The Snowpocalypse is finally over

We had fun filming a new ad!

It had been awhile since we did a video ad, so we decided to do another one. Steve and I were talking about what would be a funny video, and he mentioned the Forest Gump scene where Bubba lists off all the shrimp. We decided if we changed it to hammers, not only would it be fitting, it would probably be pretty funny. So off I went on writing up the script for this video. We got Seth, aka The Talent, to come in on a Wednesday and do some filming. 

This video took about 4 hours to film, even though it’s only 1 minute in length. Each “scene” took multiple practices, and then around 30-40 takes each to get it right. Naturally anytime we are doing anything humorous, there’s a lot of laughing going on. After you get a good take, you still need 2 or 3 more just to make sure you have a perfect one. Needless to say, I have a lot of bloopers that I should probably edit together. After the video is shot, then the longer part begins.

They say in editing for every minute filmed is an hour of editing. There is certainly some truth to this, I spent probably 15 hours or more editing it all together. First step is watching all the clips and finding the best take. After that you need to cut them down so they are timed up perfectly. With the rough edit all together, then comes all the effects afterwards. You have color correcting, anti-flicker, any sort of zooming or panning to add. Of course then you have transitions and audio correction too. With all of that added up then you can do all the titles at the end! Fortunately the titles are the easy part, they take no time at all to do. After it’s all edited, then you have the finished video, which you can view above!

Snowpocalypse came and went

Pictured above is our lot after it was plowed by a private plowing company. At the time that this picture was taken, we had about 8″ of snow on the ground in Kirkland. With the snow effecting the roads, we had no choice but to be closed for quite a few days. This is tough because that doesn’t pay the bills. Fortunately we were able to get back open after the roads were plowed, and get back to being available for everyone. After the great snowpocalypse we had a big spike of people coming in. Fortunately only a couple people were in because of snow damage. Hopefully we are done with snow for the next few years!

And now a for a PSA regarding unsafe vehicles

Ever seen a brake rotor look like this? If you have, and it was on your vehicle, you were being extremely unsafe on the roadway! Obviously brakes are a very important component on the car, but there are certainly other systems you need to be mindful of. It’s very important that your suspension is in good operating condition, as well as the steering, and wheel bearings on the vehicle. Over the winter we’ve seen quite a few cars come in that have been neglected in those areas, and they could have caused a crash. These problems can be avoided by doing regular maintenance, and doing regular checks.

One of the best ways to regularly inspect your car is to do it when you do an oil change. Since you should be changing your oil roughly every 3-5 thousand miles, or every few months. Regular inspections are a great way to make sure nothing ever looks like that brake rotor pictured above. They are machines, they take maintenance and care to keep them running right. So be sure to keep your cars in good operating condition, we don’t need more unsafe cars out there!

UW Husky Basketball Has Been on Fire

It’s certainly been an exciting year to be a UW fan. With the football team playing in the Rose Bowl and the basketball team leading the Pac-12 it’s been fantastic to follow. And with the baseball team coming off of a college world series, I’ve had a lot to cheer about. But basketball is the flavor of the month, and with a good Pac-12 tournament showing they should be in March Madness. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, hopefully they can win out and have a nice 1st seed in the tourny. 

New Year – New Stuff!

Starting the Year with a New Lift!

The new BendPak 4-post in bay 1 may look like the old one but if your wide-body barely squeezed on the old one then you’ll immediately notice the difference. We upgraded the drive on lift in bay 1 to a wider model with 10″ of additional clearance between the posts. Now we have the perfect drive on lift for those low cars that are also wide. Otherwise the lift’s operation and features are the same as you’ve become comfortable with. The old lift ended up going with the lift installers to hopefully live on in another shop.

New Drink Fridge, Extra Cold!

Back by popular demand, we are once again selling drinks! After our vending machine died, we stopped for awhile, trying to find a vending solution that was simple, reliable, and fit the space we had available. That turned out to be a big commercial-grade glass door fridge  instead of a vending machine. This fridge keeps drinks nice and cold at just above freezing, which will be perfect once summer comes around. You can either pay cash or put it on the bill to pay at the end. So much easier than a vending machine. 

We’ll also be able to provide more drink options so be sure to let us know what you’d like! (Mention you saw this post and get a free water) No alcoholic beverages though, our insurance frowns upon consuming alcohol and operating heavy machinery.

 

Big Rolling Jacks for the Big Lift

Have a big vehicle, that’s tall, very long, heavy, and need to get the wheels off? No problem! We added rolling jacks to our big drive on 4-post lift, allowing you to be able to do just that. It does involve a few more steps than using the 2-post, but bay 7’s lift is sturdier and can handle 4,000 lbs more than the 2-post lifts. It also isn’t limited by a top bar, meaning you can take the vehicle up a lot higher so you can stand under it. Many customers choose to go this route for their large vehicles as it is easy to use and very safe. You can do suspension work, brakes, wheel swaps, or whatever you would like with the wheels off.

Edgar Makes The Hall Of Fame

Take the time to watch the video if you haven’t seen it yet. I was a big baseball fan growing up – my room was painted Mariners blue, even the carpet was Mariners blue. Edgar Martinez was my idol and easily my favorite Mariner growing up. I’m a little too young to remember Griffey being a Mariner, so Edgar is who really stuck out to me. I have a huge sticker of him on the wall, his bobble head’s on my shelf, a home run ball from him, and a home run ball from his number retirement weekend. I wore the number 11 on my uniforms through little league, always wanting to be like him. A true legendary right handed hitter, it’s finally come time for him to join the other Hall of Famers in Cooperstown, NY. In late July I’ll make the pilgrimage to the birthplace of baseball to see my childhood idol get inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I couldn’t be more excited. 

It took 10 years for him to get the call, needing to receive 75% or more of the vote from the Baseball Writers of America. Many didn’t want to vote for him as they deemed him a partial player. Since Edgar was a designated hitter, they felt by not playing defense, he wasn’t worthy of being inducted. They chose to ignore his pure superiority as a right handed hitter throughout his 18 year career. He was the one who hit “The Double”, arguably the most important play in Mariners history. This lead to the public support to build a new stadium to replace the Kingdome, and in turn keep the Mariners in Seattle. Sometimes Safeco (now T-Mobile field) is referred to ‘the house that Griffey built”, well it was Edgar who brought that run in. So it’s only fitting that he now joins Griffey Jr., the man who scored the winning run on that hit in the Hall of Fame. 

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Bay 1

Bay 1 is a 4-post lift (drive on style). Perfect for fluid changes or other quick tasks that do not require you to remove the wheels.

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Bays 2-6

Bays 2-6 are 2-post lifts (lifts from jack points). These allow you to remove the wheels and do nearly any mechanical job.

class b motorhome on bendpak HD-14 4 post lift at stew's self service garage

Bay 7

Bay 7 is a heavy duty 4-post lift (drive on style) with a 14,000 lb capacity. This bay is perfect for large vehicles that don't need the wheels off.

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

2018 was great. Now for 2019!

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We had some big changes in 2018

A new lift in Bay 2 was a good way to start the new year. We decided to try lifts other than Bendpak because we wanted to see which lift brand fits our needs best and the Challenger Lift has been a great addition.  Customers love its many features – the spin up pucks and the easy to operate lock release are the two most popular. We like the flexibility it offers in vehicle range. It fits small cars and big trucks well, and we got the height extensions that make it perfect for very tall vehicles.

We also changed out the lift in Bay 5, once again trying out another company. Rotary Lifts are regarded as one of the best on the market, so we were excited to see what options they add to the mix. The features that stand out most are the flexibility in pad placement as well as how quiet the lift is compared to the others. The low profile arms are also great for all the low cars we get here. 

The biggest change has been the workstations, which we’ll cover in more detail below. We were very excited for this change as the project took more than a year and thousands of hours to complete. We worked hard to come up with a new tool set and workstation for every bay, and we are glad that they have been received above expectations. We have received excellent feedback and are excited to make some modifications to the setup.

Last, but certainly not least, the changes to our website. We went with a complete redesign to make the website easier to use, and information more streamlined. I also started writing this blog to highlight the happenings of Stew’s Self Service Garage. 2018 was a very exciting year for all of us here, and I’m excited to share a little bit more about all of it.

The New "Stew's" Setup

The highlight of the year is definitely the new workstations. It’s a toss-up, though, which is the best part – the Shark Professional workstation or what is inside of them. We took your years of feedback on the tool sets and put it to action. We upgraded the quality of all the tools and made the tool set significantly more useful. We also made the set all Metric, so there wouldn’t be any more mixups with SAE tools being used by accident. We still have our SAE tools, we simply have a separate roll away box for them.

After we had the tools down, we needed somewhere to put them. It had to be something that would last forever, look great, and have a ton of function. We settled on this layout as it provided a 10ft work surface, all the room we needed for the tool set (with room to grow), put the hose reels into a more useful spot, and enclosed the garbage and cat litter. All of that also makes a much more attractive front of the bay. And as a bonus, the workstation counter has 6 outlets with an additional 4 USB outlets in it. Plenty of power for any device you bring with you. If you want to get all the details, I highlighted it in the May 2018 blog post, which you can find by clicking here.

 

 

Lots Of Cool Cars and Projects!

We love to see all the cool cars and projects that come in! They don’t have to be exotic; we love the variety. And a variety came in over 2018. From Ferrari’s to Lancia’s, we saw a good range of interesting cars. The day of the side-by-side Lotus Evora and McLaren 570gt certainly drew attention from everyone in the shop. While my personal favorite was seeing the Fisker Karma in depth. I don’t know much about Fisker, so getting to see one up close was certainly a highlight of the year for me. The battery unit change was a sight to see as well! There were certainly some cool projects too. We had a Jeep Wrangler do a turbo install, quite a few engine swaps, an engine rebuild on a WRX engine, repairs on a van traveling around the world, and much more.

Employee Appreciation Day!

This was probably my favorite day of the year. John, Rick, Steve, and Shawn work hard all year to help make sure you guys have the best experience possible. In 2018 we had our first ever Employee Appreciation Day, where we attended a Mariners game in the Diamond Club. The Diamond Club is an all inclusive premium area in the stadium with an open bar. We wanted to give back in the best way we could, and an all inclusive day at the ballpark did the trick. For all the hard work they put in, it was all worth it.

I’m excited to continue to expand our team in 2019! Be sure to thank the crew for all they do. 

Here's to saying bye to 2018, and looking to 2019!

I did some fun stuff in 2018! From Mariners and Huskies to visiting San Diego and Arizona. Seeing Pearl Jam at the Home Shows, and the shop shenanigans, 2018 was a great year for me. As you know from the other blog posts, the last section is a little bit about me. So I’ve put together a little collection of pictures that sum up my year.

Since Husky football season just ended, I have to start with that. My girlfriend and I are Husky football season ticket holders and tailgate before the games. It’s starting to become a tradition for us and we have loved being at Husky stadium on Fall Saturdays.

In August I went down to Phoenix and San Diego to see the Mariners play the Diamond Backs and the Padres. We stopped by the USS Midway Museum in San Diego to check it out. It was the highlight of that trip for me seeing the carrier. It took many hours to get through it all, but it was certainly worth it. Bonus highlight was San Diego has the paid electric scooters you can use, much like the Lime Bikes in Seattle. Except the scooters are MUCH cooler to ride.

When Pearl Jam was in town, we had to go and see their show! Of course being from Seattle, I enjoy grunge music even though I was born towards the middle-end of the grunge era. I’m not sure if all of Pearl Jam really counts as grunge, but we’ll throw them in there! I don’t get out to many concerts anymore, so getting to see the amazing show Pearl Jam puts on was great. One of the best concerts I’ve been to.

I’ll wrap it up with my funny shop shenanigans picture. A customer ordered this MotoRad part and I thought the brand name was hilarious. I figure if you throw up the hang loose sign and say “RAAAAAAAAAAAAD BROOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” while installing it, the part will never fail. So we now ‘bless’ all new thermostats with a “RAAAAADDDDD BROOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”.

Thanks for another great year! I’m looking forward to new challenges and adventures in 2019.  I’ll see you at Stew’s Self Service Garage!

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‘Tis the Season

November has breezed past; now we're really into the Holidays

Cool Things? How About a Ferrari!

This Ferrari 488 was in to replace their exhaust to make it a little louder. They also wanted the new sound that an X-pipe provides. We always like when people work on cars that people say they can’t work on. This owner wasn’t afraid to jump right in and get after it. The exhaust even came with step-by-step instructions that show you exactly what to do, and even told you which tools were needed for it. That gave the owner complete confidence that they could do it themselves and save thousands over taking it to a shop that handles Ferraris. Changing exhaust on a mid engine car is a little different than your standard car in that you don’t have it completely under the car. Most of it is essentially right in the middle, which makes it slightly more challenging as you have to work around other components. After taking the wheel liners out and the intake pipes, getting at the exhaust wasn’t bad at all. With the new X-pipe in the owner is much happier with the new sound. It sounds more exotic as well as has quite a bit more turbo sound. 

Going To Be Traveling? Here's An Inspection Checklist

We are asked frequently about what to check on a car before going on a road trip. We decided to put together a check list to help you when you are getting ready. This list also includes most of the items to check on your car regardless of a road trip. We put the full size document on this page so you can save it if you would like. Otherwise we can always email you a PDF copy to print at home ahead of time. We also have copies on hand in case you don’t bring one with you. 

Of course, if you have any questions about how to check any of the items on this form we are happy to help. If you are working on your car here at Stew’s Self Service Garage all you have to do is ask one of us! 

How do you use this I can hear you ask. The green, yellow, and red boxes indicate the status of each component you are checking. Green means everything is good for that item. Check yellow if you aren’t sure, things may not look right with the component, or it will need deeper diagnosis other than a brief inspection. Naturally red means the component needs immediate replacement. Most sections have space for you to make notes, otherwise write your notes in the comment. It is also very important to note the vehicle mileage and date of the inspection so you can check back with your inspection form on any items that didn’t check the green box.

 

Give (or Get) The Gift Of Stew's Self Service Garage

Not sure what you want for the holiday season? Ask for something from Stew’s! We have shirts, hoodies, and select purchase ahead punch cards. This is the only time of year we offer these punch cards, so time is limited! The punch cards allow you to purchase time ahead of time and take advantage of deals with us. The 2 hour punch card comes with a free oil change special, and the 6 hour punch card allows you to buy our 6 hour special, but use it in 15 minute increments. Normally you have to use our 6 hour special in a single consecutive use. The 6 hour punch card lets you buy 6 hours for the price of 5.

We also have some great shirts and sweatshirts to keep your style on point! Our shirts are black to hide dirt and keep you looking fresh. The grey distressed logo is also a nice flair that will keep the shirt timeless in design. Our sweatshirts are just like our t-shirts, but will keep you warmer. We went with a heavier duty sweatshirt to stick to our high quality standards. These sweatshirts are durable as well – these are the same hoodies our employees wear so you know they’ve seen some action. T-shirts and hoodies are available in numerous sizes up to and above XXL. Not sure what size you need? Stop by and we can let you try some on.

Ready to put something on your list? Here’s a link to the store page so you can pick exactly which item you want.

 

The Huskies Are In The Rose Bowl

Sorry Coug fans, but with a win in the Apple Cup and the Pac-12 championship game the Dawgs are back in the Rose Bowl. Another fun fact, the Huskies have as many Rose Bowl games as WSU has total bowl games. I promise I’m done gloating now. I have to give props to the WSU band for playing Bow Down to Washington. After a UW Husky band charter bus crashed, the UW band wasn’t able to make it. WSU stepped up and played the UW fight song in their place. If you’ve been keeping up with the blog you’ll know I’m a UW fan. Though it’s been a ‘disappointing’ season for UW not making it to the college football playoffs (by losing 3 games and not having a signature win), I’m happy with how it ended. Making it to the Rose Bowl is never a disappointment. It’s a great way to finish off a season, and any team should be happy to be there. While I’m not sure if I’ll be there yet, I’ve been thinking about going. It’s the first time since 2001 for UW, and facing Ohio State should make for a great game. A high ranking defense against one of the best offenses in the game. Reminds me of a certain super bowl the Seahawks played in against the Broncos. Let’s hope it goes the same way for the Dawgs!

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September and October – A COMBO POST

Twice the Months for Twice the Update!

Alright, so I was late a month. I’ll make up for it though, and combine them both into one awesome post! September and October were great months, and we certainly saw a lot of cool stuff! We had some awesome classic Porsches, a Fisker, our final workstation showed up (yes, we ordered 7 but only 6 showed up), baseball season ended, Husky football season started (and some might argue ended), and I enjoyed all of it! 

Double the months, double the Porsche

You may be surprised to hear I’m not a huge Porsche fan. I even say it poor-shhh, which means I can hear you screaming at me from here. I’ll even take it a little further and say they are just squished VW Beetles, but I can respect some of these models. From the wide body models, to the crazy turbo flat 6 engines, some of them are very cool. Both of these came in over September and October for some end of the summer attention. One was for an overall inspection while the other was getting short shifter upgrades. 

Fisker Karma Battery Pack

Karma? That's the name!

I’m not sure if you have good karma by owning a Karma, but it probably can’t hurt. The Fisker Karma is a luxury hybrid electric car, designed by the famous Henrik Fisker. It’s a hybrid because it uses a GM turbo 4 cylinder as a generator for range extension by charging the battery. The gas engine isn’t hooked up to the wheels though, so if the battery dies, you have to rely on the engine as a generator to charge the battery. So what was up with this one? There was an individual cell within the battery pack that had gone out, so that cell needed to be replaced. The battery pack is made up of a bunch of 24v car batteries strung together, which was an interesting sight to see. The person working on the car was a certified Fisker tech, so this was not an amateur job, and we would not suggest trying it on your own. These batteries mean business, and if you touch the wrong parts you may not live to tell the story. 

Getting to see one of these up close was very cool though! They have a lot of interesting little quirks and design features. For example, they have side dump exhaust! Instead of running the exhaust for the generator down the entire car, they dump just in front of the front doors. The car also has speakers in front and back that make noise when the car is in drive that is mostly just obnoxious. I guess Henrik thought that’s what the future would sound like 6 years ago. 

Bay 7 is complete!

No longer does this bay have the ‘old setup’ as we called it. Now with the fully fledged new workstation we are happy to say it is complete. The upgrade sadly took another 6 months due to an error in production, which is why it was left with the old setup while all the other bays had the new ones. I’m certainly happy to have this project done, now we can move onto phase 2 of the new workstations. Identify what to put into the 5th drawer, as well as improving upon our foam layouts. We’ve been testing different tools, and working on a labeling system to make tools even easier to find and put back. Your feedback has been awesome, and we have been listening. Keep telling us what you want to see different with them, we are still perfecting them!

What's up with the crazy cut?

As you should know, I’m a huge Mariners fan. This season Mariners closer Edwin Diaz, aka Electric Eddie, reached 50 saves, which meant he won a bet with the manager. That bet was the manager would have to get Diaz’s signature cut. The Mariners then spun it into a promo night, which I of course took part in. You purchased a ticket which got you a shirt, and a hair cut (if you wanted). I am not one to shy away from goofy promos, so I was all over this. So I may have gotten some funny looks for a week or so, but it was worth it. 

The Mariners season still ended with disappointment though as it usually does. No playoffs, Diaz didn’t break the saves record, and less promise for next year. October came and I got to watch some awesome playoff baseball, as well as 2 game 163s. I was happy to see the Astros eliminated by the Red Sox, mainly because I don’t like division rivals. I rooted for the Brewers to be the Dodgers (Yankees West), but they just couldn’t get it together in game 7 of the NLCS. The Braves burst onto the NL scene, perhaps a season too early. That is a team to watch out for in the coming years. The AL wild card game was lame, I strongly disliked both teams. In the end I was fine with the Red Sox winning another World Series, better than Yankees West. My way too early to predict prediction for next year is the Mariners once again miss the playoffs and finish +/- 2 games of 75 wins.

Go Dawgs!

I didn’t go to UW, but Ally my girlfriend (pictured right) graduated from there. We have football season tickets and tailgate in E1. When baseball season comes winding down, we start getting fired up on Saturdays. We will typically make all of the home games, and unless it’s a 7:30pm start we are tailgating. While the season hasn’t exactly gone the way we had hoped, the Dawgs are still in it for the Pac12 North. I’m excited for the last home game being a good start time in the early afternoon, and then the Apple cup after Thanksgiving. Be warned Coug fans, I enjoy some mad smack talking.

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Have a project that you’ve been putting off? With winter approaching, make sure to get it taken care of. Being broken down in the rain isn’t nearly as fun as being broken down in the sun.

More new things in August

Always Upgrading!

We have a new lift in Bay 5! This lift is a Rotary brand lift, which is considered a top of the line lift. It differs from the Bendpak and Challenger lifts in how the pad is able to move as well. Other nice features are the arms are narrow and the pads screw up and down. Perfect for both trucks and low riders!

Why did we get another brand of lift? We want to find the best one that meets all the needs of our customers. We started with the Bendpak lifts because they were cost effective and highly recommended. Unfortunately there are issues with little details with the Bendpaks that make them not great for all around use. While we really like our Challenger lift, it has some issues with larger vehicles because it doesn’t have enough arm reach. Most vehicles are completely fine on the Challenger lift, however large trucks in particular you have to get them lined up perfectly. This can be challenging at times, so we normally try to avoid putting them on that lift. 

Enter the Rotary! Largely considered to be one of the best brands on the market, we wanted to also give it a shot. The Rotary has been great for both trucks and cars so far, which is perfect for us. The arms also have great reach, especially for lowered vehicles. We don’t want people pinching their side skits! We like many features on the lift so far and we will certainly be putting it through it’s tests.

All of this is testing for exactly what brand lift and what types we want for our future locations. We strive to only provide the best experience, and we are always working on fine tuning that even more. 

Cool Car Alert

It’s Italian, so you know the name is going to be a mouthful. It’s a 1992 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo I, freshly imported to the United States. Try saying that name three times fast. For those that don’t know, there is a 25 year import law. This law applies to cars that weren’t manufactured to be sold in the US and therefore didn’t meet the EPA and crash testing requirements. So why do people want these cars? Because they are cool, and ultra rare in the US.

So what is cool about this Lancia? It’s a rally car hero, with Lancia having a long history in World Rally Championship. Lancia won a lot of WRC titles in their day, and this car was the basis for many of them. Through the years they would modify the Delta creating a new version for competition. These cars were specifically built to meet the minimum road car build required by the governing body to qualify for the racing class. You were essentially buying a rally car that was legal for the road. These cars were very fast for their day, and they are still quick by any mark. This picture doesn’t quite capture the wide body work, but this car really has the late 80’s look to it.

 

Traveling For Baseball

If you haven’t read any of our other blog posts, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about baseball. My goal with this blog is to not only highlight happenings at the garage, but also let you learn more about me. So, I’d recommend checking out our other posts!

In August I checked a couple more stadiums off my list! When the Mariners traveled to Phoenix and San Diego, I followed them along their trip. The picture above is from Petco Park in San Diego, which is considered one of the best stadiums in all of Major League Baseball. I also went to Chase Field in Phoenix, but I’m not going to talk about that much because I didn’t like their stadium at all. My opinion about Chase Field is that it is a large soulless box in the middle of the desert. If you are a D-backs fan, I’m sorry, you deserve a better stadium. I won’t return unless the Mariners play a World Series in Phoenix, so probably never again.

Petco park on the other hand is a fantastic stadium. There are many things to do and see inside the stadium, as well as really great food options. One thing I also really think is underrated in stadiums is the width of the concourse. In Petco the concourse in the majority of the stadium is large making walking around nice and easy without having to feel like you’re in a huge crowd.

My favorite part about other stadiums though is seeing their food options. Petco has a nice range of food, as well as high quality food. You can get anything from your basic hot dog all the way to fresh fish tacos on the main concourse. They also had more beer stands than I’ve ever seen in a stadium before. If there is ever a beer line at Petco, there wouldn’t be anyone in their seat. The beer selection was also pretty wide, which I know is an important factor for most.

My goal is to get to all 30 MLB stadiums before 30 years old, so next year there will be more stadiums to check off the list! 

July In Review

So What's New In July?

I just had to highlight this Shelby GT500KR right off the bat. Easily one of the coolest cars to come to Stew’s Self Service Garage and this thing was in immaculate condition. It is in fact a real GT500KR so we were very excited to get some pictures of. The yellow is very eye catching and a sight to behold in person. Fun thing about this car is that I had seen it before at the Mustang round-up at Bellevue College for the 50th anniversary. I’ve always been a big fan of the GT500 as it was the poster car from the 2001 Gone in 60 Seconds. I had Eleanor on my wall growing up, so the GT500 will always hold a special spot for me. 

What else has happened in July? We’ve continued to game-plan on further upgrades to come later this year and next year. I can’t talk about all of them yet, but one of our focuses is to continue improving the new workstations.  Although we are very happy with the current setup, there is some fine-tuning that still needs to happen. We’d love to get feedback from you all on any adjustments in layout, changes or additions of tools, or any other comments on the new setup. We are calling the current version of our tool foams V1, and we are in the planning stages for V2. Something we have already started working on is a labeling system to make the tool layout even easier to use.

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Meet Eliza! Our New Employee

Also new in July was the addition of our new employee Eliza. She joins Stew’s Self Service Garage shortly after her first time in as a customer. As some of you know, we had a job listing on Facebook and other places seeking a new employee. Well, Eliza had come in to work on her car and because she enjoyed her time so much she wanted to learn more about us, afterward she went to our Facebook page. There, she found our job listing and the next day hand-delivered a cover letter and resume. She joins us with some basic car knowledge, but eager to learn more. You’ll find her shadowing Rick, John, Steve, and I in the shop as she learns more about cars, tools, and car repair. Truly a quick learner, she’s already diving right into DIY car repair. For now, you’ll mostly find her friendly face at the desk checking you in, making appointments, and keeping the office area up to our high standards. I can speak for everyone at Stew’s that we are excited that she has joined our team!

What's Up With The Maker Membership Program?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a progress update here! We haven’t forgotten about this, we are still making progress on getting this service up. Shortly after we announced the program, Tormach made an announcement of their own. They are introducing a new generation of CNC machines, which has put us in a little bit of a hold. The new 1100MX machine will be released sometime this winter, so we are waiting until it has been officially released. The new version will offer many exciting features found on more advanced machines. This will give you a much better experience using the machine and we’ll be able to provide even higher value to our members. I don’t believe in purchasing equipment that will be outdated within months, so for the moment we wait.

What else is happening though? We are building out a complete web experience and center for this service. The extra time we get while waiting for the latest machine to be released is being put into working on a site where you can sign up for the service, manage your membership, learn more about the service, and take digital classes. We are also working on forming partnerships with other companies to provide the best experience possible for your monthly membership. Just like the self service portion of Stew’s, I am taking extreme care setting this service up to make sure we provide only the best.

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Steak, It's What's For Dinner

If you have attended one of our shop BBQs, you likely know I enjoy cooking. So what’s with the picture of the T-Bone? Well, I’m mostly known for my steak cooking abilities, which I happen to take the most pictures of. My parents got divorced when I was at the end of elementary school, and my dad wasn’t much of a cook. This meant we ate pizza just about nightly, which was super awesome for the first 6 months, but eventually got a little old. As is a common theme, I decided to do something about that, which meant learning how to cook. I started off with scrambled eggs and went through an entire carton of eggs in an hour, burning or under cooking nearly every attempt. From there I learned to cook more things in the frying pan. Eventually I advanced to using our propane grill.

Using a grill meant cooking steak, hot dogs, burgers, and corn. Whenever we broke out the grill it was usually for parties, and my dad was the grill master. To graduate to the grill was a big step for me, one I was pretty excited for. I’d always loved steaks, it was my favorite food growing up (spoiler alert: it still is). I learned to harness the grill’s powers and make some pretty decent food, but my urge to get better was ever present. When I turned 16 and was able to drive to Costco, I’d fire up the grill, call up my friends, and we’d have steak dinners almost nightly. My goal was to be able to cook a steak like you’d receive from a 5-star restaurant. Later I’d come to learn a lot of it came to meat selection, but I had to nail my technique first.

Enter the YouTube, the center of learning for me throughout the years. I started by looking up “How to cook steaks like a 5 star restaurant”. To my surprise, this usually meant cooking steak in a pan on the stove-top, counter to my grilling roots. I also learned how to pick out steaks at the store that wouldn’t turn into flavorless hockey pucks. I spent hundreds of hours cooking steaks, now to the point where I’ve got it nailed. Something I pride myself on is being able to cook amazing food for people to enjoy like they were at a high-end steak house. 

Now back to our shop BBQs! If you haven’t attended one, keep an eye on our Facebook page, we will be announcing another one here soon. This is when we fire up the big smoker and make some delicious smoked BBQ. Typically I make pulled pork as it’s nice and simple for many to enjoy. Now is where I tempt you by placing a gallery for you to salivate over. Enjoy!

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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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How To: Save Money Working On Your Own Car

Saving Money - Why Most People Work On Their Car

Ask me why I started working on cars, and I’d tell you it’s because I couldn’t afford to take it to a mechanic. My first car was a $500 1988 Audi 80 with a ton of issues. When I started I had no knowledge and relied solely on guides on the internet. So I decided I’d start writing up general guides myself to give back. Where better to start than with how to save money working on your car, I thought to myself. I’m going to go through all steps starting with the things you need, and going from there. So here we go!

Step 1 - Parts

The first step is getting your parts for a reasonable price. For most mechanic shops, a large portion of their revenue comes from parts. Which means they are marking them up big time. Usually the cheapest place to find parts is online, but you do need to be careful to buy from a reputable source.

Word of caution when buying on Amazon, you are buying from individual sellers 99% of the time, and they just want to sell parts. The parts may be cheap, but not fit correctly. While they typically have a good return policy, you should be sure to check the policy and be sure it’s easy enough to return that you’re willing to deal with it, if necessary.

Local parts stores are a great option as well, and the best part is you can usually get your parts same day. On top of that, handling a parts warranty will be significantly easier since you don’t have to deal with shipping. 

Step 2 - Tools

If you are in the Seattle area, great news! You can come to Stew’s Self Service Garage and not have to buy or bring tools. We provide full tool sets, in professional grade workstations, in every bay. Of course I was going to plug the shop, it’s my blog post!

If you aren’t coming to Stew’s Self Service Garage, you’re going to need some tools. Maybe you have some, maybe you don’t yet. The basics are a 3/8″ and 1/2″ ratchet and socket set, a combination wrench set, a few hammers, pliers set, a c-clamp, screwdriver set, pry bars, and a hex key set. A jack and jack stands go without saying, you will need these. BE SURE to get high quality jack and jack stands that have the proper weight rating for your vehicle, these are very important to your safety! The majority of you will want to buy metric tools as after about 1986 all manufacturers started using metric bolts. That said, it is good to have a set of SAE sockets and wrenches as well.

What are some brands to buy? Well, you have some options depending on your budget. At the cheaper end, Harbor Freight is where most people go. If you are buying from Harbor Freight try and buy from their ‘Pro’ line of tools as they are typically higher quality. Next step up would be Craftsman/Husky, which are available at most hardware stores. If you want something above that Gearwrench brand tools are a good choice, but warrantying them can be tricky as you’ll typically purchase them online. And for those who have unlimited tool budget, you can chase down whichever tool truck brand you think is coolest and buy from them. Those brands would be Snap-on, Mac, Matco, and Cornwell.

Step 3 - A Space To Work

Once again, Stew’s Self Service Garage is the perfect place to work on your own car. We provide a bay with a lift and a full set of tools in a professional grade workstation. Well lit, heated in winter, clean and safe! Not only that, our experts on staff are here to answer questions and provide guidance. We can’t turn the wrench for you, but are happy to provide pointers.

If you aren’t coming to Stew’s Self Service Garage, a space will be key. You’ll need a level surface on solid ground. This means concrete ideally, do not use jack and jack stands on gravel, dirt, or any other non-solid surface! Be sure you can safely use the jack and jack stands, and if you can you’ll be good to go. Next you’ll probably want some form of cover and light. If you have a garage that will be ideal. Carports are next on the list, and if you don’t have that you’ll be hunting for a friend’s place that does. And if you strike out there, you’ll just need to go and scout a location!

Step 4 - Learning

Not sure where to start when it gets to actually turning the wrench? Fear not, in today’s world information is readily available all over the internet. Granted, you do need to be cautious with that information, but it is a great resource. If you are going to fix your car at Stew’s Self Service Garage we have experts on staff with over 100 years of combined experience, plus access to AllData DIY for diagrams and specs is included in the hourly rental rate. We are happy to provide tips & tricks, guidance, and knowledge. We still suggest doing homework ahead of time, but we’ve got your back as much as we can!

If you aren’t coming to Stew’s Self Service Garage, you have many options available to you! YouTube, forums, Facebook groups, and friends are all a great resource for gaining knowledge on how to fix your car yourself. And if that fails, you can also buy a repair manual from a local parts store or on Amazon. You can also subscribe to an online repair resource like AllData DIY or Chilton DIY. All of these resources will give you a guide on what you will need to do, and give you a visual of all the components that you’ll be working on. 

Once you are armed with information, it’s time to get in there and do it! Nothing replaces actually getting your hands dirty and turning the wrench. Hands on experience doing different jobs will enhance your skills even when it comes to working on parts of the car you haven’t before. It builds confidence and teaches you about how your car works too.

Step 5 - Saving Money

So you’ve reached the end and you are still wondering, how are you actually going to save money? Easy, let’s break it down. First, get an estimate from a mechanic (if you haven’t already); this provides the basis for what this would cost you to have done for you. Then determine what your cost for parts is, plus the cost to purchase or rent any tools, equipment, and guide book you may need to do the job. These will provide the basis for what it costs you to do it yourself. Once you have that in hand, you can compare and decide how much money you will save by doing the labor yourself, you do this by taking the mechanic estimate and subtracting your cost. If you want to get more advanced, you can give yourself a time estimate and put a value on your time. This helps you decide if it’s worth your time spent on the job and if you truly saved the amount of money you were hoping to save. 

Tools and equipment are an important factor in the cost as it cost you money to equip yourself to actually do the job. These can be amortized over many jobs though, so as you continue to work on your car, that cost per job will drop more and more. Sometimes just a single job can  pay for all the tools you needed, depending on how expensive it is at the mechanic.

In most cases you will save the most money on jobs that require larger amounts of labor. This may not be the case for all jobs, but it is usually where you will stand to save the most. Brakes are also another job you can save a good amount of money on due to parts cost and usually they are very easy and quick to do.

If you’re coming to Stew’s Self Service Garage be sure to factor in the rental cost, and factor that against what it would cost you to purchase the tools and equipment to do it yourself. You can also plan for the job to go faster here than in your own garage in most cases due to having all the equipment organized, in one place, plus expert guidance. For example, if taking it to a mechanic costs $120 per hour, that same amount buys you 3 hours here at Stew’s Self Service Garage. With mechanic rates rising, finding a trust worthy mechanic for under $100 per hour is becoming difficult in the Seattle area. 

Thanks for reading, and we hope that you learned something! If you’re ready to Be Your Own Mechanic, you can get started by making an appointment by clicking here

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Maker Membership – What’s That?

Our Latest, Cool Offering!

Yes, we are adding even more after doing a major bay upgrade! We have had requests for a fabrication style maker space, so we decided to make it happen. Because we don’t do things half way, we decided having CNC equipment was a big must have! The picture above is a concept layout, so that’s not guaranteed to be a final floor plan or equipment list. The goal is for you to be able to come in turn and your ideas into reality, whether it is for a personal project, or for rapid prototyping of a part. The premier piece of equipment will be the CNC mill, but we will still have other machines that will be great for fabricating all sorts of different things from metal. Welders, a band saw, drill press, a bench sander, a chop saw, and more. Before being able to use this space, you will need to sign up for the membership and go through training.

Still asking what a Maker Membership is? Because this service is different from bay rental, we decided to make this area for membership access only. Therefore, to use this space you will need to be a Maker Member. In June we are planning to launch pre-signups as there will be a limited amount of memberships available. You will absolutely want to be a Founding Maker Member. We don’t have a final pricing yet, but that will be announced just before the signups become available. These memberships are for the maker area only, they will not include any sort of extra benefit or access to the garage bays.

CNC Mill & More

Meet the Tormach PCNC 1100, your new best friend when you become a Maker Member. This is a CNC mill that is capable of making parts or objects out of all sorts of materials. Materials include steel, aluminum, plastics, and more! While this is no production grade machine, it is much easier to use, and still very accurate. With a working area of 18″ x 9.5″ you’ll be able to make good sized parts for whatever project you might have.

And now for the more! You may have noticed that there was a whole other area shown on that floor plan. That’s because it’s not just a space in the shop area, there is also a corresponding office area. The office area is meant for more ‘clean’ uses, such as working on your computer, 3D printing, and other electronics work. This is more like a typical maker space area if you are familiar with the concept. It’s also perfect for fine tuning your CAD designs, conceptualizing new ideas, hanging out, or working with others!

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A Glass Wrench Gifted From Brett Franklin Glass

Making A Better Community

When I started Stew’s Self Service Garage in 2014, making the car community better was something I wanted to accomplish. Over the past 3.5 years the Stew’s Self Service Garage community has grown from just us to start to well over 5,000 members. Providing a space for people to work on their car and experience other cars and people from all walks of life has been amazing. I’ve seen pizza delivery guys next to executives, talking about their cars, and working on them. Something you’d likely never see anywhere else, all because of a passion to work on their own car. 

This is of course a business, and I still run it like one, but Stew’s Self Service Garage is a passion project. I truly do care about providing the absolute best experience to everyone who walks through the door. I want you to enjoy working on your car, and to get to meet others who feel the same way. Enhancing the car community by having more knowledgeable people in it, and having a top notch facility to do the work in, are hugely important for this community. I absolutely love seeing when customers go and check out other cars, and talk with other customers in the shop.

As some of you have heard, we have planned on expanding when able. The process is starting, and I am excited to see where the future takes us. Expanding this community to a larger geographic area is an exciting opportunity for us all!