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Car repairs take back seat during tough economic times

Posted March 4, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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AAA of the Carolinas says more drivers who don't pass inspections are choosing not to fix their vehicles because money is tight.

AAA: Some drivers ignoring inspections AAA: Some drivers ignoring inspections

“They come in here for the first time for their inspection and bam, they're hit. They have bald tires. Their brakes are down. The brakes are metal-to-metal. They've got brake leaks, or the steering system's leaking,” said Bill Ashton, AAA mechanic.

Annually, state motorists spend approximately $141 million on safety and emissions inspections, though nearly three decades of research have failed to conclusively show that mechanical defects are a significant cause of accidents, according to a report from the state Legislature's Program Evaluation Division. North Carolina crash data indicates 1 percent of all crashes statewide were at least partly due to a mechanical condition.

During challenging economic times, some drivers are even less concerned with such mechanical problems because of how much repairs cost.

“We cannot stop a person. If it is declined and it is failed, we cannot stop them from driving off the lot in an unsafe vehicle,” said Donnie McLamb, with the AAA Car Care Center.

That scenario is happening more often these days, according to AAA. When cars fail inspections, customers are opting to get second opinions or are putting off repairs until their economic situation improves.

“They just don't have the money. That's always a concern for us,” Ashton said.

Mechanics said even simple fixes are getting put on hold, such as a worn-out tire. Replacing a tire can cost more than $100, so mechanics say a lot of customers are driving around on bad rubber.

“You just decide whether it's worth taking care of it at this point or not. Do you have the money? If you do, you have to take care of it,” customer Bill Shaw said.

If your car does fail an inspection, you have 60 days to correct problems. You can also be re-inspected at no extra cost, provided you have a receipt from the original inspection.


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  • ncguy Mar 5, 2009

    And this is new news?
    When I was 17 years old I got pulled over about 3 times a year for a bad inspection sticker.

    I told the officer if I had the money I would fix it - but I don't. So now I have to pay a ticket with the money that could go towards me fixing the car.

    HHMMMM? Catch 22

  • colliedave Mar 5, 2009

    Once I get my car fixed and inspected, I plan to trade it in on a new car.

    Again, you show your ignorance of basic economics! Once you drive that new car off the lot, it loses 25% of its vaule. But Obama supported him based on feelings rather than facts.

  • chargernut69 Mar 5, 2009

    Next time you are walking through a parking lot, notice how many cars there are with bald and worn-out tires?

    No wonder why there are so many accidents in this state -- it's hard enough to drive on the worn out uneven roads with GOOD tires!

  • GravyPig Mar 5, 2009

    Conservative, please re-read Shaleen's first post. I do believe you will find mention of Obama.

  • GravyPig Mar 5, 2009

    The way I see it, due to the inspection process getting cars with bad brakes, loose steering/suspension components fixed or off the road, the state is not going to see alot of accidents caused by mechanical failure. Also, not all mechanical failures end in accidents. I have seen on at least three occasions that I can remember vehicles with broken tie rods or ball joints that drivers were able to get off the road without incident. I would wager that if the inspection process was stopped, you would see a rise in accidents due to mechanical failure.

  • Conservative Mar 5, 2009

    awr117 said "You guys and gals are falling for her bait haha. Good going Shaleen, you got the Obama haters swarming this morning!!!"

    If you read all the replies to Shaleen's (fictitious or othewise) comments, no one has mentioned the President's name! In this case all replies were aimed at Shaleen's irresponsible lifestyle.

  • delete account Mar 5, 2009

    If we could return to the story for a moment...I've noticed the opposite trend among my customers. We keep close track of repair history, and when the costs over a two year period exceed the cost of an auto loan, we usually recommend replacement of the vehicle. Funny thing, that very rarely happens. In pure fiduciary terms, it's always less expensive over the long term to repair and maintain your second most expensive possession. It is imperative to search until you've found an effective mechanic. My long term customers know I'll take care of their car even if they temporarily can't afford the work. We just did the 105K service on an Odyssey yesterday for a customer who was recently laid off. Better to keep her car on the road until she gets back on her feet. I know she'll be able to pay for the work at some point.

  • They call me CATMAN Mar 5, 2009

    Blues Man Z You are corresct which makes it even more sad. Far to many people are in the wagon and not many are pulling it the number is getting smaller and smaller.

  • shepherd Mar 5, 2009

    I'm glad inspection is now due before you get your tag sticker. It makes things much easier... you can now take care of both in same day, instead of dragging it out.

  • Blues Man Z Mar 5, 2009

    THis particular Shaleen may be a hoax, but don't kid yourself, "Shaleen" is very real and there are far too many like her.