Car repair

Have auto repair apps matured?

At every turn, apps are causing noticeable changes in our lives; from diagnosis or drug delivery to appointments, transportation and shopping.

Not to be outdone, mechanics and parts applications have sprung up because the need for motor vehicle repairs or changing damaged spare parts is just as important as grabbing a meal on the go.

However, are they worth their salt?

In 2015, Michael Katagaya launched makanika.com. Then, he says, it was difficult for motorists to find reliable providers of mechanical services and auto parts, which gave rise to the app.

“While someone could deftly order food through multiple apps, the same could not be said for mechanics or those in need of car repairs. So in case one gets stuck , he wouldn’t find help easily,” says the makanika.com team leader.

Of course, major garages and parts dealers such as Spear Motors had websites which were not, however, used by the average motorist.

On the other side were small businesses/garages looking for customers.

Just as a tradesman would wait for customers, many mechanics would wait at the garage hoping someone would arrive with a car to fix.

“At that time, the technological revolution had started and they were running out of customers,” says Katagaya.

With these in full view, Katagaya and his team reflected on the need to create a platform that solves motorists’ problems and helps mechanics gain additional customers. Additionally, motorists could also learn skills such as customer service and loyalty building as well as bookkeeping.

Several years later, they have helped several motorists to get their car repaired with great convenience, safety and at a good price.

“We have also worked with approximately 200 mechanics and hundreds of mechanics whose lives have been touched by our customers. There are also parts dealers and people involved in car tracking installation,” he says.

Despite challenges such as the loss of good talent, the difficulty in developing and growing the platform as well as the search for funding to develop, there are several happy beneficiaries.

For example, when Raymond Qatahar Mujuni had a battery failure on his way to work, he asked a friend if he knew of a mechanic who could help him.

“My friend recommended makanika.com and I ordered a mechanic to come to my house in Najjera, Kampala. He arrived in less than 10 minutes. Except for being punctual, they were very efficient. They are like an Uber for cars and it makes things easier because cars don’t choose where and when they will break down,” he says.

Similarly, John Kaweesi, who runs Kaweesi & Sons Auto Garage, said that when the app launched, Katagaya registered him as one of the mechanics.

“Before, I repaired Katagaya’s cars and he appreciated my work. When the app launched it added me as one of the mechanics and started connecting me to various clients. It has greatly improved my income. In addition, we are trained in various skills such as customer service and bookkeeping. They also gave me a set of tools that came in very handy,” he says.

Just like makanika.com, Edrine Ssempebwa launched Spare Wo to help car owners who don’t necessarily know cars and their spare parts to get them.

“The platform gives customers information on spare parts and free prices. Even when you don’t buy from us, you at least have the opportunity to make comparisons on market prices. The same goes for the prices of repairs and services,” shares Ssempebwa.

With the first lockdown in place, the service slice increased as customers began to demand that Spare Wo fully take over their cars for professional repair.

“So we offered several services like diagnostics, where a customer gives us their car for a check-up and we offer them a list of things they need to do for the car in order of priority. This would allow them to work on its repair at their own pace while setting priorities,” he says.

To achieve this, they have partnered with garages such as Auto Magic in Naalya, Kampala, where they carry out most of the repairs.

“We also qualified the mechanics of these garages. Ultimately, they can help us manage customer cars and work on them more professionally than they would alone,” he shares.

SpareWo also has two reserve mechanics retained as technical staff and are always the first on hand to assess any issues a customer may have.

“The basis of our operation is to protect both the customer and the merchant from any conflicts that may arise. Therefore, when collecting a customer’s car, we send a mechanic alongside one of our operations officers to check and ensure quality is given to the customer. Also, before the car is brought to the garage, details of its current condition are noted, such as fuel level, any scratches which are shared with the customer,” says Ssempebwa.

He adds that if something is found broken or a part is being fitted, photos of the same are sent to the customer. The cost of any parts or repairs is also shared for approval by the customer, giving them comfort.

A car is a necessity for many. Going to work, driving the kids to school and even going on vacation is often impossible to imagine without it.

However, to function properly, your four-wheeler will probably need regular maintenance. In order to avoid traveling long distances each time you need to have your brakes checked, it is best to find a good garage near you.

Make sure you go for someone who knows how to properly maintain a car and has extensive customer experience in the automotive industry. This will greatly facilitate the maintenance of your vehicle.