Service Station Will Let You Be Your Own Mechanic

November 18, 1991|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

Move over, Midas Muffler. Step aside, Jiffy Lube.

Severna Park resident Dick Waskom says he's opening a business -- the only one of its kind in Maryland -- that will make replacing a muffler or changing the oil a cinch for do-it-yourselfers. And, Waskom says, his businesswill save clients about 50 percent on routine repairs and maintenance.

"I figure labor is about half the cost for any repair," he said.

The new Self Service Auto Repair Inc., which Waskom is touting as "a new concept in auto repair," is scheduled to open in the middle ofnext month at a small site off Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Marley, across from Marley Junior High School.

"As far as I know, it'sthe first of its kind (in the state)," Waskom said. In the past, service stations sometimes have allowed customers to work on their cars in extra space, he said, but this is the first business geared exclusively to letting people do their own repairs.

If the business proves a success, Waskom hopes to open more shops, with the next one in Laurel.

The Marley shop will feature six service bays, featuring hydraulic lifts, that will be available to customers seven days a week.

Waskom intends to stock parts for sale at the shop as well as a full supply of tools that can be rented. Parts not in stock will be obtained within a day, he said.

The idea of fix-it-yourself car repair came to Waskom's attention while he was in the Air Force in the 1960s. He said the idea is fairly common on military bases.

But during the two years he has researched the idea in preparation for opening his own shop, he has not been able to locate a commercial fix-it-yourself operation open to the public.

"I heard there were some in California," said Waskom, but a search of phone books turned up no leads.

So Waskom has had to figure out how to run such as business onhis own.

He intends to rent the bays for 20 minutes at $5.95, 30 minutes for $8.95 or an hour for $14.95. On any job taking more than an hour, he will charge for the time worked only, using the hourly rate.

Waskom hopes to establish a workable reservation system, basedon how long each job will take, so customers don't have to wait longfor an available bay.

One of the most important "tools" the shop will offer is a diagnostic computer, called ALLDATA Inc. Using a specialized program, customers can obtain access to more than 400,000 pages of shop manuals that explain how to repair virtually every car made.

The program includes "technical service bulletins" put out by dealerships describing common problems on certain makes and models andhow to repair them. The bulletins are available to service stations and dealerships but not generally to the public, Waskom said.

Using the bulletins can save hours spent trying to figure out a problem, he said.

The shop will provide a variety of tools most people don't have in their toolboxes, such as spring compressors and drill presses. Customers may also bring their own tools and parts.

Waskom said people should know what they're doing before they attempt any job. A good way for novices to learn, he said, is to bring along a more experienced friend.

Expert mechanics will be available for consultation and advice, but customers shouldn't expect the mechanics to do the work.

After working in the heavy equipment rental business for almost two decades, Waskom -- a Severna Park resident of 15 years -- decided he wanted to start a business that would fill a real need.

He noticed many full-service gas stations have gone out of business in recent years, reducing the number of options for car repairs.

"Most people have to go to dealerships or the specialty chains now," Waskom said. "All the gas stations are turning into food stores."

Many people living in apartments and town house developments are prevented from working on their own cars because they don't have garages ordriveways where they can work, he said. Many communities have rules forbidding residents from working on their cars.

As a result, people who otherwise could do routine maintenance or easy repairs themselves end up paying top dollar at service stations or dealerships, he said.

"I can't believe people pay $20 or $25 for an oil change," hesaid. At his shop, one will cost about $10.

Waskom said he pickedthe Marley section of Glen Burnie because of the large number of apartments and town houses.

"My clients won't be afraid to get their hands dirty," he said.

Hours for the new shop are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday.

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