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Car shops busy as drivers opt to repair instead of replace

Car repair shops are getting swamped with new appointments while not getting swamped with enough parts. Repair shop owners explain the combination of reasons why they are so busy, and how local shops are dealing with the surge.

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A mechanic at Matt's Automotive in Fargo is hard at work on this Thursday morning.
Nick Broadway / WDAY-TV
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FARGO — Mechanics at Matt's Automotive are cranking out more fixes than normal. Instead of buying new cars, people are getting their old ones repaired.

"(The price of) everything is kind of skyrocketing," said Vernon Newman, a general manager at Matt's Automotive. "People are finding it's a lot easier to fix their vehicle than it would be to trade one off, and even if they wanted to trade one off, a lot of times they can't."

Car production fell to the lowest level in 65 years — the semiconductor shortage is still causing a bottleneck, and inflation means what is out there costs more. This combination means people are holding off on replacing their cars, and choosing to maintain the ones they have.

They are seeing it at shops all across town.

"Engines, transmissions, things like that can be longer," said Kurt Jankowski with United Automotive. "We got one sitting out here that's been here for a couple of months. Yep, waiting for an engine."

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In his 30 years of experience, Jankowski dealt with busy spikes like these, but this one is unique.

"Oh yeah, yeah it's happened before, but never to this extent," Jankowski said. "I've never seen it like this where the shortages are more than normal. Then, of course, when's the last time you saw a car lot that didn't have cars to sell?"

Some of his customers are leaving their trucks in the garage in favor of more fuel-efficient cars, later finding out they need a few repairs.

Newman said the parts they have had back ordered for a while are starting to come in again.

"So there is a light starting to shine at the end of the tunnel here," Newman said. "But there are still a lot of struggle areas."

Newman says OEM parts, or parts specific to one vehicle, are taking the most time to arrive.

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