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Car Repair Reviews

Author: Tim Boyle, Issue: October 2006, Topic: Cars

The Alien Times has printed numerous restaurant reviews in past issues, and so we thought the many readers who have cars would appreciate hearing some reviews about car repair garages. Having lived in Tsukuba for over 20 years, I've dealt with several garages in the past. This includes both garages associated with dealerships as well as independent places. I've had few experiences that I was really dissatisfied with and only one in recent years (the Mitsubishi place on Higashi Odori). From my experience and what I've heard from others, it's not that common for Japanese mechanics to cheat their customers — at least when compared to many other countries, including my own (US). I would like to recommend a garage that I've used for the last few months.

Ken's Garage, which is part of the large "Gran Stage" complex that opened last May near Tokodai, west of downtown Tsukuba, not only has quite a large selection of auto accessories, it also has a nice repair section that has given me good service. One recent experience won my respect and makes me want to become a loyal customer. I recently bought a used Honda Odyssey that needed to have the transmission fluid changed, as it was over 80,000 km. That's quite a bit more involved than a regular oil change, and I was told it would be close to 10,000 yen. I decided to check around first, and found that other shops charged even a bit more, and so I made an appointment to have it done.

When I got there, the mechanic told me that while they could do the work, the equipment they had available was inferior to what the Honda dealer would have and that they would not be able to thoroughly clean any gunk that might be at the bottom of the pan. And so it would be safer to have the dealer do that as there would be the potential that transmission trouble could later develop if it wasn't thoroughly cleaned.

Now, I probably would have never known the connection if that were to happen at some point in the future (unless it was very soon after), and so I thanked him for the info and decided to pay a bit more to have the Honda place in Hanamuro do it. (They seemed quite nice, by the way, and did a good job.) But the fact that Ken's Garage was that honest, even to the point of losing that one particular job, will in the end be a good business decision for them. Not only have they won my loyalty, but also the fact that I'm publicizing this will potentially bring them other customers.

They do have a good deal for regular maintenance, such as oil and filter changes. You can take out a "Ken's Oil Members Card" for 1000 yen that's good for a year, and that will cover all labor charges for any oil and filter changes, wiper blade changes, air filter changes, etc. You only pay for the oil, filter, etc. that they put in — and the prices for those are cheaper than most. They also lend you a cell phone while you car is being worked on, and then call you when it's ready. In the meantime, you can shop in any of the other stores.

Whether you'll find somebody there that speaks English, I can't say. But "oiru cheinji" is how it's said in Japanese anyway. They are open from 10 to 6, and closed on Tuesdays. (I need to confirm this, as that's by memory).

One other place I'd like to give a plug for is the Bridgestone Tire dealer on Tsuchiura-Gakuen Sen just west of Nishi Odori (next to Shinanome Hotel). They only deal with tires, of course, and I would imagine that Ken's Garages deals are just as good. But I've gotten really good service through the years there. They always go out of their way to give good service.

Car Dock Ono is a bit tricky to find, but I have always received excellent service from them. Because I don't know anything about cars, I bring my car in for a tune-up every six months. They have a look at my car and then talk me through any potential problems. They know that I will show up every six months, so if there is a problem with some part of the car, they will tell me whether I should get it fixed immediately or if it looks like I can wait for another 6 months. If the part can last another six months, they will postpone the work.

I think it is a good idea to find a reputable repair shop and stick with it. One of the dealers that I used to use when I lived in Fukushima had a system of 6-month checkups. I got a postcard every six months reminding me to come in. It is quite an obvious marketing ploy, but I found that it was very beneficial for me -- a car dummy -- to take advantage of these checkups. The fee is only around 2500 yen for the checkup (obviously parts and labour are extra if any repairs need to be made), so it is not outrageous, and it can really help you stay on top of potential problems that could end up costing more to fix at a later date. The biggest advantage of the six-month checkup is that when it comes time for your biannual inspection (shaken), the dealer can't all of a sudden claim that you need to do a million repairs.

Car Dock Ono (Tel: 029-856-2464) is located near Kenkyuu Gakuen Station. The address is Shimo Hiratsuka 466. From Tsukuba Center, take Nishi Odori to Kita Odori. Turn left onto Kita Odori. Drive past the 7-11. At the next set of lights (Big Boy is on your left), turn right. Follow the road behind the Wonder Goo until you get to a T-junction. Turn right at the T-junction. Follow the road until you get to another T-junction and then turn left. Follow that road until you come to a wide right bend. Turn left onto the small road off the bend. You should see the sign for Car Dock Ono on the left before you enter the bend. Here is a map.

-- Shaney Crawford

Do you have any recommendations of car repair shops for the AT community? If so, please contact us.

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