uncovering a bit of our history

As we peeled away some sixty to seventy years of paint, we started to make out faint outlines of block letters underneath all of those layers.

At first, all we could see was ‘ETE  HOME  F’. Then, below that, we could make out ‘LEXINGTON – DANVILLE’. At the top of the building, we could start to see ‘H & G’.

We were hooked. We wanted to know what was here before.

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We’ve often wondered about the origins of our buildings here on Mechanic Street. We’ve known that our main building was built in 1949, but we didn’t know what kind of building it was.

That changed as we prepared to paint our building this year.

As we scraped away more paint, we could find more clues, but the clues were never very clear. Eventually, it started to look like ‘H & G COMPLETE HOME FURNI’, and we were pretty sure we were dealing with some sort of furniture store. That seemed a little odd, given the structure of our building, but maybe our building was just a warehouse for the store.

Finally, with most of the paint removed, the top line looked a lot less like ‘H & G’ and much more like ‘BAUGH & GARNER’.

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Several internet searches (mainly, the great historical images at the University of Kentucky’s ExploreUK) confirmed that our building was part of Baugh & Garner Incorporated, a furniture store on the corner of North Limestone and Mechanic Streets. The four-story building for the store was built in 1922, and our building at 111 Mechanic Street was built a quarter-century later as a warehouse for the store.

We can’t find any contemporaneous pictures of our building when it was part of the store, but we do have some good pictures of the store itself from 1921, 1932, and 1933.

We’d love to know more about Baugh and Garner – when it started, who ran it, when it went out of business, when the old building was torn down, etc.  If you can share any additional details, please let us know!

 

 

 

Lowell’s wins 2015 Angie’s List Award

We are extremely humbled by the awards that customers have chosen for us over the years.

We have won 8 Readers’ Choice Awards from Herald-Leader readers as Favorite Auto Repair Shop. We’ve also won 9 Ace Magazine Best in Lex Awards as Favorite Mechanic. We are Lexington’s first and only RepairPal Certified mechanic.

And now, for the third year in a row, we’ve also been recognized by Angie’s List.

Lowell’s has earned the Angie’s List 2015 Super Service Award for the outstanding things our customers have said about our service on Angie’s List.

Angie’s List collects reviews from real people on a variety of services, including reviews of auto repair service in Lexington.

According to Angie’s List, “winners of this award have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an ‘A’ rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade; the company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, have a fully complete profile, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.”

We are so honored to serve great customers and to have had those customers make this award happen for us. Thanks for all of the wonderful things you say and do for Lowell’s!

Lowell’s wins 2014 Angie’s List Award

We are extremely humbled by the awards that customers have chosen for us over the years.

We have won 8 Readers’ Choice Awards from Herald-Leader readers as Favorite Auto Repair Shop. We’ve also won 9 Ace Magazine Best in Lex Awards as Favorite Mechanic. We are Lexington’s only RepairPal Certified mechanic.

And now, for the second year in a row, we’ve also been recognized by Angie’s List.AngiesList2013-2014

Lowell’s has earned the Angie’s List 2014 Super Service Award for the outstanding things our customers have said about our service on Angie’s List.

Angie’s List collects reviews from real people on a variety of services, including reviews of auto repair service in Lexington.

According to Angie’s List, “winners of this award have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an ‘A’ rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade; the company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, have a fully complete profile, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.”

We are so honored to serve great customers and to have had those customers make this award happen for us. Thanks for all of the wonderful things you say and do for Lowell’s!

Deflategate and your car

DeflateGate

Whether you are a football fan or not, you’ve probably heard about the accusations that the New England Patriots under-inflated their footballs to gain an advantage in a cold, rainy AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Dubbed ‘DeflateGate’, the controversy swelled in the leadup to the Super Bowl on February 1st (which the Patriots happened to win).

We won’t delve into every detail of that controversy here (for that, we suggest checking out the Deflategate entry on Wikipedia to start).

Instead, we’ll provide a brief overview and then focus on one particular aspect of Deflategate which relates directly to problems we see here at the shop.

In the NFL, each team is allowed to ‘work in’ the footballs they use on the field. Each team provided 12 footballs for the game. Equipment managers are allowed to rub and scuff the surface of each football for their team so that it is easier to grip. (New football surfaces can be too slick.) The equipment managers are also allowed to inflate the footballs to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (PSI – a measure of air pressure). Then, they bring the footballs from the locker room to the field for the game.

During the game, one of the Colts players noticed that one of the Patriots’ footballs seemed underinflated. After league officials measured the pressure in the other Patriots footballs, they noted that most of them were under the 12.5 PSI minimum threshold. The one that the Colts player noticed was underinflated by almost 2 pounds.

Much of the initial media coverage focused on possible wrongdoing by the Patriots.

But here at Lowell’s, we recognized the underinflation as something we see quite often – only with cars.

Whenever the temperature drops, our customers come into the shop because the tire pressure light on their dash came on. They are often worried about leaks.

In most cases, however, they aren’t losing any air. Instead, the air in their tires has cooled, and has lost energy in the process. And with lower energy, the pressure inside the tires drops.

Toyota has a service bulletin (see Figure 1, below) which addresses this very issue. When the temperature in the repair shop is significantly higher than the weather outside, Toyota recommends over-inflating the tires in the shop to get the right tire pressures when you go back outside.

Tire Pressure Chart

On a very cold winter day, for example, we may inflate your tires to 38 PSI inside our warm shop, so that you get the proper 32 PSI when you are driving outside.

If we inflated to the correct pressure while inside the shop, your tire pressure would fall well below specifications when you left.

And here, we see the direct analogy to Deflategate. If the Patriots equipment manager inflated the footballs properly in a relatively warm locker room, and then brought them to a cold, rainy field for a couple of hours, we should expect the pressures to drop substantially.

Did the Patriots try to cheat by underinflating their footballs? We don’t know.

From our experience with tire inflation, however, we aren’t too surprised to see football pressures fall given the drop in temperatures that day.

If your tire pressure light comes on when the temperature drops, bring your vehicle in to Lowell’s. We’ll be happy to top off your tire pressures at no charge.

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Deflategate Analysis from Khan Academy – watch this video from Sal Khan for a much more comprehensive and scientific analysis of how temperature drops may have played a role in the underinflation of the footballs for the AFC Championship.

Extra Table: Recommended tire pressure levels at different outdoor temperatures.

Repair or replace?

“Is it worth it?”

This question comes up pretty frequently in the shop, and we understand why!

Are you saving or losing money keeping your tried and true vehicle as opposed to starting over with a new car? It’s not difficult to decide when you break down exactly what factors are going into your decision.

With a little evaluation of your finances and a little math, you can make a sound decision.

How much are you (really) spending on maintenance?

Initially, you have to figure out  how much you’re spending on repairs from month to month. Even a couple-hundred-dollar repair bill every few months is significantly less than a new monthly car payment. Assuming that your insurance and fuel costs won’t change much, your old car’s maintenance probably costs less than purchasing a new car. 91-Toyota-Camry-DX-1024x517

If you’re still making payments on your current car, you’ll also lose the money you’ve already put into both paying off the car and what you’ve put into any previous repairs. (This can be especially tricky when you purchase a used car, as it may come with some future repairs!)

Unless you feel as though you’re “always bringing it to the shop” and your maintenance costs are exorbitant, you probably won’t save money by trading your old car in for another.

 

How much are you spending on repairs?

Because maintenance is a cost that comes with every vehicle, the real issue is whether or not the repairs are worth it. This all-important decision comes down to a couple questions you should know the answers to before deciding.

Does the repair cost more than half the market worth of the car?

If not, you should go ahead with the repair. Even with a car that is worth $5000, a $1,500 dollar repair would be worth doing in terms of the longevity of your vehicle. (Websites like Edmunds True Market Value Calculator and Kelley Blue Book are useful in this calculation!)

In going ahead with repairs, you can benefit in 2 ways: Not only are you getting your problem fixed, you can also add to the eventual trade-in value of your car.

How much “life” can your car get from going ahead with the repair?

Now imagine your car is worth $2,200, and you’re faced with the same $1,500 repair. Think of the cost in comparison to potential costs from purchasing a new car instead.

If this $1,500 repair would keep your car road-worthy for a few more years, then compare to how much it would cost for a down payment, new insurance, and the equivalent amount of time in monthly payments for a new vehicle.

The repair usually comes out on top, especially when you have an honest and knowledgeable mechanic you can trust to tell you whether or not it’s going to be worth it. (Like the technicians and service staff we have here at Lowell’s!)

Is the repair less than a few months’ car payment on a new vehicle? 

If the repair in question costs less than one month of payments, and your vehicle on the other hand is paid off, your decision is pretty well made.

If the cost is less than a few months of payments, and your car would be able to go for more than a few months without additional repairs or maintenance costs, then it makes sense to go ahead with the repairs, in this case, too.

Is it in your budget?

If it is hard to pay for a costly repair, how hard will it be to fit a car payment into your current monthly expenses?

In this post, we’ve tried to outline some of the key factors to consider when deciding to repair or replace your vehicle.

At Lowell’s, we’re biased – We usually think repairing your vehicle makes more sense than
replacing it.

But your situation is unique, and may include other considerations.

As always, feel free to talk your decision through with Lowell’s. We’ll give you our honest assessment of your vehicle while helping you make your decision.

Join us for Picnic with the Pops!

PWPSunsetFor two nights under the stars each August, Picnic with the Pops features our own Lexington Philharmonic with a special guest artist at Keeneland’s Meadow at Keene Barn.

image from lexpops.comThis year’s guest artist, Michael Cavanaugh, was named Corporate Entertainer of the Year for 2013 by Reuters. For Picnic with the Pops, Cavanaugh will perform The Songs of Elton John and More! 

More from the Picnic website: ‘The dynamic set list for this show will feature creative reinterpretations of classic Elton John hits, interspersed with additional songs by rock & roll legends Wings, Styx, The Eagles and more.”

This year’s Picnic will be held on Friday, August 15th and Saturday, August 16th. Find out all of the details about Picnic with the Pops here. It should be a great show.

Whether homemade or catered, great food has always put the ‘picnic’ in Picnic with the Pops. In 2014 – for the first time – two gourmet food trucks (Fork in the Road and Minton’s at 760) will also serve food available for purchase during the event. Find out more about food options here.

And the best part?

Lowell’s is giving 4 lucky customers reserved seats for the Friday night performance of Lexington’s favorite summer event. Lowell’s will host you and your guest at our catered picnic table. We’ll serve dinner a little after 6:30 pm and the performance should start at sunset (about 8:30 pm).

Here’s how easy it is to enter: Just send an email to (pwp {at} lowells {dot} us) telling us you’d like join us. That’s it! We’ll draw for winners and contact all entrants by August 11th.

(Full disclosure: I serve on the Picnic with the Pops Commission. I am very biased. And it will be a blast.)

Lowell’s named Lexington’s first RepairPal Certified shop

Only one day after winning a Readers’ Choice Award as Lexington’s Favorite Auto Repair Service, Lowell’s has also been named Lexington’s first and only RepairPal Certified repair shop.

RepairPal is an online service designed “to provide drivers with the most accurate, unbiased, and useful car ownership information available”. In other words, RepairPal helps consumers find the very best automotive service.

The RepairPal Certified designation means that we meet or exceed RepairPal’s rigorous standards for customer satisfaction, employee training, fair prices, and quality work.

As is the case with all of our awards over the years, this designation also belongs to our incredible customers. Over 30 recent customers were kind enough to give us very positive reviews. (Thank you so much!)

You can read RepairPal’s profile of Lowell’s to learn more.  Lowell’s received a 95.8% overall rating on the RepairPal Quality Index.

We’re honored and humbled by this recognition, and we’ll work diligently to earn your continued trust and respect.

Lowell’s wins 2014 Readers’ Choice Award

For the eighth time – including each of the past six years – Lexington Herald-Leader readers have voted Lowell’s their “Favorite Auto Repair Service” in the 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards.

Readers' Choice - 6 in a row!

We also came in second place in the new “Favorite Oil Change” category.

We are humbled and honored to have the support of our wonderful, wonderful customers. We are also very grateful to have such thoughtful and skilled employees. We promise to keep improving our service to keep deserving your appreciation.

Lowell’s won the Repair Service category even when matched up against other great finalists who have national backing, multiple locations, and who service multiple vehicle brands (Tire Discounters and S&S Tire).

In addition to the past six years, Lowell’s was also the top pick for Herald-Leader readers in 2007 and 1994 – to our knowledge, that’s every time the auto repair category has been up for voting.

Thank you so much,
Rob, Suzanne, and your Friends at Lowell’s

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Service Schedule Cheat Sheet

With so many things to keep up with on your vehicle, we know it can be hard to stay current on the maintenance for your vehicle.

To help you plan regular service items, here’s the Lowell’s guide to Toyota maintenance:

Oil Change
Oil changes are the single most important service to extend the life of your car. Lowell’s recommends oil changes every 3,500 miles* or every 6 months, whichever comes first.

Cabin and Engine Air Filters
We recommend replacing cabin and engine air filters every 15,000 miles. (If you’re driving in especially dirty or dusty environments, you might consider more frequent replacements.) Check out our guide to cabin air filters here.

Brake Inspections
We recommend brake inspections every 15,000 miles. If your vehicle is equipped with drum brakes, we’ll also clean and adjust your brakes.

Flushes (Brake System, Transmission, Coolant, Power Steering)
Fluid maintenance is another important way to extend the life of your vehicle. We recommend fluid flushes every 30,000 miles. What’s a flush? Great question, and we have your answers here.

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Valve Clearance Inspection and Adjustment
We recommend valve clearance inspections every 60,000 miles. Learn more here.

Timing Belt
We recommend timing belt changes every 90,000 miles. (If your vehicle is equipped with a timing chain, it should not normally need replacement.)

Tune-Up
We recommend getting a tune-up for your vehicle every 30,000, 60,000, or 120,000 miles, depending on the kind of spark plugs your vehicle left the factory with. Check out our guide to tune-ups here.

Call the shop if you ever have any questions about your vehicle or recommended service. We’re always happy to help you prioritize the services your vehicle needs.

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*Note: We know that many Toyota owner’s manuals now recommend an oil change interval up to 5,000 miles. We still recommend oil changes every 3,500 miles.

The 5,000 mile interval may be safe for very new vehicles, but we don’t recommend it for vehicles that are more than a few years old.

If your engine has been leaking or burning oil, the extra 1,500 miles can result in permanent engine damage because your engine lacks enough oil to lubricate properly. Plus, your oil can still get dirty and contaminated, and can start to break down before the 5,000 mile point (which again could result in engine damage). 

That’s why our recommendation is different from Toyota’s. 

Aaron Evans Joins Lowell’s

Photo 3We’re very pleased to announce that Aaron Evans has joined the Lowell’s team!

Aaron joins Lowell’s after retail assignments with J.C. Penney and Macy’s in Lexington, California, and Seattle, and we think he’ll be a big help in delivering an even better Lowell’s experience for you.

To start, you’ll see Aaron driving our shuttle and helping out around the shop. He’ll also be helping with a lot of behind-the-scenes efforts to improve the shop.

As he learns more about our business, he’ll also help out on the phone and at the front counter.

We have a reputation for delivering the very best automotive service in Lexington. We’ve made a lot of changes recently to ensure that we stay the best. Aaron will be a key part of these ongoing efforts.

If you run into Aaron, be sure to welcome him to the Lowell’s family!