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Ridgewater College auto programs need more cars

Dylan Peterson, front, and Austin Van Surksum, both Ridgewater College auto body students, work on a donated vehicle Friday during their regular class period at the school. The auto body collision repair and auto technology programs are seeking more donated vehicles. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)1 / 3
Joe Wambeke, left, Ridgewater College instructor, discusses a repair Friday with auto body student Tom Monson during the regular class period at the school. The auto programs at the college need more donated vehicles such as this one. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)2 / 3
Ridgewater College instructor Jim Wallace, left, discusses a repair on a donated vehicle with auto body student Alex Sandhurst on Friday during their regular class period at the school. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)3 / 3

WILLMAR -- In order to learn how to fix car engines, transmissions, bodies and bumpers, the students at Ridgewater College's auto repair programs need cars.

Through the Ridgewater College Foundation, the auto body collision repair and auto technology programs have put out a plea to the community seeking car donations to replenish their supply of cars for department use.

The departments are seeking new-model passenger vehicles and prefer the cars to be in working order, but will also take cars that are not currently running, according to auto body program instructor Joe Wambeke.

The donated vehicles are used for two years of student instruction. Auto technology students will use the engines to create and fix engine problems. The auto body students use just about every part of the interior and exterior of the vehicles to learn and practice, Wambeke said.

"We use the cars until we can't use them anymore," he said.

The students start their future trade by making dents in the fenders and body, and then fixing those dents. Then they cut holes in the body panels and patch and fix the holes. They remove interior components, take the engines out and put the engines back in. They also paint the cars and learn pin-striping techniques.

As part of their training, students delve deeper into the car's parts and take apart the key components, including the drive train, the transmission, the suspension and the engine. The departments also take the air bags out of the vehicles and use them during presentations about vehicle and passenger safety.

"There's not much we don't use," Wambeke said. He estimated the departments use between six and 10 cars a year.

To donate

To donate a vehicle, call Angie Harrison at 320-222-6095 or email angela.

Those donating vehicles are asked to make an appointment to bring the vehicle, title and keys to the college. A one-page donation form is also required to be completed. A receipt will be mailed as required by the Internal Revenue Service for tax deduction purposes.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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