Have car repair apps come of age?

A member of staff from SpareWo consults with a client. PHOTO/JOAN SALMON

What you need to know:

Cars require regular maintenance and these apps enable you to reach a mechanic using your phone.

With each turn, there are apps causing noteworthy changes in our lives; from diagnosis or medicine delivery to dating, transport and shopping.

Not to be left out, mechanic  and spare parts apps have emerged because the need for  motor vehicle repairs or changing of damaged spare parts is just as important as getting a meal on the go. 

However, are they worth their salt?

In 2015, Michael Katagaya, started makanika.com. Then, he says, it was difficult for motorists to find reliable mechanics and car parts service providers and this prompted the birth of the app.

 “Whereas someone could ably order for food via several apps, it was not the same for mechanics or those in need of car repairs. So, in case one was stranded, they would not readily find help,” the makanika.com team leader says.

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

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

Just like a shopkeeper would wait for customers, many mechanics would wait at the garage hoping that someone would drive in with a car in need of repair.

“At that time, the tech revolution had started and they were missing out on customers,” Katagaya says.

With these in plain sight, Katagaya and his team thought about the need to create a platform that solves problems for the motorists and helps mechanics get extra customers. Additionally, motorists could also gain skills such as customer care and retention as well as book keeping.

Several years later, they have helped several motorists get their cars repaired with a lot of convenience, safety and at a good price.

“We have also worked with about 200 garages and hundreds of mechanics whose lives have been impacted as they get customers from us. There are also spare part dealers and those involved in car tracking installation,” he says.

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

Good reviews

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

“My friend recommended makanika.com and I ordered for a mechanic to come to my home in Najjera, Kampala. He arrived in less than 10 minutes. Save for being timely, they were very efficient. They are like an Uber for cars and that makes it easy because cars do not choose where and when they are going to get a fault,”he attests.

Likewise, John Kaweesi, who runs Kaweesi & Sons Auto Garage says when the app was launched, Katagaya registered him as one of the mechanics.

“Previously, I repaired Katagaya’s cars and he appreciated my work. When the app was started, he added me as one of the mechanics and started connecting me to various clients. That has greatly improved my earnings. Additionally, we are trained in various skills such as customer care and book keeping.  They also gave me a toolset which has come in handy,” he says.

Just like makanika.com, Edrine Ssempebwa started Spare Wo to help car owners who do not necessarily understand cars and their spare parts to get them.

“The platform gives clients spare part information and free pricing. Even when one is not buying from us, at least they get the chance to make comparisons about the prices in the market. The same goes for repair and service prices,” Ssempebwa shares.

With the instituting of the first lockdown, the service bracket increased as clients started asking that Spare Wo completely takes on their cars for a professional repair.

“We thus came up with several services such as diagnosis, where a client gives us their car for a checkup and we avail them with a list of things they need to do for the car in order of priority. That would enable them to work towards repairing it at their pace while prioritising,” he says.

Strategic partnerships

In order to achieve this, they have entered partnerships with garages such as Auto Magic in Naalya, Kampala, where they do most of the repairs.

“We have also skilled the mechanics in these garages. Ultimately, they can help us manage clients’ cars and work on them in a more professional way than they would on their own,” he shares.

SpareWo also has two standby mechanics retained as technical personnel and are always first on site to assess any issue a client might have.

“The basis of our operation is to protect both the client and the merchant from any clashes that may arise. Therefore, when collecting a client’s car, we send a mechanic alongside one of our operations people to verify and ensure quality is given to the client. Additionally, before the car is brought to the garage, details about its current state are noted such as fuel level, any scratch which are shared with the client,” Ssempebwa says.

He adds that if anything is found broken, or a part is being installed, pictures of the same are sent to the client. The cost of any part or repair is also shared for approval from the client which gives them comfort.

Car apps

A car is a necessity for many. Going to work, driving children to school, and even going on a holiday are often impossible to imagine without it.

Still, in order to function properly, your four-wheeled vehicle is likely to need regular maintenance. In order to avoid driving long distances each time you need to have your brakes checked, it is best to find a good auto mechanic near you.

Be sure to opt for someone who knows how to service a car properly, and has plenty of customer experience in the automotive industry. This will make your vehicle maintenance a whole lot easier.