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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!

Pothole Scrap parts

This winter hasn’t been too bad. The roads however, started out bad and winter weather always makes them worse. We’ve been having some customers come in after reporting hitting pot holes. We’ve all done it. Driving down the road and all of the sudden you are trying to avoid a pothole without hitting the cars around us. As your tire rolls into the hole in the road, you calmly begin hoping there is no damage.

Maybe not so calmly, because unfortunately, those holes in the road can cause a lot of damage. According to the annual TRIP study, the average Michigan motorist pays an additional $686.00 annually in repair and fuel dollars due to the bad roads.

Your best bet is obviously to avoid the potholes. If that isn’t possible and you’ve hit one with your car, you need to pull over. Take a look at your tire and look for damage. Is there tread damage or a bulge on the side of the tire? Look at the rim of the tire and see if there is any damage. If you don’t see any damage, then drive your car. Does your steering feel off or is there a pull to one side? If your vehicle feels or drives differently, you should get it checked out.

An automotive shop isn’t going to think you’re being over cautious. We’ve seen far too many vehicles that have had serious damage that made the car unsafe to drive. I believe it is always better to be safe than sorry and it also gives you piece of mind.

Dental tools

Picture going into a dentist office, telling them you have pain in the lower left side of your jaw. You had a friend that had the same symptoms and that person had a cavity. You precede to tell the dentist you would like him to figure out which tooth needs to be filled without x-rays or looking in your mouth. You think you know which tooth it is and tell him that’s the one he should start drilling.

There is a good chance you are going to be disappointed with the outcome of this scenario. This isn’t the recommended oral health care choice. In the automotive repair business, as diagnoses becomes more complicated, we deal with this sometimes. Back in the day most people could diagnose their vehicle or their neighbor could. That isn’t true anymore. There are many more complicated electronic and computer systems that exist in your car.

We work with our customers to educate them as to why diagnosing the problem in many situations is less expensive than just beginning to replace parts hoping you hit on the correct malfunctioning part. The technician feels confident after the diagnoses that he is correctly repairing your vehicle, and you will be happier because the actual issue will be addressed.

Like a dentist who has to purchase his x-ray machine, train a technician to correctly and safely take an x- ray, and then read the x-ray while taking into consideration your symptoms, there can be a lot involved in a car diagnoses. Knowledge, equipment and listening to the customer all need to happen to correctly fix the problem.

If a service writer is explaining that the technician needs to spend some time checking into the problem, it isn’t a way to inflate the cost of your repair. Today’s vehicles are filled with complicated systems. Our goal as an automotive repair and maintenance facility is to keep your vehicle running. And when it isn’t, our goal is to repair it correctly and get it back to you as swiftly as possible.

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The 2016 Volvo XC90 won Sport Utility Vehicle of the year at the Detroit Auto Show. I don't own one and had nothing to do with the design or engineering but I'm pretty excited.

Most car people have a favorite car make or model. I'm not a car person but, as I may have mentioned in previous blogs, I love Volvos. They used to be the stodgy, safe, soccer mom car. Instantly uncool. I prefer the wagons. I believe they are ‘stealth cool.’ Not everyone sees this.  

I kind of feel redeemed. I told all of our technicians it won. They weren’t nearly as happy as I was. They all have their favorite cars and they are not the same as mine. I'm not really concerned with horsepower or performance. I love how it looks and I've read all the reviews and looked at the pictures. I do have a tendency to follow the informational car blogs because it's interesting to read what people, experts and non-experts, think about a certain vehicle.

I haven't driven one yet because I'm afraid I might not bring it back to the dealership. I might see it as a ‘permanent test drive’. I understand they get really upset if you do that and you get another ride. In a police car. I'll avoid that.

We work on a fair amount of Volvos and it's interesting to see the evolution when we have a 1992 and a 2012 sitting side-by-side. That is true of any manufacturer. Safety is the biggest difference. Passenger vehicles have evolved from the days of metal stick controls on the dashboard that caused maximum damage to the human body in an accident.

Congratulations to Volvo! And to all of the other winners in different categories also. You give car enthusiasts something to look forward to each year in The Motor City.

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We’ve all heard the term ‘grease monkey’. I never thought about it until I married an automotive technician. If I hear it used now, it irritates me. Here’s why.

I know how much education, intelligence and hard work it takes to excel in this field. As with any other career, there are varying degrees of aptitude. Some people are born with the natural ability to comprehend the complex systems that run today's vehicles. Through constant education, they are able to maintain and repair essentially “computers on wheels.” They may have started out learning at their father’s side in the garage. They may have disassembled an engine because they knew through trial and error they'd be able to fix it and have it back on the road. These are the technicians that love the challenge of their job and enjoy the constantly changing technology.

I do not have this capability. I've learned a lot and understand a fair amount of how and why your vehicles run. I can identify many parts and their function. I have never taken anything apart or cared to. I read a lot about the industry, cars, etc. but don't ask me to fix your engine. We’ll both be very sad by the end of the ordeal.

The automobile industry is suffering from a severe lack of qualified technicians. I think because many times people don't see it as a viable career for a student contemplating their future. They should. If your child or someone you know likes to take everything apart or has an interest in cars and how they run, automotive technician should be an option for them. It isn't the low- paying, no skill, dirty job people picture.

Spending a day or two at several different repair facilities as a job shadow is a good idea. Checking out different educational opportunities is key. It's rare that you'll be hired without some type of education in automotive technology.

Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life!

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Technology changes in vehicles; therefore, we need to upgrade our tools and training. At the same time, our software and hardware also change and need to be upgraded. Computers, phone systems, security systems, etc. need to be kept running efficiently as well as taking advantage of upgrades to increase our productivity.

Who would have imagined thirty-five years ago that not only would there be phones without cords but we would have Bluetooth? A device that sits in your ear and you can answer the phone while driving, walking, eating or perhaps even while you’re at the mall? Each of our technicians has an iPad they use to communicate with the service writers. No more paper and pen. They’re able to take photos which the service writers can then email or text to the customers. This keeps the customer aware of what is happening with their vehicle.

I’m not an IT person and have no desire to become one. We were fortunate enough to be connected with a great, local, small business owner, Kevin, who keeps our computers and other IT related systems running. He also answers lots of questions that begin with, “So, I did this and then this happened and now it isn’t working”. I know he has to, like us, constantly upgrade his skills to keep current with technology.

We connected with him through our website developer that we met at a conference on small business. Networking leads to terrific people that utilize their skills to make your business better. Small businesses have many moving parts and finding great people to work with you makes all of that a little bit easier.

We’re thankful Kevin uses his IT skills to keep us up to date and moving in the right direction. He keeps his sense of humor when training us on something, and for that, I’m very thankful!

image1A gentleman was in the shop and we were talking about different interests. Somehow, the conversation turned to Pinterest and social media. I was saying that I loved Pinterest and he mentioned that he had an account. I told him that Arie Nol Auto Center also had a Pinterest account and that we had some fun things he might find interesting. He was surprised that we (OK, it’s me) ‘pinned’ and said he’d check it out. He likes cars and much of what he pins is related to that subject. In the social media world, I think Pinterest has been seen as geared towards woman but the reality is, there is more and more geared towards men’s interests. Not saying that women don’t love cars, wood working, etc. but most men are not pinning their dream shoes.

If you don’t know what Pinterest is, ask around. You’re bound to find someone that uses it. For us, it’s an opportunity to share things we find funny, educational, interesting and inspirational. There are Michigan road trip ideas, ways to maintain your car’s interior, old car ads, quotes and coffee memes.

If you find a pin we should add, send it to us. We love to share what you find interesting because someone else will too. We have potlucks and Friday meetings here, and I tend to try a Pinterest recipe because honestly, I have a great group of test subjects. Crockpot monkey bread was a favorite and I added it to our board.

So, check it out. Visit www.pinterest.com and search for Arie Nol Auto Center. However, if you’ve never visited this time-consuming, never ending, trove of information and fun, we are not responsible for any loss of productivity that results.