While many of us don’t need to know much about algebra, nearly all of us would benefit from understanding how to change a flat tire on a car, replace the oil or know if the battery is in tip-top shape for winter.

Plattsmouth High School students in the Basic Car Care class are learning these technical skills and more so they may keep their vehicles running no matter what the age, make or model.

The semester-long class meets for 90 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. “They learn all aspect of buying, maintaining, leasing and all careers associated with the automotive industry,” according to Skills, Technology and Science instructor Andrew Christensen.

This week, the 13 students in the class were divided into groups. “Each group has a leader. They learned about the specific skill in their groups,” Christensen said.

Each group rotated through six stations, each focusing on a different car care topic. The stations included a tire change, wiring a radio, checking spark plugs, changing the oil, checking the battery and checking the fluids including antifreeze.

The students not only changed the tire, they also learned to check the tread depth on it to determine whether the tire is wearing evenly or not. “Tires are really expensive,” Christensen explained. “If you have uneven wear, you have to replace the tire and repair the alignment. If you check them early enough, you just have to repair the alignment and you can keep the tires you have.”

In addition to the tires, Christensen said learning proper battery maintenance is very important. “You need to make sure the terminals are clean on the battery. You learn to clean and place di-electric grease on the terminals. Sometimes the battery terminals get corroded, which would lead to a ‘no start and terminal corrosion.’”

Learning to change the oil is another requirement of the class. “In addition, they also learn about the color and texture of the oil to determine the health of the vehicle,” he said.

Another station concentrated on the spark plugs. “A good tune up includes changing spark plugs.

Many people also forget that gaping a spark plug is important. When gaping a spark plug you’re making sure the gap is set to automotive specifications. Also, just like the oil, they will learn how to read the color of the spark plug to determine the health of the engine. A good spark plug is light brown in color,” he said.

At the Radio Wiring Station, students learned how to read a wiring diagram, crimp wires and solder wires, and successfully wire a radio, Christensen explained.

“They basically learned about electricity,” he said.

A pickup just outside the classroom served as a tool to teach the students about checking the antifreezes on a vehicle. “They also determined the voltage of the battery and about starting the vehicle to determine how much voltage and amperage the alternator is putting out,” Christensen said.

With winter fast approaching, students will soon cover winterizing a vehicle. Proper winterization includes going through the vehicle and making sure all the fluids are checked, the tires are good, the air pressure in the tires is checked and the battery has a full charge.

Christensen said winterization also involves having the correct materials in a vehicle’s trunk in case it gets stuck in a snowstorm. Important items include a blanket, candle, windshield wiper fluid, water, snack, flashlight, small can of gravel to provide traction for tires stuck in the snow and an ice scraper. “They will also learn about checking the wiper blades,” Christensen said.

Even in southeast Nebraska, there have been instances in which people have lost their lives in a snowstorm because they did not have the proper items with them.

“You just don’t know,” he said.

What Christensen does know is that the students in the class are engaged in the learning process. “They really enjoy the class, because they’re busy and it’s relevant to their lives,” he said.

Christian Winchel, a student in the class, agreed. “It’s pretty fun. I’m also in the small engine class and welding. We went to the Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing plant in Lincoln, and it was very interesting.”

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