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SPSCC reopens program offering discounts on car repair

A local college is again offering discounted auto repairs to the public, and applications are easier than ever with a new online form.

The automotive department at South Puget Sound Community College is offering auto repair for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The public is invited to get their cars fixed by students at a discounted price. They have revamped their application process so now all customers need to do is fill out an online form. According to Kate Moore, the program manager, the previous process involved printing a form at home, filling it out by hand, and taking it to the college in person.

According to Malynda Murphy, a long-time customer, the service is great and she would recommend it to anyone. The only downside is that it can take more time and that the service has to fall under their curriculum that quarter, Murphy said. After she filled out the form, she heard back from Moore and got her car in the shop within 4-5 days. Moore was very detailed in explaining to her what was going on with the vehicle and what her options were, in addition to following it up with an email that summarized their conversation.

The shop also found two oil leaks in Murphy’s car that a different mechanic in Olympia had missed, and gave her more options for solutions. Their service felt more relaxed and less intimidating to use, involved more communication, and was incredibly thorough, Murphy said.

She plans to go in next quarter to get the oil leaks fixed. “I look forward to it. Why not benefit me and the students that get to check out the car?” Murphy said.

Just how discounted are the prices? The program charges a 30-percent markup on parts, compared to 100 percent from a typical dealership; a $50 per hour flat rate labor cost compared to $150-250, a 4-percent hazard fee instead of 10-15 percent, and no miscellaneous fees.

They can also sometimes cut labor costs even more for struggling community members. “We are not here to make money,” Moore said. Their primary goal is to get students hands-on experience.

There are some other considerations for using the service. It takes longer, and they do not offer any warranties. However, all the instructors are master certified through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, and no work gets done on the cars without them.

A memo sent out from the department describes what classes are going on and what services are offered. One class is working on basics like oil changes and tire rotations, while others are working on manual transmissions, engine performance, and electrical issues.

The applications are open to everyone, and if there is doubt about whether or not a problem fits under the curriculum, Moore is happy to discuss it.

Avian de Keizer Mendoza is a student at South Puget Sound Community College.

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