Drivers ed class changes gears at Frankfort dealership
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com April 3, 2012 11:40AM
Alex Pesole explores a monster truck while he and other sophomores from the driver’s education special needs class at Lemont High School enjoy a field trip at Currie Ford in Frankfort, Illinois, Thursday, March 22, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 27, 2012 11:04AM
FRANKFORT — Although he was a passenger in the front seat, Alex Pesole didn’t mind one bit when the driver of a green Ford Explorer took his hands off the steering wheel while parking on a recent Thursday.
In fact, Pesole had a blast, sticking his hands up through the open sunroof.
Pesole was among eight students from Lemont High School’s special education program who were at the Currie Ford car dealership in Frankfort to learn about auto safety, maintenance and financing.
Sales consultant Adam Hernandez — the driver who could’ve said, “Look, Ma, no hands” — gave students a demonstration of the Explorer’s automated parallel parking feature that uses radar sensors to help maneuver the vehicle into a parking spot.
Pesole, riding shotgun, was duly impressed.
“My dad has something similar to that, but it’s not as automatic,” said Pesole, 16, of Lemont. “I also liked the sunroof. I liked how there was a memory card and an area where you could plug in two iPods.”
The group, a sophomore driver’s ed class of special education and DHH (deaf and hard of hearing) students, took the field trip to the dealership, 9423 Lincoln Highway, at the urging of teacher Tanner Mitchell, a friend of Currie Ford general manager Leo Sfikas.
“We’re big on doing community events, and a lot of people know that,” Sfikas said.
Students learned plenty about car care from senior master technician Mike Wendling, who used a white Fusion as a prop. He gave them tips about oil and transmission dipsticks, wiper blades, light bulbs, tire pressure, air filters and flat tires.
“The way my daughter does it, she takes out her cell phone and says, ‘Dad, I’ve got a flat,’ ” Wendling said, joking about how to change a tire.
But another mechanic demonstrated how it’s done, while Wendling reminded students to park on a flat surface far from traffic if they get a flat.
“Every couple weeks, you should check your tire pressure. On Fords, a label inside the door will tell you what the air pressure should be,” Wendling said.
Pesole wondered why the spare was smaller than the normal tire.
“That’s a ‘space saver’ tire. It gives you more room in the trunk,” Wendling said.
Jennifer Krakowski, 16, asked if the additional technology used in today’s cars means there will be a demand for more auto mechanics.
“As technical as these cars are getting, there probably won’t be enough mechanics,” Wendling said.
Students and teachers were impressed when Hernandez discussed safety features such as the seven air bags in a Fiesta and tiny air bags inside safety belts in the Explorer.
Krakowski, who lives in Alsip but attends Lemont High School through the DHH program, enjoyed the field trip. She asked Sfikas if electric cars will be more popular in coming years.
“I think you’ll need a special license to buy fossil fuels for older vehicles, and that eventually we are going to have many more electric cars,” Sfikas said.
Students learned a bit about incentives and loans from finance manager Jim Lindeman, but he knew it was wise to cut his talk short since the group was low on time and itching to sit behind the wheels of as many cars as possible.
Pesole scampered up into Currie Ford’s monster truck. Krakowski was fond of the Fiesta. And Alex Jaeger, 17, slipped into a red 2010 Mustang convertible that, he noted, “still has the keys in it.”
“I’m impressed by all the new technology to keep people safe in cars,” Jaeger said.
After the presentation, Sfikas quizzed the students about what they learned, giving out Ford caps for correct answers.
Eventually, each student had a cap, and Ford bookbags, lunchboxes, notepads and pens. Teachers received T-shirts and caps.
“This was awesome. They’ve been looking forward to it, talking about it, for weeks,” Mitchell said. “This is really neat, to get them out and have some hands-on experience. They definitely had a good time.”