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One of the most arduous tasks in college is finding a good elective class to fill that last pesky credit. Sometimes you strike out and end up taking a two- or three-credit elective when you only needed a one-credit class.

Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, if you still need one elective credit, take AUTO 100. The class, “Auto Ownership and Maintenance,” was one of the most useful classes I ever took at BYU-Idaho.

Let me start with some background about myself. I’m a graduating senior this semester, and I’ve always had a passion for cars.

When I was 4 years old, I loved to draw pictures of cars. After I had designed my latest automotive masterpiece, I would then run to my parents and proudly exclaim, “It’s a vroom-vroom!”

When I was 7, I remember my mom convincing me to go clothes shopping with her, but only if we went to Old Navy because they had this blue 1950s Chevy pickup truck inside their store as a central display piece.

By the time I turned 9, I could recite top speed stats and 0-60 mph acceleration times for nearly every popular sports car of the time — the Dodge Viper GTS, the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Lamborghini Diablo.

When I turned 15, I had an original PlayStation and a PlayStation 2, but the only games I played on them were Test Drive, Need for Speed and Gran Turismo.

I’m sure you’re sensing a pattern here – my parents certainly did.

They always celebrated my birthdays with race car wrapping paper and cards and presents containing the latest car racing game. One year, I even had a birthday cake that my mom personally sculpted to look like an old 1950s pickup truck like the one in Old Navy.

I always loved cars, but it was always an admiration from afar. I enjoyed automotive history, car design and the mechanical differences that seemed to give each car its own character.

But I never felt confident working on cars, fixing them, or even maintaining them. I wasn’t totally uninformed, but I had never made a conscious effort to teach myself these things and prepare myself for car ownership in the real world.

That’s the scary part. If I, someone with a lifelong fascination with cars, had never made an effort to understand practical car ownership and maintenance, how many people know little to nothing about how to safely maintain their cars?

On top of that, the costs associated with car ownership could keep a financial guru up at night. After factoring in gas, car payments, auto insurance, maintenance, parking, registration and other taxes — not to mention unexpected repairs — automobile expenses can reach multiple thousands of dollars each year.

I took AUTO 100 during my first year at BYU-I, and it inspired me to major in automotive engineering technology the following semester. While I ended up changing to study journalism — chasing another passion I had for writing — I did not forget what I learned in AUTO 100.

My experience tells me most auto technicians act ethically, but AUTO 100 helped me spot a few shady ones over the past few years.

As an example, I knew my transmission fluid had been changed within the last couple thousand miles, so when a technician tried to sell me a transmission fluid flush, I asked him to show me my transmission fluid.

I knew what color transmission fluid should be because of AUTO 100, and I also knew the intervals my car recommended changing the fluid at. While conventional engine oil needs to be changed every 3,000 to 6,000 miles, transmission fluid only needs to be changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles in most cars.

When the technician walked me into the garage to take another look, he conceded my transmission fluid looked great.

As you search for elective courses over the next few weeks, consider AUTO 100 or plan it for a future semester. The class teaches practical skills and isn’t hard on time.

I always loved cars, but learning how to take care of them saved me money and helped me more fully appreciate them.

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