Local News

Car repairs take back seat during tough economic times

Posted March 4, 2009 11:42 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

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

“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.