It was a dark and windy night toward the end of October. Rather than being in the comfort of my dorm room or hanging out with friends, I was stuck on the side of Highway 30. The forest was to the right of me, and semi-trucks were racing down the road left of me. The only thing keeping me from being completely stranded was a great friend and their not-so-great car. We were standing beside the car in the grass because the smell of grinding gears and burnt motor oil made sitting inside unbearable. The worst problem was we couldn’t even open the hood to check what was going on because it was jammed. Eventually, we got their car started again and had to drive on back roads in pitch darkness. There was nothing but their headlights to illuminate our path. Their dad was able to find us after we gave him a location to meet at. It turned out their oil tank was almost empty, with the dipstick coming back “bone-dry” in the words of their father.


While it is understandable that not everyone is going to be a mechanic and be able to fix every issue with their vehicles, I have been involved with or heard too many experiences about students and their car troubles. This is why I believe TJC needs to implement a program or series of workshops that will teach students how to recognize common problems involving a vehicle. These lessons should include not only teaching students how to understand when something is wrong with their vehicle, but also teach them skills ranging from a simple tire pressure check to a more complicated battery jump.


Old vehicles greater than 10 years are expected to break down twice as likely as newer vehicles. Unfortunately, more than half the cars on the road are 10 years or older because of the steady increase of used car sales and a decrease in the new car market over the past several years. Due to this, AAA prepares technicians for more and more breakdowns every year. A study from 2018 detailed that “AAA Texas expects to come to the rescue of more than 330,000 drivers this summer primarily for dead batteries, flat tires and engine cooling related issues.”

Hazard sign and a man working on his car
Students new to driving may not know how to solve basic problems with their cars, causing them financial stress when their car breaks down. Photo illustration by Chris Swann


According to JD Power, the average cost for a tow in America is around $109. Labor and distance are common factors that add to the price. A knowledgeable person who knows how to change their tire or give their battery a jump can avoid having to pay for a tow to the nearest mechanic.


Being able to recognize these problems and stagnate them before having to take your car into the mechanic can actually be cheaper than waiting until your car doesn’t run to go get it fixed. Even if you can’t fix the problem yourself, being able to recognize when your car has a serious issue can help you determine if it’s time to go to a mechanic so the problem doesn’t get worse.


For example, a leak in your oil tank can cause other issues for your car, like the degradation of the rubber hosing used in the HVAC systems of the vehicle. This is not an issue you can fix yourself, but a leak left unchecked can result in your car losing oil much faster. If you understand there’s a problem with your oil, you can avoid the situation by changing your oil yourself or taking your car to a shop, instead of having to be stuck on the side of a busy highway in the middle of the night.


While TJC already has a class called “Learning Framework” that teaches some skills like resume building and budgeting, it would be great to add to that foundation and offer other learning opportunities. The events calendar on the TJC website lists weekly seminars on the basics of writing and workshops labeled “Study Strategies for Math and Science Classes.” In addition to the workshops previously mentioned, there are workshops about “stress management” and improving your “soft skills.” The variety of workshops held gives student the opportunity to attend one that aligns with their needs or interests. These events are free to attend, and they allow students to learn skills they may not have or need help fine-tuning.


While most of the workshops are primarily academic-based, implementing workshops focusing on honing and developing life-skills would be a great way for students who may not reach out for help to get the knowledge and experience they need.


Teaching young adults to recognize and resolve minor issues before they become major can save them as much if not more money as the budgeting and strategies taught in already existing classes and workshops. With TJC having almost weekly seminars about college core subjects, it’s not too far out there to ask that they also implement more workshops that are focused on preparing students for the world beyond TJC’s walls.