CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s been a quiet week in his shop, but Brian Vanderpool isn’t worried.
“Right now is our slow season,” said Vanderpool. “April, May, June is the busy season — maybe July, August, depending on the weather. Usually stating in November it slows down and it just putters along.”
Vanderpool started Chappy’s — his old stock-car-racing nickname — in 2011, when he was the service manager for a Cedar Rapids equipment-rental business.
“Theisen’s contacted me and asked me to be their service center,” he said.
Since then, he’s taken on the same role for most of the area’s home improvement centers.
“I don’t hand out business cards, they do,” Vanderpool said. “I don’t really advertise. I’ve just always been busy.”
Growing up on a rural acreage near Cedar Rapids, Vanderpool tinkered with and repaired machines.
“We had tractors and mowers and trucks,” he recalled. “My dad used to buy and sell a lot of cars, so my brother and I used to work on stuff constantly — cars, motorcycles, tractors, just pretty much everything with an engine on it. Motorcycles, go-carts.”
To perform warranty repairs and factory-approved service, Vanderpool keeps his certifications current with the various manufacturers.
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“There are schools and weekend training, online training, classroom training,” he said.
He’s the only full-time employee, although he calls in a technician every spring for the busy season.
“I hope to make him a full-time guy this year,” he said.
The small gas engines that power lawn mowers, snowblowers, weed trimmers and similar equipment have evolved.
“Internally, no (changes),” he said. “Externally, there are differences in carburetion. They’re getting into fuel injection.
“It’s just technology, it’s getting better. You can only build an engine so many ways. Now it’s a matter of longevity.”
Most problems come down to what goes in the tank. Ethanol attracts moisture that can stall an engine that’s used only intermittently.
“Ninety percent of what I do is fuel-related,” he said. “Bad fuel, condensation from the alcohols, the ethanol. It’s OK in a car because a car is liquid-cooled, it’s controlled. Plus you use a car more often — you’re driving it, you’re putting new fuel in it.
“A lawn mower is fine for the summertime, but then you leave it sit. That’s when it goes bad.”
A contaminated fuel system sometimes, but not always, can be cleaned.
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“Most of the time, through experience, it’s just easier to replace the carburetor,” he said. “The difference in the different types of material, the ethanol just don’t like it.”
Chappy’s stocks a fuel additive that prevents moisture developing in the fuel tank and lines of stored equipment.
“Everything in here gets it,” Vanderpool said. “I haven’t used straight gas in 30 years.”
Vanderpool welcomes a challenge, which often comes in the form of farm equipment.
“You have to add the element of mice,” he said. “You learn everything there is to learn about how wires travel but you can’t plan for a mouse chewing on wires, or a snake nest.
“Farm equipment’s usually fun because you don’t know what you’re going to open up.”
Vanderpool sets a standard for himself, even on more routine jobs.
“I like the surprise when they drop them off in the morning and you call them two hours later and they say, ‘I’m not even home yet,’” he said.
“A good day is nothing catches on fire, nothing crawls out of the machine you’re working on. It’s just in and out: service them, getting them back.”
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AT A GLANCE
l Owner: Brian Vanderpool
l Business: Chappy’s Small Engine Repair
l Address: 1000 10th St. SW, Cedar Rapids
l Phone: (319) 200-6282
l Website: chappysrepair.com