About Utah: Wrench-It DIY garage celebrates anniversary

Published: Saturday, Sept. 4 2010 11:09 p.m. MDT

There was the guy who brought in his $150,000 Mercedes to change the oil himself because the dealer would have charged $150.

There was the trucker from northern California who drove 800 miles along I-80 to install a new transmission in his truck because it was cheaper than finding a garage he could work in back home.

There was the retired couple from Washington who lost a gear on their Dodge Ram while pulling their fifth wheel to Yellowstone. They flew their son-in-law, a mechanic, to Salt Lake City from Seattle, and he replaced the clutch in the Dodge. In one day. He flew home. They continued on to Yellowstone, with $1,500 in their pocket — and a couple of extra days — they wouldn't have had if they'd had the repairs done by a shop.

And then there was the woman who drove her SUV into the service bay, raised it up on the hoist and searched for the tracking device she was sure her ex-boyfriend had stuck under her car because everywhere she went, he was there.

A year into the Salt Lake Valley's most innovative — and hands-on — automotive repair business and they've already got their favorite customer stories.

You get all kinds out there in the bays.

We're talking about the Wrench-It Center in west Salt Lake (www.wrench-it.com), a repair/service shop where you do the repairs and service yourself.

Every other shop in town has signs telling you not to cross the yellow line into the working part of the garage.

This place you HAVE to cross the yellow line.

If you want to get anything done.

The shop is the brainchild of Zak Anderegg, a former Marine who learned how to service his car when he was in the service and thinks — and hopes — a lot of people would like to work on their cars if they just knew somebody who could rent them a bay.

For $12 to $18 an hour, you can rent a bay at Wrench-It, the cost varying depending on what kind of lift you require. A 200-piece toolbox is included for no additional charge. If you want a bay for the whole day, the rate is $119. Additional equipment is available for rent, and you can get a genuine auto mechanic for $25 an hour.

The Wrench-It Center is not for everyone — just for people who enjoy the sound of a power tool, like to get their hands dirty and maybe want to work on their vocabulary.

The idea is that you can save money doing it yourself, although it could take awhile longer.

An oil change might be "about a wash" — unless you're that guy with the Mercedes — but things like brake jobs and tire mounting can cut off half or more from what a mechanic would typically charge.

Plus there's the added bonus that if you're going to scream about the bill or the crummy service, you get to scream at yourself.

Anderegg opened the shop last September, and he's a tad surprised every bay isn't regularly filled. In a down economy, he figured having a warm, dry, clean place to do your own car repairs would be in high demand.

Part of that he ascribes to people not wanting to mess with today's automobile technology.

"People are so intimidated by their cars," says Don Mealing, Zak's business partner. "But they don't need to be. Eighty-five percent of the things you need to do to keep them serviced and repaired, you can do yourself."

Every day, those who believe that's true make their way to the Wrench-It Center garage, rent a bay and drive in their own story.

Which brings up the question:

Did the woman with the ex-boyfriend problem ever find that tracking device?

"I don't know," says Zak. "She didn't say."

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.

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