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I Married A Car Guy: My Journey Toward Car Literacy

Hi, I'm Debbie Nol, and I married a car guy. My 14 years of working at Arie Nol Auto Center has been an incredible journey, building amazing relationships with customers and learning so much from our experienced technicians.

Now I'm launching a blog to share what I've learned about cars and some of my most memorable customer stories. Hopefully you will find my blog both helpful and entertaining!

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Each of our three children has worked at Arie Nol Auto Center at some point, progressing from clean-up crew or stock person to learning how to do oil changes, tire rotations, etc. Although the older two are now in non-automotive careers that they love, Cameron has become an ASE Certified Technician and a service writer in our business. Cameron continues to follow the path that Jeff took in 1976 when he began working for his Dad at the shop.

When Arie started this business in 1976, he did it because he loved fixing cars, just as Jeff does. Cameron has been around the shop his whole life and also loves cars. I wish that Arie was around to see the third generation of his family continue in his footsteps.

The legacy of a family-owned business strives when you take what you learned from the previous generation, carry on the drive to succeed, and learn as much as you can to continue growing the business and supporting your community. Passing along the legacy of hard work, passion and commitment is a gift the previous generation gives the next one. Knowing that you’re continuing someone else’s dream and creating your own is a big responsibility but one that is well worth it.

If you’re ever in our shop, we have a great photo of Arie on the wall – one of the few pictures we could find of him at work. It’s amazing how many people say, “Arie taught me how to check my own oil” or “Arie told me when I was a teenager to take better care of my car.” He was known for being outspoken and for loving this business he started.

We are thankful that we’ve had the opportunity to continue what Arie started in 1976.

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I always thought all coffee was the same. It didn’t really matter where it came from or how it was roasted. Then I met Craig.

Several years ago, we began purchasing our coffee from Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters. They were a new business and very enthusiastic about their product. Craig Patterson explained the process of roasting the beans and why it was better coffee. We figured our customers would love a good cup of coffee.

Grand Rapids small business community is amazing. You have a guy with a passion for good coffee and he has built a business that embodies the focus on buying local. All of us that work here at Arie Nol Auto Center, as well as our customers, appreciate the fruits (coffee beans are actually the pit in a coffee cherry) of Craig’s labor.

We love being able to support a small, local business that employs local people. We also love drinking the coffee. It is an instant cup of happiness.

Do you want to try out a great cup of coffee on a Saturday morning? Enjoy the ‘Saturday Experience’ and learn a little about how coffee is roasted, try the samples available and find your favorite new cup of joe. Enjoy the neat old building the Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters is housed in. Take the stairs and get some cardio in at the same time!

But don’t tell Craig if you add cream and sugar or flavored creamer. He is a coffee purist.

If you have questions about car repairs or maintenance, stop in to our shop, grab a cup of coffee, pull a stool up to the counter and ask away! Just like Craig, we’d love to share our enthusiasm and knowledge about cars!

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No, it can’t do that.

We hear several times a day, “Can you hook up the computer to see what is wrong with my car?”

While technology is amazing and the scanners and computers we use are an important part of the diagnostic process, they don’t tell us exactly what the problem is. The most important part of the diagnostic process is the technician and his experience, education and skills. A scanner can give the technician the starting piece of the puzzle and he has to fit it all together. The code may indicate what general area of the vehicle is malfunctioning, but it’s up to the technician to figure out what part is failing to do its job. Most technicians avoid being ‘parts changers’ and want to get to the root cause of the problem. In the past, diagnoses were simpler because cars were simpler. They didn’t have numerous computers helping to run the system. If your vehicle was hesitating, a tune-up was recommended. Today, that hesitation can come from a myriad of different parts or problems.

At this point in time, scanners don’t simply tell the technician what part to replace. In the future, that may be true. For now, your best bet is an experienced technician who keeps his skill set updated, is aware of any inherent issues with your type of vehicle, and is dedicated to making sure your vehicle is maintained and safe for driving.

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When we put our sign up years ago, we made a decision. No ads, specials or auto information.

It is a great topic of conversation and, in general, just fun. Most people love it. Some people have stated that whatever the quote was for that week, we were meant to put it up for them to see. There are an amazing amount of quotes on the internet and in books. Some are funny, some insightful or thought provoking, and some are really just ancient wisdom. Many have been around forever and still are relevant today.

I have made some mistakes. I put up ‘Menopause is to women what kryptonite is to superman’ right before I left one night. I thought kryptonite made superman strong. I was wrong. The many phone calls received first thing in the morning pointed out my error.

A young woman called one afternoon and said that she didn’t understand the current quote because she didn’t know the definition of one word. I explained it. She said she felt stupid. I told her that she wasn’t stupid because she asked the question and found the answer. There was a feeling of satisfaction that someone had learned something that day from our sign.

If you have a quote you love and would like to see it on the sign, call or email us. If it works, we’d be glad to share it with our little part of the world!

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We are using a new software program in our shop. It has some really interesting capabilities which will make us more efficient and bring added value to our customers. But it’s new software, and we have to learn how to use it.

It’s not always pretty. The temptation to go back to the old ‘known’ way of doing things is strong. However, nowadays, there is rapid progression in how we do everything. It’s very evident in the automotive industry. We are very dependent on our vehicles because our lives are busy. Therefore, we need our vehicles.

If someone had told me when I was sixteen years old that I would have a small computer in my pocket that acted as a phone, game board, internet connection and a myriad other things, my first question would be, “What’s an internet?” Those portable information centers allow us to be busier and receive more information than any human in history – all without actually “speaking” to anyone. We can now send you a picture of what is malfunctioning on your vehicle or email you an estimate, and you can respond with what you want to have done, when you’d like to pick up the vehicle, and other bits of information.

The challenge is trying to stay connected to people while using this efficient technology. It’s hard to gauge an emotion via text. To prove that, all you have to do is Google ‘text fails’. So, while we appreciate technology, knowing it allow us to work efficiently with our customers and give them tools to make auto repair decisions, we’re also thankful for the many people we see and interact with daily during their time here.

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We’ve waited long enough. I think this means that we cannot complain when it is 95 degrees and 100% humidity. But we still will. It’s part of living in Michigan.

It also means that it is time to test your air conditioning system. By testing, I mean turn it on. Turn the dials. See if it cools in both the back and front of your car, if that is an option for your vehicle. The first hot day in the auto world brings phone calls from drivers that haven’t turned on the A/C since last summer. Be the ‘cool’ one and check your A/C now.

The other item you want to check is your coolant system. Coolant protects your engine from extreme temperatures. Let’s go back to last summer and remember what it felt like when you climbed into your steaming hot car. Do your car a favor and have the coolant tested now so that you are ready for the heat.

You’ll be glad you took care of these things. If you get your air conditioning recharged, you can sit in the car when it’s 95 degrees outside with 100% humidity and turn the A/C way up. You could even pretend that it is winter again. I don’t think you’ll be able to cool your vehicles interior temperature down to -11 degrees without the wind chill though.