The evidence is almost everywhere vehicles go — in parking lots, built up at stoplights and maybe even your driveway — the telltale blotches on the pavement that show someone’s car has sprung a leak.
On its own, a drip here and there might not seem like a big deal, but included with the thousands of other leaky vehicles traveling within Washington state, one leaky car becomes part of a much grander environmental problem. But, a statewide campaign has been launched aimed at reducing that collective impact by giving people an incentive to know when their car is leaking and making repairs more affordable.
Don’t Drip and Drive, a campaign funded by grants from the Washington State Department of Ecology with participation from Automotive Service Association Northwest, AAA Washington and King County-based EnviroStars, offers vehicle owners information about vehicle leaks, and offers free leak inspections and discounts on leak repairs at participating repair shops.
“The main goal is to protect water quality,” said Justine Asohmbom, a shorelines and stormwater education coordinator with the Department of Ecology.
The campaign is most heavily focused around the Puget Sound region, but Asohmbom said it’s steadily expanding every year. Now, every AAA-approved repair shop in Clark County and around the rest of the state, is offering drivers free visual inspections and up to a 10 percent discount up to $50 on leak repairs. Vehicle owners don’t have to be AAA members to reap the benefits.
Leaks add up
A leak can be a forgettable bit of maintenance that’s much cheaper to ignore than repair. But those individual leaks cause around 7 million quarts of vehicle fluids to wash into Puget Sound every year — about a tanker truck’s worth per day — according to the Department of Ecology.
“When (the campaign) was presented to us, we were on board,” Tommy Gaynor of Gaynors Automotive said. He said the company plans to include information about Don’t Drip and Drive in future marketing.
From Gaynor’s perspective, vehicle quality has improved to the point where they don’t require as much maintenance or repair as a generation ago, so the habit of personal car care is as much a part of the culture.
“Now you’ve got these larger intervals of time between when a car is in the shop and thoroughly looked over, and that creates problems,” he said.
While modern vehicles have gotten more sophisticated with warning systems capable of alerting drivers of any number of issues it might have, the system won’t warn the driver of a leak until a fluid reservoir is low. Gaynor said leak repairs represent between a quarter and a third of the repairs made for the company’s customers.
To stay on top of your car’s issues, Gaynor recommends setting about $75 a month aside to cover maintenance costs and finding a mechanic to regularly inspect your car twice a year to stay on top of any issues that might arise.
Drivers can learn more about identifying leaks, finding a participating shop and print money-saving coupons at Don’t Drip and Drive’s website, www.fixcarleaks.org.