A shop with history looks to the future

Paoli Auto Repair is a full-service shop near the end of the Main Line, an area named for the local train that runs through the western suburban towns of Philadelphia, PA.

While part of the shop dates back to the 1920s, Paoli Auto opened for business in 1976.

Learning the business

Owner Frank Montgomery started washing cars there in 1981. He soon moved on to other shops and dealerships and learned the business by working his way up in various service organizations, all the way up to service manager. After earning his stripes (and ASE certification), he came back and bought the business in 2004.

Today the shop employs four techs, two service writers and one part-timer, and Frank says he’s ready to hire another tech. They keep about $80,000 worth of parts in stock, and there are probably two dozen dealerships and other parts and equipment suppliers just a phone call away. With six bays, this is a very busy shop. The day we visited, we had to park across the street because the shop’s parking lot was full.

Paoli Auto’s customer base has always included European cars (they were one of the country’s last authorized Peugeot warranty shops) and today he describes the mix of business as 30 percent European, 40 percent Asian and the rest domestic. The shop is an authorized Bosch dealer as well as a member of ACDelco’s Total Service Support program.

Keeping up with technology

Right now Paoli Auto is equipped with scan tools from Launch, Baum and Snap-on, plus oscilloscopes and a wide variety of special test equipment from Bosch, Chassis Ears and others. Since each tech tends to have a stronger background in either Euro, Asian or domestic, each also owns equipment made for his specialty.  For instance, the Euro specialist has a laptop with VAG COM software.

While he’s not afraid to buy scan tool updates, Frank says now is the time to buy new tools that will be needed to deal with the next generation of automotive technology.

“If you don’t have those tools, you’ll (just) be doing oil changes and brake work.” Then he went on to note that scan tools are already needed for brake work on some vehicles.

Frank hasn’t decided what to buy first, but he knows he needs to invest in factory scan tools.

“Coding components is one of our biggest challenges,” he said, because they’ve already run into situations where the repair can’t be completed without a trip to the dealer for reprogramming. Frank is well aware of J2534 pass-through programming, but he’s not ready to risk using aftermarket tools on a procedure that carries such a high price for failure. Frank hinted at plans for expansion, and we were left with the impression that factory scan tools are definitely part of the plan.

As for today, Frank said his most important tool is the shop computer because it’s needed for so many aspects of working in the shop: service information, diagnostics, parts information, etc. He also places a high value on the knowledge of everyone who works at Paoli Auto Repair, so he invests in one of the industry’s most important tools: technician training.

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