Get Ready For Spring

Take Your Car On A Valentine's Date!

February means Valentine’s day is right around the corner! Your car has been telling us what it wants for Valentine’s day is to go on a date with you to Stew’s Self Service Garage. We are like the Dr. Doolittle for cars; they just talk to us. Your car keeps telling us they want to be ready for spring and summer driving without feeling rushed into it. Now is a great time of year to get in and do that maintenance or upgrade you’ve been thinking about. As we get into nicer weather, you’ll thank yourself you were prepared instead of wasting nice weather days doing what was put off. As a reminder, Stew’s Self Service Garage is heated and usually has availability same or next day, and we have locations in both Kirkland and Auburn.

New Year, New Roll For Steve

Steve has been with us for over 7 years now, and has been involved with numerous projects and upgrades at the Kirkland location. He’s been due for a promotion and, now that Stew’s Self Service Garage has grown to the size we are now, we can finally give him a well-earned promotion. He will still be around to help customers from time to time in Kirkland, but his main focus will be working on projects to help Stew’s Garage grow. We are still determining his official job title, but for now we will know his position as behind the scenes wizard. Pictured above is when Stew and Steve cut the original foam organizers for the Kirkland tool boxes. Coincidentally, Steve will be working on more foam organizers for his first project in his new roll. Join us in congratulating Steve!

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2022 Review


Happy Holidays and 2022 Recap!

Happy holidays to everyone! This year has been a whirlwind of activity here at Stew’s Self Service Garage! We’ve had so many things happening this year, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Obviously the big one was we opened our second location. For years now we’ve heard many requests to put a location in the South sound. Of course we get requests for just about every city in the country, but by far and large the South sound region was the biggest request. We also turned 8 this year! We’ve come a long way since we opened at the end of October in 2014, and we have you all to thank for it!

Second Location Opens In Auburn!

Our Auburn location has been off to a great start! We had 7 years of experience figuring out an ideal setup in Kirkland, and we put that into practice. We’ve had many of our South end customers stop in to check it out, thankful they don’t have to commute to Kirkland for a Stew’s Self Service Garage. There are a lot of things that are the same, but we were able to enhance on a number of things. Our tool selection in each bay is a little different, but better in that it’s removed tools that don’t get used often, and added tools that are checked out frequently. Our 2 posts and 4 posts are all the same at this location since we did all our testing in Kirkland for our preferred brands. Perhaps everyone’s favorite thing is the bays are all direct drive in. No multi-point turns inside the building, just drive right in. If you haven’t been in to see it, come check it out!

Stew's Turned 8!

Another year around the sun for Stew’s Self Service Garage! We first opened our garage doors in Kirkland in October of 2014, and it seems fun to do a little bit of a then and now comparison. When we opened in 2014 we had a total of 4 employees, and now in 2022 we have 10 employees. Back then we only had 5 bays available in Kirkland to rent, and now we have 7 bays in Kirkland and 10 in Auburn for a total of 17. In 2014 we only had 4 garage doors we could open daily, now we have 16 garage doors to play around with, which makes my arms sore just thinking about opening and closing all of them. The total number of customers we saw for our short 2 months in 2014 is now exceeded by the customers we see per week. Perhaps the most important change is that in 2014 we only had 2 hammers in the bay tool set, and now we have 7 hammers to choose from. We do apologize for the lack of hammer options when we opened.

What's Coming In 2023?

We have quite a few things in the pipeline for 2023, a lot of which started in 2022. There was a down period of time from when we signed the papers for the Auburn location and when work got started on it. Once the work started though, it was all out focus on that, and we had to put all our other projects onto the back burner. We’ve put finishing touches on in-person lessons, and we have some other exciting things we are getting ready to announce. 

Ready to work on your car? Auburn or Kirkland, both locations are open daily from 9am-9pm.*

7:30pm cut off time, this means all cars must be checked in prior to 7:30pm.

Auburn Opening Date

Auburn Grand Opening

The GRAND OPENING for Stew’s Self Service Garage’s Auburn location will be on September 24th, 2022! This is an open house event with the first day to rent a bay starting on September 25th. We look forward to showing off the new location and we have some great things lined up for the opening. There will be cars on display both inside and outside the shop, tours, the chance to book bays, free giveaways, and more! The open house will run from 10am to 2pm, so be sure to stop in to see the new location! Our address is 4715 Auburn Way N Auburn, WA 98002.

How Many Bays?

Everything about the Auburn location is bigger than Kirkland. Auburn has 10 bays available to rent. We’ll feature 8 Rotary 2-post lifts that have a 10,000lb capacity, as well as 2 Challenger 4-post lifts with rolling jacks that have a 14,000lb capacity. The 2-post lifts work great for both cars and trucks that want to get their wheels off the ground. They even work great for low profile cars with the low profile arms. The 4-post lifts are awesome for quick projects and large vehicles. You’ll find the rolling jacks make doing wheels-off work possible on the 4-posts as well! The 14,000lb capacity makes it great for conversion vans and other large, heavy-duty vehicles.

How About The Tools And Equipment?

We will feature a lot of the same equipment as Kirkland, however the workstations are different as well as the tools in the bay. We’ve taken lessons learned in Kirkland and applied them to the tool sets and workstations in Auburn. What are the primary differences? We’ve removed tools that don’t get used and added in quite a few that are frequently asked for from our tool room. We want you to be as productive as possible, so the less trips to the tool room the better. In terms of other equipment, we’ll feature most of the same stuff like transmission jacks, pole jacks, presses, and more. We still won’t have wheel and tire equipment or alignment equipment, but they are possibilities for the future. The same services of fluid and old part recycling will be available at no cost just like in Kirkland.

What About Parking and Storage?

Parking and entrance/exit friendliness is significantly improved over the Kirkland location. The driveway is relatively flat and we have a lot more parking available. The lot is also completely fenced and gated for safekeeping at night. Storage for parts is much better than Kirkland since we have a large, enclosed area with pallet racks. There is a forklift on site as well, so we can accept deliveries without the need for using a liftgate service. 

Get Early Access

We will be doing a soft opening on Thursday September 22nd to test run everything in preparation for our opening weekend. There will be a free 3 hour use of a bay, and we will need a total of 10 cars. We will be picking 10 people at random, and you must be available that afternoon at the scheduled time. On that day, you’ll show up at your scheduled time, be checked into the garage, and then given the chance to use the bay for your allotted time. When you’re done, you’ll check out, and after check out we’ll have a short survey for you to fill out. The soft opening is invite only, so if you are not chosen to attend, please do not plan to come by our Auburn location on the 22nd.

If you’d like to participate in the soft open, submit your info below and you’ll be entered for the chance to win. We will contact the winners by September 19th.

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Latest and Greatest in Auburn

Major Progress!

In just a months time we’ve made a ton of progress! Demolition work started on May 20th, finally kicking off the start of construction. There was about 5,000sqft of mezzanine storage to bring down, and on that mezzanine were quite literal tons of shelves and other stuff. The electrical in the building was from the 80s, and there was a lot of not so safe wiring added through the years in the building that had to be ripped out as well. We ended up removing 6 dumpsters that were 45 yards each, as well as 2 scrap metal dumpsters that were 15 yards. This was a lot of stuff, and it’s a huge difference in before and after. When we took over the space we really had to use our imagination to picture what it would look like, but with all the mezzanine gone it makes it easier to picture. After all the old stuff was ripped out and hauled off, we had the entire interior cleaned with degreaser and pressure washed. As you know, we put a big emphasis on cleanliness, and we wanted to get everything cleaned so it could start with a fresh slate. 

Lifts are going up!

We’ve also had equipment and tools start to arrive! We were well planned, timing out deliveries for things to arrive when they needed to be even accounting for supply chain delays. Our 2 post lifts have all arrived, with our 4 posts arriving soon. As the electricians work in the space, the 2 post lifts have started to go up. This works out perfectly since the electricians are already here wiring the rest of the building, they’ll be able to wire in the lifts as they go up. We will have 8 of the 2 post rotary lifts, and 2 of the 4 post rotary lifts, and the 4 posts will have rolling jacks. The 2 post lifts will have a 10,000lb capacity while the 4 post will be able to hold 14,000lbs. We look forward to you guys getting them broken in!

What's Next?

As we are starting fresh with all the electrical in the building, there’s lots to wire, but the electricians are making great progress. We are bringing in over 40 new light fixtures, lots of circuits in each bay, charging outlets for EVs, and more. We are looking forward to having lots of lights as the building lacked them, and we want to have as bright of a work area as possible. Next up will be paint! The interior of the building was a pale tan covered in decades of grease and grime when we took it over. Now that the inside is cleaned the primer will be able to stick to the actual wall and not a layer of grease. The walls will be painted the same color scheme as the Kirkland location, grey on the bottom and white above it. We want to maximize lighting efficiency while doing our best to not have visibly dirty walls all the time. After the inside is painted, we’ll be adding a fresh layer of paint to the outside as well. We look forward to sharing the new look with everyone!

Check Out Our Progress Video!

We saved the best for last! Here’s a little preview of the construction progress. Progress is happening fast, and we hope to have another video soon. For now though, enjoy the sneak peek!

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Tell me more about that second location!

It's that time again!

Where I tell you more about that second location of ours coming soon in Auburn. We love how excited everyone is, because we are too. Sadly, we aren’t open yet, but hope to have the grand opening later this year. Don’t worry though, I’ve got some updates to share and other fun information. First, the building is now officially empty of all of the prior owners equipment and stuff. The auction was a huge success, and we sold everything. Now that the building is empty, demolition is underway in preparation for construction. We also have a landscaper that we’ve hired to keep the property in a better maintained exterior state. While the visible changes have been minimal, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. 

Give me the behind the scenes details!

To start, we have our lifts purchased and waiting to be installed once the site is ready. Considering there is about an 8 to 16 week lead time on lifts, this is a pretty big challenge that we don’t have to worry about. They’ll be eagerly awaiting to be installed, leaving us to rest easy knowing we don’t have delivery delays. We’ve finalized our new workstation layout, and are on the production schedule for mid Summer. All of our workstations are 100% American made, and they are even fairly local! If you’ve seen our new press area boxes and benches, you’ll recognize the brand as Champion Tool Storage. Champion Tool Storage is based in Hood River, Oregon and they produce their boxes right there in their own factory. I went down to their facility in November for a production line tour and to see the products first hand. I was impressed with what I saw, and decided that they would be our new provider for workstations and other cabinet and bench needs. Their product quality is exceptional, and their customer service is top notch as well. As a local business, we want to support local business too, and Champion is in our own region so we count it! Plus, eventually we’ll have a location closer than a few hours away from them (No official time line, this is a non binding agreement, terms and conditions apply, 18 years or older, ask a parent or guardian before asking us when this will be open).

So what's next?

Getting through the permitting process and getting construction started. Demolition work is currently underway, and we are scheduling giving the building a nice fresh look with new paint. There is also the matter of hiring and training staff for the new location, but that will wait until we have a better idea of when we can be open. Sadly there is just no way for us to predict an opening date at the moment. We know everyone is looking forward to the new location, and we are too! The moment we have an opening day, we’ll be spreading the news! Another way to stay informed? Check out our Auburn page by clicking here for the latest and greatest.

Employee Appreciation!

Sometimes we go have some fun and throw an employee appreciation day. This year we went and played in the dirt and mud over at Dirtfish in Snoqualmie! We did their 1 day RWD class and all had a blast. Learning the basics of rally driving and then applying it to some of their basic course layouts was a great way to spend a day. We had perfect weather conditions – rain but no showers leading to optimal sliding, and many smiles had. It’s great when we can partner with another awesome PNW company to enjoy an appreciation event. We look forward to returning to Dirtfish again someday!

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Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

2018 was great. Now for 2019!

Play Video

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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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.


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.


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.


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. 


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, 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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New Workstations

Professional Grade Workstation Coolness

I am SO excited to get to talk about this project. Something that had been in the works for so long, and mostly kept under wraps the entire time. When we opened, we knew that the tool sets and workstation setup in the bay would change, we just weren’t sure exactly when. Last year in about May we started to talk about exactly what we wanted to do to make the bays better and what we wanted the final version to be. Our goals were to increase organization, reduce time spent looking for tools, and save you more money.

We started by working on an entirely new tool set, one optimized for use. We wanted tools that were used often and not tools that would get in the way. This started with removing all SAE tools from the box and going with a separate SAE rolling box to supplement the workstation box. Next we analyzed the tools that were constantly being checked out of the tool room. After going over months of data we determined the tools that were being checked out so often they had to be put into the box. We also knew quality of the tools needed an upgrade.

Once we had the new list of what we wanted, finding which company to get the tools from took center stage. I met with a couple different tool companies, including an in person meeting with one in Atlanta. After we were unable to come up with any sort of partnership agreement with any tool company, we decided we would create our own tool set out of whatever brand we felt was best.

I also had to decide on a workstation to order. This proved to be a new challenge for me since I hadn’t ever experienced a professional grade workstation. I met with multiple different companies’ sales reps, received many pitches, and quotes. We decided to go with Shark Professional in the end as it’s a local company and it was also the highest quality product we saw. You’ll find their products in many dealerships and in many high end performance shops. This was probably the most exciting thing for me, providing a truly professional quality workstation in every bay. I want you to feel you are getting a ton of value out of your rental. These workstations have a 10 foot long continuous stainless steel work top that is also almost 3 feet deep. I know you will love having the increased work space.

Enter a massive Amazon order of tools. We have a total of 7 bays, but must carry an 8th set as spares so if something gets lost or broken we can replace it immediately. This means we had a ton of tools upstairs, not literally, but I had you there for a second. The vast majority of the tools are from Gear Wrench, a quality tool even though they aren’t made in the USA. We chose Gear Wrench for their high quality at a fair price. 

We did reduce the total number of tools in the box from slightly over 450 down to just over 400. Though with the reduction comes a better selection of tools. The main reduction comes from no longer having SAE tools in the box, which accounted for approximately 200 of the tools in the old set. The new set includes a larger variety of pliers, vice grips, hammers, wrenches, and significantly better ratchets. So while the count is less, it’s a much higher count of useful tools for the majority of projects. The new ratchets in the box are AMAZING –  ratchets I would give as gifts to people. I’m not kidding, I discovered these ratchets about 7 years ago and everyone who used them wanted a set. So I started to give ratchet sets as gifts to my wrenching friends. These are the Gear Wrench 120xp ratchets, which are 120 tooth ratchets with the strength of a 60 tooth. To give you an idea, the old Craftsman ratchets were 40 tooth, a third of the teeth.

Why did we get rid of the SAE tools in the box? Quite simply put – they were being misused. The vast majority of cars that come in use metric fasteners, which meant when people used the SAE sockets they were prone to rounding off bolts and nuts; wasting time and money. So we took matters into our own hands. We still have SAE tools though! We just bring over the supplemental box if you have a car that uses SAE fasteners.

With the new tool set decided, it was time to figure out the organization. We knew we wanted to do the foam organizers like all the top tool sets are coming in. We actually tested a foam organizer from a tool company we considered ordering sets from but ultimately decided to go the hard way, and designed the organizers ourselves. Enter the skills of Solidworks from Steve. Steve modeled every drawer in the box in CAD by measuring the majority of tools and then using scaled pictures of the tools. This was a long process, but well worth it in the end. So big shout out to Steve, he really rose above on this one to knock it out of the park. 

Once Steve finalized a drawer’s design in Solidworks he passed the file off to me, where I then imported it into Fusion 360 to create the CAM for the drawer. CAM is computer aided machining, which means I made the code for the CNC router to use to cut the organizers. We spent a lot of time reworking the CAD files, figuring out how to optimize the cutting times, and getting everything just right. 

When a drawer was in testing, we cut them out of pink rigid insulation since it was fairly cheap. It was also very easy for the machine to cut and vacuum up, so it was great for testing. We would take every tool slot and fit the tool noting how much or more we needed to add on each face. Sometimes this was in fractions of millimeters. After multiple cut revisions, we finally got a piece that didn’t need any changes, and the final code was saved as a final edition. 

We also needed to test cut into the actual foam to get the cut settings dialed in perfectly. This process meant using the samples the foam company sent us, which turned out to be different than what we ended up receiving. More on that later. Once I had done some testing in the actual foam using a specially designed test code, we were ready to begin cutting final versions.

Not going to lie, we were down to the absolute wire on getting these organizers done. The foam we ordered ended up being the wrong foam, it’s way softer than what we were sent as a sample. Because of this, the wrench drawer absolutely would not cut. This ended up being a costly problem and ultimately means we will need to redo the wrench drawers. The last foam came off the machine at 2am Thursday the 19th, once again shout out to Steve for staying super late to get that last foam cut done. 

Install day! What a crazy day, and a long one at that. John, Rick, Seth, Shawn, Steve, and I unloaded the container, organized, and assembled every workstation within the day. We had only Wednesday to get this complete change over done as Thursday we had multiple full day reservations and a packed schedule. 

The truck was scheduled to arrive at 9am Wednesday morning but, as expected, showed up just before 10am. Unfortunately getting the semi and 40ft container into the parking lot and in place was going to prove to be a real challenge. 1 hour, 4 cars moved by hand, 5 cars moved under their own power, 1 trailer moved, and 2 dumpsters moved later we had the container in place for unloading. Exhausted before we started, it was time to get going. I cut the seal lock off the trailer, and the moment we had been waiting for was upon us. The container door opened, and I crawled in to see a container full of boxed up workstations ready to be unloaded and installed. 

John was the forklift expert while we assisted by bringing the pallets in the container to the forklift and then taking the pallets away from the forklift on the ground. We staged every bay with the boxes and then began un-crating them. The moment of truth was here, we were finally going to see the custom powder coated Stew’s Blue work stations in person. The box was stunning and better than I expected. They are also absolutely massive, with each drawer being 43″ wide and 26″ deep. A single bank of 6 drawers also makes them significantly easier to navigate, which is awesome and time saving.

All the components of the workstation were finally ready to assemble, which meant arranging and leveling. Each workstation is tilted back a degree to insure that it CANNOT tip over. Yes, unlike the old toolboxes, these boxes don’t tip over. Once every component was leveled, the tops were placed and secured. We also installed the power outlets into the tops. There are now 2 banks of 3 outlets with 2 USB ports. These stainless steel tops are serious business, they weigh well over 150 pounds, and are extremely solid. 

Boxes assembled, it’s now about 12:30am, Steve, and I have been there all day. Foam organizers and tools have been going in the boxes all night, we are busting our butts to get these ready. Shawn had also returned at about 9:30pm to continue helping. Exhaustion is upon us, but there are still foams to be cut. Steve volunteers to stay behind for sacrifice – I mean to cut the last foams. I depart at 1am, not knowing if I’ll find a sleeping Steve upstairs next to a running CNC router in the morning. Fortunately Steve left around 2am, only to return at 7:30 later that morning to pick right back up.

Thursday morning 7:30, Steve, Shawn, and I are back at the shop to finish loading tools into bays, which we do at 9am. Time to open the doors and reveal all the months of work. Success! Reception to these boxes has been AWESOME. Honestly, better than I ever expected. For that I thank you, for all of us who put so many hours and effort into making this possible. 

What I do on a daily basis

Of course, I want to continue my trend of something about me personally. That was part of the inspiration of writing this blog monthly!

I do a lot of different things on a daily basis, depending on what’s going on in the background. I have to wear a bunch of different hats as a small business owner, trying to be a master of all trades. Typically my daily happenings center around projects we have going on in the shop. There’s always something happening in the background, as my motto is “always improving.” 

Over the past 6+ months working on this upgrade, my presence at the desk and in the shop had decreased greatly. I had to learn how to do CAD and CAM work, which I sure spent a lot of time on. On average I work around 100 hours a week, which is the standard life of a business owner. My day starts at 8am and goes until about 1am, with most of that time consisting of working on something for Stew’s Self Service Garage. Lately it had been spending 10+ hours per day working in Fusion 360 learning the CAM side of the program and then picking up on the CAD side of it. Within a couple weeks I had logged just under 200 hours, going on to log about 1000 hours by the end of the project in mid April.

I have always been very interested in CNC work, but it was always just a little bit away from feasibility for me. I have to spend my hours carefully in a day, so before this project it just didn’t make sense to pick up this skill. I decided to learn this skill as the price to have a CNC shop make these organizers was going to be astronomical. I also had a ton of fun doing it, which is ultimately what counts. 

People will ask what I do, or if I like what I do. My response is almost always, “I have a lot of fun.” This might not be the answer they were looking for, but to me it’s the important one. Having fun in life is living, so I try and make that my focus. 

I have some more tricks up my sleeve for this year, so be on the look out for the latest. In the mean time, click that book now button up top on the menu to check out these new workstations!