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2019-04-12 Putting a Shop Together

Putting a Shop Together

 By Gene Daughtry, BHPH Consultant

You’ve decided to build your shop. In our series we have discussed hiring the right manager. Then we went over some basics on hiring technicians. They need a place to work. I have seen open air repairs at dealerships. In most places and most cases that is not going to work. If you want to maintain good technicians and handle all the work in your shop you will need a roof and walls, bay doors, lifts and other equipment that works properly. You have to keep techs cool or warm and dry. The equipment isn’t designed to be outside where humidity, rain, winds, sun will get in the way of consistent work.

Let’s say you are going to have 3 full time commission techs. In my operation that would call for 6 lifts. My manager would also have at least one for his own work and inspections. Each lift requires space around it for a work bench, tool boxes, cores and room for the tech to walk all the way around the vehicles. The roof has to be high enough for the lift to fit and function properly, approximately 12 feet.

There will need to be space for other equipment. Different shops and managers will have their own ideas of what you need but after 4 shops and 30 years I know my list.

Items that take up floor space

·         Lifts

·         Air Compressor with hard lines to work stations

·         Tire Change Equipment (2 pieces – Mount/Balance)

·         Parts Washer

·         Welder

·         Two Tank Torch setup with Dolly

·         Freon Evacuation and Recharge machine

·         6 foot steel work table for each tech

·         Oil Drain carts (3)

·         Transmission Jacks (2)

·         Floor Jack (3 Ton)

·         Jack Stands (4 Heavy Duty)

·         Spring/Strut Compressor

·         Engine Hoist (Cherry Picker)

·         Engine Stand

·         Engine Cradle

·         Flame retardant cabinet (solvent, carb cleaners, paints, other hazardous chemicals)

·         Used Oil/Coolant Storage

·         Steel Shelving for organizing of parts, cores and extra equipment/tools

·         In Texas you will have an Inspection Machine (for now)

·         Bulk Oil System (not required)




Other items you should have (we did)

·         A quality scanner

·         A PC for searching information, printing schematics and searching for parts

·         Bead Blaster (if doing tires)

·         Chassis Ears

·         J-Box or Pass-Thru for uploading Computer Updates

·         Tire Pressure Monitoring System Tool

·         Smoke Machine (Evap Leaks)


In your shop you may also need

·         Heating Capabilities for cold weather

·         Large Fans at a minimum to circulate air in summer (Swamp Coolers also)

·         Capability to Vent Exhaust

·         Plenty of power for the bigger machines and for each technician

·         Bench Grinder

·         Steel Vises possibly an Anvil

·         Lighting, large flood and wall lights to reduce shadows

·         Drop reels for some lights, oil distribution, air lines


This is just a “basic” list. All of this is easy to find and most will be one time purchases. There are other items you will need depending on ordnances and OSHA. You will need an eye wash station and I suggest a separate bathroom facility (these guys will turn walls and floors black). Your manager could have items they want and specific vehicle types you offer might require special tools or equipment. Your technicians may have some of these items for themselves but generally a tech’s tools are sacred, and your other techs will need items from the list above.

You can find these items from Automotive Equipment Suppliers and the big Parts retailers. I suggest looking at used items like lifts and tire equipment. The same equipment suppliers that distribute new equipment generally stock used they have acquired in trade. Be sure if you buy used that the supplier can service the equipment you purchase.

I also suggest, in your shop, you have power overhead doors. Raising and lowering big overhead doors by chain has cost many technicians bruised and broken fingers. Manual raising and lowering in storms or cold weather is slow and a pain. Frankly if you want to retain good techs, you need a decent facility. I also suggest natural lighting if possible. A couple of skylights, door windows or other sources incase of a power outage. Your location may require emergency lighting, sprinklers, exhaust fans, specific power protections, storage of hazardous fluids (containments) and other things, be sure and check.

The last shop I setup has 12 lifts, full tire capabilities and everything listed above before we opened. We invested about $40,000 to setup (not counting facility infrastructure). Some of the lifts, an air compressor and shelving were on site when we leased the facility. We also setup a detail shop with pressure washer, steam extractor, vacuum and buffer.

With our technicians on commission and the equipment being tools of their livelihood I have had little issue with “destruction” of the equipment we provided. You will do maintenance and repairs to the equipment you have, especially if you are busy. You will always need more hoses, extension cords, solvents and other items to keep the shop running. Your technicians will need their equipment as well. That equipment is their responsibility to maintain but it will be housed in your facility so be sure access is limited and protected at night. If a tech is off work, his tools are his and need to be left alone.

This will become a business within your business, so you will need to establish policies and procedures just like any other well-run operation has. You will also have some software with reporting capabilities, and you should want to be able to track expenses, revenues and claims. We will dive into some of the above soon.

It may seem like a big expense at first. The shop I setup in Indianapolis generated Repair Orders (Reconditioning, Warranty, Policy and Billable) approaching $40,000 per month. That amount was with 60% of the work being internal reconditioning charged to inventory and policy billed at cost. The other work was charged to our reinsurance company or the customers direct at $59 per hour labor plus parts. Our “champagne” goal was to exceed 900 labor hours per month.

Our attitude was to correctly repair everything we could so the customers had less down time and headaches. Many dealers have the opposite idea, do as little work as possible and expect the car back. I know of dealers that use 2 X 4’s to prop up failed window regulators inside doors so the glass stays in place. Have you ever seen a side mirror with “Great Stuff” (expanding foam) sprayed behind it to keep the mirror from moving? Got an oil leaking onto a manifold or exhaust? Use wire and sheet metal to redirect the oil drip away from the hot pipes and POOF, no more oil smell.

Setup a good facility, hire the right technicians and build a reputation of customer service in your market. The examples of half assed work I listed above are some of the reasons our industry constantly fights the perception of a “Used Car Dealer”. I am available to help, reach out 479-970-4049