Economic crisis overshadows car repairs

By Morgan Miller
October 23, 2008

Shannon Keough

Students living away from home at college often have to make independent decisions on car repairs for the first time. Although they can consult their family by phone, they have to decide when a squeak or a thump needs to be checked out.

Now with the economic downturn, many are delaying expensive repairs.

Christopher Socienski, junior management information system major, treats his 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP like he would a child. Socienski adores driving his car so much that when there was a rise in gas prices he did not turn the ignition off.

The current economic crisis has lead Socienski to second guess his intense desire to be behind the wheel. The decrease in car grooming has also reflected onto car repairs.

“With the economy being terrible, I haven’t repaired some things on my car,” Socienski said. “Some are actually pretty important; however, some are not.”

Socienski, an individual full of information about cars, explained that he needs to fix the weather-stripping on the driver’s side. However, since money is tight right now and it is not essential, he knows he has to wait.

Socienski grows more serious as he discusses an important repair needed for his car.

“The CV joint in my axle pops when I make a right hand turn,” Socienski said. “If the joint completely breaks, the car isn’t moving out of the parking spot.”

Socienski explained how he takes action as soon as the red or yellow light shows up on the dashboard, which is indication of a problem.

Socienski further displayed his car knowledge by stressing the importance of this light.

“The light on the dash is one that should not be ignored. You can take your car to AutoZone or Pep Boys and they can plug a computer into your car,” Socienski said. “This can tell you more specifically what that light means and the repairs needed.”

Not everybody knows information on cars or thinks to check immediately once a light pops up.

Matt Keller, freshman exercise science major, and John Kidd, freshman criminology major, both agree that the dashboard lights intended for warning do not mean much to them.

“I usually ignore any lights that pop up, especially if they are yellow,” Kidd said. “When a light turns red and stays that way for a while, I eventually get around to telling my parents.”

Keller, nodding his head in agreement, said, “I definitely don’t let the lights ruin my day. It’s just not something I think is overly important.”

How does the average driver who can drive well, but is not mechanically trained to fix cars, know what to do when that impending engine light comes on?

The answer is AAA.

AAA, the No. 1 roadside assistance program, is a company located in King of Prussia at 139 East Dekalb Pike. AAA has employees dedicated to car owners in need.

AAA provides inspections for members of the company. The inspections can inform owners of issues that may save their car from complete damage.

Amanda Porteus, AAA retail agent and travel agent, said, “A lot of the calls we get have to do with the fact that owners are not aware of problems and how to maintain a car. Our services try to keep them aware and give the best deals when problems do arise.”

Nicole Hearn, senior biological sciences major, has used AAA. Hearn was traveling down Interstate 476 when the tire on her previous car exploded.

Hearn, alone and terrified, called AAA. The agent she spoke with told her to stay in the car since she was alone. After finding out Hearn’s destination, the repairman got there as soon as possible in order to aid her.

“I don’t know anything about cars. I always just ask my dad,” Hearn said. “When my tire exploded and I was on the side of I-476 in a skirt by myself, I was terrified. AAA got there in 15 minutes. The agent [I spoke with] and the repairman were so helpful.”

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Morgan Miller

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