Tom Mooney has operated Rancho Auto Service for 21 years. He knows a car needs good maintenance to retain its safety, dependability and emission control performance.
With the fall and winter weather coming, Mooney suggests a car should have a basic inspection.
People use their cars differently so some drivers need more frequent checks and replacements than other drivers who use their car infrequently and for short distances.
"You check the brakes and the tires, change the oil and do a routine check on the most important parts for safety and performance," Mooney said.
Rancho Auto Service is a full repair service that does everything but overhaul an engine and repair transmissions. The station is certified by the National Association of Mechanics and most of the mechanics are graduates of the De Anza College automotive technology program.
Mooney's mechanics are experts on electrical trouble shooting and computer controls. They have all been to school for those specialties and Mooney put a large investment in the machines to perform those services.
Rancho Auto Service was recently out of business for 10 weeks when the station was renovated to comply with federal laws by replacing the underground storage tanks. Now everything has double containment in the tanks and piping according to federal mandate.
"In addition, we now have fast-pay pumps and new island lighting. The pumps cost $14,000 each and we installed five new ones," Mooney said. The total cost for the renovation was more than $300,000.
The biggest change experienced at the station is a new brand of oil, gasoline and motor products. Seven years, the Texaco Company left the bay area along with Mobil. Now Texaco is moving back and looking for key locations in Northern California.
"I couldn't refuse their offer," Mooney said. "They offered to help with the cost of my pumps if I signed a contract to supply Texaco gasoline for five years. The reason I sell Texaco is because of their fine product reputation, and they supply diesel oil. We installed two fast-pay diesel pumps and we are now averaging more than 200 gallons of diesel (in sales) a day."
Mooney said Texaco is offering a promotion where a customer can use any major oil company credit card to charge their purchases and with brief information, within two weeks the customer will receive a new Texaco credit card.
At present, Mooney's biggest challenge is the State of California's latest pollution law that applies to automobile smog checks.
"I think the intention of the state is good and we have to reduce pollution, however, the state is forcing us through federal funds to change the smog laws and the state is coming down hard on polluters," Mooney said. "The laws were put into effect without lead time and smog stations couldn't prepare for the new laws properly."
Under the new state smog laws, a certificate is no longer issued. Each station has a computer and the information is automatically read in Sacramento.
"Once you fail at one station you can't go to another station for another test like you did in the past. That information will show immediately in Sacramento as fail, and the car will continue as fail until the work is completed and the car can pass the smog test," Mooney said. "Everything will be related to the car registration."
Lee Mellow has been the station manager for more than 30 years. On his off-hours, he is a Country Western VIP who uses the name "Jimmy Skinner." His band is back up for Merle Haggard and George Jones when they come to the area.
Mellow noted the biggest change in service stations over the years is the extra schooling necessary to work around cars. "You have to learn about computers," he said. "The biggest change is the technology we have to learn. A mechanic has to know electronics, and if he doesn't he better find a new job."
Mooney likes the new set up at Rancho with Starbucks and Andronico's Market. "The people come here for a cup of coffee and then fill up their tank before they move on," he said. "They never came in for a tank of gas and then got a cup of coffee before. I wouldn't believe it, but Starbucks helped all of us. After being out of work for 10 weeks because of the renovation, this is a good change and I hope my old customers return."