With diagnostic specialty, Stan’s tackles it all

St. Louis—When he isn’t running his repair shop or turning wrenches alongside his two technicians, Stan Niemeier, owner of Stan’s Auto Service, is a maintenance supervisor on the Bi-State Development Agency’s MetroLink light rail train. Packing a whopping 900 volts, working on hybrids’ relatively low voltage, even though they require great care compared to 12-volt systems, come as a natural extension to him, said Niemeier, who is ASE-certified in six areas.

In fact, there aren’t many vehicles the shop is known to turn away, Niemeier said, which helps keep the lot full of vehicles dropped off overnight.

“A lot of people go to a tire place and they want to do your brakes or your shocks. And they tell the shop, ‘I have an electrical problem. I turn my windshield wipers on, and my headlights come on.’ ‘Ooh, you’d better take that to an electrical shop,’ they’re told. I kind of have a policy I don’t tell anybody no. Sometimes the guys cuss me and tell me, “Why did you take that old beater in?’

“But where else are they going to take it? And if they take it to somebody else who’s able to fix it after you turned them away? They’ll say, ‘Why should I go to him for that, if this guy will take care of it?’ And we like the challenge. Not everything is throwing a ball joint or a set of brake pads on a car. People have noises that drive them crazy or a myriad of electrical issues.”

Because he’s interrupted with the minutiae of answering phones, paying bills and the like, Niemeier leaves most in-depth diagnostics work to “Old” Mike Flach, so called since the other technician, “Young” Mike Apperson, joined the staff.

Flach, who was not present during Parts & People’s visit, has an arsenal full of diagnostic equipment ready to attack driveability and other diagnostic issues, Niemeier said, keeps his equipment purchases up to date, and stays current on training through local trainer Lou Craven of Design Technology Inc., as well as through training at trade shows such as the recent Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo in Overland Park, Kan. A J2354 pass-through device will probably be Flach’s next equipment purchase, Niemeier said.

For service information, the shop subscribes to Mitchell 1, Identifix, and iATN, he added. “We get a lot of information off of that,” he said. “We see where Identifix has ‘this’ code here or ‘this’ driveability problem. It helps out a little bit.”

Taking the time to diagnose a problem instead of throwing parts at it gains customer confidence, too, he said.

Even in a slow economy, air conditioning work remains popular, Niemeier said, noting that given a choice between a badly needed brake job or an air conditioning repair, in the peak of a muggy St. Louis summer, customers will opt for the latter. He bought a Robinair 35788 refrigerant recycling machine about five years ago, and praised its accuracy and “smart” features, which even include a reminder to change the oil in the vacuum pump.

Internal work on transmissions, differentials, and axle assemblies are about the only repairs Niemeier said he doesn’t take on, and calls used-part suppliers such as Mack’s or Liberty. When he can sell the customer a remanufactured unit, he said he calls Jasper Engines and Transmissions, which he praised for its parts and labor warranty.

With one of his fleet accounts, in particular, providing more demand for tires, Niemeier now sells those and recently purchased a tire machine, with plans to purchase a balancer.

With several parts suppliers within walking distance, Stan’s gets its parts from a number of sources, including Southtown Auto Parts, Southwest Auto Parts, and CARQUEST.

Stan’s has been an ACDelco Professional Service Center for five or six years now, and technicians take advantage of training hosted online or at the ACDelco Training Center in Arnold, sponsored by distributor Lowe Automotive Warehouse.

The ACDelco name has some cachet with some of his customers, too, Niemeier said. “Everybody is looking to spend a little less money, but a lot of people are educated, too,” he said. ‘Don’t put cheap parts on my car. I don’t want to have to replace it again soon.’”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.