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Free car clinics teach drivers how to make their vehicle last longer

Houston – How well do you know your car? Could you change a tire? Do you know what all the lights on the dash mean when they light up?

One Houston repair shop has made it their mission to teach drivers about their vehicles to help keep them running longer.

The Liberty Hoepfl Garage www.TheLibertyGarage.com on North Shepherd in Garden Oaks holds free Ladies’ Car Clinic a few times a year.

“We cater this clinic to women because men think they know everything,” said owner Kathryn van der Pol, adding that they wouldn’t turn men away if they wanted to sign up.

Van der Pol was an educator for 24 years, so teaching is in her DNA. She says educating drivers about their vehicles just makes sense at the garage she owns with her husband. For example, did you know an illuminated check engine light should be checked out, but it’s not an emergency? If that check engine light is blinking, your problem just became a lot more serious. Similarly, if the check gauges light comes on, hit the brakes.

“Stop driving the car,” warned van der Pol. “Call a tow truck, cause you’re not driving your car if you want to save it.”

At the free clinic, van der Pol teaches you how to change your own tire and helps you locate all of the tools you will need in your car. You will also learn how to use a penny to find out when you need new tires.

Van der Pol says the biggest mistake Houston drivers make is following the standard schedule for oil changes in the owner's manual. She said there's nothing standard about our traffic or our heat.

“Every car in Houston needs to be on the severe-duty schedule,” she explained. “That means the oil change interval should generally be shorter.”

The next free Ladies’ Car Clinic is Feb. 18. It is three hours long and there are 10 spots at each clinic, so you have to call 713-695-5071 to register. At the end of the summer, the garage also does car clinics for young student drivers.