LEXINGTON, Neb. (AP) — Preparation for graduation at Lexington High School now includes learning the basics of car care.
A weeklong course is being taught to seniors, a small group at a time, during morning focus period. By the end of the school year, each senior will have taken the class.
"I put a combination together of everything my kids called me about when they left home," Automotive instructor Shane Schmidt said about the course's curriculum.
The goal is to acquaint students with vehicles to enhance preventive maintenance and safety, the Kearney Hub (http://bit.ly/1Memrf2 ) reported.
The class covers basics such as how to check the oil and tire pressure. Additionally, students learn how to evaluate a tire for signs of wear and the importance of getting new tires when needed. A jack, tire iron and spare with air are items each car should have, Schmidt said, and students should know where they are located.
Students learn how to change a tire. They also learn about the battery and how to jump-start a car.
Schmidt said these are basics everyone used to know but that have fallen by the wayside in a hurried and technologically advanced world. He said today's reliable cars have made some people lax about vehicle maintenance and safety.
"We get in the habit of jumping in our cars and getting it to school because we wait until the last minute," Schmidt said.
Scheduling time to look over a car is important, Schmidt said. He told students to include such an inspection on a before-I-head-to-college checklist and before trips home. He said if they don't write it down, they might overlook examining the car to make sure it is ready for travel.
He also told students to have vehicles equipped for travel with water in the car, a small first-aid kit, a flashlight, a blanket and a small candle and matches. Those items are in addition to the jump-start cables and tire pressure gauge.
Schmidt's first class of students said they were surprised to learn they were assigned to the class, but by the end of the week, they saw it as time well-spent.
Alex Vega, 16, said he learned to take maintaining a car seriously. He said he feels better-prepared for situations that may come up.
"If I'm stranded, I'll know what to do," he said.
Niki Rodriguez said she learned she should carry tools and extra things in case something happens.
"I liked this class because we learned things we didn't know," she said.
Other tips Schmidt offered students were to keep at least a quarter tank of gas at all times and to operate a vehicle on regular unleaded and unleaded with ethanol, recording the miles driven on each tank of gas to compare the car's miles-per-gallon performance and which is most cost-effective.
"I learned how to check when your tires are wearing out, and that's important because mine are wearing out and I never knew about that," said Guadalupe Martinez, 17.
Schmidt encouraged locating a reputable repair shop before a problem arises and using the same auto supply shop for purchases to establish a relationship as a repeat customer.
Schmidt was hired by Lexington Public Schools last year to begin an auto technology program in cooperation with Central Community College. He has 25 years of experience as an auto technician. While those classes are elective, the basics of car care is in the schedule for every senior.
"We have turned into such a society of cell phones that we don't think ahead about being prepared. People think that if they have any trouble they will call someone," Schmidt said.
That may not be an effective plan if the problem arises during a school break when everyone is heading home or during a holiday when service shops are closed.
"Preventive maintenance is always cheaper than waiting until something breaks," Schmidt told a group of students.
As an example Blake Casper, a student in automotive courses, told how he asked Schmidt to help him figure out the cause of new shaking in the back of his truck. They located two differential u-joint bolts that were rusted and found that another two were missing. The cost of replacing the bolts was minor compared to what could have been.
Casper also showed his classmates a tire that was missing the outer tread. It peeled off while he was driving 60 mph. Luckily, the tire didn't lose air, and he wasn't hurt. The cause probably was over-inflation, Casper and Schmidt said.
"I'm not trying to turn them into auto mechanics at all. I'm just trying to give them a little knowledge to make their lives easier when they get to college," Schmidt said.
Information from: Kearney Hub, http://www.kearneyhub.com/
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