Fully loaded DIY garage opens
Greenhorn grease monkeys with the desire to do it themselves, but lack a few of the tools, have a new place to hammer on their hoop-dees.
Even experienced mechanics with a cherry of a ride will appreciate the shiny new tools, sturdy bay lifts and specialty gizmos available for use at the Grand Junction area’s only auto hobby shop, U Fix It Garage, 2757 U.S. Highway 50.
Not a professional mechanic himself, proprietor Glen Nickerson nevertheless loves to work on cars and has done so for years. He proudly displays the Jeep CJ7 he rebuilt on the garage floor of his new business.
Nickerson first got the idea for the garage while traveling from post to post with his wife, who served in the military. Auto hobby shops are common on military bases, he said.
Nickerson worked on his own cars in several of them, once to install a rear end on his pickup truck and another time to paint his Volkswagen.
Eventually, he was hired to operate an auto hobby shop on a military base in Hawaii, a job he enjoyed for three years. Because of all these experiences, Nickerson said he knows what is needed to make his business hum.
Investing close to $100,000 to supply the garage with state-of-the art tools and equipment, Nickerson created a space even the least experienced auto hobbyist would appreciate.
“I think it’s a neat idea,” said Jim Hutchens, employee of a Grand Junction-area car dealership. “I’ve thought before that it would be neat for people who don’t have somewhere to work on their vehicles, especially ones that love to tinker on their vehicles but live in an apartment. So many apartments these days are saying you can’t work on a car, even in your own driveway.”
U Fix It makes money by renting garage bays for repairs. Seven of the bays are for cars. Four are equipped with lifts. Two other bays feature smaller lifts for motorcycles, ATVs, tractors, riding lawn mowers and the like. Rates start at $20 an hour and discounts are available for daily, weekly and monthly rentals.
Each bay comes fully equipped with a set of hand tools and more than 60 specialty tools like transmission jacks, air ratchets and ball joint presses.
“I’ve got the two mid-rise lifts you can use for doing brake jobs, tire rotations — stuff where you just need to get the tires up off the ground,” Nickerson said. “I’ve also got the two four-post lifts. Those are for doing transmissions, you know, the kind of stuff where you need to be up under the vehicle. You can also use them for oil changes.”
Looked at another way, Nickerson invested in the tools and equipment any car repair entrepreneur would need to launch their own venture. Out-of-work mechanics could take on new customers using Nickerson’s garage as a base of operations, even if all they have to start out with is their own experience, knowledge and training.
“So many people out there know how to work on their car but simply don’t have the space, tools or permission from homeowner associations to do that,” Nickerson said. “We offer a safe, clean environment with air conditioning and heat, and provide hand tools, power tools, lifts, electronic databases and more.”
Working on your own vehicle is not without risk. Only after he secured the broadest, air-tight waiver possible and promised to use it would a general liability insurance carrier agree to insure his operation, Nickerson said.
“The problem (with opening an auto hobby garage in the private sector) has been civilians can sue, military can’t. So getting around the insurance was the big issue. Somebody scrapes a knuckle and they want to sue you.”
Those who decide to use U Fix It Garage will do so with the understanding that all the risk of injury to themselves or damage to their vehicles is their own.
“This is not the kind of activity where you can come in here and think that you’re not going to break a nail, get dirt under your fingernails, scrape your knuckles, or cut your finger,” Nickerson said. “You know there’s built-in hazards with doing your own work.”