Family-owned business prides itself in customer care, experience

Published Jul 25, 2018 at 4:00pm

CLINTON — For more than five decades, Clinton Auto Sales & Service at 3723 Route 12B has met all the community’s automobile needs with “caring service,” from body work to changing oil and fixing tires.

Owner Rick Wollins’ father and mother, Fred and Judy, opened the business back in 1965, according to the shop’s website, and Rick took it over some years ago. His 82-year-old dad still works at the shop each day, showing up at around 5 in the morning and not leaving until close at 6 p.m.

“He likes to change tires, which is one of the heaviest and hardest jobs,” Rick said of his dad. “But that’s what he chooses to do, and that’s what he does.”

Mom Judy works at the help desk with Doug and Tony, and wife Rebecca is in charge of maintaining the business website and posting the used cars available for sale at Clinton Auto Service online. When not taking their giant Labrador retrievers for visits to schools, libraries and area nursing homes because she’s a certified therapy dog handler, Rick said his wife also helps out over at the car wash on Dwight Avenue. It’s at the car wash where attendants will wash each vehicle that’s serviced.

Autos that receive body work go to the car wash to be waxed and detailed. And those interested can also make an appointment to have their cars and trucks detailed at the wash.

As customers walk through the door, each is welcomed by Clinton Auto Service’s official “greeters,” Captain and Hammer. The Wollins just got a golden lab puppy as well, and now Wesley is part of the family “working” at the garage.

With temperatures already reaching some record highs this summer throughout the area, Wollins said motorists need to keep in mind to take special care of their vehicles. He said as most people think about winterizing their cars in the late fall in preparation for the cold months ahead, they should also prepare their vehicles for the hotter weather as well, whether they plan on taking a long trip or not.

“You should make sure your air conditioning system is working properly, and that you get all your filters checked and replaced, if needed, that are part of your air conditioning and heating system,” he advised.

“And even though it’s summer, you should still be doing fluid checks and changing your oil,” Wollins continued. “Especially if you’re going on vacation and thinking of taking a long trip, make sure your tires and brakes are in excellent shape. And try to check your lights. No matter what a car comes in to be serviced for, we check a vehicle’s lights no matter what. People usually don’t realize a light is out unless they’re told, and you’d be amazed at how many customers we get who have lights out.”

And while during the colder months wiper blades can crack, in hotter temperatures, the rubber can deteriorate, Wollins said.

“So you want to check and change your wiper blades because in the heat, they can rip just as much as in the winter time,” he said. “You should check your belts too, because they can crack, especially your serpentine belt, which runs everything — it runs every component.”

Besides Rick and his dad Fred, there’s Dave, Patrick and Brendon who serve as technicians at the shop. There’s also Jim who does commercial truck and bus repairs. And for any fender benders or other body work, customers can find Brandon in the collision and body shop.

“We have a flatbed, and we’ll tow our customers who have been in an accident or break down,” Wollins said. “We also have three loaner vehicles available at no charge to the customer.”

To keep up with today’s technology, from hybrid vehicles to ones that run themselves, Wollins said he and his staff are constantly undergoing online training and also go to school to learn how to repair the newer models, including Tesla electric cars.

“There’s a lot of electrical training — from the basics to high-tech adaptive cruise control,” he said.

As for the electric automobiles that run themselves, “A lot of them have side-sensor detectors that can often fail,” Wollins said, adding that he has seen vehicles only 1-2 years old with faulty “detectors.” With salt and corrosion being factors of a harsh central New York winter and how the weather can take a toll on vehicles, Wollins said he doesn’t see electric cars, like Tesla, becoming overly popular in the area, at least anytime soon.

Clinton Auto Service is a complete collision center with a tinted spray booth for paint jobs, using water and solvent based paints that are more friendly to the environment, Wollins said. The owner said they also do aluminum body repairs, which are fairly new to the auto industry.

“A lot of your trucks (frames) are being built with aluminum now, rather than steel, because they’re good for mileage and they don’t rust” like steel frames, Wollins said.

Once a vehicle has been repaired at Clinton Auto Service, it heads over to the car wash for its “spa day,” Wollins laughed. Those that come from the body shop get vacuumed, shampooed and a polished dashboard, along with a waxed exterior. But customers can also stop by if they’re just interested in getting a thorough cleaning.

“We get anywhere between 2-3 appointments a day just for detail work for a vehicle,” Wollins said.

Three attendants can be found working the car wash, where customers have a choice of the soft cloth tunnel, touch free or three self-service stalls.

“We know how important it is to find a car service people can rely on, so our customers’ satisfaction is our top priority each and every day,” Wollins said. “Here at Clinton Auto Service we understand what makes customer service truly outstanding. We know auto repair in Clinton offers you lots of choices, and we aim to provide the kind of caring customer service that will bring you back.”