Change is a part of life, whether it is for good or for bad, so the best way to deal with change is to embrace it and make the best of it. I have always believed that things that don’t change are usually dead. Last August, my life took an unexpected change and I had to accept a large reduction in my income. After a bit of reflection, I decided that the first order of business was to start a new automotive locksmith business. While I’ve been working with auto dealerships and the local auctions for years, the work that I did for them was to support my video / tool / teaching / writing business, not to support me directly. That had to change and change fast.
This is the first installment in a series of articles that will document some of the things I’ve done and the decisions I’ve made regarding tools, equipment, inventory, and advertising to start a new automotive locksmith business. Since I have been doing automotive locksmithing more or less as a side job for the last 10 years, I had some equipment already, but there was a LOT of stuff that I didn’t have. In this series, I’ll be sharing some of the purchasing decisions that I’ve made and the logic behind them. Naturally, I’ve also made mistakes along the way and I’ll try to share those as well.
I began by making a list of the things that I already had and the things that I would need to make a successful living as an automotive locksmith. As fate would have it, the first thing on my list suddenly became a new van when my elderly Astro van self-destructed three miles outside of the bustling metropolis of Micanopy, Fla., which is about as close as you can get to the center of nowhere in Florida. After dragging the corpse of my Astro 350 miles back to Pensacola and reviewing my options, the best course of action turned out to be to scrap the Astro and trade in my beloved Mini Cooper S on a new or used van.
Since I intended to specialize in automotive work, I didn’t need a lot of cargo space, and I wanted something economical. One of my first thoughts was to get one of the relatively new Ford Transit Connect vans. I did a lot of research and looked at other options including the Chevrolet Express, Ford E-Series, Nissan NV vans, and others. In the end, I found a low mileage 2010 Transit Connect that was in extraordinarily good condition, priced right, and at a dealership where I had friends. I waved goodbye to my Mini Cooper and drove my new Transit Connect home.
Transit Connect vans are based on the Ford Focus platform and are assembled in Turkey, which helps explain the Tibbe locks that are used on the Transit Connect. All of them come into the U.S. as passenger vehicles because of the arcane “Chicken Tax” law that dates back to LBJ. Once they arrive in the U.S., most are converted into cargo vans before they are sold, because it is cheaper to do it that way than for Ford to pay the import tax on “light trucks.” In the end, the decision really came down to finding the right van, at the right price, at the right time.
Once I had the van, I had to equip it with the tools and storage that I would need to make a living on the road.
For this article, let’s look at the power issues. I absolutely required 110 VAC power for my key machines and other uses such as recharging my cordless drills, powering my Dremel tool, recharging my laptop, jump box, etc.
You can easily determine the amount of power that you will need by looking at the labels on your equipment and then applying this simple formula:
Volts, multiplied by Amps = Watts
Once you have determined the wattage necessary for the devices that you want to run, add the wattage of any of them that you want to run simultaneously. There are also lots of “calculators” on the Internet, but be aware that a lot of those calculators are designed to help sell you an inverter or generator.
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