Olathe Trans adapts as transmissions become more varied and specialized
Olathe, Kan.—With six and eight-speed automatics and dual clutch manuals on the market today, Paul Hipsher faces the challenges many shop owners have today with training. Continuing education is one way Olathe Transmission Service stays ahead of the curve.
“I try to go to as many seminars as I can,” he said, adding his staff attends training through Automatic Transmission Repair Association (ATRA) and the Automatic Transmission Service Group (ATSG).
Hipsher said he also relies on AllData for day-to-day support, particularly diagnosing drivability issues. As cars changed from vacuum driven to computers, Hipsher has had to keep up with new technology. Olathe Transmission does reflashing on a daily basis and carries OEM scan tools for GM, Ford and Chrysler.
“We don’t see enough imports to warrant having those OEM tools,” he said, relying on a Bosch Mastertech VCI for Asian and European cars. Recently the shop acquired a new Autel MaxiDas through AE Tools. “The Autel is great because it’s user friendly and packed with lots of good information.”
Olathe Transmission offers road tests with its customers, scans codes for free, and spends a lot of time sharing what those codes mean, he said. Nearly 60 percent of the quotes Hipsher writes stay in the shop for service.
“Sometimes it’s not a transmission problem when it seems like it is,” he said. One common repair is clogged catalytic converters, which makes an engine work harder causing a transmission to shift at the wrong time. “We fix a lot of small things that other transmissions shops won’t touch, like the catalytic converter and shift solenoids.”
“We fix things right the first time, and we’re upfront about our pricing,” Hipsher added, and credits much of his shop’s success to customer service.
Hiring the right people and keeping them happy has helped Olathe Transmision stay in business for almost four decades. “I try to treat employees like family,” he said. “I understand when guys need time off. They have families and things going on outside of the business.” He also offers vacation time and bonuses for his staff. The techs at Olathe Transmission have all worked there for more than three years and are all ASE Certified. “I want to hire people who are as good, or better, than me.”
With four technicians, Olathe Transmission has an average turnaround time of just two days on a rebuild. “We try to get the car in and out as fast as possible,” Hipsher said, adding custom transmission work on classic cars can sometimes take longer. Part of its quick turnaround time comes from reliable suppliers KC Trans Parts and A & Reds Transmission, who Hipsher says he sees four times a day when they’re busy. Olathe Transmission doesn’t maintain an inventory, and replaces transmissions beyond repair using Certified Transmission. “We only see a couple of those a month.”
Fleet accounts with Pepsi, Coca-Cola, The City of Olathe and many local companies provide 20 percent of Olathe Transmission’s business and help keep the shop full. The remaining work comes primarily from repair and rebuilds on domestic automatic transmissions. “We still see manual transmissions, maybe one out of every 100,” he said, adding they average three transmission rebuilds a day and also has time to work on transfer cases and CV joints.
The shop is outfitted with three two-post lifts and one five post. “The five post is best for trucks and anything really heavy,” Hipsher said, adding he relies on Miller Tool for service and inspections. There are three teardown stations, two hot water part washers and three rebuild stations all equipped with large tables, a tool chest and plenty of room for technicians to move around.
Three years at a transmission shop is all it took for Hipsher to realize he wanted to open his own business. In 1976 Hipsher went out on his own and opened a shop in his hometown of Olathe. “At the time there weren’t any transmission shops out this way, so it seemed like a good idea,” Hipsher said, adding he had already been taking side jobs from the area.
With a $6,000 loan from his father, Olathe Transmission was born. “It was scary, I was all by myself” Hipsher said. Business was slow at first and the shop moved to a better location after just one year. With a bigger and more accessible shop, Hipsher quickly built a name for himself. In 1989, he bought the building where the shop is today.
Although he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon, his son, Brent, will succeed when the time is right. “It’s nice knowing the future of the shop will be in his hands,” Hipsher said.