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Turning wrenches 

If you’ve ever taken your car into an auto mechanic, you may know the dreadful feeling of anxiety that comes over you when you’re being told what’s wrong with your four-wheeled companion. With sweaty palms and a blank stare you attempt to decipher the mechanical jargon, all the while clutching your wallet in fear. John Reeves, owner of Reeves Auto Repair in San Luis Obispo, has 17 years of experience working as an auto mechanic and is well aware of the negative feelings people can have.

- WAY OF THE FOUR-WHEEL :  John Reeves hopes to educate as well as provide a positive experience for his customers. -  - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • WAY OF THE FOUR-WHEEL : John Reeves hopes to educate as well as provide a positive experience for his customers.

“I hear all these stories that kind of infuriate me, when people come out of an auto shop and they’re not happy,” he said. “They feel like they got took, and that is the most upsetting thing for me to hear. This industry has a black eye, and we are trying to make that right.”

Reeves, at age 32, has a master technician certification from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. His passion for working on cars started when he was a teenager, working on his 1986 Toyota 4x4 in the driveway of his home in Oakland.

“I was fixing it pretty much every weekend,” Reeves said. “I used to bring it up to this mechanic in Berkeley and he used to say, ‘Hey if you have any questions, call me.’ He’s on the phone talking to me about the repair he is doing and he says, ‘Why don’t you just work here, kid?’ I was like, OK, and that was like my dream come true, to go and be a mechanic. At 17 I was turning wrenches on other people’s vehicles, not just my own.”

The mechanic from Berkeley who gave Reeves his first mechanic job left a lasting impression and provided him with a blueprint of how he would someday run his own shop.

“All the bays were right on the sidewalk, and you could walk right up and look at what they were doing on your car,” Reeves remembered. “It’s not like you walk into some office and your car gets pulled around the building.”

Running his business with a high level of transparency is important to Reeves, and the workspace reflects his mindset. The shop is in a warehouse and has an open floor plan, the only exception being a four-foot wall around the register to contain the three resident dogs: Conner, Jake, and Duncan. The fact that Reeves is the sole mechanic provide customers with the rare opportunity to talk one on one with him.

Reeves is also trying to do something entirely unique within the mechanic industry: educate the public.

“When you show someone something, there is more value,” he explained. “Let them perceive more value by showing them exactly what is happening. If I give somebody a bid for an engine job and they go away for a week and come back and their engine is running, where is the value other than the engine is running?”

To further spread vehicle education, Reeves, with help from his wife Katie, set up a blog at that explains with animation and video how all the systems work in your car. Reeves also wants to put on a women’s car care clinic to empower women to do basic car maintenance.

Reeves Auto Repair is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 235 C Tank Farm Road in San Luis Obispo and specializes in diagnostics and electronics. Call 785-0710 for more information or check out

Fast facts

If you’re into the pirate motif, the Lady Washington tall ship of Washington State will be landing at 699 Embarcadero Road in Morro Bay from Nov. 17-Nov. 20. The Lady Washington crew will be offering walk-on tours, workshops for students, and Adventure Sails at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, an opportunity to hit the open sea. For more information on the event, visit or call 800-200-5239.

Contributor Jack Johnson compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your business news to [email protected].


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