Independent shop owners, program groups and franchises have been busy this spring planning, promoting and executing National Car Care Month (NCCM) events for April. As they educate motorists about the benefits of preventive maintenance, they simultaneously create more knowledgeable customers who, in turn, are better customers. In many areas, however, it’s not just shop owners who are hosting vehicle check ups. With the help of their instructors and students, many technology schools are taking part in NCCM activities.
David Webb, an instructor at Metro Technology Center in Oklahoma City, OK has been participating in Car Care Clinics since the 80’s. In fact, instructors Webb, Miguel Sanchez, David Castillo and Floyd Kelley organize two vehicle checkup events each year, one in the spring and one in the summer. Like all good teachers, David and his fellow instructors at Metro Technology Center spend plenty of time training their students prior to the clinics.
“The students must volunteer for this event, which is held on a Saturday. They must demonstrate the ability to perform inspections on at least three different vehicles before we let them work at the clinic,” said Webb. “In class we talk about the importance of maintaining your vehicle. We teach them that little things, such as keeping their tires properly inflated, can help with gas mileage and increase tire life. They have to meet and greet our customers and they learn how to complete the forms.”
The forms, available free of charge from the Car Care Council (www.carcare.org), include checks of belts and hoses, wipers, washer solvent, tire pressure and depth, fluid levels, batter, cables, appearance, glass and more. Because the forms are in triplicate, the students are able to note various discrepancies, giving a copy to the customer and sending one to the Council for compilation of national statistics.
If a car is in need a maintenance or repair, the school, which uses live projects in their shop for training, can schedule it in their shop at a later date. Because the car count the day of the clinic can hit 175 vehicles, it’s important to have all of the 31 bays in the new training facility open and ready for the check ups. It’s a busy, exciting event, and Webb can’t say enough about the positive affect that it has on his students and their customers.
“The students who are able to volunteer for the clinic love it; they learn about dealing with different types of customers and their cars. Of course, the customers are so appreciative of these services that they can’t wait to thank the students. The students swell with pride by the end of the day. Some of our students have to work and can’t volunteer for this activity. When they hear how much fun everyone had, they get a little jealous.” The instructors try to make it a fun day by cooking hotdogs or ordering pizza at the end of the clinic.
While some groups that host vehicle check ups ask for donations for a beneficiary, Webb’s students don’t ask for anything. In fact, they even throw in a few extras for the participants. “We have coffee and doughnuts for everyone. We have even had some of our vendors come in and do mini-sessions on preventive maintenance,” said Webb.
Of course, it’s difficult to host a large community event without the support of the technology center’s director. Savvy directors see this as an opportunity to interact with the local community and show what the school has to offer. “John Robinson, our director, attends the event, meeting and greeting our customers,” said Webb. “He understands the importance of hands-on training and he appreciates the effort we make to serve our community.”
Webb and his team have other supporters, as well. They partner with AAA and KQCV, a local radio station. “They have helped us tremendously,” said Webb. “AAA has helped with donations of washer fluid so that we can top off everyone’s fluid. KQCV has donated air time, key chains, books, and even tickets to a play. Our partners have always been willing to help in any way they can.” Other partnering opportunities include local independent shops, program groups or dealerships. In fact, a number of nationally known program groups offered help in 2005 to any school who wanted to participate in National Car Care Month check ups. In addition to partnering with the automotive aftermarket industry, schools also sometimes work with local law enforcement or civic groups.
No matter who the other participants are, every event needs lots of signage to grab the attention of passing motorists. This year, the students at Metro Tech are sporting new banners and other materials from the Be Car Care Aware campaign starter kit. Included is an “April is National Car Care Month” bay banner, a “Be Car Care Aware” bay banner, consumer education brochures, the popular Service Interval Schedule and other assorted educational resources. The group also registered their event at www.carcare.org where tens of thousands of motorists and the media contacts look for vehicle check ups and other events during National Car Care Month. The state-by-state roster helps motorists find events quickly; the accompanying contact information helps them verify the date, time and location.
“David Webb and the instructors at Metro Tech are a great example of the many schools that view National Car Care Month as a teaching opportunity,” said Rich White, Car Care Council Executive Director. “If this industry is to grow, we must to teach the next generation that scheduled maintenance is vital for our customers’ safety, dependability and return on their investment. Likewise, it’s vital for the industry’s bottom line.”
According to White, there are many items available from the Car Care Council’s Be Car Care Aware campaign to help schools plan an event during National Car Care Month. Along with the starter kit, which has lots of visual resources, the Council offers a free Event Planner online (www.carcare.org/NCCM/pdf/2004_Event_Planner.pdf). Staff members who have helped schools host vehicle check ups are available to help answer questions at 240-333-1088 or by e-mailing [email protected].