on to college and eventually employment. You can think about how your or your staff’s core skills could potentially work toward the betterment of charities and other groups in the Boulder area.


#2 – Put together or sponsor a charity event – If we want to do something meaningful in the community and also make a positive impression on our neighbors, it is wise to think about how we can help charities. It is time-consuming and complex to set up an event that integrates numerous parties, but the process will help you get better networked. There can be a domino-effect that results in these efforts, say the authors. In a very simple sense, you only have to set it up once and can then repeat many of the same processes at the recurrence of the annual event.


#3 – Donate what you can – You may have some things lying around the office that are more clutter than they are useful. While you may not have use for it, it’s entirely possible that a local nonprofit (or the people it serves) might. A particularly good time for companies to think about donating is when they’re moving.


Supporting local & independent business


Are you wanting to help build a stronger local community? One way to do that is to support businesses that are also highly invested in the community – independent, locally owned and operated ones.


At Independent Motors, we care about the local community here in Boulder. And our employees are experts at what they do, which gives us the confidence to go out and earn your trust. See our beliefs.

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by a Mechanic


Avoid Getting Ripped Off by a Mechanic

Roger White was in traffic with his wife Sue when a woman pulled up next to him and told him that his taillight was out. Concerned that the police might ticket them for it, they headed to what Roger later called a “franchise fix-it shop” (assumedly referring to one of these companies) and left the car there for the fix.


When the couple returned to the mechanic to get the car, the clerk brought up their bill, and the amount was 25% more than the estimate they had originally been given. When they glanced at a copy of the bill, they found the culprit: a rather costly “service fee.”


Sue immediately and loudly questioned what this item was doing on the bill – seeming to draw the eyes of everyone in the room. The man behind the counter quickly looked at the bill, acted puzzled, and said he would remove it.


The Whites were shocked, realizing how often people must have paid that item (which had nothing to do with the actual services performed) without questioning it. When they got home, Roger started looking for answers. Here is some advice from him and others on how to avoid mechanic rip-offs:


#1 – Get to know the shop.


Talk to your family, friends, and colleagues to see where they go for repair work. Get to know the philosophy of the shop, if possible; and consider reading a few reviews or testimonials. Finally, don’t be afraid to stop in and check it out before making your decision. Is the staff friendly and professional? Is the environment organized and clean?


#2 – Declare your independence.


Andrew Tarantola of Gizmodo agrees with Roger White that independent mechanics are the way to go. Tarantola notes that it is harder for a local shop to get away with systematic overcharging “because the business model dictates they build long-term relationships with their customers.”


While you may not be thinking in terms of a long relationship, there is another advantage beyond trust: documentation. When one central location has all your service history, it is easier to keep track of when routine maintenance of fluids and parts (belts, tires, etc.) should occur.


#3 –Take a crash course.


No, you don’t actually have to go to a car repair class. However, if you want to protect yourself from the slimiest of auto repair shops, skimming through your owner’s manual can’t hurt. By understanding typical service intervals, you will have a better sense when certain repairs are reasonably due.


#4 – Carefully assess the problem so you can communicate it clearly.


You don’t want a mechanic to waste time figuring out what is wrong with your car, noted auto repair author Lauren Fix. Specificity can be your best friend when you are trying to get a fast diagnosis and cure, she said. Ask yourself questions such as, “What is the speed when the problem occurs?” and, “Do I only hear the troubling sound when I’m turning a certain direction, or when I’m idling?”


#5 – Consider the shady mechanic’s perspective.


How does the shady mechanic think? Well, as you might guess, technicians are often (and probably in the vast majority of situations) more a reflection on the ethics and integrity of the shop than they are rogue con-men.


Take the perspective of Joe, a seasoned mechanic with four decades experience who spoke with ABC’s 20/20 about his experience in the past bilking car owners out of their money. Joe told the news outlet that the primary reason mechanics will swindle people with fixes that their cars don’t need is because many shops have tiny profit margins. Often the business owner or manager will push the technicians to recommend repairs that are purely intended to drive up the bill. In that kind of setting, mechanics feel compelled to give bad advice in order to keep their jobs.


Joe said that he himself had once intentionally misguided people. While he felt terrible to count himself among the shady mechanic population, he explained the conundrum: “[W]hen your boss tells you, ‘Either you do it here or the door’s right there,’ what are you going to do?”


Here are a few of the tactics and lingo used by technicians in corrupted organizations:


  • Pouring on gravy work – Would you like some gravy with that? If you’re talking about car repair, the answer is No. Gravy work refers to billing a longer period of time than is needed to complete the task. The specific example he gives of this kind of gouging is when a shop charges you for 2.5 hours of labor to turn the rotors and replace the pads – the better part of which is, you guessed it, gravy.


  • Flushing your wallet – A wallet flush is when you try to “flush” out as much money as you can from a customer via the recommendation of additional services – a typical occurrence with a discount oil change. Part of the reason it’s called a “flush” is that you are attempting to get the car owner to agree to numerous fluid flushes: coolant, power steering, transmission, etc.


  • Charging for nothing – An auto repair shop will often bill people for services it does not complete. For example, if an air filter is complicated to replace (as it is in some models), mechanics will sometimes not do it but charge for it anyway. The owner cannot verify the work because the air filter isn’t easily accessible.


  • Exploiting the idiot light – The check engine light, not so politely called the idiot light at some shops, is a facilitator of many costly parts replacements. Scammer mechanics love the check engine light because it is always associated with an OBD-II (On-Board Diagnostics II) error code. “Guys kind of have the phrase where every code deserves a part,” said Joe.


#6 – Gauge the service writer.


The service writer, who produces the estimates and bills, should seem competent and well-informed on maintenance and repair issues. That person is your primary point of contact and should not leave you feeling uneasy or confused. When you see a tight-lipped, stand-offish service writer, head for the hills.


#7 – Expect an estimate.


You should not allow anyone to start working on your car without giving you an estimate for how much the work is expected to cost. Most estimates are given over the phone so even though a written estimate carries more legal weight it may not be feasible to obtain. Estimates are estimates, so it is possible that a bill will be slightly higher, but you should not see anything that is grossly in excess of that stated amount.


#8 – Go over the bill at the shop.


Think back to Roger and Sue. Make sure you check the bill carefully and discuss anything you don’t understand while you’re still at the shop. The shop should review your invoice with you before you pay.


#9 – Dispute the bill if it doesn’t make sense.


If the bill seems problematic, get the old parts from the shop if you can. Dispute the charges and ask to discuss it with the owner. As a last resort, you can go to the Better Business Bureau or even sue.


Conclusion: local + independent = better


What is the most important of the above tips? Number two of course: choose independence. “The one-on-one relationship between driver and mechanic that smaller repair shops foster can really help consumers have confidence in both the work that’s performed and in the vehicle itself,” said Edmunds.com.


Are you in need of auto service? At Boulder’s own Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication – and we back up that communication with sheer expertise. Meet our staff.

Stopping Short: How Your Vehicles’ Brakes Have Changed Over Time

How Brakes Have Changed

When it comes to the safety of both you and your family, you no doubt have to put an emphasis on your vehicle. In fact, if you had small children at the time you bought your vehicle, you probably did a bunch of research and factored safety ratings into your final purchasing decision. A major contributor to any vehicle’s safety regardless of accident durability, airbag placement, and whatever else is the braking system. If you’ve been to a mechanic lately for an automobile repair, there’s a good chance your brakes were addressed at some point whether the reason you came in had to do with your brakes or not. That’s because we often don’t pay as much attention to our brakes as we should unless a light goes on on the dashboard or you can hear grinding sounds. If you can hear grinding sounds when you stop your vehicle, by the way, you should bring it in for service immediately. That is not good.


For most of us, all that we need to know is that if you press on the brake during an emergency, the car will stop quickly enough and at a safe distance. Anything beyond that and it becomes technical knowledge that isn’t necessarily of much interest. That’s understandable, but perhaps the wrong approach. It’s in your best interest to have a grasp on the major systems of your car. There are two main reasons for this. The first is it’ll help you have a better understanding of when something is amiss and if you should take your vehicle in for service. This may help you avoid even more serious repairs and can prolong the life of your vehicle. Secondly, understanding your vehicle’s components may help you save money in the long run because you know what’s going on with your vehicle.


Things Have Changed


If you’ve been driving for a long time, you’ve lived through many of the major changes that automobiles have gone through. Nearly everything down to the keys has changed within the last couple of decades. If you think the car key part is an exaggeration, remember that the transponder in your car key that helps prevent theft has only been in major use since about 1995. Braking systems are no different. The vehicle you’re driving today could very easily have a completely different braking system from your first car you owned in high school. While, functionally, you may not notice much of a difference, there are some pretty significant differences when it comes to replacing or repairing the parts that make up the brake system.


While you’re probably not going to be changing your brakes or components yourself unless you are a very dedicated enthusiast with a full garage, it’s important to at least have an understanding of how brake systems have changed and how modern brake systems differ from old ones. And, of course, it’s good to know when it’s time to bring your vehicle in for brake maintenance.


Difference in Construction


Brakes have changed over the decades. This has caused some changes in what many consider “common wisdom.” You know what common wisdom often is. Things like strict rules regarding when to get an oil change have more or less relaxed with the improvements in technology. While it used to be that you should change your oil every 3,000 miles, now many feel that is unnecessary and wasteful and recommend waiting for another couple thousand miles. So, too, have brakes changed.


For example, many older cars had four drum brakes. All modern vehicles now have disc brakes on the front and most have them also on the rear. High-performance vehicles always have four disc brakes for maximum control and stopping power. Vehicles with four drum brakes had a particularly scary habit of not being able to stop on steep hills or with a sudden stopping of traffic a quarter of a mile away.


Drums brakes used to be serviced by machining the drums on a brake lathe and replacing the shoes. Disc brakes used to be serviced mostly by replacing the worn pads and only machining the rotors if they showed signs of wear. Keep in mind when you bring your vehicle in for maintenance is how rotors have changed. Most likely, if you’re bringing your vehicle in for brake maintenance, the pads are being replaced. They are typically what have been worn down. The question then becomes, “what about the rotors?” It used to be a debate about whether or not you should opt to get them machined or if it would be more cost effective to just replace the things. In many modern vehicles, there is no debate. You actually have to replace the rotors because machining isn’t an option. So, depending on how old of a vehicle you have, you may have the added expense of replacing the rotors in addition to the pads. 


Drums vs discs, machining rotors vs replacing. There are things to keep in mind. But, the most important thing to know is when you should bring your vehicle into your mechanic to get your brakes checked.

Mercedes C300 3417

Toyota Tundra 4725

The Toyota Tundra’s front rotors (below) measure 11.5″ while the Mercedes C300 (above) measure 13″ and are 50% thicker! It’s no wonder why we get many complaints about “brake pulsation” on Toyota trucks.


When to Bring Your Vehicle in for Service


Relying on warning lamps on your dash is always good form, but that shouldn’t be the only indicator you go by. Sounds and feel are important as well. Is your vehicle not stopping like it used to? Do you need more distance to stop? This is what is known as brake fade.  Pay attention to the sounds in particular because there are a couple to be on the lookout for.


If you hear a rattling sound, it’s not an immediate cause for concern. Brake pads can rattle if they experience expansion due to heat. However, if it rattles consistently and especially when you actually depress the brake pedal, then you should give your mechanic a call.


Then there is the classic brake grinding sound. This is always a sign of a problem and you shouldn’t drive any longer than absolutely necessary if your brakes are grinding. It is often a sign of extreme wear on your brake pads and/or rotors. There is friction with the caliper. Another reason for a grinding noise is a foreign object getting stuck in the caliper. Again, you don’t want to drive for long like this because of the serious damage that can be caused. If the grinding noise is a result of severely worn pads, you’re already looking at more intensive repairs. That’s why regular preventative maintenance is so important and can save you money.




Understanding how your brake system works and is constructed is an important part of maintaining your vehicle. It’s also about driving safely. It’s in your best interest to bring in your vehicle for regular brake maintenance for both your personal well-being and, believe it or not, your wallet. Serious auto repairs are often the result of skipping out on the simpler and cheaper regular tune-ups. At Independent Motors, we value doing a good job and doing it with honesty. We’ll always tell you the truth when it comes to what your vehicle needs regarding service. Call us today and schedule an appointment. We’ll help you keep your vehicle on the road for years to come.