‘If it’s diesel, we’ll take care of it’

Dan’s Diesel offers truck repair, towing and 24-hour roadside service


By Jim Palmer


Dan’s Diesel is family owned and operated. Pictured are (left to right) Brandon, Dan, Jennifer and Jordan Prahl. Contributed photo

In 1997, Dan Prahl decided to make a big career change. He had been living in St. Cloud and working as a mechanic at the couple of dealerships in town. It was time for a change. Dan moved into his grandmother’s old farm place in Sunburg, Minn., and opened up a little diesel mechanic shop. He called it Dan’s Diesel. He was just a guy with some tools, some knowledge and a commitment to helping customers. Dan’s Diesel quickly became the go-to shop for diesel repair in the area and the business started to grow. And it hasn’t stopped growing since -- the business has grown every year since 1997. In 2013, a second location was added in Willmar. And in 2016, a new location was added in Alexandria.


“We continue to expand each shop and keep them growing,” said Brandon Prahl, Dan’s youngest son who is the shop foreman at the Alexandria location.


Dan’s Diesel is a family-owned and operated diesel repair shop offering 24-hour, seven-day-a-week roadside service for repairs, heavy towing and recovery. They offer full-service truck repair including brakes, emission repairs, DOTs, alignments, tires, coolant leaks, generator repair and complete engine overhauls.


Jonny Nussbaum stands by the Dan’s Diesel tow truck ready for assistance at the Alexandria location. Contributed photo

“We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Brandon. “We serve about a 50 mile radius around each one of our locations. If it’s diesel, we’ll take care of it. If we can fix it on site we do that and if it is anything major, we tow them”


Because of their locations, the shops by Sunburg and Willmar primarily take care of large agriculture diesel machinery.


“The Willmar shop now carries skid loader attachments and we recently started doing vehicle graphics (decals/vehicle wraps) as well,” said Brandon.


Because of its location, the shop in Alexandria services a lot of semi trucks. It is located in same building as the Pilot Travel Center, right off I-94, just west of Alexandria.


“We have a full wash bay in Alexandria, and we are now an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) dealer.


Brandon Prahl, shop foreman at the Alexandria location, does an electric diagnostic test on a vehicle. Photo by Jim Palmer

There are some differences in the three shops, but there are also a lot of similarities. One thing that is consistent throughout is business is customer service.


“My job here is to get people get in and out of here with quality repairs and service,” said Katie Braun, service/parts manager. “When a trucker has down time that means they are losing money. We consider ‘down time’ as a dirty word here. Every hour they are not on the road they are losing money.”


Katie said the first step is often reassuring and comforting the trucker so they know that they will be taken care of.


“These guys come in off the freeway from everywhere,” said Katie. “A lot of times these guys are several hundred miles from home. Their tensions are high, their money has stopped and their truck is broken. They can trust that we will take care of them and get them back on the road.”


Katie said it really comes down to compassion and care for the customer.


Katie Bruan, service/parts manager, works to find a part of a customer at the Alexandria location. Photo by Jim Palmer

“We really do care about our customers and care about people. We really want to help them and get them back out there,” she said.


“We are problem solvers and we have compassion,” said Brandon. “Our guys have no problem getting up at 2 or 3 a.m. to go help someone who needs it.”


One example of their commitment and compassion toward their customers came in March, when Dan’s Diesel responded to a semi recovery on I-94 with a trucker from Idaho.


“The truck was all burned up,” said Katie. “The driver got out and his cat was with him and the cat got out. He basically lost all of his belongings in the fire.”


The crew at Dan’s Diesel took care of the semi, but also went the extra mile.


Roadside help is available from Dan’s Diesel 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pictured is a semi rollover from last winter. Contributed photo

“I contacted Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre,” she said. “They quickly brought him clothes, blankets, toothpaste, and everything else he needed. He basically had nothing left.”


But that wasn’t all.


“The guy’s cat was diabetic and he was very worried about his cat because the cat’s insulin was also in his truck,” said Katie. “Our guys climbed into the burned up truck and recovered the insulin for his cat.”


Katie said the trucker and his family were very grateful for their efforts to help him through such a traumatic day.


Emergencies like that one come up now and then, and Dan’s Diesel makes a point to allow for extra time in its schedule each day (beyond their regular work) so their team can react to whatever emergency comes up.


This tradition of customer service was started by Dan Prahl in the early days of Dan’s Diesel. That commitment to customer service has been passed to his employees... and his family. Over the years, Dan’s wife Jennifer has helped him with bookkeeping and now takes care of the books for all three sites. His two sons, Jordan and Brandon also joined the team (when they were old enough).


Nolan Bartholomew works on a diesel engine at the Alexandria location. Photo by Jim Palmer

“When you meet this family, they are just an amazing family,” said Katie. “Dan will tell you that his boys were adjusting brakes at three years old. The boys grew up in the shop and they are amazing kids. They are young and talented.”


“My dad taught us everything we know,” said Brandon, who specializes in the electric diagnostics at Dan’s Diesel.


“And now Dan will tell you that his son’s know more than he does when it comes to the new stuff,” Katie laughed.


The Dan’s Diesel team works hard to be the one-stop shop for anything diesel related. That means staying on top of the latest products and techniques.


“We do regular trainings with the guys to keep them up to date,” said Brandon.


Each location has a team of specialists that is trained and certified to tackle .


“We have a great team of guys,” said Katie. “Everyone works really well together.”


The crew at Dan’s Diesel in Alexandria. Photo by Jim Palmer

Those who need help with their diesel machines, big or small, whether that be truck repair, towing or service needs, Dan’s Diesel can help from any of their three locations -- Sunburg, 14250 135th Ave NW Sunburg, (320) 264-5852; Willmar, 7600 Hwy 71 South, (320) 995-6108, and Alexandria, 3181 Evergreen Lane, (320) 762-7218


All three shops are open Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and the shop line is available 24 hours a day for emergency service. Learn more at www.dansdieselservice.com or find them on Facebook.


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