TOC Automotive College's Car Maintenance 101 Course - A review

I was invited last Saturday by the good people over at TOC (The Otomotif College), Automotive College in Petaling Jaya to participate in their short course called Car Maintenance 101. Now this half day course is basically a beginner's guide towards how one can keep a car in good nick, make basic repairs, give basic driving tips and safety pointers to its participants.

Basic knowledge of car related stuff is actually important. Basic car maintenance will enable you to keep your car in roadworthy condition and may save you some costly repairs down the road. The course will make participants familiar with car servicing, inspect fluid levels in their cars, inspect and if needed change a tyre (or two), learn how to use the common car maintenance tools such as jacks, spanners, screwdrivers (not hammers for everything) and also have some knowledge on safe driving techniques as well as dealing with slightly more challenging situations like loss of control, dealing with accidents and other (important) stuff.

And so, I arrived promptly at the scheduled time where I had breakfast, ate and drank some tea, and shortly after that, sauntered into the lecture room for the initial briefing. Now before I get into the the subject matter further, I have to say that when it comes to car maintenance I can do, and have done the basic car maintenance and repair stuff on cars that I have owned since I was eighteen. I have removed carburettors, changed over twenty or so car batteries, replaced fuses, changed a flat tyre many times, did emergency repairs with duct tape, prayed to God so that my car starts after everything has failed and more. I suppose this is because of the love I have for all things on four wheels. So technically, if snobbish me were in charge, I'd flat out refuse to spend half a day going through something I already know like the back of my hand.

But then again, these days, a refresher course is always a good thing. In my old age (43, not that old lah) I tend to be a little lazy these days. In the age where dealerships, insurance companies, AAM and more provide for towing services and/or on the spot repairs for small problems (as well as the fact that I am not a poor college student or a lowly paid company executive or slave), I told myself that it would be good to brush up the basics and also see whether the basics have moved on from when I first started driving a long, long time ago. Snobbery lost out of course and I found myself in that lecture room paying attention to the course instructor.

The TOC Car Maintenance 101 course is actually quite good for people with short attention spans. The pace is brisk as the course instructor was quick but precise in covering the basic car maintenance stuff – basic major car components, basic servicing and more. He also said that we would be headed to the TOC work/practical area so that everyone can experience how basic car maintenance checks should be done on the cars provided. The participants this time around consisted of a group of bloggers who I believe are not from the automotive field. There was also a group of people from MMC (previously Malaysian Mining Corp. - since they no longer do mining per se, it is now just MMC). These people from MMC were a nice bunch of people who were mostly company drivers and also their administrative staff. They were sent by the company as part of the company's employee development. I joined this group of people to actually get a real feel of the actual people who want/need to participate in the course.

Rag in hand for wiping the engine oil dipstick prior to checking the oil level

We were then broken up into smaller groups of five people and we were assigned to a car/station each – we had 30 minutes of under hood maintenance/checking on stuff like checking fluid levels for the engine oil, the automatic tranmission fluids (ATF), coolant levels as well as other stuff checking the air filter or when should the fluids be changed. It may be simple, but you actually learn simple tips like ATF levels should be checked when the engine has been running awhile, and it is usually not accurate when the engine is cold. This simple tip could actually save a person a few thousand Ringgit.

We then moved to the next station which was chassis system inspection where the instructors explained on tyre condition, wheel alignment and how to change a flat tyre. Here, one or two of the group changed a wheel. The proper techniques were thought and how to overcome a situation if a flat occurs in a spot where it may be dangerous to change a tyre. This is just one of the things explained.

So how do you remove a car battery? A spanner...correct. Not a hammer. You do not hammer the battery out of a car. Unless you're Jeremy Clarkson of course...

Next came the engine electrical inspection. This basically means the car's charging and storage system. And how easy it is to change a battery and how to jump start a car. Other tips too. And finally, the practical session ended with body electrical inspection. Here we learnt how to change headlights, tail lights and best practices on how a car's lighting should be kept in good condition.

After the groups finished all practical stations the participants then adjourned to the lecture room where there was a Q&A session on anything that the participants wanted to ask as regards basic maintenance as well as anything automotive related on their minds. The course was, in not too many words short and sweet. The basics of car maintenance/checks have been covered. No, you don't get to do an oil change or even replace an alternator belt. I suppose the reason for that is simple. This is Malaysia and I can actually bet on it that this is something that everyone leaves to their mechanic. Labour costs are still super reasonable (no matter what Malaysians think – hello, head over to Australia and see how much they charge for labour over there). 

What is provided in this course are what most people should be expected to do as regards their cars. Routine fluid checks and the knowledge of how to successfully change a car battery, change a flat tyre, change some light bulbs and some initial diagnosing of a car's problem. The only drawback I saw was the fact that road safety tips and techniques should be stressed even more. I felt that more could be explained instead of just provided in the course handout (which is quite thorough) . As such I have actually explained this to one or two of the people at TOC (as well as in the feedback form of course). I think this will be incorporated in the practical sessions next time around. I hope they do as sometimes, people absorb information better if they just listen to it rather than read it (and they might be lazy to read course handouts...who knows).

TOC's Car Maintenance 101 course is actually a pretty good way to spend half a saturday brushing up on basic stuff. Yes. I actually learnt some stuff  and remembered what I had forgotten too. I also had a change to meet and mix with a group of people too. The social interaction is indeed a good thing. After participating I am of the opinion that the course would be a good start before anyone wants to try tackling serious vehicle maintenance and repairs. It is suitable for group participation – car clubs, groups and companies would benefit from teamwork participation and as part of their co-curricula activities . It is also suitable for parents who wish their kids have some basic knowledge before they start driving or when they start driving. Actually it is something simple for everyone. It only costs RM200 per person (group discounts should be applicable) and is conducted on saturdays usually. Do contact them if any of you are interested.

Learning new stuff or brushing up on knowledge is a very good thing. Even if you think you know it all, you may have actually forgotten the basics. I suppose this is what Car Maintenance 101 has thought me.

Participants get to change the lightest wheel and tyre combo...from a Perodua Viva. Thank God it wasn't the wheel from the Mercedes Benz S-class parked beside it.

Light bulbs, instrument clusters...gloves, you actually need to make sure you don't hold the glass portion of any bulb with your bare fingers when changing lightbulbs. Why? There is a reason for it of course...

Every participant gets a cert...i.e something to frame up on the wall or keep in a file. Woohoo!

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