Douglas grad builds more than radiators |

Douglas grad builds more than radiators

by Scott Neuffer

Gardnerville resident Timmy Hinkle knows that in a small town, word-of-mouth is king, especially when it comes to car repair.

“You have to give 100 percent every time. If not, you’ll never get anywhere,” Hinkle said on Friday. “I’m 28 years old. If I don’t take care of my customers, how long do you think this will last?”

Hinkle is part owner of Douglas Radiator and Auto Air in south Gardnerville, which has been in operation for nearly 15 years.

Comparing auto repair to health care, Hinkle said a patient who sees a doctor doesn’t want a scattered and drawn-out treatment. Likewise, a car owner seeking help desires a quick diagnosis and an effective cure.

“Going to the doctor and getting your car worked on are the two worse things,” he said. “I want to get your car done as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Hinkle has been tinkering in the garage since he was a kid. His father was a heavy equipment mechanic, and his long-time friend, Travis Kopp, helped kindle his love of cars.

“It’s how I stayed off drugs and alcohol,” he said. “I was staying up way too late working on cars.”

Hinkle graduated from Douglas High School in 2001 then attended the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix. Returning home a year and a half later, he found a job in the same shop where he’d worked the summers as a high school student.

Steve Swart, owner of Douglas Radiator and Auto Air, made a deal with Hinkle. If the young man stayed on for five years, he would assume 40 percent ownership of the business.

In January 2009, that agreement was fulfilled. Hinkle, a new parent, took an ownership stake and began running the garage.

“I like to be my own boss, my own leader, and I think Steve saw that in me,” Hinkle said.

Although he referred to 2009 as the worse possible year to take over because of the economy, Hinkle has been building a reputation as an auto air conditioning guru.

“Cars, motor homes, semis, tractors – I’ll work on anything with a cooling system, radiator-wise, and anything to do with air blowing out of the dash,” he said. “I could pull dashboards all day long. I love doing it.”

Hinkle said he views each vehicle as if it were a puzzle.

“I just like the challenge of repairing it correctly the first time,” he said.

Douglas Radiator, however, isn’t just a repair shop. It’s a parts house and fabrication shop, too. Hinkle builds and sells radiators.

“Last year, we shifted our focus to customer calls, adapting to general repair,” Hinkle said. “We have a welder and plasma-cutter, so the things we can do in this shop are far beyond radiators.”

Surrounded by matching bright-green tool boxes, and accompanied by the shop pug, Pebbles, Hinkle said what he loves most about his job is the freedom it provides.

“In the automotive business, if you’re working on cars, you can do just about anything you want,” he said.

Located at 1467 Southgate Drive, Gardnerville, Douglas Radiator and Auto Air is open 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call 782-9457 or visit