A Feel Good June

An Awesome Dad & Daughter Project

This is what it’s all about right here! A transmission replacement, done by Dad and his daughter, to get the car back on the road. This H2 was in such a bad way we were impressed it drove in at all! The transmission was slipping so badly it struggled to make it up our driveway.  But Dad had experience replacing the transmission before so he was going in knowing what he had to tackle. His daughter tagged along with a lot of interest in cars having just done a science presentation on how the internal combustion engine works. 

With the car on the lift they got right into methodically tearing it apart. Draining the fluid is always step 1 or you’ll be in for a lot of clean up. The exhaust bolts were no match for the 24″ breaker bar and our home brew penetrating oil. Sometimes people like to take the transfer case out separate so they don’t have to deal with a 2nd transmission jack or an extra heavy complete unit on a single jack. So next the driveshafts came out in preparation for the transfer case to be removed. After that it was the moment everyone had been waiting for –  transmission removal.

I stepped in to snap this picture after the transmission had been extracted to celebrate their victory (+10 marketing points to House Stew). Whenever I have a chance to further pique interest in cars in the younger generation, I always capitalize. Since she had mentioned she’d done a presentation on the internal combustion engine, I asked if she had seen one in person that was actually apart. Since she hadn’t, and I have multiple disassembled engines, I gave an in person tour of an engine. To all who are curious about how an engine works, or if you have kids who are, I’m always happy to drop some knowledge and provide hands-on parts so you can actually see what the videos and guidebooks describe.

The transmission replacement went in and everything went back together excellently. Errr, except the dip stick. The best part, though, was after the dipstick leak was fixed and the transmission was refilled – IT WORKED. That’s my favorite part, when the project actually goes right and is a success. This H2 is now good for many more road trips!

Let There Be More Light!

If there is one thing you can never have too much of in a shop, it would be light. Bay 1 has been a little bit of a black hole for awhile now, so we decided to add some more light to it. We are thinking it could still use a little more light, so we’ll be working on that. We are starting to research more ways to get more light into the work areas so you have maximum visibility! My motto is to always be improving, so be sure to let us know what you want to see next. If it’s on our list, we’ll let you know, and it might move up the priorities.

The Garage Sale!

Not going to lie, the day before I had said “I will never do one of these again!” I might have changed my mind after this one though; not because of the money generated from selling the stuff, but because people were genuinely excited to be able to buy our old stuff. I had many “thank you’s” from people throughout the day for giving back to the car community. We sold 80%+ of our old tools, for maybe 10% of what we paid for it, at best. The money was not a motivation, I just wanted to see the stuff get put to good use after it had served us well.

I can hear you asking why I would say I never wanted to do one of these again. It’s because of the work that goes into it before-hand. First,we had to sort through the black hole storage area, which has stuff from before we opened! With the things to sell set aside, then it had to be organized. With all the items to sell organized, then we had to come up with pricing for everything, which generally was the cheapest I’d be willing to sell it for without giving it away. I’m not a morning person, so I like to prep the night before. That way I can just show up and get the show started. So we also needed to put everything together to quickly deploy it the morning of the garage sale in addition to loading into the shop the Saturday morning customers! 

We did a lot of the pre-work on Wednesdays, which typically took 6-8 hours to get everything out into the shop area, do the organization, and then get it all put back away to make room for customers on Thursday morning. I’m particular about doing these tasks on Wednesdays as to not be an interruption to customers. If you take a close look, you’ll find we do most everything from our smallest to our very largest upgrades occur ‘overnight’ between close Tuesday and open Thursday. To tie this back to the garage sale, I have many other pressing tasks requiring my time. Top among them are preparing for our next location and preparing the Maker space (see the June blog post for more detail). Not to say any task is below me, but, beforehand, the garage sale was not something I had wanted to spend my time on until I realized the impact it had for many people.

We had over 40 people show up to haul away over 80% of the stuff we put out for sale. We went from 4 pallets of stuff all the way down to a lightly packed single pallet.  Thank you to everyone who came by and made all the pre-work a success.

Employee Appreciation - Baseball Edition!

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll know I’m a huge baseball fan. So I may have been biased slightly when I decided our first ever employee appreciation event would be at Safeco Field. As a HUGE thank you to everything that John, Rick, Steve, and Shawn have done to make Stew’s Self Service Garage what it is today, we treated everyone to a day game in the Diamond Club. The Diamond Club is the VIP section behind home plate that is fully catered, with open bar. 

Not only did we all have an awesome time enjoying the perks of sitting there, the Mariners treated us to an exciting walk off sweep of the LA Angels. I strongly dislike all other AL West teams, so it was extra sweet to put the Angels even more down in the standings. 

Much like baseball, Stew’s Garage is a team effort. I want to take the time to once again publicly recognize everything that these guys put in and for you to learn more about our team and all the things they do that make your experience significantly better but you might not see.

John

Our first hire when we opened in Kirkland, he’s been with us since the start. John has over 45 years of experience working on cars and has also run his own shop before. John’s experience was invaluable in guiding tool room acquisitions and other equipment we needed for customers. He knew about almost every tool under the sun to make jobs easier and made sure we knew what would be necessary. Even though we are now much better equipped, he is still making suggestions and always improving the tool room organization. John is constantly cleaning it, making sure things goes back in the right place, and it’s all in working order. This is what allows us to efficiently provide you the tools you need to get the job done. John was also key to installing the new workstations, operating the forklift like the master he is and also staying late to get the pieces assembled together and leveled.

Thousands of customers have benefited not only from everything John contributes in the tool area, but also from John’s car knowledge and wisdom. Not only customers, but I too, have learned A LOT from John.

Rick

The 2nd hire, John’s brother. He started 2 months after we opened and has been universally helpful to everyone ever since. Just like John, Rick has over 45 years of experience working on cars, and is also an expert in paint and body work. Rick typically gets the unenviable job of completing the nitty gritty tasks like repairing the rolling stock and cleaning the oil catches and air hoses. He never complains about it though and always does them above expectations. When I show up with a new idea, he is always consulted and provides good  feedback. And generally he helps with the implementation of it. When we painted the shop, despite his fear of heights, Rick put in long hours in the man-lift spraying the white paint. When we installed the new workstations he was there from 7am to late at night helping to get them arranged and assembled.

Of course, Rick has also supplied thousands of customers with knowledge and help. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t learned a lot from Rick as well. 

Steve

Third in line for hiring, Steve has been with us almost 3 years now. I had posted looking for an additional employee and Steve was persistent. Although we needed another employee, I wasn’t terribly interested in hiring anyone so I wasn’t receptive to his messages. He finally said he’d like to just stop in and introduce himself. From there, we hired him, and he has turned into the right-hand man. When I come up with an idea, Steve is an excellent sounding board. Since we both like to solve challenges, Steve is also always bringing new things to my attention. 

Steve also brings to the table 3d printing & CAD experience, which proved to be invaluable on the new workstation project. Steve refutes my time estimate, but I’d say he put in somewhere around 800 hours into JUST the foam organizers and tool layout. Steve measured every tool, sketched tools in Solid Works, and created the initial foam models. When he finished a model, he turned it over to me to do the tool-pathing for the CNC router. He then assisted with suggestions for layout changes, running the CNC router, and getting the CNC router setup to do production. So when you use the new workstations and love the foam organizers, be sure to say thanks to Steve for all the work he put in, it wasn’t just me. 

Not only this, but Steve is ALSO an expert in cars. He has 8 years of experience himself with cars, and he is always working on projects. He’s our resident Subaru expert, aka Stevarus.

Shawn

Shawn, aka Stew’s Mom, is queen of construction. She is not a car person, but she does many of the construction projects that occur behind the scenes, like the tool room build-out, installing the bay 7 drywall, painting, and helping install the new workstations. Not only is she the construction person, she is a professional senior level project manager. This means she is also the task master that keeps us on track with our projects. Since Shawn doesn’t have car experience you’ll mostly see her helping in the shop by cleaning and organizing. You typically only see her at the desk when I’m away on a baseball trip, or I’m sick. But she likes meeting customers and hearing about your experience in the shop. She is also always thrilled by all the nice things you guys say about us in the reviews. I may not be a morning person but she IS – messaging me at 5am about the latest review that came in, being sure to point out specifics about where we were successful. She also is leading the charge in keeping the office clean and the shop environmentally friendly. She also brings to the table a law degree, specializing in environmental law. This lead to us being recommended by the City of Kirkland as an environmentally friendly facility to work on your car.

It May Be Called Stew's, But Without These Guys It Wouldn't Be Anything.

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