For Charlie Cunningham automotive repairs are in his genes. After school as a teenager, he assisted his father who was an A grade mechanic. This kick-started his mechanical career with experience now spanning over decades. I visited his workshop to pick his brains about his top car tips and learnt more about his experience.
Charlie understands cars. He estimates that over 50,000 vehicles have been through his workshop so he’s no stranger to the many different makes and models of cars, their maintenance routines and repair needs.
Charlie moved his mechanics business from Hamilton over 21 years ago and set up Charlies Workshop. Over the years this family business has had the involvement of wife Trish, son Shaun and a team of skilled mechanics.
My years of mechanical experience have equipped me with the skills to quickly diagnose vehicles coming through my workshop, whether it’s for a scheduled service or for more immediate mechanical repair work. When a car goes out of Charlies we know that it has been thoroughly serviced and checked. It’s important to me that each of our customers can have confidence in the performance and safety of their vehicle. I also make sure that customers are informed of any potential trouble shooting issues for their individual vehicle.
Charlie Cunningham, Owner Charlies Workshop
Charlies Workshop – standard 30-point maintenance and WOF safety checks
Charlie and his lead mechanic Rob focus on warrants, regular servicing of vehicles and car exhaust systems for clients:
- Warrant of fitness – and follow up maintenance if required (with regular warrant reminders sent out to clients)
- Car service – standard 30-point check for each vehicle
- Custom made exhaust systems –specialist service available.
A loan car is available to book for duration of any car WOF or servicing.
Charlies’ top car tips before going on holiday
Three top tips from Charlie to keep your car running safely and efficiently during your next journey:
- Tyre pressure – make sure you have the correct pressure in your tyres. Your car will handle a lot better and its better for the fuel efficiency of your car
- Radiator – check your radiator to check there is water in it and there is no corrosion
- Oil – check your oil levels regularly and make sure you change your oil as part of a service. If your oil remains sitting in your motor for too long the motor doesn’t run as efficiently.
Everyday automotive tips answered (and more)
Car Servicing, warrants and specialist services
All About Whitianga: Why should a car be serviced regularly?
Charlie Cunningham: This is a common question asked by my customers. Servicing a car is a key part of ensuring you maintain your car to its optimum running level, and to have the opportunity to identify any potential problems. Regular servicing of your vehicle will go a long way in preventing breakdowns.
So, how often should we be getting our cars serviced?
Ideally a car service should be done every at 10,000km or annually.
What are the key things that a car owner should get out of a car service?
A car service is not just an oil change. I have a 30-point safety check list as part of each car service. For example, the spare tyre is important to check, and the coolant should be changed every three years. The change coolant should have a 33% level of glycol in the coolant to repel corrosion and overheating.
What is something that may surprise vehicle owners about a WOF?
Make sure that your warrant is up to date as this affects your insurance. Post Covid-19 March 2020 lockdown I’m still seeing 15% of cars coming to the workshop with warrants well out of date. Check your warrant sticker to see if it is up to date. As part of our customer service, Charlies Workshop sends out reminders when an upcoming warrant is due.
What is something that is different about your business?
I ’m the only mechanic on the Coromandel Peninsula to have an exhaust bender in my workshop. I make custom exhaust systems for any type of vehicle. Many cars are difficult to source and buy new or second-hand exhaust systems. I assist a vehicle owners who cannot source the exhaust they need or may be looking for a more cost-effective custom made alternative.
Life as a mechanic and trends
What changes have you seen in role as a mechanic over time?
I’ve needed to respond to the changes around the stricter warrant of fitness requirements. Across the board the increased technology being engineered into cars is something that our team in the workshop constantly upskill in to keep pace with these technical requirements.
What recent motoring trends are notable in your workshop?
The growth of the Electric Vehicle market on the Coromandel Peninsula. I’ve seen a 10% increase in electric car warrants and servicing in the workshop over the last year.
What is your favourite gadget in the workshop?
Left-handed screwdriver. No (!), the computer diagnostic scanner is invaluable and the air tools we use make jobs quicker and efficient.
What are you most proud of about your business?
The length of time I’ve been in business as a mechanic. I’m proud my business has been in Whitianga for so long – it has grown from a small fledgling operation to a well-established and respected business.
What do you do in your spare time outside of the mechanic shop?
I play pool and the guitar. I also used to race off-road vehicles and was involved in circuit racing. Beach Hop is something I have enjoyed over the years; I’ve also been involved as a sponsor when it has visited Whitianga.
What advice do you have for young people interested in being a mechanic?
It’s a very technical trade that does require constant training. Technical equipment such as diagnostic scanners are a necessity. If you have a real interest in the trade and are willing to put in the hard work, you will do well.
What is your favourite Car?
No real favourite car – well, except I prefer Holdens!
Contact Charlies Workshop
Book your next car service or warrant by contacting Charlie on the related link below.