If it ain’t broke, don’t touch it!

In 16 years of working on cars, Ronnie Bowen has never seen it so slow. Or seen so many motorists opt for the bare minimum to keep their cars on the roads.

“The economy is so bad, people are not even doing preventative repairs. They’re fixing what has to be fixed so they can still drive,” said Bowen, a service manager at Woody’s Auto Service in Richmond. “And sometimes they’re not even doing that.”
Bowen said that people are putting of routine maintenance like a transition service, which costs around $100. People are waiting 5,000 miles to get an oil change, and he said it’s all kinds of cars – jalopies to BMWs.

Bowen said that most auto shops are in the same boat. “Two shops close to us closed. We have a few cars in here, but it used to come to 5:00 and we’d have a few cars left over. Now by 1:00 or 2:00, we’re finished.”

Bowen is not alone. The entire automobile industry is going through one of its worst slumps in decades. Dealerships are closing, and domestic car manufactures Ford, GM and Chrysler (the Big Three) are struggling to stay relevant in an era of high gas prices and scarce credit.

Bowen said that the local car repair industry is retracting. He said Sheehy Ford last week laid off several mechanics. (BizSense was unable to confirm.) Bowen also said that Mechanicsville Dodge shut down two months ago, and that Lawrence Dodge is closing its Broad Street location and moving the for-sale vehicles to its Laburnum location.

Also of note: Haynes Jeep is for sale.

“Things will get better, but it’s not going to be the next year or two,” Bowen said.

Editor Aaron Kremer has started doing his own repairs. He just replaced the rear shocks on his pickup. And he only broke two parts while mucking around. You can send car repair tips, or even better, story tips to [email protected]

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