Fixing your car by radio is a new fad in auto repair

January 10, 1991|By Bill Burton | Bill Burton,Evening Sun Outdoor Editor

Forget for the moment about your spouse, boss or secretary. Have you taken your auto mechanic to lunch lately? If not, you'd better think about it.

You might get more miles for the buck in car maintenance costs.

Don't forget your mechanic's birthday, remember him at Christmas; be on a first-name basis, that's the key to communication. So advises Dre' Brungardt, WBAL-AM Radio's (1090) on-air mechanic. Other media automotive experts agree that the relationship between car owner and mechanic is important.

So frustrating is their dealings with some service managers and mechanics that growing numbers of drivers are turning to the increasingly popular media auto repairmen, if for no other reason to have have someone listen to their complaints.

Peter Moskowitz, program director of Public Radio WJHU-FM (88.1), which airs the syndicated show "Car Talk" on Saturdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., said the show fills a niche in broadcasting and draws a strong audience. In September, more than 800 listeners called the Boston show's phone number, (617) 353-6350, from Maryland.

"They're different, but good," said Mr. Moskowitz of the brothers Ray and Tom Magliozzi, who have nearly a million listeners nationwide and also write a syndicated column.

The Magliozzis not only have a basic knowledge of cars, they also have a sense of humor. Tom drives a 1964 Dodge Dart convertible; brother Ray, a 1987 Dodge Dakota pickup.

Mr. Brungardt, who drives a 1980 Chrysler Cordova and longs for a Jeep Wrangler, gets about 200 letters a week for his WBAL-Radio show, "Nutz and Bolts," which airs Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, and more than that for his nationally syndicated radio show.

Mr. Brungardt, a mechanic for 26 years and a member of the Auto Hall of Fame, covers recalls, prominent mechanical problems among some models, and what's new in autos generally.

He has a hot line to Detroit that he doesn't hesitate to use. "I take the serious approach; I'm dedicated to car problems," he says.

Mr. Brungardt will host three remote broadcasts on how to get 150,000 miles from your car from the International Auto Show at the Baltimore Convention Center on Jan. 19, at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Another popular show centered on automobiles is "Motor Week '91," a weekly 30-minute syndicated show shown on Channel 67 -- Maryland Public Broadcasting -- where it also originates. It is hosted by John Davis and is picked up by 300 stations. Show hours on Channels 22 and 67 are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 8:30 p.m. Thursdays.

"We show the new cars and road test them," said Mr. Davis of the show, whose listening audience is 40 percent women.

The show gets 400 letters a week, said Mr. Davis, who drives a four-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee.

What do automotive service managers think about media experts second guessing them, sometimes in an unflattering fashion?

Dave Ayers, new car service manager at Town and Country Pontiac-Nissan, admitted there are some "order takers" as well as "listeners" in the shops, but said that whenever possible an effort is made to road test a car with a tough problem.

"Writing 'no trouble found' on the service report is an insult to the customer," said Mr. Ayers, who admits there are times when "cannot duplicate the problem" must be written. "It's our job to find out what's wrong; we specialize in the models we carry, and we have all kinds of technical assistance available, including calling the factory, so it's hard for anyone else to know more about our cars and their problems than we do."

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