I have a renter and a good worker at our local Auto Zone. Many go there to do their own vehicle repairs. Due to an improving local economy his hours have been severely reduced. He tells me people don't have the extra cash at present to fix their own cars!



Jim Lackey writes:

When I was a kid, the local parts store, like the local ace hardware, was owned by a neighbor. They knew what they were doing. It wasn't difficult. There was only a few brands and few suppliers. The first push to cheaper is better and super sized stores wasn't all bad. Chains of Western Auto/ Sears auto parts is now Autozone, O'Reilly's bought up the regional chains over a Pep Boys that attempted to take the service business from the local car dealers service department near affluent neighborhoods. My dad's buddy got rich by selling out. Those that fought the trend, went bust.

The prolific professor Haave has pointed out many times the local retailer didnt do much for the customers on his way to the country club. How many times have we heard, I can order that for you and it will be here in a couple of days? They cashed out, sold to the chain stores and went to country club full time.

The big box stores offered lower prices on the same brand names with a huge stock. The crash of 2008 changed the way Home Depot, Sears, and too many auto parts men stocked the stores. In the rush to reduce costs and raise margin, there is a limited lowest price stock. The staff is a kid that will run around in circles attempting to figure out the puzzle of where a tool, part, or product may be located. The nice working mom is best as she quickly goes for her radio. She calls the manager in charge and he replies, we are out but will have it in a couple of days.

The current box stores are worse than the local retailer that we lamented as kids. The new toy wasn't in stock 30 years ago. Now the simple tools that have been produced for 50 years are hard to find. No one works on their own stuff anymore. Everything seems to be produced as cheap as possible. When it breaks we toss it in the garbage. I've been married for 18 years and I have bought 5 vacuum cleaners and never once changed a belt. In their genius to lower costs and close stores, the auto parts men are circuit city- ing their way out of business. Auto Zone and O'Reilly have spent a fortune on their websites offering free shipping. Once a do it yourself shade tree mechanic is at that level, it's the same as shopping at Best Buy and ordering off Amazon, with a bonus. Now we find out where the auto parts are manufactured.

A problem with do it yourself, (DIY carz) was having the correct proprietary tool for each make and model car. Many can't comprehend why cars are so complicated and difficult to fix. They are designed to be produced cheap and quick. Car models have a different so called upgraded part for every model year. That, coupled with low cost aftermarket parts, did away with many rebuilt, remanufactured, go to the junk yard and buy a used part for your beater car. The cost of replacing a damaged car with goofy insurance rules on salvage titles has created a business. There is a flood of rebuilt titled cars on Craig's list. The demand for totaled cars by shops that rebuild a crashed out Camry with cheap after market Chinese knock off parts has left the junk yards picked bone dry. (This post was wrtten months ago before the storms, do not even buy a flood damaged car unless you rewire the automobile. That's a big job, I've done it twice.)

The dealer buys his network and charges premium shop fees for high skilled labor. The pep boys of the world or chained repair shops buy non branded premium OEM parts, with a skilled man and a few apprentices and offer slight discount. Many times a Honda dealer charges a lower price to change a timing belt than a chain store. A V-6 Honda timing belt, water pump and seals are the same in most Hondas. The dealer can buy in bulk and have a few mechanics that are so efficient they can do a few per day vs. all day yourself to save 200 bucks. Dealer, 499$ on mailer, me/parts 300, local guy, 500, chain shop, 800 bucks. The dealer is competitive on sale and puts the local guys and chains out of that service. DIY shade tree mechanic says, why bother. It's worth the 500.

For brakes, at over 100k miles you need, rotors, pads, some brake clean and maybe a few tools, impact driver to get screws out of rotors and a air hammer or drill bits when one strips out. We can do autozone duralast branded cheap parts, or made in China and save 50 bucks. O'Reilly brake best which are Affina same factory as Raybestos. You can buy good ceramic or premium Wagner coated rotors and your confusion and parts bill is 300-400 bucks vs 600-800 complete OEM from the local shop, which has their parts delivered from the local Napa store. There is no way a DIY guy will pay 400-800 to have his brakes done, when he can buy the OEM for 300 shipped to his door and have the job done in a few hours.

The DIY guys say give me the cheapest on sale brand for the beater 3rd car or truck. We go OEM for the daily driver and aftermarket premium for the hot rod. What we learned many years ago was a Western Auto parts store electrical switch or new cheapo alternator was junk. It was much smarter to buy a rebuilt Delco or new OEM. One would have never thought this would evolve to all car parts. What is a brake rotor? It's a cast chunk of steel machined to spec. My gauche, they have been making disk brake rotors for 60 years. Brake pads have evolved. The newest cheapo metallic pads slice up a cheap worn brake rotor in a year. Ceramic brake pads are awesome if the rotors are aligned. Guys claim all sorts of problems,with the cheapest pads and rotors from autozone, yet its usually a bad caliper frying one corner of your car. Mechanics swear what were premium brands years ago are now junk as they must file off bad stamping before install.So, what does a car guy do? Go to Now we can buy premium products at low prices. We can buy OEM parts at discount prices. We can know where the parts are made. They tell you strait up where the factory is that makes the parts.If the local parts store doesn't have OEM quality parts for the daily driver in stock, one can buy premium parts for daily driver for the same price. Most likely what I will do from now on is buy OEM quality for daily driver and now the beater eats OEM, no more junk. Buy all filters, seals, that we will need for fall and spring maintenance at once vs stopping at the parts store a few times a year.

The guy at the autozone may be suffering from the Internet. After all they tell you at the checkout to look at .com and the parts can be delivered right to your door for free. Once you go net, do you ever go back? In the old days you could go to the parts store and tell the guy the problem, show him your parts as we always had a core charge,so you took the car apart before you went to the store. They would look, test offer some advice on how to fix a big problem. Now a days we go strait to YouTube, bust out the list and have it shipped UPS or Fed X. One or two parts chains will survive. Perhaps napa as they supply the locals. I do not see a need for the three other big chains, Autozone, O'Reilly and Advanced auto parts. One will be around forever to sell the cheapest priced batteries, oil filters and brake pads and proprietary tools. There is demand for cars that need a jump start to drive directly to the parts store and have a new battery installed. I dunno why jiffy lube doesn't do it.

Every 3-4 years you need a battery. Kids with the subwoofers and amps need optima yellow top, 150-200 bucks and most likely a more powerful alternator. It's amazing how interested a 17 year old will be working on his own car vs the family truck. When he talked stereo equipment it took me an hour to figure out all he wanted vs how many amps of power it would use. Which reminded us how to calculate Mr OHMs how much power watts a stereo would really produce amps x voltage as they don't advertise the loss in heat. Talk about confusing! Car audio equipment is hilarious.

Sure son I can save you the few hundred in install fees and the overcharge on wiring kits and we can wire the car. Yet I have some bad news for you. The 600$ you were quoted turns out you need more electronics to be correct, so the boom boom doesn't drown out the vocals. Dad I do not want real loud. It doesn't matter, just add up the head, amplifiers max amperage and think of driving on a hot summer night with headlights and the air con running and explain to me how a big amp draw is going to work? Your boom boom with be a click click next time you go to start the engine. You need battery and alternator or go with low amps draw big buck class D. I think he has decided to save for a good car and listen to his headphones.

These stereo stores must make a fortune selling mono amps for subwoofers as the kids must come back for a good amp and speakers for the interior of the car then an alternator and battery for when it all dies. I see 2,000 dollar cars cruising around with 1500$ dollar stereo systems. These kids today! We had 1,000 dollar cars with 3,000$ engines. You may ask where did the other 500$ go? We didn't have cell phones.


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