How To Start Your Own Auto Tune-Up Shop
This business idea is one of those recession proof
opportunities that can put you on "easy street." When
the economy heats up and inflation increases the cost
of living, people become "do-it yourself" conscious,
looking for ways to save money. Whenever the economy
falters, people again are searching for methods of
saving money and making what they already own last
The marketing principles outlined within this report
emphasize the money-making potential of an independent
auto tune-up shop in any part of the country. One of
the secrets of success in this business is the
specialization. No longer do auto owners expect their
neighborhood service station to keep their cars tuned-up
and running smoothly.
There are several reasons for the demise of the local
"do-it-all" auto mechanic: first, there are very few auto
mechanics running service stations anymore. A good
journeyman auto mechanic can earn much more, without the
responsibility, by hiring out to big-time auto
dealerships. Most service stations today are simply gas
and tire selling outlets operated by the major oil
companies who advise you to take your mechanical problems
elsewhere for repair. When you do find one with a mechanic
on duty, the prices are such that only the very rich can
There's also the problem of unethical operators. Although
many state legislatures have enacted licensing and consumer
protection safety measures, the rip offs continue. The crux
of the problem is that most auto owners do not realize
they've been taken until after the fact, and then it's too
late. After being taken once or twice, among consumers turn
to "do-it-yourself" auto repair until they run into
technology and advanced electronics of the ignition system
on today's cars. That's when they'll be needing your help.
It really doesn't take any special education or training to
set up and independent auto tune-up shop. Any automotive
repair experience you may have will help, but a simple
knowledge of basic tune-up procedures is all that's really
necessary. In fact, the important prerequisites will be a
strong business sense and an old fashioned "down-home" to
get along with people.
Remember this fact: In staring and operating this business,
it's not mandatory that you be a qualified auto mechanic;
but your success will depend upon your ability to "serve
others," and upon having a genuine desire and ability to
do a good job.
This means remembering faces and names; addressing
customers by first names as you get to know them; and
listening to them; interacting with their problems and
achievements. The best way to explain the kind of "people
empathy" you need for success in any kind of service
business is to think of all your customers as close friends.
You can start this business in your garage--and even on
a part-time basis. Run an ad in your local paper:
QUICK IN & OUT AUTO TUNE-UPS...Low cost guaranteed.
We pick up and deliver...Call Jim at 123-4567
Place a similar ad or notice on all the bulletin boards in
your area. To drum up business and get the ball rolling,
you could even solicit customers via phone. Simply start
calling people out of the phone book. Tell them that your
shop is offering a change-of season special on auto tune-
ups--in and out in less than an hour for $5, plus parts,
which usually run less than $10, and then ask them if
they'd like for you to pick up and deliver their car
this afternoon or evening.
Another way of managing, building and promoting your
business is via the service stations and auto parts stores
in your area. Have posters or signs painted, advertising
your "quick in-and-out" tune-up service. Take them around
to all the service stations that don't handle auto repair,
and to the auto parts stores, and ask them to put your
signs in their windows.
The next thing would be to hand out your business cards
wherever you go and to everybody you meet. Give a handful
to your friends, and ask them to write their name on the
back of the cards and hand them out for you. You could
promise them a dollar or two for every customer who
brings in a card with their name on it. You'll be quite
pleasantly surprised at how fast your business will grow
when you take advantage of these promotional methods.
Still another idea is to have advertising circulars made
up. Pay some junior high school students to hand them out
at busy shopping centers on weekends, especially after
the first cold snap or hot spell of the year. If you live
in a large metropolitan area, leave off stacks at your
downtown parking lots and get the lot attendants to hand
them out as the people pay their parking fees.
You should be able to trade tune-up work for free radio
advertising, especially after or during any change in the
weather. This kind of advertising should work very well for
you, so plan on it and use it at those times when people
are most likely to be thinking about a tune-up.
You can set this business up very simply and operate it
according to the sophisticated time-saving methods of the
highly capitalized franchised operations.
This means an electronic check of the ignition system and
scientific diagnosis of the engine. Check with the auto parts
and tools distributors in your area. They should be able to
steer you onto the national manufactures or suppliers of the
equipment you need.
Here's how to buy the equipment: Decide upon a supplier and
explain your business plan to him. Tell him you want to
finance the cost of the equipment through your local bank
with him as your co-signer. Get the bank to draw up the
papers, make a layout of your shop and equipment with the
help of your supplier, and that's all there is to it.
After you've electronically checked the ignition, the next
step in your quick tune-up procedure is to replace all parts
that aren't operating properly. This usually means points,
condenser and plugs. In some cases this may include a new
rotor, distributor cap, fuel filter, air cleaner and maybe
spark wires. Be hesitant to suggest extras beyond the basics
until your business is established. Spray some chemical
cleaning fluid into and on the carburetor, start the engine,
set the timing, make any necessary adjustments--and the job
is complete. You charge the customer about $10 for parts,
(according to your cost) plus $5 for labor, and you should
be on your way to a good income.
As you become established, and as your customers gain
confidence in your work, you'll be able to suggest and sell
them such things as new batteries, battery cables, starters,
voltage regulators, alternators and sometimes even generates
--when these parts are not working properly and need
replacement. It's important that you don't sell, or even
allow your customers to buy parts from you that are not
really needed for continued trouble-free operation of their
vehicles. Another thing: when you do replace a major piece
of equipment on a customer's auto, always schedule the
replacement work for a time when you're not handling regular
in and out tune-up customers. In other words, you might
schedule the replacement of a generator for Monday, after
advising the customer of the need on Friday. Suggest that
he leave the car with you all day, and pick it up on his
way home from work. Or he could stop by on his way to work,
and you take him to work, replacing the generator during
the day, and pick him up after work.
The charge for replacing a major engine components such as
suggested should be $10 plus the cost of the replacement
part. It's also very important that whenever you contract
to do this kind of work, you have the work done and the car
ready for your customer at the time promised him it'll be
ready. No one likes to wait around for the completion of
work that was promised to be done at a specific time. By
completing the work on time, and having your customer's car
properly serviced as promised, you'll build more long-term
loyalty than any fancy advertising, "come-on" gimmicks or
rock-bottom prices ever offered.
So the thing to do as you organize your business is to
established accounts---sources of wholesale priced parts--
with the major auto parts distributors in your area. You'll
want to maintain a general supply of new parts on hand, and
not have to worry about paying for them for at least 30 days.
In other words, you'll need a cash-flow system that works to
Your profit will come from developing a standard routine that
allows you to move at least four cars through your shop every
hour. Some automotive purists may argue that you're only
providing a "pep-up" instead of a tune-up, but let them beat
their gums. Give each car the same procedure: and electronic
check, new points and condenser, then an engine diagnosis,
and collect your fee.
Talk with your customers. Get to know them and allow them to
get to know you. Then when your engine diagnosis indicates a
valve job or a new carburetor you can recommend it to them and
they'll trust your judgement.
You, as the operator of a quick tune-up shop, should not
volunteer any major mechanical work. Suggest someone whose
work you trust. Your customer will appreciate your suggestion
and concern. And he'll remain loyal to your for not taking his
money and attempting to give him a repair job in an area where
you don't specialize.
After all, you're tune-up specialist---the guy who knows all
there is to know about a car's ignition system---the guy who
keeps cars running smoothly. By specializing in a particular
area of auto repair, and recommending other specialists as
needed, you'll be able to quickly dispel the skepticism many
car owners have for independent auto repair shops in general.
An assembly line in-and-out operation will reduce the
necessary investment for tools, enable you to hire low-cost
workers, and greatly increase your profit potential by
eliminating wasted motion. Keep it simple, routine and
according to a definite procedure on every car.
Once you have your business established and a regular
following of people who bring their cars to you for regular
tune-ups---usually every six months--you can begin thinking
about expansion. It's best to hire college students, or
"car-crazy" high school students, to work alongside you.
Give your customers a chance to recognize and know your help.
When you find one who seems to be especially mechanically
inclined, take him aside and offer him the title of assistant
manager of your shop.
Teach this young man how you want the business to operate;
explain where the profit comes from; and assign more of the
actual responsibility to him. Leave him on his own to run the
shop for longer periods of time. Be patient; compliment him
on his work; and if you want him to stay with you, give him
a raise now and then, and eventually, a percentage of the
Offering him a percentage arrangement will result in even
greater profits for you, plus a very strong local image for
your business. Because you're "giving him" a part of the
business, he'll promote your business to his friends, and
through him and his friends, a long line of new customers
and a chain of loyalty that could become more valuable to
your business than any amount of advertising you could buy.
When you're ready to expand your operation from your garage
to a regular commercial location, look for a vacant service
station. One of the larger facilities built by a major oil
company, located on a strategic corner, will be your best
So long as you operate out of your garage and on a small
scale, you probably won't have to worry too much about
licenses. That is, providing you get along well with your
neighbors, don't clutter up the street with 5 or 10 cars
at a time, and don't erect any kind of sign indicating
you're doing business in a residentially zoned neighborhood.
However, once you move into a commercial location, you'll
need to register the name of the business with the appropriate
local government authority. In most states, this is the
office of the county clerk.
If your state has a sales tax, you'll have to check with the
state tax commissioner's office to learn the rules on how to
collection system operates.
All these licensing offices are in reality offices for tax
collecting. Basically, they know nothing about your business,
and usually could care less. Their main reason for existence
is simply the collection of money for the administration of
government in your area. If they should ask you questions
relative to the worth of your business, or how much money
you will be taking in, always estimate a much lower figure
than either the true worth of those you anticipate. Most
license fees are based upon the investment of the entrepreneur
and his anticipated income from the new business, and you
certainly don't want to start off paying excess taxes.
A good eye-catching sign is vital to the success of any
business in a commercial location. The most important
requirement for you is visibility. Your sign should be
big enough and tall enough for people to see it from
several different directions at a distance of at least
a half block away. Check with your city ordinances for
the sign limitations in the location you select.
Secondly, your sign should immediately state the service
you're offering. Hence, a sign that clearly and simply
announces "Auto Tune-ups" fits this requirement. However,
in order to attract customers into your shop, your sign
should "promise" a benefit. It should describe an added
benefit to the reader. So, your sign should read: "Rapid
Basically, that's all you'll need for a sign, but to "fill
it out" you might come up with a special logo or business
motto. You can probably get an art student at your local
college to design something for a little more than the
privilege of including it in his or her portfolio. For a
business slogan or motto, something along the lines of
"Better performance from your car, at a price you can
afford," is the kind of thing you want to come up with,
and that will do you the most good.
Remember, fast, efficient service and low prices, coupled
with a personality that makes the customer feel you're
his friend, are the keys to your success. Organize
yourself; start slowly and build your customer loyalty;
instill these principles in your employees, and you'll
be on you way. Study this report again, then act on
the recommendations given there.
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