Talking shop: Car maintenance for students


A mechanic works on a tire in a mechanic shop in Kent, October 27, 2014.

Nathan Havenner

Anyone who owns a vehicle knows that routine maintenance is paramount to sustaining a reliable car. But not all students are aware of the financial drain that ignoring vehicle maintenance can have on their wallet.

Richard King of King’s Auto Repair in Kent said there are simple steps students can take to avoid significant repair bills. He said the simplest step is for students to adjust their driving habits to avoid damaging the engine or transmission.

Protecting transmission

King said that during the winter season, he has seen younger drivers rocking their car from drive to reverse when they get stuck in snow. He said that in a modern front-wheel-drive, rocking those gears could damage the transmission.

A typical transmission replacement for a 4-cylinder vehicles costs $2,700 on average, and replacing a damaged 4-cylinder engine could cost between $2,500 and $4,000, King said.

Replacing tires

Kyle Rist, service manager at Firestone Complete Auto Care in Kent, said one of the biggest mistakes he sees students make is waiting too long before having their tires replaced.

“College-age students come in here for an oil change, and they have tires that are split and the tread is very low,” Rist said. “It is a huge factor for winter driving.”

Rist said neglecting to replace worn tires is the number one mistake he sees from younger drivers and is often something that people don’t consider.

“It does vary widely, but for a whole set of four tires, ballpark around $400 installed,” Rist said.

King said the best way to tell if your tires need to be replaced is to look for little ridges that are cast into the tire. These are called wear bars and if the entire bridge of wear bars is visible across the tread, the tire needs to be replaced.

Changing motor oil

Students may often forget to change their motor oil roughly every 3,000 miles or three months, King said. An oil change costs about $25 and ensures the engine is properly lubricated, avoiding metal-to-metal contact. Neglecting an oil change could result in significant engine damage, he said.

Students maintain their cars

Sophomore speech pathology and audiology major Jessica McKee said she thinks it is important to keep up with auto maintenance.

“It would endanger my safety if I don’t get things on my car fixed,” McKee said.

McKee said if something went wrong with her car and she did not have the money to have the problem fixed, she would not drive it until she could take care of the problem.

“The bus routes can get me where I need to go,” Mckee said. “I would save up the money and drive it when it gets fixed.”

Freshman exercise science major Josh Gowans said his family does all routine maintenance on their vehicles.

“My dad showed me how to change the oil and rotate the tires, it’s just how I was raised,” Gowans said.

Contact Nathan Havenner at [email protected].