A man born in Titusville who has spent the last 20 years in garages doing vehicle maintenance has gotten out of the shop and on to the internet, launching a unique international initiative as an online vehicle repair consultant.
According to Sam Dillinger, a Titusville native who has since moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, many people are capable of saving significant amounts of money on car repairs by doing it themselves, if they only had experienced counsel to talk them through simpler fixes. With this in mind, Dillinger began mycheckenginelight.com, a fully online international business.
The business, which was launched in 2014 as a question-and-answer forum, has grown to encompass blog posts, repair estimate analysis and Skype consultations.
“You can go on, send me pictures, ask me whatever you want,” Dillinger said. “I built it that way, so that it isn’t just, ‘You send me a question, I send you an answer, and we’re done.’ Sometimes people ask me a question and they don’t even know the right question to ask. I don’t want that.”
These additional features were all launched in February of this year, making the website unique.
Dillinger works alone and currently services 50 to 100 customers a month, and he anticipates expansion.
“I am doing this by myself currently, but I have a bunch of people, so when it ramps up, I can scale,” Dillinger said. “I intend for this to be a large international corporation.”
He is already on the right track in looking for an international clientele, as he has helped individuals repair their cars in Kyrgyzstan, Libya and Kenya.
“I had a guy in Kenya who had problems with his alternator,” Dillinger said. “This was money he just didn’t have but he had to fix his car. I sent him wiring diagrams and he found the wiring issue with his alternator. I helped someone a half a world away and fixed a major problem for him.”
For Dillinger, this is what the initiative is all about.
“Over 20 years I have seen people take out loans, cancel vacations, max out credit cards and things that just don’t need to happen,” he said. “Sometimes shops will give an estimate and give maybe $1,000 dollars of work that doesn’t need to be done.”
Often, individuals with a lack of expert experience go to a shop with a problem and have to simply take the mechanic’s word for how much repair is absolutely necessary and how much things should cost. To help with this, Dillinger offers estimate consultations.
“I actually started this for single moms and college students who just moved away and don’t have a mechanic they can trust,” Dillinger said. “You can actually get three different estimates and tell me what is going on with your car. I will actually understand the estimates and can give [people] peace of mind to know they aren’t being cheated.”
According to Dillinger, he saves people an average of 25 percent off of their total bill. Additionally, he has helped uncover insurance fraud and other dubious business dealings.
“[A] guy was traveling out of town and [a mechanic shop] had him over a barrel,” he said. “They said, ‘You need to have all these repairs,’ and they were charging him for a tool and they kept the tool. That was $250 on his estimate that had nothing to do with it.”
Dillinger lived in Titusville as a child. He first started his career as a paperboy for the Herald when he was around 10 and lived in Titusville until he was about 13. He said that his services can be helpful to individuals from in the town where he is from and a lot of his family still lives.
“Everyone I know up [in Titusville] has a toolbox in their garage and they tinker,” Dillinger said. “They would be more willing to do this kind of work instead of giving away their hard earned money if they just had a mechanic looking over their shoulder.”
This over-the-shoulder help comes from the Skype portion of his services, where clients can actually bring Dillinger into their garage so he can see what they are doing in real time.
Clients can pay for services individually or subscribe to the website for a month at a time. Any services that are purchased and are not needed can be passed along to someone else.
“I made it a one month membership because you aren’t going to need it every month,” Dillinger said. “If you do, you need a different vehicle.”
Dillinger’s hopes his services will keep shops honest, but he isn’t trying to work against them. In fact he offers consultations to shops, too.
“I specialized in transmission repair, and I actually offer this to shops as well, because there are a lot of good shops that don’t have a transmission specialist,” he said.
Dillinger started the work at his wife’s encouragement and continues because of the positive encouragement he gets.
“I get people who say, ‘I really thought this was a scam. I tried it and it worked, you helped me fix my car,’” Dillinger said. “That is the coolest thing for me.”
Brown can be reached, by email, at email@example.com