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Seeing needed auto repairs on video is believing

Bob Lane used an iPod to show a customer a repair plan.
Bob Lane used an iPod to show a customer a repair plan.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

When the car mechanic says your brakes are nearly worn out, is he on the level, or is he just trying to squeeze a few more bucks out of you?

A Quincy company called Quik Video LLC is helping to answer the question. It has created an easy way for mechanics to shoot videos of the components that need repairing and post the videos online, so car owners can see for themselves.

“The technician will show the consumer, via video and sound, what the problem is,” said Jack Gardner, Quik Video’s chief operating officer and a 30-year veteran of the car business. That, he said, should help customers to be more willing to sign off on repairs, which in turn means more revenue for auto repair shops.

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Gardner cited research from Google Inc. that found only about one-third of those who bring cars in for maintenance give the go-ahead for repairs, mainly because they don’t trust car mechanics.

“We had to figure out a way to prove to the customer what we were trying to resolve with their car,” Gardner said.

He considered using still photos of damaged or worn parts but realized videos would be more persuasive. The problem was getting the video to the customer. A high-quality video file is too big to e-mail. What Gardner needed was a way to host videos online, so customers could view them with a mouse click. So he and his partners hired programmers in Ireland to design a solution.

Quik Video lets workers use an iPod Touch from Apple Inc., which contains a video camera and microphone.

First, the technician gets a shot of the car’s license plate, to confirm the vehicle’s identity. Then he aims the lens at the parts of the car that need fixing, while describing the problem.

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Of course some car problems are hard to capture in a video — a defective alternator, for instance. A technician can use Quik Video to show the faulty part being hooked up to a computer, which displays a warning that something is wrong. Other malfunctions, like a faulty wheel bearing, are invisible, however.

But even in these cases, Gardner said, Quik Video can help if the repair shop uses it consistently. He said that a customer who has seen videos of every scheduled maintenance visit will tend to believe the mechanic when he recommends needed repairs.

Quik Video’s secret sauce is its ability to distribute video to customers. When the technician plugs in the iPod, the video is copied to an Internet-connected server. The software associates the video with the customer’s order number so that only he or she can watch it. Then it sends an e-mail or text message to the customer, with a link to the video, which can be viewed on any computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Colonial Honda in Dartmouth was one of the first repair shops to test Quik Video.

“In January, it boosted our sales about 20 percent in service and parts,” said service director Peter Slota. “This is groundbreaking and will probably be a common practice in all automotive repair shops.”

Quik Video is also used at Direct Tire and Auto Service in Watertown.

“People — they just love it,” said founder Barry Steinberg, who plans to offer the service at his company’s three other stores, beginning next month.

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He said the service has boosted revenue, because customers who watch the videos are more likely to order repairs. “They can justify it because they see it,” he said.

One of Steinberg’s customers, software salesman Dan Murphy of Wellesley, brought his car in for tires but ended up getting front axle work done after seeing a Quik Video inspection.

“I was kind of blown away,” Murphy said. “I just thought it was very impressive, the fact that there was someone actually showing me and explaining what it was.”

Privately funded Quik Video charges $795 to $1,295 per month for the service, depending on the volume of business at the repair shop.

Gardner hopes to apply the Quik Video concept to other service businesses, including boat repairs, home repairs, and real estate sales.


Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.