Bringing sense of community to the business of auto repair

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By M.V. Moorhead

A couple of weeks ago the engine light in my car came on. For those of us with minimal automotive knowledge, this can be an alarming development. That’s why it’s nice to have a presence in our community like Frank Leutz, owner of Desert Car Care of Chandler and host of The Wrench Nation Radio Show.

According to Leutz, his mission on the airwaves is “to talk mind-care, spirit-care, car-care.”

Leutz came relatively late to his current vocation. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, he moved with his family to New York as a child in the early ‘70s, growing up in Harlem and Washington Heights. As a student at Hebrew School of the Arts, the first aptitude he displayed was for music—specifically, the trombone.

“As the typically tall, lanky boy in the class, I got the brass instrument,” Leutz recalls. “The good- looking kids get the oboe and the violin.”

Nonetheless, he took to the instrument, and the experience gave him a lifelong respect for education and educators. “I do the free oil changes for teachers [selected dates each summer], and that’s near-and-dear to my heart because I had teachers who took me seriously.

“I didn’t take myself seriously, but they did.”

His experiences in the All-City and the Tri-State jazz bands led Leutz to performances around New York, including on stage at Carnegie Hall and backing greats like Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente.

But Leutz, whose high school grades were a little shy of the requirements for a prestigious music school, didn’t make the trombone his career.

“I took a hard left and joined the military,” says Leutz. “I became a signalman in the Navy.” Serving aboard the U.S.S. Peoria, “I dealt with semaphore, Morse Code and, at the time, Allied signal flags. Very World War II-style.”

After he left the Navy, his career took another sharp, unexpected swerve.

As Leutz observes, he found that skill in semaphore came with few opportunities. So he turned, for the first time, to automotive work.

“It was in 1990 when I got started wrenching with my father-in-law,” he says. After stints as a mechanic at Lou Grubb Chevrolet and Auto Nation, “I started my first garage in ’95, and it was hell—fishing tackle box for a tool box.”

That initial business, at 19th Avenue and Mountain View in Phoenix gradually shifted eastward and became Desert Car Care. It also became more sophisticated and more civic-minded.

While Leutz proudly notes that his many awards include 2016’s Small Business of the Year from Chandler Chamber of Commerce and two years in Ranking Arizona’s Top Ten for Auto Service, he also insists that “my garage is sort of a community center.”

Examples of this are the classes and clinics he holds for people to educate them on car care. “Tonight I’ve got a Girl Scout automotive-maintenance-badge class,” he says. He also sits on the Mechanic Ops Committee of the Automotive Service Association.

“I’m out there,” says Leutz, “As best as I can—I hate to use the expression—to clean up the industry. But consumers deserve it.”

This impulse to educate and enlighten extends to his radio show, Wrench Nation, heard at 4 p.m. Wednesdays on 88.7 The Pulse. Leutz hopes eventually to syndicate the show.

“We’re working on that,” he says. “Right now I’m focused on content, booking quality guests.”

Leutz boils Desert Car Care, the radio show and his community work down to a simple essential mission: “We try to keep folks moving forward.”

Desert Car Care of Chandler is located at 95 N. Dobson Road in west Chandler. For details go to desertcarcare.com or call 480-420-3555.

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