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Bob and Kim Essick and their son, Shaun, own and operate KBS Auto Lab in Herrin.

Some families just know how to do things. There are successful actors and actresses who follow in their parents’ footsteps. Success seems to come easy to second generation athletes. Things just come naturally.

When it comes to automobiles, the Essick family of Herrin is the same way. Since 1960, the family has been repairing and maintaining vehicles. First, there was Jack’s Brake Shop which focused on brakes, suspensions and alignments. Jack’s son, Bob, began working alongside his father as a teenager, eventually purchasing the business from him. Now, known as KB’s Auto Lab, third generation Shaun has joined the business. Bob’s wife and Shaun’s mom, Kim, handles the office.

“She’s a big part of what makes the business successful,” Bob said.

While the last name has stayed the same, the location has changed. After nearly six decades at the same location, KB’s Auto Lab recently moved to a larger facility, the former home of Leroy’s Garage on North Park Avenue in Herrin. The scope and complexity of the work has changed as well.

“KB’s Auto Lab has experienced steady growth over the past several years,” Bob said. “When I purchased it from my father in 1979, I knew I wanted to expand beyond brakes. Now, KB’s Auto Lab is a full-service shop specializing in general repair, electrical work and, of course, brakes, suspensions and alignment.”

Essick says that he has seen a lot of technological changes in the automotive industry.

“The big thing has been all of the electronics: electronic fuel injection, electronic controls and those sorts of things. Everything in a car is controlled with computers — your brakes, your instrument cluster, heating and air, even you radio. It’s all controlled by microprocessors,” he said.

For that reason, he said the approach to repairs is very important.

“Our motto is we test, not guess,” he said. “There is a big misconception. People think we just hook up a computer to a car and it tells us what parts are bad. That’s not the case at all. The computer tells us which circuits are affected and it becomes sort of a roadmap for us to find the problem and fix it. We have to trace it down to the real issue and figure it out from there. The testing saves unnecessary parts and expenses for the customer. We don’t just throw parts on and hope for the best.”

The process at KB’s Auto Lab may be a little more precise than other repair shops, but it he said it is worth it.

“We have very few ‘comebacks.’ Some of it is because of the way we do things and some of it is just the knowledge, the background and the history,” Essick said.

He said his background and history goes back to when he was very young, watching his father as soon as he was big enough to peer over a fender.

“I would watch him put things together and then when he’d go talk on the phone or something, I’d take them apart,” he said.

Shaun did the same. Now he works right next to his father and the pair bounce problems and solutions off of each other every day.

“We have a wide spectrum of what we do. I go back to the carburetors and points days, but my son is more comfortable with the electronics. We enjoy what we do and I think it’s in our blood. Our family just has a knack for mechanical things.”

KB’s Auto Lab is located at 2218 N. Park Ave. in Herrin. Call 618-942-4282 for more information.

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