Man driver happy smiling showing thumbs up driving sport blue car

Despite stay-at-home orders in Arizona, people across the Valley still need their functioning vehicles for essential business. In order to keep people moving to the places they need to go, auto shops are considered essential businesses and have remained open.

Auto shop managers across the West Valley said customer call volume has decreased in general since coronavirus began. Jorge Erazo, manager of S & S Tire and Auto Service Center shops in Goodyear/Avondale, said they are still getting customers, but not as many as prior to the pandemic.

“They are coming in for oil changes, tires, flat repairs and driveability issues,” Erazo said. “They’ve got to keep (their cars) in good running condition, because if the car is not running good, they will have a difficult time getting to a particular place.” 

General Manager Rob Slagle of S & S Tire and Auto Service Center in Peoria said call volumes decreased in March but have increased slightly since. He said this could be due to stimulus checks giving people the financial comfort to care for their cars.

Slagle said they’re going “above and beyond” to try to meet customer needs and keep their employees safe. He called the situation a “work in progress,” saying they’ve had to come up with new ways to go about regular practices.

One of the main issues, he said, was dealing with keys.

“For forever, the customer has handed us the keys and they would go into a work order packet,” Slagle said. “Now, instead of us touching your keys, we ask you to drop them into a Ziploc bag.”

Slagle said the plastic bag solution is a simple but effective one. After receiving the key in the bag, the employees can unlock the car by sticking the key through the bag.

“Something that simple made a huge difference in keeping everybody safe,” Slagle said.

Car drop-offs are another issue auto shops have had to deal with. Craig Howerton, general manager of Glendale’s Champs Auto Repair Service, said they offer a no-contact service.

“We will gather their information electronically, record the problem with their car electronically,” Howerton said. “They can drive up to the front lot … leave the keys in the car and go home.” 

After receiving the car from the customer, employees wipe the inside of the car with a sterile rag before working on it, Howerton said. Customers will then receive an email with the repair information and can confirm or deny the repair work.

Many auto shops also offer free pick-up and drop-off services for cars. David Denmon, the president of Dave’s Car Care AZ in Glendale, said his auto shop offers this service to customers.

“We got ahead of it,” Denmon said. “We sent out emails to all of our clients letting them know that we were open and willing to do pickup and delivery … and that we even offered to pick up prescriptions and food for them.”

In Buckeye, 2 Amigos Auto Repair owner Enrique Gomez said the precautions his shop is taking leave his employees and customers feeling safe.

“We get the key and the money and we try to stay safe,” Gomez said. “We use a glove just in case.”

Like many, Cassidy Free of  Peoria is staying home and hardly driving at all in her car.

“I drive it every three days to make sure it doesn’t stall out the next time I use it,” Free said. 

Jesse Campbell, education manager at the Universal Technical Institute’s Maricopa County campus in Avondale, said car batteries can drain over time if they sit for long periods of time without use. Campbell said starting your car “15 to 30 minutes once a week will usually take care of that problem.”

Shop owners around the West Valley emphasize they will remain open for their customers.

“This is about relationships,” Denmon said. “It’s not about fixing cars.”