Respect the Tow Trucks

We repair vehicles here and—on occasion—they need to be towed to us for repairs. Before I started working here, I had never really thought about what a tow truck driver does unless I needed one. I now have a lot more appreciation for them than I did in the past. These are the people that tow you out of the ditch in the worst weather, jump start your vehicle if your battery has failed and clear the road after an accident. I’ve been on the phone with someone that has just hit a curb during a snow storm and they’re waiting for the tow truck to come and bring the vehicle to us. When the driver arrives, they very efficiently handle the situation. To the car owner it may have seemed like a long wait, but in bad weather and with lots of people driving on snowy and icy roads, they’re required to do a lot in a short time frame. Many times they are dropping off a car, grabbing a cup of coffee and they are on their way to the next accident or disabled vehicle. When you’re standing in the cold an ... read more

Prioritize Repairs

One of the things I’ve learned working at an automotive repair shop is this; replace your ball joints. I actually have an unnatural fear of broken ball joints. Here’s my reasoning. If they fail, it might get ugly. Here’s why. Ball joints are part of your suspension. They attach to the hub assembly and lower control arms. They attach into something that looks like your hip socket. If they are loose and come out of that assembly, your car continues to move forward without all of the suspension holding it up and no steering ability. Several years ago, there was a white Dodge Intrepid sitting on M6, between the 68th street and 76th street exits. The ball joint had broken and the front of the vehicle was almost sitting on the road. I remember it because I drove past it every day for probably a week. It was a good visual of a bad situation. We’ve had vehicles towed in that had the ball joint break; and I don’t ever recall a customer enjoying the abrupt stopping then losing control of their c ... read more

So I Like Volvos...

My past four vehicles have been Volvo wagons. I don't even have children in soccer anymore, so the Volvo-driving-soccer-mom doesn't apply. When someone asks me what my favorite make of vehicle is, I don’t even have to think about it. Here's why: safety, comfort, outstanding engine-acceleration, and organization. If I ever met a Volvo engineer, I might act like a NASCAR fan meeting Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Jeff is hoping that never happens. Safety first They're not flashy vehicles but they've been known for their safety innovations since they began. I had smaller children when I had my first Volvo and I liked the fact that they were a little bit safer in my car in case of an accident. Plus they have the option of built-in booster seats. Comfort Not everyone is comfortable in a Volvo but the front seats fit a wide variety of heights, so it’s perfect for me. However, my sons are both six-feet plus and they impart their opinion of the leg room into my back seat, often. I'd avoid this scenario ... read more

Josie and Her Car Seat

My daughter Liz has a small Sheltie puppy named Josie, who will only be about 25 lbs. when full grown. When Liz first started driving with Josie in the car, Josie wanted to sit on her lap. Liz realized that this would be a problem. I decided to do a little research and found several interesting articles about how unrestrained dogs in vehicles are often hurt or killed, even in low speed accidents. Owners can also be hurt because dogs become a projectile in the car during an accident or fast stop. In a 2011 AAA survey, 23% of pet owners used their arms to restrain a dog while braking, and 17% admitted to holding their dog in their lap while driving. Unfortunately, if the airbag deploys in an accident while your dog is on your lap, this could seriously injure your pet. Years ago, when a customer came in to have the air in her tires checked, I saw her two dogs in the back seat with harnesses and seat belts on. I hadn’t seen this before, but now realize her wisdom of safe travel methods for ... read more

A Gift for Small Business

Running a small business requires you to wear so many hats and learn something new every day. One of the biggest challenges is marketing. Marketing dollars need to work to bring in business. Fourteen years ago our marketing consisted of deciding how big our telephone book ad was going to be. There are so many different opportunities now to get your business name out into the public. Internet ads, promotions, radio, TV, direct mail, email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. Some forms cost a lot, some are more inexpensive and some, thankfully, are free. Artprize in Grand Rapids is like a gift to the local small business is some respects. So much more foot traffic and out of town visitors to admire our great city and what it has to offer. They eat, sleep, and shop here, giving the downtown area a huge boost to most of the businesses. Artprize advertises the event and we all benefit. We also get to enjoy amazing art and artists in our own backyard. We are thankful to be running a small b ... read more

The Fitbit And Your Car Battery

I have a Fitbit that I may be mildly obsessed with. It was charging one day and I left the house and arrived at work without it. Walking anywhere seemed so pointless. No steps counted. No way to tell if I was going to make my 250 steps every hour that day. Did I even sleep well the night before? My Fitbit wasn’t there to tell me. I’d like to admit I’m exaggerating but I’m not. We have several scanners that have the capability to let us know the health of certain parts of your vehicle. One of these that’s very important is your car battery health. I like seeing the printout from a battery test, especially when it’s bad. It shows the voltage and rates the battery’s health. Here’s my reasoning. It’s cold out. Having your battery fail in Michigan in February will probably be miserable. You could have avoided this by having your battery tested periodically. It doesn’t take long and it’s painless. Finding out that your battery is weak is an opportunity to say, “Hey, I want to get in my car a ... read more

A Job Well Done

We have a customer that has been driving for 58 years and has never gotten a ticket. Not one for speeding or parking, nothing. He also has never been involved in an accident. When he stops in to chat with Jeff and they have an ongoing conversation about this milestone. When you watch people on the road today, it's amazing how much driving has changed over the years. When Bob started driving, drivers paid attention to the road. There were no cell phones, GPS technology, Starbucks coffee in the cup holder, no distractions. We hear all the stories about someone's last text before they crashed their car, or the “almost” accidents when someone chatting on their cell phone cuts another driver off on the road. Sometimes we are that person and understand what we're doing when we look up and realize we weren't paying attention to our driving as much as we thought we were. I read something when I was a teenager that said you should drive as if every car on the road was out to hit you. Defensive ... read more

Supporting and Sharing | The Women in Autocare Conference

More women are making the choice to join the ranks of the automotive world as engineers, salespeople, auto technicians, supply chain managers, CEOs, etc. Networking our way. Sharing stories of success and challenges. The moments of clarity when you realize there are many shared experiences and you contribute to the conversation. Being a proud Michigander while listening to Cynthia Kay and Doreen Bolhuis— co-authors of Stop Wishing, Stop Whining, Start Leading—talk about aspiring to lead. Both speakers have built businesses in Grand Rapids and are an inspiration as a woman business owner. Speaking with women from all over the country that I’ve met at past conferences. Meeting new members and recognizing the growth of this organization. Being inspired by a young woman from Pennsylvania who, at 17 years old, is on her way to a career in the automotive field and is taking the steps to make it happen. Having the opportunity to listen to Megan Meyer of Randy Meyer Racing, Inc talk about over ... read more

Hook that scanner up!

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 proble ... read more

An Interview with a Technician - Gordon

I’m fortunate to work with a great bunch of professionals that love what they do. Customers will sometimes ask about the technician that worked on their vehicle. I decided that I would do a Q&A with our technicians so our customers would get to know a little bit about them. I’m going to start with Gordon because he has been here the shortest amount of time and has also been in the automotive industry a short time. We hired him shortly after his graduation from the MTEC program at Grand Rapids Community College. He had previously been in a completely different industry for the past ten years. How long have you worked at Arie Nol Auto Center? I’ve been here for nine months. Why did you decide to go into the automotive industry? When I was young, I watched my Dad and my uncle work on my Uncle’s race car and that sparked my interest but I didn’t pursue it until I decided to make a career change. What would you tell someone in high school that is thinking about the automotive industry? A ... read more

First Choice Auto is committed to ensuring effective communication and digital accessibility to all users. We are continually improving the user experience for everyone, and apply the relevant accessibility standards to achieve these goals. We welcome your feedback. Please call Northshore (865) 392-1700, Solway (865) 927-1505, Farragut (865) 312-8366 if you have any issues in accessing any area of our website.