New Orleans transmission shop successfully expands into total auto care

Multiple locations allow Cottman franchise to maximize tool arsenal

The brothers have a similar system for making use of different automotive repair data software: Alldata, Mitchell 1 and Identifix. Each shop houses one of the three systems. “One has a lot of information (and is good for estimates). One is good on wiring diagnosis. One is good at easy-to-find stuff (with easy-to-follow diagnosis and repair steps),” Randy explains.

Having three shops has allowed the company to acquire not only a diverse offering of tools that are important in today’s auto repair business, but a highly versatile staff of technicians and transmission rebuilders. Two of the shops have three techs, one has two techs, and each shop has a dedicated equipment rebuilder.

The Cato brothers make all buying decisions about shop-owned equipment, which includes electronic and air conditioning tools. The techs keep their hand tools in toolboxes and roll-around carts.

Shop-owned tools are kept in cabinets. Randy says there is no organized system for tracking shop-owned tools on the shop floor. So far, the technicians have done a good job returning tools; lost tools haven’t been an issue thus far.

Randy says transmission systems have changed the most in recent years. He particularly looks for different tools that allow him to diagnose both the electrical (scan tool, meter, labscope, Power Probe, etc.) and mechanical parts (pressure gauge, run-out dials, seal installers, bearing presses, files, oil pump installers, snap-ring pliers, torque wrenches) of a transmission.

While electronics have made it easier to diagnose and repair problems, some models that have the Transmission Control Module (TCM) built into the transmission can be a challenge. The TCM can be on the transmission case or in the valve body, which requires a transmission rebuild, making the job more expensive.

“You have to raise prices if cost goes up,” Randy says. “It’s getting harder to explain to a customer what it costs to repair a 10-year-old vehicle. They just don’t see the value (of a costly repair) in a 10-year-old car.”

Keeping on top of new electronics is an ongoing task. Randy notes that today’s new vehicles don’t make their way to the repair shops until after the OEM warranties expire.

In the future, the brothers hope to add one or two more shops. They believe with the right tools, people and business model, they can expand their success in the greater New Orleans area.

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