Auto repair business opens 10th location at 12922 Pearl Road in Strongsville
By TERRY BRLAS
Strongsville Post editor
Rad Air began in 1975 with a philosophy of doing the best possible job of servicing vehicle radiators and air conditioning systems. While the business has grown to include any possible repair and maintenance of cars and trucks, the philosophy has not changed.
There are three golden rules, according to Rad Air CEO and President Andy Fiffick. They are:
1. Fix the car right the first time.
2. Charge a fair price.
3. Make sure the client is happy.
“Fixing a car right to us is a matter of pride. I don’t care if it takes my guy an hour, three hours or three days. That car better be done right,” Fiffick said. “Making a client happy sounds simple on the surface, but is probably the most involved, inclusive and hardest thing to do.”
Making a client happy starts with the initial phone call. Advising the client is an important aspect of client satisfaction.
“When you meet them at the counter, discuss the needs of the vehicle,” Fiffick said. “We need to check and price the vehicle properly. We advise the client on what they need or don’t need. We finish the vehicle on time and deliver it clean. Writing the thank you notes goes along with all of this. If you make a client happy, he or she keeps coming back.”
Rad Air opened its 10th location in the area at 12922 Pearl Road in Strongsville on July 11. The new facility has been very successful during the first two months. The reasons are demographics of the city of Strongsville, great location and constant flow of long time clients.
“We have clients who came from Strongsville to Parma Heights, but now they’re happy they don’t have to drive so far,” Fiffick said.
In 1986 the company expanded into other high-tech areas of service and proceeded to become specialists in other aspects of vehicle services when radiators started switching from brass and copper, that would rot every two to three years, to plastic and aluminum.
RadAir’s reputation is now that of the go-to shop for repairs that nobody else could fix. The company performs work for dealerships and other repair facilities when they get stumped.
“They may not invest in the equipment or the time and training in their people,” Fiffick said. “There are a lot of vehicles that have been to four or five repair shops and never fixed properly and they land on our doorstep. Whatever it takes, we will fix that car.”
A free loaner car is another added plus for the client. All loaners are mechanically sound. There are approximately 100 loaner cars among the 10 stores. All the client needs to do is gas up the vehicle.
All of the Rad Air technicians are paid by the hour, unlike many other facilities where there is a commission structure or quotas in place dependent upon the number and types of repairs performed.
“We look at a client as being a member of our family,” Fiffick said. “I believe we should have a relationship with our clients just like they do with their butcher, hairdresser, tax accountant, attorney, priest or any other profession in their lives. It’s one of mutual respect. I respect what your vehicle needs and you respect what I need to do to perform that job. We know how to take care of you and you trust us. That’s why we have second or third generation families as clients. There’s no pressure. If you come in for an oil change and I notice you’re going to need a transmission service in another 30,000 miles, I’m going to tell you. If you need it today I’m going to tell you. But I’m not going to make things up just to hit numbers or quotas.”
Rad Air has been growing under this philosophy for 36 years. Fiffick admits that the company will never be the least expensive when it comes to service because only brand name, OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) specific parts are used.
Computers are so sensitive in today’s vehicles that if a non-OEM specific part is used, problems can arise.
“In the industry we call them white box parts. They are knockoff parts manufactured off shore and do not meet OEM specifications,” Fiffick said. “Some of the boxes look almost identical to name brand/OEM parts. If you put non-OEM specific parts on some brake systems, they’ll squeal all the time.”
Rad Air is an AC-Delco TSS shop. The technicians attend the same OEM courses that dealership employees attend and sit side by side with them.
“Clients that are looking strictly for price are not getting everything they are paying for,” Fiffick said. “The real difference between the highest and lowest auto repair for the same service is probably no more than 10 percent. It’s not as much as people think. On a $300 bill, isn’t $30 worth some piece of mind, a lasting repair and getting brand name parts? We will never be the cheapest guy in town, but we strive to be the best.”
Fiffick has individuals who come in asking for the least expensive tire that will fit their particular car. This too is a mistake that should be avoided.
“There might be as much as 50 to 75 feet in stopping distance between a good tire and a cheap tire,” he said. “It may not corner as well or have the traction it’s supposed to for your specific vehicle. Price has been so driven into our industry that if you look at the advertising out there it’s all about price.”
Fiffick states that Rad Air refuses to sell loss leaders, those types of services that are inexpensive to get customers through the door in order to sell products or services that are more expensive. He believes that this practice only degrades the image of the repair industry and is unethical.
Fiffick also believes that having an untrained professional changing the oil on your vehicle is a huge injustice to the vehicle owner because the guy changing your oil should be the highest qualified guy in the shop.
“A trained professional will notice a brake line that’s starting to split, a shock or strut that is leaking, a broken spring, or other potential problem that, if repaired now, could save the client money down the road or prevent an accident,” he said. “Going to an untrained and inexperienced professional is an injustice to your car, your safety and your investment.”
Fiffick is well connected through his association with the 4,330 member Mobile Air Conditioning Society. He has served as chairman for the past five years and has served on the board for the past 12 years. The connections, information and training Rad Air has through the organization allow them to receive factory repair information on any vehicle.
“In one instance, a dealership sent us an import vehicle for an emissions repair because it continued to fail the E-check,” Fiffick said. “With a little diagnostic time (and some factory information), we found that the vehicle was originally built for Europe and did not have the proper emission equipment from the factory. Once we determined the cause of the problem, we ordered the correct parts and had the car fixed in short order. Who else in the industry could pull that off?”
All Rad Air shops are AAA approved auto repair facilities and BBB accredited with “A” ratings. Rad Air is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The business is closed on Sunday. For more information, call 440-238-8302 or check them out online at www.RadAir.com