When J.D. Davis was a young man in high school, he got his first car – a 1973 Ford Maverick.
Everything was great as he cruised around his hometown of Plainview in the Texas panhandle – until one day on the way home, he encountered some mechanical issues.
“My car just died on the side of the road,” said Davis. “So, I went home and told my father and he just said, ‘Well, fix it.’”
Only one problem.
“I said to him, ‘I don’t know how,’” he said. “Then he said to me, ‘I don’t know how, either.’”
However, the story has a happy ending.
“Luckily, I had a buddy who was in auto shop at school and was good with cars,” said Davis. “He looked at the distributor cap and got an emery board to clean it off, which took care of the problem. I swore to myself I’d never let that happen again.”
So, Davis decided to learn the craft that would save him from any future automotive anxiety.
“Back then, you could go to school half-a-day and work half-a-day,” he said. “So, I got a job in a local shop.”
Which was how the mechanical seed was sown in Davis’ soul, causing him to pursue a career as an auto mechanic and for the past 17 years, he has owned and operated Davis Tire & Automotive on Highway 29 in Liberty Hill.
Last month, the business was recognized by Liberty Hill voters as the Best of the Best in the categories of Best Auto Mechanic, Best Auto Repair, Best Oil Change, and Best Tire Dealer.
Davis moved to Liberty Hill in 2005 and remembers the stark difference between the town then and now.
“When we first got here, the intersection at Highway 29 and (RM) 1869 was a blinking red light,” said Davis. “You could drive from here to Georgetown without seeing another car.”
As for why he chose central Texas for his destination, he was succinct in his assessment.
“I got tired of the wind and the flat land,” he said. “So, we moved to Austin first, then ended up in Liberty Hill.”
Blast from the past
Walking through the front door of Davis’ business is like stepping into a time capsule and taking a trip back to when men of the wrench relied solely on know-how to diagnose and repair vehicles – before the computer age came along and complicated things for those who get their hands greasy for a living.
According to Davis, although all the technology of today’s cars makes driving more comfortable and enjoyable for those behind the wheel, the opposite is true for those under the hood.
“Now, just to diagnose things, you need scanners and scan optics,” said Davis. “Those constantly need updating, so it costs a lot of money. Used to be, you could just look at something and figure out the problem.”
Davis said one of the primary reasons he decided to open his own shop after years of toiling away in someone else’s employ was the pressure that sometimes existed to put the bottom line before honesty.
“Some shops try to make stuff up,” he said. “You go in for one thing and all of a sudden, you need this or that – it depends on who you work for – I didn’t want to work for someone else anymore.”
Davis certainly realizes the value of offering full-service automotive care, as opposed to just specializing in one particular area, such as brakes or transmission.
“It’s what people need,” he said. “You don’t want to have to go to one place for one thing, then another for something else.”
In addition, there’s nothing like the expertise that years of experience can provide as opposed to just rolling up to an auto parts store and expecting the same level of service, said Davis.
“Some people think you can just go to Auto Zone or someplace, have them bring out a scanner and tell you what’s wrong with your car,” he said. “But, that’s not the case.”
At the end of the day, Davis – who routinely spends 12 hours a day at work – understands and recognizes what customers really want above all else when they bring a vehicle to his shop – and what he gets in return.
“You have to treat people right and fair and give them good quality work,” said Davis. “When I do that, I feel gratified I was able to help them.”