College Car Care 101

Holly Farris

Holly Farris

Kyle Jameson has never worried about his car breaking down.

“It never interested me. I had better things to do,” said Jameson, an advertising sophomore. “And I have AAA.”

For many college students today, this attitude shows how easy it has become to rely on repair shops for everything from complicated repairs to small maintenance details.

“When I was a kid, we were all gear heads. Now they just get in, turn the key and go,” said Grant Pederson, owner of GP Auto Service and Repair in Brookings.

But in this college town, garage owners say knowing how to care for an automobile’s basic needs can be much more than a hobby. The ability to complete simple repairs or vehicle checks can save car owners money on potential repairs by professionals, extend the life of a car and make driving safer.

Kevin King said his business, Automotive Service Center (ASC), gets a lot a business from college students in Brookings. His employees try to teach students about car care, along with current fixing problems.

“You can save yourself an incredible amount of money,” King said. “The big thing is to educate themselves.”

King recommended reading the owner’s manual and taking advantage of the Internet’s many Web sites on car care.

“Learn as much as you can,” he said. “Take care of the vehicle now.”

Kasey Bickel, a fourth-year hotel and food service management student, tries to do exactly that.

“I can check my tire pressure and I can put air in my tires. I also keep track of when I need to change my oil and have that done when I need to,” she said. “I do that so I feel safe when I’m driving long distances-like going home.”

Bickel’s drive home to Timber Lake, in north central South Dakota, covers a few hundred miles, with long distances in between many of the towns.

“It makes me nervous because I am 300 miles from home, and if I ever had any problems, I’m a long way from anyone who could help,” Bickel said. “I’d say that the average college girl doesn’t know as much about her car as she should. It’s dangerous to at least not know how to change a flat tire.”

So, does Bickel know how to change a tire?

“No, and I think it’s stupid that I don’t know how,” she said. “I asked my dad to show me how to change a tire once, but he never did.”

It isn’t just college “girls” who are car-maintenance impaired, said Ron Dobesh, who owns Ron’s Auto Repair in Brookings.

“I’ve had some girls who know a lot more than the guys do.”

Brady Mallory, from Austin, Minn., agreed. He admits he doesn’t know as much about car care as he should, but said it’s something he wants to work on.

“I’ll probably deal with it [car trouble] as it comes up, but I do realize it’s something I need to learn. It’s not just girls who have problems with it,” said the psychology sophomore, whose mechanical abilities are limited to changing a tire-a skill he picked up last year after friends had to help him change a flat tire.

“It’s nice to know if something like that happened again, I wouldn’t have to rely on anyone else,” he said.

Mallory likes to think of car maintenance as another part of his college education. He said from cars to finances, students eventually have to stop relying on their parents for help or to take care of problems.

So, before college students take to the road for their next road trip or trip home to see their families, they should consider learning how to do cruical repairs or upkeep tasks.