‘Open late’ takes on a new meaning

The sign on the door of the All Night Auto repair shop says “Open” when other repair shops have turned off the lights and gone home for the night.

For owner Walt Douglas, that makes his new business in the Pueblo Anozira center at McClintock and Guadalupe roads as different from other garages and auto dealerships as, well, as different as night and day.

Douglas’ new garage repairs cars on the customers’ time.

All Night Auto is open from 7 a.m. until midnight Mondays through Thursdays, from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Fridays and from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturdays. The shop even is open Sundays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Instead of taking a day off from work to get their oil changed, wheels aligned or a fan belt replaced, customers can drop off or pick up their cars on their own time, at their own convenience.

It was a pet peeve of his when Douglas lived in Tucson and worked as a mine maintenance manager for Magma Copper, he said. He lost time—and salary—getting even the simplest repairs performed because auto shops weren’t open when he left for work mornings and had closed by the time he got home evenings.

“I couldn’t get my car worked on. I didn’t have the time to work on it myself. I had to get it done. But they just didn’t have the hours,” he said. At times, his wife was forced to take their cars in for repairs, which didn’t sit well with her or him.

“Everybody I worked with had the same problem,” said Douglas.

Ironically, Douglas supervised a massive vehicle repair shop at Magma Copper that fixed huge trucks and earthmovers around the clock.

When the copper industry fizzled, Douglas’ idea for a late-night auto repair business sizzled. He went on the Internet and found All Night Auto, a franchise started in Michigan in 1994. Douglas liked what he saw.

“I liked the business plan, the shop computer software, and the way they partner with parts houses,” he said. All Night Auto has an agreement with Parts Plus to supply most of its parts.

So he bought a franchise and opened Arizona’s first All Night Auto in Tucson in 2001. He relocated the business to Tempe earlier this year.

Looking around the shop, All Night Auto looks like most other repair shops. The same lifts. The same tools. The same sort of common repair work—water pumps, timing belts, spark plug changes.

Douglas is especially proud of the computers that allow his mechanics to perform a complete diagnostic check on most cars with every repair job. The computer discovered a bad spark plug for a customer who came in for an oil change late at night before embarking on a cross-country trip, he noted.

After the computer diagnoses a car’s problem, it links to the Parts Plus store’s computer to determine what parts are needed for the repair and if they are in stock.

All Night Auto tries to schedule repair jobs in advance so parts can be ordered before the sick car rolls into the shop, he said. If a customer complains of squeaky brakes, for example, All Night Auto will order all the parts needed for a complete brake job. The mechanic then uses the parts that are necessary for the repair, and sends the unused parts back to Parts Plus the following day, he said.

Noise is an obvious issue with any late-night business. Douglas said Tempe officials measured the level of noise before approving the business, and All Night Auto has agreed to shut off its air compressor and close its garage bay doors at 10 p.m.

Quieter jobs such as oil changes and computer diagnostic checks are done at night. Jobs that Douglas knows will be noisy are restricted to more “normal” working hours, he said.

“If it requires bending the noise ordinance, we won’t do it at night,” he said.

“We have an apartment complex and townhouses right outside this wall and they all have our telephone number. We haven’t had any noise complaints,” he noted.