Small Car Performance

  • 3.3 of 5 stars
5 reviews

4720 S Tacoma Way, Tacoma, WA 98409, us

(253) 473-2474


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They are always honest
They are competent
Their repair price is reasonable
They complete the work in a timely manner
They respond well when they screw something up
They take the time to explain the problems and necessary repairs
They treat male and female customers in the same manner
They are always honest
I would use this mechanic again
I would recommend this mechanic to others
They fix the problem the first time
The shop is located in a safe neighborhood
The hours of operation are convenient for customers
They are near public transportation (or provide loaners, shuttle bus, rides as needed)
Jul 26, 2004
I live in Montana. On my way to Mt. St. Helens, the clutch on my 1985 Vanagon started to behave badly. I limped up to Tacoma, but couldn't drive it any further. All the shops the Cartalk website recommends for Tacoma were booked, but two of them referred me to Small Car Performance. They squeezed me in. When I arrived, there were 6-8 Vans on the lot, so I was reassured. It turned out to be a worst case scenario, so it took a couple of days, but they were honest, straightforward, and did their best to get me on my way in a timely fashion. I've only dealt with them once, but I was at their mercy, and I felt good about how I was treated. It wasn't cheap, but who is these days.
Nov 07, 2011
Jun 21, 2009
My wife and I own a VW Vanagon, 1991. Small Car Performance installed in it for us a year ago a Subaru Outback engine. Our mechanic here in Seattle says, "That is a sweet running engine". Of course, we no longer delay drivers behind us on hills. We get better gas mileage than with the old VW engine. Since the installation, we've driven the van to Quebec and back and many other distant places. Absolutely no problems. Because of the excellence of the installation, we've taken the Vanagon back to Small Car Performance, even though it's about 30 miles from our house, for work that our mechanic here in Seattle doesn't do. All the work that we've had done at Small Car has been perfectly done. For instance, they re-wired our radio so that it will stay on as long as the key is in the ignition. They also fixed the latch on our sliding door--something that the local VW dealer could not even do! We considered having an auxiliary battery installed. We decided against it, but Small Car's quote was much much lower than that of the local VW dealer.
Aug 25, 2010
Since I last wrote about Small Car, my wife and I have had other work done there several times. We still find it worth driving from Seattle to Tacoma (40 miles?) to have them work on our 1991 Vanagon. They keep it in perfect running order.
Apr 20, 2022
  • tgremmel_180449
Smallcar is a VERY profitable business. They know that you know nothing about your Vanagon or the parts involved and they completely intend on exploiting this. They will call you cheap and use pretty interesting psychology to try to get you to spend WAY more on your 40 year old van than you should. Read the reviews of their parts online...they're really really not good despite their crazy prices. Four years ago I brought my 1987 Westfalia with a 1993 Subaru ej22 in to Smallcar for a muffler. Prior to this it was very reliable and had recently made 4 trips up and down from Vancouver to San Diego and running issues beyond the muffler. Andy worked up a dizzying quote for $11K for a whole lot of things I didn't even bring it in for but wasn't totally against, but he wasn't very flexible with how I wanted the suspension set up (not that we were talking about suspension at the time). While it was there they installed their $950 cast aluminum oil pan (more on that later). Also some mystery issue showed up with the fuel system that somehow magically disappeared once it was towed back to my house, but I digress...ultimately I felt like I wasn't being listened to so thought it was time to try a different shop. It went from Smallcar, to El at Stargazers Garage in Portland. She's a whole other bag of crazy and hacked my van apart for four months and $12K in parts and labor, then accused me of being a chauvinist (I think I was getting her/his/? Pronoun incorrect but I'm 100% sure what I did to piss El off...Portland) and she demanded I tow my beloved camper out of there. Heartbroken, the van then sat for several years. Having just sold my house, I decided I'd throw a bag of money at this silly van I love so much and convert it to a syncro. Smallcar was under new ownership and I'd talked to Austin quite a bit who sounded like a smart and reasonable guy, so I decided to ship it back. We didn't get very far. The syncro quote got dizzyingly $35K - $45K, (which was already odd seeing as everything under the van is new / same parts and the syncro bits so that idea got ditched pretty quick. So lets just focus on the hard start problem, making sure the suspension won't fall apart, and to replace the rear brakes and carrier bearings because they were the only things not already replaced under there. Andy insisted the $200 rear drums couldn't be obtained ('s the same drum brakes on every VW van from 1968 to about 1992 and they're very available) so I'd have to use their $2500 disk brake. Not wanting to add more complexity to my already Frankenstein van, opted out of this. Andy also refused...REFUSED to commence any work on the hard start problem (runs GREAT when running, starts hard) until he replaced my leaking cracked oil pan at a $950 expense. Funny, because he's the one that put that one on 4 years ago and the van hasn't been drivable since then so it's either Smallcar's pan that failed, or andy put it on wrong and cracked it, but either way it's their mistake. I wasn't even asking for a new pan, I was just saying I didn't want to spend another $950 on that particular engine before establishing it can be made to start easier. Austin actually called me a penny pincher (his actual words) and doubled down on their refusal to work on the van until I replaced it. Forgive me, but I don't want to spend another $950 on an oil pan that is clearly flawed and that he should really just replace with no cost. But no, it became an argument, they said "it's below their standards" to let it leak but it's their poor standards that got it leaking. Unwilling to be bullied, towing my van out of there for a second time. I think the whole #vanlife online thing has made people stupid about vanagons. They were bad vehicles 40 years ago, and now they're 40 years old so they need everything. Nobody is willing to work on them, so the few shops like Smallcar and Stargazers see dollar signs in them. They can treat their customers however they want and charge CRAZY prices for things and customers just take it. Austin actually told me it could cost $10,000 to sort out my 1993 Subaru ej22 engine and I should just expect that. The sad and stupid thing is there's so many people in the Seattle area that have money and don't understand cars, there's a line of people waiting for bays in his shop that will pay huge money for bad solutions and not understand they're getting swindled. I've literally owned 100's of cars. Several old Ferraris, dozens of vintage BMW's and Mercedes...I've fully restored probably two dozen cars in the last 35 years. I've never seen prices or treatment of customers like I have in the Vanagon space.

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