I love to hear this, because everybody wins. The students get to experience the challenges typical of a 20 year old vehicle and the vehicle owner saves huge sums of money. And, if they have a good program with good profs, I trust them more than many garages… and MUCH more than dealerships. They’ll be well supervised, they’ll have had the theory before touching the vehicle, and they’ll do everything correctly and “by the book”, being graded on the work.
Who’s doing the diagnosis?
I should comment to anyone considering using their community college program that the vehicle owner has to be willing to leave the vehicle. It is not like a shop, where the mechanic keeps working on the vehicle until it’s done. A typical college program lab schedule will consist of two lectures a week concurrent with two lab sessions of anywhere from three to five lab hours each. If the works starts on Tuesday and goes to the full lab allocation without being completed in the allotted lab time, it sits until the next lab session. If there are unexpected complications, and on a 20 year old car there often are, the vehicle sits until the next lab session. And, if holiday “breaks” are imminent, your vehicle could be there until after the holidays. I had that happen on an old truck of mine once, but I was well aware of the possibility and appreciative of the huge savings and the sense of comfort in knowing the work was being properly done.
In summary, you’ll save gobs of money if you’re patient and understanding of the process involved. And remember that the students’ first priority is the education, not getting the vehicle back to you as fast as possible.
In fairness I should disclose that I worked for 17 years at a college with an automotive program and had them do all the work for me that I was unable to do. I urge those that might be able to avail themselves of this option to check this option out. The department “chair” will tell you if a lab is pending that’s germane to your problem, and if they have room on the schedule to help you.