Finding an auto mechanic you can trust is no easy job, which is why, typically, the first people you will ask for suggestions are your family members, friends and neighbors.
If word of mouth is a good way to find the perfect mechanic — knowledgeable, accommodating, trustworthy, affordable and earnest — it is also invaluable to a repair shop when it comes to building a large client base.
That explains why Wesley Chapel resident Christopher Cruz (above) outgrew his mother’s garage and now runs Cruz Motorsports on N. Nebraska Ave., between Fletcher and Bearss Aves. in Tampa, only a few minutes south and west of New Tampa.
“People trust me,” Cruz says. “I think that’s one of the most important things to building a business. I’m honest.”
After building a solid reputation in Wesley Chapel for his mobile services and honest repairs, Cruz opened his current location in 2016.
With only $1,600 to his name, he moved into a reclamation project — a former stereo and audio shop in a shopping plaza that doesn’t look like your typical auto repair shop.
“The deal was that I would move in and fix it up and repaint it, and (the landlord) would waive my rent for the first month or two,” Cruz says. Since then, Cruz has rented the adjoining units, knocked down some walls, and now has four bays equipped with lifts for cars, and a lobby.
“I had to piece it together,” Cruz says. “It was a lot of work.”
It was, however, worth it, as Cruz has been able to expand his clientele beyond New Tampa and Wesley Chapel.
Cruz Motorsports can fix virtually anything — from remote control cars (some that Cruz says he has modified to go 140 miles per hour) to jet skis and from boats to motorcycles, and all makes of cars.
The shop offers all basic auto repairs on both foreign and domestic makes and models, and Cruz Motorsports is one of the few local shops that will work on lowrider cars — “Many people won’t even touch the alignments on them,” he says.
Cruz Motorsports also does paint and body work, which many repair shops also won’t do.
Cruz says he and his staff of two, including his former supervisor from his first job, try to stay in touch with their customers, including sending out reminders about oil changes to some of the younger customers so they can avoid blowing their engines. They also take pictures of what they are fixing to provide to car owners.
Cruz says he has been repairing cars and motorcycles for seven years, since an accident gave him a firsthand look at how some mechanics take shortcuts.
After wrecking his 2007 Suzuki GSXR motorcycle and getting it repaired, Cruz had to deal with a litany of problems with the bike. When he took it to a different mechanic, they discovered that it had been repaired with used parts, even though he was charged new part prices. He says he decided to learn how to do his own repairs by taking courses at the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute, and soon started fixing bikes for his friends.
That led Cruz to learn how to repair cars, landing jobs at a couple of shops, and picking up as much knowledge as he could. He wasn’t pleased with the business practices, however, at some of the places he worked, so he began running his own auto repair business out of his mother Ana Daniels’ garage in Wesley Chapel.
“When I started doing my own thing I started getting neighbors coming to me and got real busy,” Cruz says. “I started renting out another space because I needed more room. It was simple — I started taking care of people and being honest and business just started booming from there.”
Even though Cruz moved his shop to North Tampa, he says the majority of his customers are from Wesley Chapel and New Tampa, due to his years working in the area. Not only did he work out of a garage, but he did a large amount of his jobs in people’s own driveways as part of his mobile repair service.
New Tampa’s Heather Redlin says she doesn’t let anyone else touch her family’s cars.
Redlin discovered Cruz on the Wesley Chapel Community Facebook page, where he is a popular answer to questions from posters who are seeking car or motorcycle repairs.
Redlin says that when the engine and temperature gauge blew on her Ford Flex, Cruz replaced the engine for $6,000 and worked with her on paying it off.
“He has been my mechanic for five years,” Redlin says. “He’s always really straight with me and he doesn’t try to up-sell me. You can’t find a nicer guy.”
Cruz, who lives in Seven Oaks, has done other repairs on Redlin’s car, and also has worked on her husband’s and daughter’s vehicles. In fact, when Redlin was looking to buy a used car for her daughter, she drove one possibility to Cruz for an inspection. When she pulled in with the prospective car, Cruz shook his head no before she had even stopped the car, because he had seen it before.
How loyal is Redlin?
“If me and my husband split up,” she says, “I get the mechanic.”
While he has the benefit of garage space and lifts that can handle up to 12,000 pounds, Cruz says his popular mobile service continues to be a big part of his current business.
He does much of his local Wesley Chapel/New Tampa business — alternators, starters, oil changes, other less-messy repairs — using his mobile trailer, which is powered by solar panels, which charge two large 200-watt, 30-amp batteries the size of doors.
For larger jobs, cars are towed or driven to Cruz’s Nebraska Ave. shop.
Cruz says he hears many complaints from new customers about past work by other auto mechanics. His goal is to be the last stop for those customers.
“Everything we do, I try to keep it straightforward and honest,” Cruz says. “We’ll find the best prices on parts, we fix our mistakes, and we work with everyone.”
Cruz Motorsports is located 13787 N. Nebraska Ave. It is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, search “Cruz Motorsports” on Facebook.