WALDWICK, N.J. – Father and son auto mechanics Chuck Wanamaker Jr. and Chuck Wanamaker III have been fixing cars together in Waldwick for nearly 30 years.
They work at the two locations they own — Waldwick Auto Service Center on West Prospect Street and Franklin Auto Care on Franklin Turnpike.
The family connection to the business actually goes back another generation: The late Chuck Wanamaker Sr., born around 1915, had a Colonial station on Franklin Turnpike that no longer exists.
“When he was there, I could only wipe windows. I was too young to pump gas,” said Wanamaker Jr., who now lives in Mahwah but grew up across the street from where the Waldwick Auto Service Center now stands.
At one point, Wanamaker Jr. worked with his father as an adult, just like he now works with his son. They get along famously using a philosophy handed down to them by Wanamaker Sr.
“My dad used to say if you’re thinking about what you promised the customer, that’s where your brain should be,” said Wanamaker Jr. “If you’re working, you don’t have time for silly stuff.”
Like their relationship, their businesses have stood the test of time. Fifteen years ago, Wanamaker Jr. said, there were 13 garages in Waldwick. Today there are four.
So, too, their love for cars of every vintage has endured.
“Most private shops are not versatile the way we’ve been,” said Wanamaker III, 45, also of Mahwah. “They don’t do the old cars, the middle-aged cars, the new cars, and the light-duty trucks. They specialize in certain models and makes.”
Neither father or son has ever wanted to narrow down their business that way.
Both also agree computer technology took the fun out of being a mechanic.
“A computer in a car is so wicked smart today, it’s ridiculous,” said Wanamaker Jr. “You used to listen to the car to figure what the problem was. Now you’ve got to plug into a scanner that tells you what the computer saw.”
One thing hasn’t changed, though, the two say: to keep a car running well, the oil has to be changed faithfully.