In the middle of the United States is an auto repair shop built on pride, quality, and honesty.
Almost 14 years in the making, Dan Harrington, the Cottman Man of Des Moines and his crew at Cottman Transmissions and Total Auto Care, have worked hard to build a reputation to be proud of. But good reviews on Google and the Better Business Bureau’s A+ rating doesn’t come close to how it was done.
After assembling a professional crew and buying the best equipment, tools, and computers to perform the work on all domestic and foreign cars and light trucks, Harrington has built his business one car at a time — done right, with consideration and courtesy from those who really care.
Today he wants to prove it. One of his more demanding customers, Katie Becker, came to Cottman over two years ago, driving a 2001 Suburban that had a lot of miles on it. Katie owns a company called “Move the Dog,” for which she drives across the country over and over again, moving rare dogs to breeders, trainers, and their owners on time and safely, and then heads back home.
Half Million Mile Car
Katie was very familiar with tow companies. She had towing insurance for a long time and she used it. She had so many tow bills, her tow insurance companies always dropped her at renewal. Of course, if you travel 10,000 miles a month in a 14-year-old Suburban with over 400,000 miles on it, you expect to have the occasional problem. Or so she thought.
Enter Cottman of Des Moines. Dan and the crew are used to working on demanding customer’s cars; even the owner’s race cars get repaired by his crew. After over 78 races lasting over 35 minutes each on road courses, they proved that they know how to keep a car running when it’s pushed to its limits.
“My crew told me that she should go buy a new truck,” said Dan Harrington. “After all, we rarely see a Suburban with over 300,000 miles on it, and never one with over 400,000 and still running strong. But driving this cross country? OK, I admit it: I love a challenge, and gladly took this one.”
“I sat down with Katie and explained what we could do to reduce her breakdowns by doing preventive maintenance, but it would also involve her giving us feedback. This would lead to phone calls day and night for everything from a newly discovered leak to a vibration or check engine light that was flashing or staying on.”
“I still remember that phone call: She was about as far east as you can go in the U.S. — in Delaware. She said she was at a Firestone shop and they were recommending a repair. I was concerned; she’d just left our shop on Sunday… only 6 days ago. We discussed the repair and decided it could wait until she came back home, since it wasn’t a critical problem.”
“Then I asked her, ‘Why did you have to stop at Firestone? You just left my shop 6 days ago.’ She told me she had to change her oil. ‘But we did that on Saturday, remember?’ I responded. Then she shocked me: She told me she had over 5,300 miles on her Suburban since then. “She’d been down to Texas, then over to Ohio, then South Carolina, then Delaware. Amazing!”
Katie’s become quite the expert driver, now that she knows how to help Cottman keep her going. In return, the tow company didn’t cancel her on renewal, because she hasn’t had any tow bills in the last year! “We still get calls for advice or opinions at all hours. Katie now has her own code reader to help us diagnose trouble codes while she’s on the road,” said Dan.
Which led to a trip to Fastsigns, to get a bumper sticker made when her truck reached 400,000 miles, then 500,000, and last week, 600,000 miles. Katie’s been booking more miles because she feels her truck is doing great, especially on long trips where she averages over 800 miles a day for 14 days in a row, like she did two weeks ago.
For those asking why she doesn’t buy a new truck, think of it this way: She’d have to spend between $50,000 and $60,000 for a new 4×4 Suburban. Yes, she’d have a factory warranty, which would run out after only 10 months of driving. And all the parts on the new, out-of-warranty truck would cost a fortune to replace when they break or wear out.
Transmission Services, Des Moines, IA
She’d lose tens of thousands on depreciation, due to the miles she drives. And we already know that she’d wear out driveshafts, transfer cases, rear end bearings, driver’s seats, and many other weird parts that most of us would never have to replace. But it’s also about reliability… getting those rare dogs to their homes, and then heading off to another part of the USA.
“OK, so it isn’t all gravy for Cottman because we have to predict the future, but so far our crew has done a job that NASCAR teams could appreciate. No matter what, that truck has to take the checkered flag!” says Dan.
Her truck, named “Dimples,” left the Cottman center with 604,000 miles on the odometer. What makes Katie smile? Falling in love with each of the dogs she delivers, and racking up miles on her truck faster than the USA government’s national debt clock.
To learn more about Cottman of Des Moines, IA visit www.cottman.com/location/des-moines-ia/ .