Friday, May 4, 2012

Junky jalopies and safe summer driving

A rough count of the number of student vehicles checked yesterday is thirty-two or thirty-three.

Thanks to the students of PS 3003 Energy and Energy Efficiency for giving of their time and getting their hands dirty (again!) to help out with these checks.

Most student vehicles were in good or at least adequate shape, and will survive the drive to wherever their owners are going, to home or to a summer job.

Because Unity College students are getting qualifications in the conservation and environmental professions, summer jobs are very often a long way away, out west, or in the deep south, occasionally even Alaska.

Some vehicles, about four or five of the total, definitely need some TLC. We found flat tires, bad mufflers, failed brake systems, and so on. Several check engine lights were on, and although none of the trouble codes we pulled were so dire that we had to advise the owners not to drive, some were worrisome.

The flat tires and failed brakes were the most dangerous problems we found.

I wasn't expecting to be able to diagnose failed brake systems with a simple safety check, but I'd forgotten that the modern fashion for disc brakes and open wheel configurations allows the rotors and pads to be easily seen. We were able to spot rough, ridged, and even corroded disc rotors, as well as worn pads. Of these symptoms, corrosion on the face of the disc rotor is the most problematic we found -- if there's rust on your rotor's face, your brake caliper and pads aren't working at all.

In general, we found what we expected to find, that not all students can afford safe and reliable transportation. We did our best to help out, but obviously we're not going to be able to do brake-and-tire jobs on every vehicle.

The main thing is for ALL students driving home is to drive safely, but especially if we warned you about the state of your vehicle.

Go slow. Don't speed.  It's not worth it.

Particularly, if we warned you about your worn tires and brakes, don't drive through a bad rainstorm. Pull over someplace safe and wait out the storm.

Better yet, get the new tires or new brakes before you drive off for the summer.

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