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Store shifts to do-it-yourself repair

Bouquet Auto Parts in Saugus has seen an increase in customers looking to make the fixes themselves

Posted: June 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
From left, Bouquet Auto Parts owner Owen Powell and salesmen Brett D’Elia and Dustin Miller pose in the Saugus store. From left, Bouquet Auto Parts owner Owen Powell and salesmen Brett D’Elia and Dustin Miller pose in the Saugus store.
From left, Bouquet Auto Parts owner Owen Powell and salesmen Brett D’Elia and Dustin Miller pose in the Saugus store.

Many consumer habits changed during the past several years, and one of them is more people are making their own car repairs, reports a local auto parts retailer.

“Our business has grown 25 percent in the last three years,” said Owen Powell, manager and co-owner of Bouquet Auto Parts. “And 50 percent of that growth has come from new customers. In fact, the number of new customers doubled last year.”

People don’t own as many vehicles as they once did, they’re pressing older cars into service, and the age of an owner’s car is the highest it’s been in decades, Powell said. They’re also buying more used cars, rather than new vehicles, for their kids, he said.

Before, people tended to drop their cars off with the local mechanic and not care how much it would cost, but rather, how quickly the repair could be made, Powell said. Now, they’re coming into the store for parts, tools and advice to make the repairs themselves.

Most auto stores seem to require customers to have the repair knowledge, said customer Jim Mahboubian, of Valencia,  but Bouquet Auto Parts doesn’t make him feel dumb for not knowing how to repair his car.

“That’s the first time I’ve experienced that at an auto parts store,” he said. “They’ve got my loyalty.”

While the auto parts retailer has always sold parts to the average car consumer, a big part of its business used to be in catering to the hobbyists — owners of race, street and muscle cars, Powell said.

As the hobby business slowed down, however, the number of do-it-yourself customers picked up, and the locally owned, 23-year old retailer added services to help them.


To help the uninitiated home mechanic make repairs, Bouquet Auto Parts now scans the bar-coded VIN sticker on cars to ensure people get the right part for their make, model and year of car, Powell said. The vehicle identification number also tells the retailer when the car was built, the date it was put into production and whether it’s a late or early model-year car.

“People who never worked on their cars before just don’t always know this information,” Powell said. “People are afraid of getting the wrong part or looking dumb.”

Unlike the chain stores which tend to hire retail clerks, he said, Bouquet Auto Parts hires people with a mechanic background, guys who have worked on cars, he said.

Customer Mike O’Brien, owner of Data Connection Solutions in Valencia, said he has had two vehicles with alternator problems. He drove them both down to Bouquet Auto Parts for help diagnosing the problem. The staff has always been knowledgeable and helpful with consultations, he said.

“I wouldn’t pull the transmission out myself, but we don’t need another auto payment,” O’Brien said.

The retailer also provides customers with step-by-step written instructions on how to make a repair, Powell said. It subscribes to a service that allows them to download the repair steps and print them out for customers.

When Mahboubian was having car trouble, he drove down to the store for help and described the problem with his car.

“The guys are really cool. They came out, popped the hood on my car to take a look and found I needed a cam sensor,” he said. “They said it was only about a 10 minute job and explained what parts and tools I needed and how to fix it.”

And, Powell said, it’s not uncommon for him to jump in his own car and drive over to someone’s home to help with a problem.

“A lot of times, it’s their only car, and they’re stuck at home trying to solve the problem,” he said.

The store gets a lot of requests for help repairing brakes, Powell said.

“Most anyone can do it with a little coaching,” he said. “Brakes can be done for $30 or $40.”

Another frequent appeal is people asking why their “check engine” light is on. Buying a scanner for $40 will tell the customer what is wrong with his car.

“People are even tackling “check engine” light issues now,” Powell said. “Sometimes the car only needs a new sensor which they can buy for $50 to $70. Often it’s an issue that can be repaired by the customer who might end up saving $1,000.”

Once customers make repairs themselves and find them to be easier than they had thought, they gain more confidence, Powell said. Working on a car is no longer as intimidating as it once was. And as they acquire knowledge and tools along the way, they keep working on their cars.

Bouquet Auto Parts is located at 26769 Bouquet Canyon Road in Santa Clarita and can be reached at 661-296-8900.


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