A small two-bay filling station in the little town of Clyde, NC, was the perfect location for Alan Trantham, and in January 2000 he opened Domestic Auto. A seasoned dealership technician with big plans for his future, “small” would not be part of the equation for long. Rolling up on their 20-year anniversary, Domestic Auto has grown into a seven-bay shop, boasting the talents of Trantham, his son and three technicians, along with a full towing and recovery service.
Servicing all makes and models, Domestic Auto has become known as an expert in electrical diagnostics and diagnostic troubleshooting, putting heavy demand on the abilities of their scan tools. Trantham explained that keeping up with the technology on every vehicle and how every module communicates with the rest of the car is one of the biggest challenges technicians face today, and that your scan tool must be able to handle it, as well as flashing and reprogramming.
“Every time you turn around, you put a module in, and you have to program it,” Trantham said.
Continuously faced with these challenges, Trantham was looking for a solution until local Matco Tools distributor Gene Teague walked into the shop one day and boasted about a new tool the company offered. “He didn’t even have a MaximusFlash+ on the truck yet,” Trantham said, “but when he told me about the features of it, I said, ‘put me down for one.’”
The MaximusFlash+ is a remote diagnostic tool that enables flashing and reprogramming right at the shop. Once the unit is connected to the vehicle and the internet, OE-level flashing and live support is available from Matco factory-certified diagnostic technicians.
When you connect it to a vehicle and send a diagnostic service request, the support line technicians will call the shop back within a few minutes. They’ll already be looking at vehicle data when they call, so there is no time wasted in solving the problem at hand.
This support team has been very helpful looking at the codes and analyzing the data to help Trantham and his technicians make the best repair decisions.
“This could take out misdiagnosing — it’s just been a great thing to belong to,” Trantham said. “I would recommend this to any independent shop.”
Immediately proving its value and allowing Trantham and his technicians to perform programming right in the shop, this technology and the related service has prevented them from having to send cars to the dealer.
“It’s been the greatest thing not to have to go to the dealer,” Trantham said. He explained that even though he didn’t mind paying the dealer for programming, the problem was the turn-around time. Not being a “preferred” customer, he would have to wait for a number of weeks, which would ultimately drive his customers back to the dealer, where they’d get it done in a couple days.
“A lot of times I’ve taken a vehicle to the dealer to get it flashed and got it back and it’s doing the same thing,” Trantham said. “With the support from the factory-certified technicians, if you still have a problem, they try to walk you through it and see what’s wrong. At the dealer, you never talk to anybody but the service advisor, you pay your bill and walk out the door; you don’t know if the car got programmed or not. At least here I know I’m actually getting something for my money.”
Trantham pointed out the additional savings by not having to deliver cars to the dealer. “I have a flatbed that runs cars back and forth being programmed,” he said. “This took that guy completely out of the loop.”
In addition to regular work for their customers, Domestic Auto performs diagnostics and reprogramming for other shops who are not equipped to handle modern vehicle systems.
“In the older days, we had a PCM that pretty much did everything. Now we’ve got transmission control modules, GEM modules, driver door modules, driver seat modules, anti-theft modules and key programming, and the instrument cluster will communicate with so many modules,” Trantham said. “This new tool works on all of these.”
Trantham explained that the initial cost of the equipment was very reasonable and far less than the cost of OE equipment. In addition, after the original purchase, you only pay to use it per vehicle, as opposed to paying a yearly subscription fee, common with a lot of OE equipment.
“Whether I program one vehicle or 100 vehicles, this tool allows you to be able to program every vehicle only when you need it,” Trantham said. “You may have a bad year and only need it 10 times. You may have a good year and need it 100 times; you’re only going to pay for what you use.”
“They hit a home run,” Trantham concluded. “It will do nothing but grow from here.”
Photos by Garrett Photography, Clyde, NC