Adventure loving couple, Billy and Morgan Kuehlewind, bring tons of fun into our shop. From Billy’s tactful sense of humor to Morgan’s contagious energy, we look forward to the Kuehlewind’s visits.
Billy works in audio visual and Morgan works at home with baby Liam as a freelance math textbook curriculum writer. Their life looks pretty average now, but they spent the past few years working for an international non-profit organization that took them to seven different countries. Now that they are settled into a more traditional lifestyle, they enjoy visiting their extensive network of family and friends in their 2007 Hyundai Accent, the non-baby two door manual car, and their 2006 Toyota Corolla, which they dub the “baby limousine.” This is just a tiny peek into the fun this couple brings to any conversation.
Our relationship with Billy and Morgan goes back further than the shop, though. Billy and Andrew were roommates when Andrew was studying to be an automotive technician and recalled a time when he went somewhere and was told to take care of something which Andrew was quickly able to advise that his car doesn’t even have! Well, the more he heard Andrew talking about how he operates as a mechanic, the more he saw that he was a guy he could trust. Both Billy and Morgan were excited for us when we opened the shop and became some of our first customers.
As it turns out, the Kuehlewinds trust us so much that they have dubbed themselves “Marinelli Auto Service Evangelists” and share their testimony of their first experience with us every time they recommend us to someone. We certainly owe a lot of business to them, for which we are incredibly grateful.
It all started in March 2015. They had been working with a non-profit organization that took them all over the U.S. as they raised funds and then all over the world, so they had downsized to one car – a 2007 Hyundai Accent. Their house had recently sustained flood damage, so Billy was forced to stay home from a work trip to North Carolina and Morgan went by herself. She was nearly back home when she realized something was wrong. Thankfully she was able to safely pull over and call Billy, who came to pick her up in a rental. Now they had to figure out what to do.
They called Andrew, and upon his advice, they took the car to the used car dealer where it was purchased, along with a service package, hoping whatever was wrong would be covered. Knowing some of the mechanics there, Andrew told them who to ask for to work on their car.
Billy reflects, “I remember [talking to Andrew about how frustrated he was with the state of the whole auto industry. People weren’t honorable and cutting corners and stuff and, I don’t necessarily think that’s unique to that industry.
“For him to say that he knows a guy at the dealership that does good work, ‘So if you are going to have it done there, go to him knowing that other people cut corners, but this guy does it right. He’s the one you want,’ it’s counterintuitive. You’d think he’d say, ‘You can’t trust anyone there, you should bring it to our shop.’ But he said, ‘If you have it done there, here’s how to do it.’”
As it turns out, the repair would not be covered. Not only that, they suggested junking it with them for $500 but couldn’t show them any comparable vehicles for a price they could afford. So, they brought it to Andrew who diagnosed and repaired the major internal engine damage caused by the failed timing belt.
The Kuehlewinds realized that they wouldn’t have been able to get a car as good as what they had for the same cost as the repair.
“When he got it all done, Andrew said, ‘This car can go 100,000-200,000 more miles.’ Repairing it was a much better investment than buying a new car,” shared Morgan.
She continued, “That was in 2015 and it recently just crossed over the 140,000 mile mark. We had a lot of life left in it, so it was totally worth it to fix it than to junk it. I love that Andrew’s philosophy is, ‘If you want to run the car until it’s dead, I’m going to help you do it.’ That’s really encouraging because we’re in the mindset of, we don’t want to replace it unless it’s necessary. Cars can go a lot longer than people think. You just need someone who can instruct you on how to care for it, especially when it’s a little older.”
The crux of their testimony comes when Billy brought the vehicle back in for routine maintenance and Andrew decided to check his previous work.
Billy tells people, “He noticed this tiny leak that I would have never seen or checked for and he was like, ‘Ooh, that’s what I worked on!’ So, he took some extra time, under warranty, to reopen it and get a new head gasket and reseal it. I tell people, he’s completely honest. He saw something that I would have never noticed, he looked at it because he was in there for another reason, and said, ‘I need to make that right.’”
After that experience, Billy and Morgan knew that they would continue bringing their cars to us. They even ended up buying a second car – the Toyota Corolla – from one of our customers because they knew the previous owner was on top of repairs and maintenance and had trusted us to help them take good care of it. Both their Accent and their Corolla have gone through our Comprehensive Inspection in order to reveal any issues their cars might have and prevent any problems like those they had with their Accent before they came to us.
Morgan explains, “Andrew understands people are on a budget, so we had him do a Comprehensive Inspection. He makes a list and sorts it into what needs to be done now, or in 6 months, or a year, and you can save up for and plan for it. We’re budgeters and planners, and it’s better to know it has to happen rather than be surprised. So, if I was going to recommend a service, that’s what I would recommend.”
Billy and Morgan are certainly A+ customers, but they are also fun and genuine people. It’s because of people like them that we do what we do and feel good about the service we provide.
It’s Thanksgiving Day, 2016, and I’m 6 months pregnant. Andrew and I had just bought a used pick-up truck for the shop and after doing some repairs, was excited to drive it to his brother’s wedding…three states away. I mentioned several times that I was six months pregnant and, “Wouldn’t the Toyota Corolla be more comfortable?” But he really wanted to get the truck on the road and see what it could do. “Fine,” I relented, “Let’s take the ‘new’ truck.” Halfway to South Carolina the check engine light comes on. Then it starts flashing.
Ideally, if you take care of your vehicle properly, adhere to all of the items on your maintenance schedule in a timely manner, and have it inspected every few years, you can avoid a surprise breakdown. Even when necessary precautions are taken, you may still find yourself on the side of the road. Thankfully Andrew got the light to stop flashing and we made it without breaking down…but it was midnight. I was swollen, uncomfortable, and having false labor contractions. Not the ideal scenario.
It’s important to know what you are going to do if it ever does happen to you in order to be safe for you and your passengers and avoid causing further damage to your vehicle. Not everyone can bring a mechanic along like I can.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Being married to a mechanic, we were fortunately able to avoid a breakdown on our trip because Andrew was able to intervene, but you never know.
I was driving in the rain on FL-408 one evening with my six-month old son in the car and I got a sudden puncture in my tire. I put my hazards on and pulled off at the nearest exit and couldn’t quite make it off the ramp, much less to the gas station at the next light. It was a scary situation as car after car sped past me in the pouring down rain at dusk, so I decided to just stay put in the car to avoid getting hit. I called Andrew, we made a plan, and then climbed into the back seat to entertain my son while I waited for him.
What completely surprised me is that instead of stopping to help me, people honked at me, gave me rude gestures, and no one stopped to see if they could help. Four police cars even went by me!
My point is that you have to be smart. I stayed in my vehicle because I answered “no” to the following safety concerns:
- Are you able to pull off at a safe distance from potential dangers?
- Are you and your car visible to other drivers?
- Is/are your passenger(s) safe?
One thing I’m really disconcerted about in this flat-tire-in-the-rain scenario is that the trunk of my car was an absolute mess. I’m embarrassed to say that once the rain and traffic cleared up and a good samaritan finally stopped to see if they could help, I couldn’t even find the jack and ratchet for changing the tire. This was definitely a mistake.
Always have the proper tools in your vehicle in case of an emergency. Consider putting together a basic roadside emergency kit including a first aid kit, basic tools, water, and protective wear (blankets, hat and gloves for cold climates, and/or a poncho, sunglasses, and sun hat for warm climates) and keep your trunk tidy so you can find them. You could really go extreme if you spend a lot of time on long trips with the ultimate roadside emergency kit. At the very least have the tools for changing a tire, know where they are and how to use them.
Make A Plan
Once you have pulled over safely and assessed the situation. Here are some good questions to consider:
- Is this a problem I can remedy myself until I can get to my mechanic? (i.e. flat tire)
- Is my car driveable or do I need to call a tow truck?
- Do I have someone to assist me?
DO NOT try to drive your vehicle if it is smoking from either end, the check engine light is blinking, or there is any obvious suspicious noise. These are signs of serious problems and driving your car further could cause additional serious and costly damage. Always, if possible, call your mechanic and ask for his/her advice before driving your vehicle.
This is just another reason why having a mechanic you have a trusting relationship with is so important. Your mechanic can help guide you as to whether your vehicle is safe to drive or if a tow truck is recommended. Even if you are out of town, he can tell you if, based on the symptoms, it’s something you need to take to a nearby mechanic right away or something that you can address with him as soon as you return.
Thank Your Rescuers!
Due to the messiness of my trunk, my good samaritan friend and I couldn’t find the ratchet to remove the lug nuts. However, while we were figuring that out, a police officer stop to lend assistance as well. Remember the FOUR that passed me before? This guy was off duty, probably heading home for the night, and still decided to stop and help. He loaded my son and I into the back of his cop car (a new experience for me and quite a story for my son when he’s older!) and brought us to the gas station up ahead to wait for Andrew to come rescue us and our car. I was super grateful for that officer and the other helpful citizen as it took a while for Andrew to get to us.
Every situation is different but it’s wise to be as prepared as possible. I don’t think anyone will be prepared as much as my husband who made many preparations beforehand and, while on our Thanksgiving trip said, “I should have brought that other diagnostic tool,” as he was looking at a whole box of tools that the average person doesn’t even own.
You can’t be prepared for absolutely everything, but you can know what to do if something were to go wrong that keeps you safe and helps you make and execute a plan in a way that minimizes stress and gets you back on the road as soon and safely as possible.
-From The Mechanic’s Wife
If I could describe Dawn with one word, it would be “thoughtful.” She doesn’t waste time getting things done, but she definitely approaches everything she does with sincere thoughtfulness. It’s how she runs her business, Whitestone Professionals, LLC, and it’s how she handles her auto repair decisions.
It’s no wonder, because Dawn runs one of the most unique businesses I’ve ever heard of. “Through Whitestone Professionals, LLC, I help individuals and organizations increase their influence, their impact, and their income. I help people set their goals and get things done,” she tells me. As a licensed therapist, she has a few ways she does this, but as she says, “My greatest uniqueness is something I call Strategic Prayer. One of the things I’m passionate about is helping people hear from God. I help people understand God’s purposes and plans for them and be able to confidently implement them.”
After spending time with Dawn, I’ve been able to bring insight and direction to the shop that has increased efficiency in customer interactions, administrative work, as well as how the shop functions. It’s so neat that Dawn gets to experience the improvement to our business first-hand whenever she brings us her 2007 Toyota Prius.
“My whole family has loved this car, so I’m not anxious to part with it,” Dawn shares. After a sudden death in the family, there was a swapping around of vehicles and Dawn ended up with her parent’s year-old Prius. It was the first time her parents had bought a brand-new vehicle and, as a middle school science teacher, her dad was excited to have an environmentally friendly car.
“My whole family has loved this car, so I’m not anxious to part with it.”
After 10 years of driving it, she’s seen that not only is the gas mileage and comfortable ride ideal for the vast amounts of driving she does with two active teenage daughters and a business that keeps her on the go. Even more miles are added when her thoughtfulness leads her to do favors for those around her (present company included!), so you’d better believe she spends a lot of time in her car. In fact the only thing she doesn’t like about it is how it handles in the rain because of the heavy battery in the back-end.
No wonder Dawn wants to keep her Prius for as long as possible! That’s exactly what attracted her to us. “Marinelli Auto Service wants to help people to be good stewards of their cars. I love that concept!” she exclaimed to me. Dawn doesn’t like debt, and she never wants to have a car loan ever again, so she’s diligently saving for her next car while she continues to invest in her Prius to keep it running well and we’re glad to help.
“Marinelli Auto Service wants to help people to be good stewards of their cars. I love that concept!”
“It’s been great to get the comprehensive inspection and have Andrew tell me exactly what I’m looking at and what definitely needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It’s just great to be able to trust your mechanic. Whether it’s true or not, mechanics have a bad reputation. It’s so good to know my mechanic – to know the family.”
We can tell when customers, like Dawn, have come to trusting us because when she brings us her car, she doesn’t require a lot of detail. Dawn thoughtfully takes into consideration Andrew’s expert evaluation and advice and she just says, “fix it.” We’re thankful that we have her trust and to see her drive away happy.
When “Prince Charming” comes up on the caller ID at Marinelli Auto Service, we know that Jonathan Fernandes is on the line. This doesn’t happen often, because as Office Manager, he’s usually the one answering the phone, but when it does, we can be rest assured we’ll be greeted with something off the wall like, “Jimbo’s Tacos calling to confirm your order for 100 supreme tacos,” to which it’s best to play along for as long as possible. In all seriousness, though, Jonathan brings a good balance of fun and opportunity to our shop that has brought our business to the next level.
Surinamese by birth, Jonathan’s cross-cultural upbringing allows a perspective that looks outside the box for solutions to everyday challenges. He has been a fast learner of the industry and faces challenges as opportunities. His vision for our business is bigger than I can wrap my mind around, so when he hears about an improvement that needs to be made, he jumps right on it. This vision includes expanding our reach to be able to serve customers with more efficient turn-around times and a smoother customer experience. For example, his affinity for technology, particularly computer programming, has greatly improved many of our office processes. He’s always anticipating our next biggest need and putting things in place to meet it.
Since Jonathan has joined our team, we’ve been able to move forward from wondering how we’ll get to the end of the week to what we’ll be able to accomplish by the end of the year. Yes, we all want to make a nice income to support our families, but this is secondary to the care he has for each vendor he works with and each customer who walks through the door. When it comes down to it, he wants to take care of you and your family.
In fact, one thing that allowed Jonathan to fit easily into our fold is his heart for his family. With his wife Sarah – a longtime friend of Andrew’s and mine – his son James, and the any-day-now anticipation of his second son’s arrival, he “gets” the family atmosphere we’ve tried to create through our business. Just like Andrew treats every car like it’s owned by a member of his family, Jonathan treats every customer like you were part of his.
Truth be told, it’s his easy going relational style that makes him the right person to be on the other end of the phone and the first face you see when you walk into our office. This brings us to how “Prince Charming” ended up on our caller ID. While mostly tongue in cheek, it represents the balance between the fun he brings as well as the connection he makes with every person on the other end. If you haven’t already, I hope you get a chance to meet Jonathan soon. When you do, I highly encourage you to let him know what we’re doing right and where we can improve. I promise you, he’ll look forward to the challenge as an opportunity.
-From the Mechanic’s Wife
The newest member of our team, Jonathan Fernandes, is pretty wise when it comes to making practical life decisions, like investing your hard-earned money. He’s been a wonderful asset to our team as the Office Manager, and in this guest post, he shares some great ideas on how to use your tax return make so much sense!
-From the Mechanic’s Wife
We are already in month two of the new year which means soon some of us will get a check back from the government and for some of us, it is a great time of the year were we get our hands on “a lot of money at a single point in time.” In my youth, I have spent that money on the fun stuff: like a new XBOX, some games, a new computer and even the ridiculous (like this coin sized tracking device for $20!). Although, as I have gotten older, I have noticed a slight change in how I spend my return. The point of my spending used to be just the fun stuff and things for myself, and now they can sometimes range from investing, saving, to even generosity. Continue reading “5 Wise Uses for Your Tax Refund” »