A small auto repair shop in Vista is changing the way some see local mechanics.

Owner TJ Crossman opened TJ Crossman’s Auto Repair in 2006, a full-service auto repair shop, out of a trailer pulled by his Chevy Suburban. Crossman packed the trailer full of tools and an air compressor and set out making service calls to people in the area.

With time, Crossman was able to upgrade his fleet. First a new truck, but quickly the need for a physical location was undeniable. “The mobile has a ton of adventure, but it takes twice as long as when you’re in an actual location,” Crossman said.

The opportunity came as the auto shop just two doors down went out of business, giving Crossman and his partner exactly what they needed.

“Every time you have to drive to the house, make sure you have everything because if you don’t have that one thing you have to go pack everything up and go get it,” Crossman continued to explain, “The physical location, I love it.”

As the business continues to grow, Crossman looks for more opportunities expand.

“I want to provide my customers with the best automotive experience possible, I either want to go down the realm of being able to help other shop owners that have struggled or are struggling like myself, or I want to see if I can buy a struggling shop and maybe make a small chain or something like that. At the very least I would like to get more shops to participate in doing good things for the community. This is my vehicle for being able to do good community service,” Crossman said.

More than just a repair shop, Crossman is keenly aware of where his success comes from. His motto: “It’s not just about giving back to the community. It’s about giving back to those who need it.”

That is what drives Crossman to offer “tax break” coupons or extending a line of credit for those affected by the over-a-month-long government shutdown. The greatest of these acts is that of an annual car giveaway started four years ago.

“No matter how much you’re struggling…there’s always somebody worse off. If you only have $5, but someone else has none, and you give them 1 of your $5, you still have $4 and that gives them something they didn’t have, which ultimately puts a smile on their face,” Crossman explained.

Crossman and his team put in over 40 labor hours into the first giveaway car. The last car they gave away they did a new paint job and installed a new transmission. “We try to get them 100 percent up to par or maintained so we aren’t giving a burden to somebody,” Crossman said.

These cars, all donated, go to an individual nominated by the community–unbeknownst to the winner–and whose extraordinary circumstances deem them worthy of receiving the car.

With nominations coming in from all over the globe, Crossman asks a panel of judges to whittle the list down to just three names, of which he picks the final winner. The winner is announced and handed over their car at the Vista Rod Run held in late summer.