Drivers' Ed

"OK, so my car's making this thunking, scraping noise that sounds kinda like grunsssssk. Then when I hit a bump, it sounds like a squeaky bedspring on the right side. Oh, and can you change the oil, because I can't really remember the last time that happened." To an honest mechanic, you're a customer in need of a good lesson under the hood of your car. To a shady one, you're nothing but a big fat dollar sign. Too bad you couldn't go in with enough info to understand what they're going to tell you...or to know if it's a scam.

It is unbelievably easy in today's don't-care-how-just-get-it-done society to have someone else take care of everything simply because we don't know our way around a car and we don't think we have the time to learn. But realistically, just learning the basics of car care can save half a day spent on the side of the road or even weeks recovering from a heinous accident. Oh, and don't forget those inflated repair bills.

Auto care expert Trisha Hessinger knows the world under a car's hood like the back of her hands. And come to think of it, she should know the back of her hands pretty well, since they've spent many of their days gripping a steering wheel--Hessinger is a former race car driver. The host of Car Care and Build a Kit Car on the DIY Network imparts her know-how on making your car last, saving money on gas, driving better in bad weather, preparing for road trips, "what to check and when to check it" and more at Firestone's Car Care Academies across the country. "It's extremely important for men, women, boys and girls to have good understanding and basic knowledge in order to avoid breakdowns," Hessinger says. "A little knowledge goes a long way."

The academies cover simple maintenance (like monitoring tire pressure, balance and rotation) as well as info that will make heading to the repair shop a little less daunting. Without a good base knowledge, she says, women--and yes, even men--don't always get the respect they'd prefer from a mechanic. But since Hessinger is auto-knowledgeable and female, ladies usually feel a little more at ease discussing their dipsticks with her. You won't get any lewd comments or down-talking from this car-crazy chick. Just the facts, ma'am.

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin