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Pump prices affecting garages

Few drivers seeking maintenance before holiday travel

POSTED: November 22, 2007 5:04 a.m.

Folks just aren't flocking to Danny Hammock's auto repair shop for maintenance before the big Thanksgiving travel week like they used to. The service department at Hardman Pontiac Buick GMC hasn't seen a pick-up in routine check-ups this year, either.

And despite predictions by AAA Auto Club South that this week's traffic on the highways will see a 2 percent increase over last year, motorists don't seem as concerned as they have been with making sure their car is in tip-top shape before they drive to their Thanksgiving destinations.

"Normally people do come by more often this time of year," said Hammock, who owns Mountain View Auto Repair. "But this year it's been very slow. It's not just us, it's everybody."

Blame gas prices. At a state average of $3.04 per gallon of self-serve unleaded, prices at the pump are approaching a $1 difference over last year's Thanksgiving average of $2.12 per gallon.

"Gas is too high," said Paul Fuller, the auto service director for Hardman. "Everything is going up. Everybody's got to figure out how to pay for their groceries and pay their mortgage. Something's got to give."

People in the auto and travel industry are split on whether motorists are actually foregoing long trips or just the trips to the garage for routine maintenance, which in the long run can save precious dollars in fuel mileage.

"For a holiday like Thanksgiving, it's not going to deter people (from traveling)," said Gregg Laskoski, a spokesman for AAA, which predicts 1.1 million Georgians will drive more than 50 miles this week to meet with family and friends. "It might just be timing. (Drivers) may feel other people are doing the same thing, and they don't think they can do it before the holiday. If you look at most of the vehicles on the road, they're mostly newer vehicles. It could be most people are satisfied that their vehicles are in good working order."

A few minutes at a garage can make a difference at the pump, though. Fuller notes that regularly changed air filters assure that an engine runs more fuel-efficiently. Properly inflated tires is another gas-saver. And oil changes with synthetic oil can also make for a better-running, less gas-guzzling, engine. Even a poorly-aligned front end can result in poor fuel mileage.

"With gas prices what they are, you certainly want to maximize your fuel efficiency," Laskoski said.
Laskoski does believe people are driving less and trying to consolidate trips in the face of wallet-busting gas prices.

"In some sectors of society, fewer people are choosing to go out to dinner and to a movie," he said.
But this week, many have no choice but to gas up and go. "Thanksgiving is a family tradition that won't be compromised," he said.



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