Michael Warner Jr., owner Michael Warner, service writer Nadine Coleman and Emma Warner stand in front of Suburban Wrench’s inventory of cars, July 6, 2010. (Staff photo by Myles Ma.)

By Myles Ma

Michael Warner knows cars.

The owner of Suburban Wrench has worked with them his entire life, amassing a wealth of knowledge in the process.

“I know what I’m doing,” Warner said. “I spent a lot of time training myself and going to schools.”

Warner started working on Hondas professionally right out of high school, at Pitcairn Honda, working there for several years. His father was a general manager in the sales department, but Warner worked as a mechanic.

He first started working on his father’s car, an Oldsmobile 442, when he was 15. It would later become his car.

But it’s not just a lifetime of experience that Warner has. He also has the training.

He studied auto mechanics at Lincoln Technical Institute, and was one of the first mechanics in the area to receive an Advanced Engine Performance Specialist certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Warner was already a certified as a master automobile technician by ASE.

Warner has turned that knowledge into a long-standing business. He opened Suburban Wrench 28 years ago.

Its first location was in an old railroad station near Princeton Mortgage and the Hopewell branch of the Mercer County Library. Warner moved to his current location, at 108 Route 31 in Pennington, 15 years ago.

The business started out specializing in Hondas, still an area of expertise for Warner, but has expanded over the years to include most imports. Warner joked that American cars wouldn’t fit on his lifts, but there is a real benefit to specializing.

“If you specialize in a car line, it’s easier to wake up in the morning and know how to do your job,” he said.

Outside of body work, Warner said, Suburban Wrench can make nearly any repair on an imported car, including scheduled maintenance and work on timing belts, all using the latest technology. Warner is an admitted tech junkie, and the equipment he has means other repair shops often send them work.

Warner is particular about keeping cars to a maintenance schedule, which he said he has perfected, and by sticking with it, many customers have had cars keep running up until they have logged 300,000 miles on their odometers. Among the important points are changing the oil every 3,750 miles and performing a thorough check of the vehicle every 7,500 miles.

Suburban Wrench doesn’t just do repairs. The other side of the business is car sales, mainly geared toward young people looking to purchase their first vehicle.

One of Warner’s goals is to provide people with all the services their car dealer would provide.

“A lot of people come to me who have had the dealer experience and didn’t like it,” he said.

It helps that his family helps run the business. His daughter Emma, a student at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., works in the sales department. Michael Warner, Jr., works in the repair shop, and Warner’s sister Dona keeps the books for the business. Nadine Coleman, service writer for Suburban Wrench, went to high school with Warner and has been close with him ever since.

“We get along pretty well,” Warner said.

Suburban Wrench is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 737-1235.