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Auto experts encourage regular maintenance

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
One Stop Car Care in Hampton Manager Jimmy Smith (left), and head mechanic, Craig Weaver, examine the drive shaft of a truck, on Friday.

Photo by Johnny Jackson One Stop Car Care in Hampton Manager Jimmy Smith (left), and head mechanic, Craig Weaver, examine the drive shaft of a truck, on Friday.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Area mechanics have noticed a slight upswing in business lately, as spring break gets underway for many families across the Southern Crescent.

"Spring time is a busy season," said Jimmy Smith, manager of One Stop Car Care in Hampton.

Smith said motorists should have their scheduled maintenance performed by certified and professional mechanics, who can spot issues and potential problems.

"We may see cracks in hoses ... that the average person may not," Smith said. "We're trained for that. I suggest having a scheduled maintenance done by a professional who can spot early problems. It can save you on costly repairs."

Smith added that some common maintenance issues that arise this time of year are drive belt problems, oil leaks, and coolant leaks. His head mechanic, Craig Weaver, also pointed out that leaking coolant can cause the vehicle to overheat.

"Overheating is a major cause of engine failure during summer driving," said Smith.

The auto care professional said many more people are keeping their vehicles longer these days, as a result of the down-turn in the economy. He said some One Stop customers are still maintaining vehicles with more than 300,000 miles on them.

Georgia's Clean Air Force (GCAF) is also reminding motorists that vehicle health, and longevity, are not the only benefits of regular auto maintenance.

GCAF -- which, in conjunction with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, administers the state's vehicle emission testing program -- contends that keeping a vehicle in top operating condition will save fuel, reduce long-term maintenance costs, minimize harmful exhaust emissions, and lessen the overall effects of traffic-caused air pollution.

GCAF tests an average of 2.5 million vehicles each year in metro Atlanta, and as a result, officials expect to prevent more than 4,700 tons of pollutants from entering the air in 2011. It is participating in National Car Care Month, a nationwide effort in the month of April, that is led by the Car Care Council, to focus motorists' attention on the essentials of vehicle care and maintenance.

Results from a 2010 National Car Care Month report indicated that 72 percent of vehicles are in need of repair or maintenance. The report found that, of the more than 600 inspections conducted -- 26 percent of the vehicles failed due to low, over-full or dirty motor oil; 19 percent had low, leaky or dirty coolant; 23 percent had low, over-full or burnt transmission fluid; and 24 percent had problems with brake fluid.

GCAF is seeking to inform motorists throughout metro Atlanta about tips on passing its annual emission test, and ways to reduce vehicle pollutants. The organization also suggests that motorists "drive less," reducing travel by consolidating trips, telecommuting, carpooling, using public transit, and using commute alternatives such as biking or walking.

Another tip that GCAF gives to car owners is to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule, which will extend the life of a vehicle. Motorists can also check their tires for wear and tear, and proper inflation, and should perform regular checks of the volume of oil and other fluids in the car to be sure they are not low.

The organization advises vehicle owners to take their cars to skilled repair technicians, who understand emission-control systems, if there is a potential issue in passing the annual emission test.

To learn more about emissions testing, visit www.cleanairforce.com. For more about car care, visit www.carcare.org.