Free Auto Repair Assistance is Available

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Having a car breakdown can send family budgets into a tailspin, especially in a low-income family. This article describes some of the programs that are available around the United States which attempt to alleviate the financial stress of a vehicle in need of repairs.

Submitted: April 03, 2016

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Submitted: April 03, 2016



Sometimes the need for auto repairs can be a life changer. A leaking water pump or a clunking axle shaft car can shake a person’s ability to make a living wage just as surely as a broken bone or the diagnosis of a serious disease. What can someone faced with an ailing vehicle and limited funds do to keep their car and consequently their lives in running order?

Various programs around the country use the name “Wheels to Work”; one of the most comprehensive efforts is offered by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension in Marathon County, Wisconsin. It is a partnership between schools, charitable agencies, an array of auto-related and other area businesses as well as an auto industry educational association.

The goal of the program is to assist struggling families in the county “to overcome transportation obstacles”, clients are required to attend financial management, budgeting, and vehicle maintenance courses and interact with a mobility manager during their participation.

If you have an emissions related car failure and live in California you could apply for help under the state’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). The goal of the program is to improve the quality of California’s air by repairing the worst offending vehicles. There is an income-oriented means test that the applicant must pass and the work must be performed by state-approved facilities. There is a companion program that allows for a buyout of polluting vehicles by the state.

Some churches assemble a staff of qualified technicians and experienced DIY’ers who perform free repairs on Saturday mornings. In most cases the clients bring the parts and the volunteers install them free of charge.

There is also free auto repair assistance available that is not philanthropically oriented and, as might be suspected, there is always an underlying motive. Auto technology departments at high schools and technical schools usually have an ongoing need for subject vehicles. This can include mechanical and body work. The owners supply the auto parts and the students perform the repairs under the guidance of their instructors.

Trouble codes which cause check engine lights to illuminate can be checked out without charge at many facilities. The most notable national companies are AutoZone, the auto parts company, and Aamco the transmission and repair facility. AutoZone would like to sell you the parts needed for the repair and any special tools required for the installation while Aamco has their eye on additional repairs needed to extinguish the light.

Some independent repair shops have jumped on the bandwagon as well. If you want to find those shops which offer this service, you can google “free check engine scans” and your zip code, but remember there is most likely marketing behind it.

Some programs go beyond just the repair of the car. Vehicles for Change has operated in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. region since 1999 and in 2015 expanded to Michigan. It accepts vehicle donations and depending on the type and condition, maximizes its impact by assessing its needs and either repairing it and then  awarding it to a pre-qualified family or assigning it for resale to its retail used car arm, Freedom Wheels. The proceeds of the sale are then used to get ready other vehicles for low-income families.



John DeCostanza, In Some Towns, Charity Begins in the Car Repair Bay,

Wheels To Work, Vehicles Issues Got You Down,

Vehicles for Change,

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