MY BIZ: Roadside service from Red’s Gas and Diesel


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Sep 21, 2023

MY BIZ: Roadside service from Red’s Gas and Diesel

Mitchell Burhite goes to where big trucks need repairs Feb. 28, 2023 5:00 am

Mitchell Burhite goes to where big trucks need repairs

Feb. 28, 2023 5:00 am

CEDAR RAPIDS — It's a common sight on a road trip, the semi-trailer rig at the side of the road, its hood up. Along Eastern Iowa highways Mitchell Burhite could be under that hood.

"I get people rolling in 20, 30 minutes, and I’ve had people rolling in four or five hours," Burhite said. "That's just the nature of the game."

Burhite's Red's Gas and Diesel roadside repair service grew from his years of experience – decades’ worth, even though he's just 29.

"I’ve been working on cars and trucks and semis my entire life," he said. "My dad was a shop owner."

Burhite worked at his father Brad Burhite's Family Auto Sales and other shops in Cedar Rapids. Brad Burhite died in 2019.

"When he was the owner of the shop, I worked for him," he said. "Then I ventured off and did my own thing and found other shops to work for."

Working in shops specializing in diesel truck maintenance, Burhite saw an opportunity.

"A lot of shops don't want to take care of bigger jobs by the side of the road," he said. "That doesn't bother me one bit. I’ll go out and replace kingpins on the side of the road, or I’ll replace an axle."

So he launched Red's Gas and Diesel last year. Working out of his northeast Cedar Rapids home, he responds to semi-truck breakdowns, mostly in Linn, Jones and Johnson counties.

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"Depending on how big of a job, I’ll go out to Des Moines," he said.

Working around his day job at a Cedar Rapids truck-repair shop, Burhite is available for calls weekday nights and all day Saturdays. But like that call to Des Moines, he's flexible.

"We’re 24/7 but working my full-time job, the best time to get hold of me is from five to ten (p.m.)," Burhite said. "But if goes on beyond that, it's fine. I’ve had calls at two in the morning, three in the morning."

Burhite may own a brick-and-mortar repair shop someday. For now, he's like a would-be restaurateur starting with a food truck.

Wife and office manager Kimberly Burhite handles many of the calls.

"I pretty much keep him straight on place and time he's got to go and do something," she said. "But he's the one who goes and puts in all the hard work and time and dedication."

Stranded truckers find Red's Gas and Diesel through mobile apps such as TruckDown.

"That's a relatively simple process," Burhite said. "That's a GPS-based deal, so if Joe Blow is looking for service, their onboard GPS system has that application on it, and they find it from there."

Diagnosing the problem on the phone can be hit and miss.

"People think you should just go out there and it's an in-and-out kind of deal," Burhite said. "We live in Iowa. It's the Rust Belt, it's never an in-and-out deal. I tell people, ‘Prepare for the worst but pray for the best.’"

Like their four-wheeled cousins, modern heavy trucks have grown more complex and computerized.

"In the trucking industry, things are always developing," Burhite said. "I’m always having to buy new equipment. In my garage I have approximately four different scanners. There's a Ford scanner, I have one that covers primarily Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt."

Burhite's pickup is stocked with tools, and he tries to identify what parts he's likely to need before heading to a breakdown.

"The ones that are always fun are the ones that happen on late Saturday evening into Sunday," he said. "That's when the heavy-truck suppliers with the parts are all closed. Then you’ve got to make something work. You’ve got to build something to make it happen.

"Those are the kind of things the truckers are real appreciative about."

Diesels don't like winter, either, when wax crystals can develop in the fuel, causing stalling and even engine damage.

"Winter gets crazy," Burhite said. "Once I literally lived in my truck for two days straight. ... It was just back to back to back to back. It's kind of crazy, but it works."

Owner: Mitchell Burhite

Address: 3020 Eastern Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids

Phone: (319) 893-2708


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