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A letter from Stew


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Newsletter No  32
February  2000


For those of you who didn’t know, I’m out in the shop full time these days, working as a technician again. Finding qualified technicians is impossible (an industry-wide problem), and as they say, if you want something done right, you do it yourself.  So it’s kind of like the early days for me.

Because of this, I’m not in the office much anymore and it’s difficult for me to field phone calls.  If your car is acting up and you don’t know whether or not to bring it in, please talk to Betsy or Kris about it.  If it’s something they don’t know, they’ll talk to me and one of us will get back to you.


I’m happy to announce that we switched back to Castrol engine oil last fall.  It’s now available to us at a price comparable to what we were paying for Pennzoil. 

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that  we have to had to raise our oil change prices.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that we have seen a big hike in the price of our bulk oil.  It’s a safe bet that when gas prices go up, a hike in oil prices has just occurred or is imminent.

Second, you may not know that we have to pay about a dollar to dispose of a single used oil filter.  They are hauled off site, drained, crushed and recycled as scrap metal.   You know how opposed I am to supply charges and this isn’t something I do easily.  We held off passing this cost on to you  for as long as possible, hoping that less expensive alternatives would become available, but this hasn’t happened. 

The bright side is that we don’t have (and don’t plan to have) those 10 or 15 percent across the board “supplies” charges!


There was quite a  buzz at the recent Detroit auto show about the new “alternative” cars.  If you watch TV,  you may have seen Honda’s ad for their Insight __ a car they’re selling right now in California.  Supposedly it gets 60 mpg and if you love the earth and want to help cut down on automotive air pollution, you’ll buy one.  It’s a combination petroleum fuel and electric car.  Some of these alternative cars use diesel fuel!  (I wonder how they’d do in a Minnesota January.)
I don’t claim to be the most informed person regarding hybrid cars.  But I do wonder if it makes sense to be making a car so complex.  I don’t mean complex from the standpoint of sophistication, but instead as a function of redundancy of drive systems.  Doesn’t it seem like a step backward to have two motors and storage systems (gas tank and battery bank)?  AND it is still using oil as the primary energy source.  Hmm. . .

If fuel economy was my only concern, I’d buy a Geo Prizm (50 mpg).  It’d be a heck of a lot cheaper than the Hybrid and probably a lot more reliable.

Now I don’t want anybody to think I’m opposed to alternative cars.  I have no reason to be.  I’m just urging caution and not jumping on the alternative fuel bandwagon.

In fact, I have studied electric cars quite a bit, and wish the will ($) was present to develop them properly.  For many people I know (my family included), electric is an ideal second around-town car.

And speaking of transportation that makes sense:  how about a real public transportation system!  (Uh oh, just alienated a whole lot of customers. . .)  I have traveled extensively in the USA and overseas, and the one thing that stands out about my home town is that without a car, you can’t get there.  Isn’t that pathetic?  So, your car guy doesn’t believe in the automobile based transportation development model?  Well, think about it.  I get to see the stress and pain that comes with car ownership.  I know too well what cars cost to buy, own, and maintain.  I do think there is a better way.

I find it a bit hypocritical that the same car makers who make some of us expect our cars to be living rooms on wheels are now suddenly and publicly worrying about air pollution and fuel economy.  That’s never concerned them  with their vans and SUV’s.  Those vehicles are considered “trucks” and are consequently allowed to exceed the emissions standards set for “cars”.  And they’re gas hogs to boot..

And none of them cared at all about  fuel economy or high emissions until the federal government made them care.

It’s going to be very interesting to watch what develops here. 

Stop in to visit us, or if you have any questions about your cars, call us at 651-635-0395.


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