Teaching Teens How to Change a Tire and Boost a Dead Battery

Cam Srigley (left) and Dave Fox (right) of Anderson's Autobody Get Ready to Demonstrate Tire Change

Anderson's Autobody has teamed up with Panhandle Driving School and Sandpoint High School (SHS) to drive home greater teen self-sufficiency and safety with basic vehicle maintenance and repair skills. Together, we are partnering to equip future drivers with hands-on demonstrations on real vehicles that will help students avoid injury, accidents, and costly repairs.

Starting September 26, 2022, Anderson's is teaching hundreds of teens ages 14-17 enrolled in formal Driver's Education how to change a tire, boost a dead battery, and top up fluids under the hood. These kids participate outside of school hours in a formal two-month program including classroom and driving instruction, led by Business Owner Julia Klontz and other state-certified instructors from Bonner County's Panhandle Driving School. A formal Driver's Ed program is required for a Learner's Permit and eventual Driver's License in the State of Idaho if you are under age 17. Passing that certified course involves 30 hours of classroom instruction, 6 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, and 6 hours of observation in a driver training car (Idaho Code §33-1702).

Yet, according to several US. road surveys over the last two decades, the majority of teenagers do not know how to perform basic car care or repairs like changing a flat, oil, or coolant (anti-freeze). With the advancement of computerized dashboards in the last 20 years, many parents also feel a little flatfooted in teaching their kids how to read digital warning lights and what to do - from low tire air pressure to anti-lock braking systems.

That's where Anderson's Autobody comes in. With modern car technology skills comes greater community responsibility. Imparting some of our technicians' skills to our youth - along with responsibility, self-sufficiency, and preventative maintenance opportunities - is critical to the Inland Northwest's and local road safety. That's especially true now in advance of cold and inclement weather in the Lake Pend Oreille region and surrounding counties.

Together with Panhandle Driving School, Anderson's has set out to increase the number of prepared and practical drivers who can make our roads safer. Julia's team teaches an excellent, comprehensive Driver's Education program six times annually at SHS with two separate classes of 20 in each round. That's about 240 students per year.

Anderson's Autobody is just topping it up with more hands-on practice on real vehicles made between 2013-2020.

We invest about:

  • 45 minutes on tire changes (both on a truck and SUV demonstrating different tools and spare tire locations
  • 20 minutes on battery boosts with both a battery charger and jumper cable scenario from the donor vehicle to the dead one.
  • 15 minutes under the hood to locate the dipstick for oil, engine coolant, and wiper fluid - ensuring it's not full of water that will freeze your wipers!
  • 10 minutes on "The Big 9 Digital Dashboard Warning Lights" and "What To Do If You're In a Car Accident" with visual reminders for the glove box.

Anderson's Production Manager Dave Fox and Estimator/Technician Cam Srigley spend about 1.5 hours mixing it up with some pretty keen kids. They have them take turns on the tire tools, avoid a shower of sparks or explosion from touching together jumper cables, and actually FIND where these precious instruments are (supposed to be) stored in their own vehicles.

With 75 years of combined automotive industry and repair experience, and children of their own, Dave and Cam provided a combination of modern technology and tried-and-true tips tricks like "righty tighty" "lefty loosey" and "donkey kicks." They impart practical advice like the importance of reading your own car's instruction manual for specifics since all makes and models are slightly different. Finally, they encourage the students to practice at home - whether it's changing tires or using jumper cables - and to make sure all the tools are available and ready in the vehicle.

Anderson's aim is that the kids drive away with more knowledge and drive to avoid costly collisions, interpret digital dashboard warning lights, and take immediate action when needed. The main focus is to reduce financial and physical risk including "6 Steps If You've Been In An Accident":

  1. Checking for injuries first
  2. Taking photos with mobile phones and exchanging information with other vehicles involved
  3. Calling parents or responsible adult
  4. Calling an autobody repair shop, which can arrange for a tow truck if necessary (or your roadside assistance service such as AAA or Safeco).
  5. Filing a police report
  6. Calling the insurance company

Julia's students then each receive a personal card that they customize with their own critical contact information.

We are still perfecting our approach, but Day 1 on September 26, 2022 was a strong start with a strong student turnout. Everyone found greater confidence and strength (literally) to tu-rrrr-nnnn that car jack handle or lug wrench.

We can't wait to see what these future graduates do next!

Huge thanks to Julia Klontz, Ken Bocksch, and the other dedicated instructors at Panhandle Driving School.