Program offers free car repair to low-income residents

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Project Taillight is all about public safety and crime prevention. 


What You Need To Know

  • Project Taillight is a program that offers free car repair services to low-income Columbus residents
  • To qualify, a participant’s car must be seven years old and that participant must be a member of a household that is below 200% of the federal poverty level
  • This program was created in 2020 to reduce police interaction and keep community members safe on the road

At Milex Complete Auto Care – Mr. Transmission, owners and technicians are doing what they can to help those in need. The shop participates in Project Taillight, a program that provides free car repair services to low-income residents. 

“We needed to stop what we deemed to be a completely preventable police interaction. And that’s an interaction driven by poverty, like a broken tail light or a headlight,” said Zach Klein, Columbus City Attorney.

Klein and the Franklin County commissioners started this program four years ago. It is open to members of any household that makes below 200% of the federal poverty level and who have a car that is at least seven years old. More than 300 people have taken advantage of this program, Klein said. They are mostly single mothers.

“It was a win for the people driving the cars. It was a win for police because they could focus on violent crime and it was a win for the community because you could be a motorist on the road with these folks and their car may not be safe to drive with and could put you in danger,” said Klein. 

What started as a program that just fixed headlights and taillights has now turned into a program that fixes all the safety features in a car and gives full inspections. Matthew Boily owns Milex Complete Auto Care and has been part of the program since it started in 2020. He said he and his wife just wanted to give back to the community. 

“We came into the Columbus area. And I always want to give back to the community where we’ve volunteered for a lot of different functions,” Boily said. “But the project taillight really gives us an opportunity to leverage what we’ve got going here and to be able to provide that to the folks that really need that.”

Earlier this week, the Columbus City Council approved an ordinance that would not only allow the city attorney to go into contract with different auto care shops but also give $500,000 toward the program. And according to the city council member who chairs the public safety committee, the goal of the program is being achieved.

“We are seeing, you know, less people pulled over because a tail light is out,” said Emmanuel Remy, Columbus City Council member. “For instance, you know, again, keeping that interaction down to a minimum because they’ve got a reliable, operable, safe vehicle to drive is so important. And, you know, we’re excited that we’re seeing the results that we are.”

Remy said the average cost for repairs made within the program is just over $1,600. To learn more about Project Taillight’s services and if you qualify, you can email [email protected]

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