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Auto repair labor rates are in line with other trades.

Recently I read a statistic stating 86 percent of auto repair customers think repair prices are either too high or outrageous. I have been pondering why this is the perception of our industry. If this is true, and I believe it probably is, it most likely comes down to poor communication and explanation.

Many of the other trades (plumbing, electrical or furnace/air conditioning repair) tend to have hourly rates that are higher but generally acceptable.

So why is it that in our industry with all of its complexity, specialized tooling, training and hundreds of makes and models, we are deemed too expensive?

I believe part of the problem goes way back to a day when it was common sentiment that if you cant do anything else, you can always be a "grease monkey." There was a lack of professionalism that showed up in many ways. Todays shop is a very different environment with multiple diagnostic tools that need expensive updates every year. Technicians not only have to understand the mechanical side of the car, they are also computer analysts.

Todays technician spends considerable time reading schematics and electrical test charts before even going under the hood of the car.

Another fallacy pushed by some of the auto parts chains is this idea that all you have to do is plug the car up to a computer, read the code and you know what needs to be fixed. This is seldom true and it creates a perception problem when a technician needs to charge for research and diagnostic time to get to the root cause of the problem.

I believe our industry, in the rush of business, often fails to inform and educate clients so they see the value in what we provide to them on a regular basis. I think most customers, if the time is taken, will understand and see the value in what we offer in terms of keeping their cars in like-new and dependable condition.

If the appropriate amount of time and explanation is not provided when a large dollar amount is thrown at the client, then this negative perception will continue. On the other hand, if time is spent and repair paths explained, the perception will begin to change.

It is time for our whole industry to step it up and be professional!

Q. I just read your column on the proper gasoline to use in your car. You werent specific as to why you dont use E-85 in your Flex Fuel vehicle. I have a 2003 Dodge Caravan and use E-85 when the price is right.

Ive calculated that it has to be about 50 cents cheaper than regular gas because of the reduced mileage I get from E-85. I have 216,000 miles on my van and do not notice any difference in performance when I use it, nor has my mechanic told me not to use E-85.

I also feel like Im helping the farmers when I use it. Any expanded info on E-85 would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance. Love your column!

Larry, Schaumburg

A. Larry, I do not prefer the E-85 for a couple of reasons.

I do notice a difference in performance and there is a definite difference in the fuel economy. Whether or not there is a savings is a bit of a moving target. An engine can be designed to run efficiently on a high ethanol blend but then it would not run as well on pump gas, so the problem is trying to do both.

Lastly, I personally have a problem with using a food source for fuel, especially now as we have become more energy independent. It is a long discussion and takes many twists and turns as it relates to government subsidies and the use of farmland for growing fuel. I guess its more of a political thing for me.

The point of my last article was more about making sure you dont put the E-85 or the E-15 for that matter in a non Flex Fuel vehicle.

If you are interested you can snoop around on the internet and study about the farm bill as it relates to corn and biofuels. It is definitely an interesting topic.

I hope this helps.

* Douglas Automotive is at 417 W. Main St., Barrington; 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake; and 416 Northwest Hwy., Fox River Grove. For information, visit Send questions to
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Oct 22, 2017
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