At any given time, Central Maine Community College has about 100 students enrolled and working toward an associate’s degree in Applied Science in Automotive Technology. Under the guidance of Matt Walsh, department chair, the students are being well trained to offer advice on a wide range of auto repair issues and problems.

“We study total engine repair in our program,” said Walsh, who started his career as a graduate of the college’s automotive program. “We gain experience by working on our own cars and those in the ASSET program.”

Walsh explained that the ASSET program is a cooperative effort between the school and Ford Motor Company to provide vehicles for the students to work on in their studies.

Luke Hilton, from Fayette, and Chris Ingram, from Farmington, are both second-year students in the automotive program who are eager to graduate. They were enthusiastic about sharing their car care tips to keep vehicles running well.

“It is very important to maintain fluids in your vehicle, especially as we are coming out of winter,” explained Ingram. “You should check levels for oil, coolant, steering fluid and brake fluid. Make sure you are maintaining the specifications outlined for your vehicle.”

“What you want to have is a proper balance in all the fluids [for optimal performance],” added Hilton.

“You also want to maintain your tires,” said Ingram, suggesting that tire pressures be accurate and that tires are rotated and aligned as needed.

“I suggest rotating tires at every other oil change or 6,000 miles,” said Hilton.

Perhaps the simplest car care tip offered by the CMCC students is to regularly wash your vehicle.

“Keeping a car clean really helps prevent rusting on a vehicle,” said Ingram, noting that Maine winters can wear away a vehicle. “The salt that is put on the roads can cause lots of damage.”

Ingram further suggested checking the lights on a vehicle to make sure that they are operating and to make sure that they are visible. He advises changing windshield wipers with the season preferring winter ones and summer ones changed throughout the year.

“Don’t forget to check your heating and cooling systems,” added Hilton. “Even during the cold weather, you might want to run your air conditioner to make sure that the refrigerant is working.”

Both students became interested in autos at a young age.

“My father was a carpenter and I worked on wood,” said Hilton. “My interest switched over to working on cars.”

“I’ve always been inquisitive, wanting to know how things work,” said Ingram. “When I was about 12 or 13, I started tinkering on cars with a friend.”

Walsh admitted that today’s vehicles are very well built and if they are well maintained, they can be road worthy for quite a while.

“If the body doesn’t rust out and with engines running cleaner, vehicles can run for 200,000 miles or more,” said Walsh.

He advised that drivers be very familiar with the owner’s manual for their vehicle and that they follow all the guidelines and specifications recommended.

“Today’s vehicles often suggest using a very specific type of oil or fluid,” said Walsh. “It is more important than ever to follow what is recommended for your particular vehicle.”

“And while do-it-yourself mechanics can keep an eye on things [in general], I suggest that car owners know when to seek professional help,” said Walsh. “Find a good mechanic that you can trust.”

So, while pursuing their automotive studies, what do Ingram and Hilton currently drive on the road?

Ingram drives a Ford Focus but admitted that his dream vehicle would be a Ford VelociRaptor F-150. Hilton drives a Ford Ranger and he said that his dream vehicle would be a Chevy Silverado.

With just about a 100 percent job placement rate for graduates in the automotive program, Hilton and Ingram will no doubt find themselves as employed automotive professionals when this semester ends.

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