Let's face it, not every Chicagoan can live without a car.
If you live and work in the city, it's possible to live without a car, provided that your job is downtown and you live in a neighborhood that has a train station and amenities within walking distance.
And you don't have kids that have to be transported safely in all types of weather to school and events.
And you don't have family scattered about other city neighborhoods and suburbs. Thus, the list of reasons why it’s a necessity to own a car in Chicago will become lengthy.
Apart from parking spots reserved in the winter with a variety of inanimate objects, a Chicago car will also need regular maintenance as well. Since it's technically illegal to repair a car on the street in the City of Chicago, motorists must take their cars in to repair facilities if they can't work on them in backyards and garages. City drivers usually have a multitude of little shops, plus large chain operations to choose from for car repairs.
However, going to an auto repair garage that is honest and efficient is a rare event in Chicago. Many of the smaller shops, although cheap, may not always be familiar with certain types of cars, nor have the facilities to repair more than two cars at a time. Wait times can stretch into double-digit numbers of days.
Listed below are some of Chicago's best automotive repair shops. These also happen to be located on the Northwest side, an area that has superb public transit options to utilize when the car will be laid-up for an extended period of time.
1. Grace Automotive
A small, unassuming little shop at the corner of Pulaski Rd. and Grace Ave., Grace Automotive has been located there for decades. Many long-time Chicagoans will instantly recognize the faded "VW Service" sign, with a group of older aircooled VWs in the side lot. The staff here is excellent and timely, making precise repairs to all types of cars (including Volkswagens, their specialization) under the watchful eye of the owner, who is certified to work on several marques of European cars that are no longer imported into the U.S. The owner will also refuse to overcharge on his already-low rates or make unnecessary repairs. The Blue Line Irving Park station is only a few thousand yards north of the shop on Pulaski, and Smoque BBQ is across Grace to fulfill your gastronomic desires if your car is at Grace Automotive for an afternoon.
Located at the corner of Addison St. and Lockwood Ave. (way out in the "L" streets!), many passerby might assume Autosprint only services old Italian cars. Yet, this shop and its Italian owner not only specialize in (frequently) repairng supercars and little death traps of the "Autostrada," bust also in all other makes and model of cars. They're honest to the point of telling you that they can't repair certain complex components on your car, and will direct you to specialists if necessary. Autosprint is served by the 152 Addison bus, just one block west of Laramie Ave.
3. Maggio Auto
An honest auto repair garage is a dying breed. However, the young owner of Maggio Auto is quite alive and ready to service your car. Maggio Auto is a small operation located on the 3000 block of west Irving Park Road, between Sacramento and Whipple Avenues. Honesty is key here; the owner will tell you exactly what is wrong with your car and what needs to be repaired, without nonsense. Although the garage is not as immaculately sterile as, let's say a Mercedes-Benz dealer shop, it's apparent the money saved from forgoing such frills is transferred into low repair bills to the customer. Leader Bar is also conveniently located down the block from Maggio Auto. Treat yourself to a Merkt's cheddarburger with tater tots while your coolant system is being flushed.
4. LA Motors
Situated on a tiny side street (Tripp Avenue), sandwiched between Irving Park Road and the Kennedy Expressway, LA Motors has probably one of the most obscure locations for an automotive repair facility in the region. Yet, once you find LA Motors, you're in for a surprise: the guys here are extremely competent and very fair-priced. They don't play games, and your car is ready when promised. They also know exactly what they're doing with import cars, including vintage ones. You can take a short walk to the Irving Park Metra or El stations from LA Motors, or stop in at MacNamara's for an Irish lunch while the car is being serviced at LA Motors.
5. Precision Auto Repair
Central Avenue, between Diversey and Belmont Avenue, is home to the Belmont-Central shopping district. Long affiliated with a variety of department stores, the area is now populated by a multitude of Polish restaurants and bars. This also includes other newcomers, especially Greek, Puerto Rican and Filipino restaurants and stores. Located between Barry and Wellington Avenues on Central, Precision Automotive is what lesser automotive shops should strive to be. Friendly, patient, clean, honest and timely are all accurate adjectives for Precision. The owners here do everything well, and will tell you if something does or doesn't need to be fixed here. They'll communicate regularly with you through the repair, and the final bill is not angina-inducing.
Yes, there are many shops in the Chicago area that could be added to this list, especially personal recommendations from others who "swear" by their mechanics. However, these shops are among the best not only for the quality of repair and the low bills, but also for convenience as well. All are located within a 15-minute drive from I-90, and all are served by frequent CTA bus and rail service as well.
Filed under: Chicago