How to Use Your Car to Help Others

By Alex Perdikis

You probably think of your car as a way to get around and do what you have to do. You use it to get groceries, go to work, chauffeur the children and take an occasional road trip now and then.

But, did you know you can use your car to help people and nonprofit organizations in your community? In fact, it doesn’t matter if you only have a couple of hours a week or a lot of time on your hands, you can find a way to use your driving skills and car to help others.

1. Driving seniors. A lot of people who were self-sufficient for years find themselves unable to drive as they age. Poorer eyesight, loss of coordination, slower reflexes and other health issues often reduce a senior’s ability to drive safely. But, seniors still need to get to doctor’s appointment, pick up medications and buy groceries.

2. Running errands for those in need. Picking up medications, doing the grocery shopping and mailing packages at the post office is difficult for many seniors and disabled persons. You can help by doing the running around for them.

3. Assist animal rescue organizations with transport. Pet rescue organizations often find themselves in need of help to transport pets from one location to another.


“Sometimes the transport involves long-distances, typically transporting cats and dogs from an overcrowded shelter in one location to another with more room many miles away.” — Alex Perdikis


Usually, volunteer drivers take one leg of the journey and transfer pets to another volunteer until the pets reach journey’s end.

Shelters often need shorter transportation help as well, such as transporting a pet to a veterinarian and back.

4. Donate your car to charity. Perhaps you bought a new car and don’t need the old one, or you inherited a relative’s car you don’t really need. Of course, donating is not exactly a selfless act because you receive a tax benefit from the donation. And, there are other red flags to consider when it comes to donating your car to a charitable organization.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Done the right way, a car donation is a win-win. Before you donate your car, however, follow these steps to make sure you maximize your benefits to the charity and cover yourself in the process.

  • Check that the charity is an accepted IRS qualified nonprofit. Your donation is not tax-deductible if it isn’t.
  • Research the charity’s efficiency rank with Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. Make sure the bulk of donations go to the cause and not into administrative costs.
  • Deliver the car to the charity yourself without using a third party.
  • Keep your receipt.
  • Make sure you file the correct forms with the IRS when you file your taxes.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to volunteering, check with local organizations to see how you can help. Local senior centers and county offices may already have programs set up you can become a part of. Even if you have just a couple of hours on the weekend, you can use your car to help others right in your own community.


Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

6 Car Maintenance Jobs You Can Do Yourself

By Alex Perdikis

In the old days, backyard mechanics could do most car maintenance and repair jobs themselves. Modern cars come equipped with computers and often require diagnostic tools only available to manufacturers and certified repair shops.

But, if you keep your car in top running shape, you can avoid many of those costly repair jobs down the line. Follow these DIY car maintenance tips to keep your car running smoothly and save yourself a little money, too.

1. Change your air filter. A dirty air filter makes your car’s engine work harder and uses a whole lot more gas. A general timeframe for an air filter change is every year or 12,000 miles, but check your owner’s manual and follow its recommendations.


“If you often drive down dirt roads, change your filter more often.” — Alex Perdikis


You’ll see a huge difference in performance and gas efficiency with a clean air filter.

2. Change your oil and oil filter. If this one sounds a bit daunting, it’s OK to take your car to a service and pay someone to do it. But, changing the oil in your car isn’t really difficult if you know how and have the required tools and space. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended oil change timetable and type of oil required for your vehicle. Most manufacturers recommend changing your oil every 3,000 miles. You’ll need a place to work on your car, a car jack, ratchet, oil pan, funnel, new oil, new filter replacement and work clothes. Wait at least two hours after running your car before attempting to change the oil to avoid burns from a hot engine.

3. Replace your windshield wipers. Replacing your wiper blades is an easy repair to do, and it just might save your life. Change the blades every six months to a year or anytime you notice a degraded performance. Depending on the type, you might need a screwdriver to replace your wiper blades, or your hands may suffice. Directions are typically included with newly purchased sets.

4. Change your spark plugs. Replacing old spark plugs with new give you better fuel efficiency and a smoother ride. Replace your spark plugs after 30,000 miles or as recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Changing the plugs is not difficult, but you’ll need to follow a specific order, replacing a single spark plug at a time.

5. Replace the brake pads. This is another maintenance job that could save your life. Replace brake pads every 20,000 miles or as recommended in the owner’s manual. Consider replacing them sooner if most of your driving is stop-and-go. You’ll need a place to jack up your car and lug wrench, Allen wrenches, a hammer, c-clap and possibly other tools depending on your car. If you’re at all unsure about this one, leave it to the pros.

6. Flush your radiator. Deposit buildup in the radiator reduces a cooling system’s efficiency. Make sure the engine is cool before attempting this maintenance job. You’ll need rags, a wrench, screwdriver, coolant receptacle and new coolant. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.

Even if you do just one or two of these car maintenance jobs yourself, you’ll save a few bucks now and perhaps a major repair or two in the future.


Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.