Small shops that do good work for a decent price depend on word-of-mouth to stay in business.
Nearly 1 year ago my only daughter moved from our San Diego, CA home to start a new life in Salem. She took her clothes, two goldfish, some kitchen stuff and her beloved “Old Purp,” a dark purple 1997 Buick Skylark pushing 155,000 on the odometer.
Old Purp has been a really good car for her, other than the 21 year old plastic parts that seem to break if you look at them too long. Thank goodness for junk yards! But I digress.
I’ve always taken care of my kids cars, but when my daughter called to tell me that Old Purp was having problems shifting into reverse, I knew it was time for her to have her first “repair shop” experience… with a little help from her old dad.
Being someone who favors old cars, (I currently have six, ranging from 1964 to 2006), I know my way around a repair shop.
In San Diego I have all my go-to “guys.” From my brake guy (who I’ve been going to for 26 years!) to my Paint and Body guy to my exhaust guy to my MG mechanic to my Hot Rod mechanic to my guy who won’t (or can’t) work on anything that wasn’t built in this century… if I can’t fix it, I know someone who can.
I know all the things that are “nice” to have fixed and those you “have” to get fixed… and how to tell the difference. I also know the things that are easy to fix yourself and things that you definitely want a pro to do. A transmission that won’t shift into reverse falls directly into the “have the Pro do it” category.
Unfortunately, in today’s “pull and replace” world, it’s kinda hard to find someone who can do what it takes to get an old car back on the road, without spending more than the car is worth… especially when you’re more than 1000 miles away.
The first place my daughter went too quoted her $2,300. She called to ask my advice and I asked to speak to the technician. He told me it was definitely the best option for the car and then asked me (knowing I was in San Diego!), if I was sure the fluid was full.
I was, as I had walked my daughter through the procedure the day before, but I asked him if he hadn’t already checked it? He said no, but if I wanted him too he’d be happy to do it for an $80 inspection fee. I asked to speak to my daughter and simply told her to leave.
Two other places I called immediately quoted me $2,500 and told me they didn’t even need to look at it to know “that was the best option.”
Thankfully I found Duramax Transmissions and I couldn’t be happier. In my first conversation with Tony, and with Juan after that, I knew we were on the same page.
Duramax did a free inspection on my daughter’s Skylark. It wasn’t a full on transmission service, but it didn’t need to be. It was just to make sure it’s wasn’t some easy fix. Once they ruled out the easy stuff, Tony actually called and said, “I wouldn’t spend the money for a rebuilt transmission on this car. It’s just not worth it.”
When I agreed and asked for options, Tony’s first suggestion was buying another car. That was probably good advice, but my daughter is making it on her own, working at a “temp for hire” job, and not exactly flush with cash. If we could get another year out of Old Purp, that would help her out tremendously.
I asked if he had any other suggestions, and he said if I really wanted to keep this one on the road, they could install a used transmission, from a wrecking yard, with a 60 day Parts & Labor warranty.
“For that car, we can do it for $875 out the door,” he told me.
“Let’s do it,” I said and two days later my daughter was mobile again! She loves a lot of things about Salem, but the bus isn’t one of them!
She’s been driving the car for nearly two weeks now and says it works as good as it ever did, and that’s saying a lot. LIke I said, it’s been a good car.
Small shops that do good work for a decent price depend on word-of-mouth to stay in business. That’s why I’m always happy to share my San Diego automotive resources with my friends, family, associates, and (basically) anyone who will listen.
So if you need transmission work, or (I’m told) any sort of automotive repair, and you happen to be in Salem, Oregon… you should definitely go see my new “Salem Guys” at Duramax Transmissions.
Tell ’em “San Diego Dan” sent ya. It won’t get you a discount, but it will make ’em smile. And there’s nothing wrong with that.