Don’t jump up and do anything

With Clayton Cathey

On a weekday afternoon the Walker Service Station in Waynesville is busy with a steady stream of customers dropping off and picking up their cars.

A woman sits, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper in a sunny alcove of the shop surrounded by the custom metal works of Grace Cathey, the station owner’s wife and renowned artist.

“Do y’all get to sit in here while you wait for your car?” asks a visitor as she comes through the door.

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” responds the woman reading the paper.

Shortly after school has let out a teacher scurries in with a misbehaving Toyota and a stack of papers to grade. While she makes little marks on each page in her lap and tallies up the scores, Clayton Cathey finds that it’s her car’s O2 sensor that needs to be replaced. It’s an easy enough fix, but they’ll have to order the part. After a long-winded explanation of what all has gone wrong with her little Toyota and the lengths she’s gone to in order to get it fixed, the teacher agrees to the repair and says she’ll be back as soon as the part comes in.

With that Cathey finally has a chance to sit down. He’s been in the business for years, inheriting it from his father and grandfather before that. It’s from this family connection that he picked up the moniker Mr. Walker. It’s not his name, but it’s what lots of people know him as.

November has brought a change in the way they do things around Walker Service. The state has made a change to the inspection laws, which means that as of Nov. 1, all North Carolina drivers now have their annual inspection and yearly license plate renewals connected. No longer will drivers have the window sticker on their windshield. Instead, in order to be eligible to get that special little sticker that goes on your license plate, you’ll have to have your car inspected first. The North Carolina General Assembly passed the legislation requiring the move to electronic inspection authorization to increase inspection compliance statewide and to further benefit the state’s air quality and highway safety.

If you’re ever pulled over by a police officer and he or she runs your tag number, all the information about your vehicle will pop up.

“He can just about tell you just life history on your tag,” Cathey says.

The change in the law isn’t too big of a deal for counties like Haywood that are already doing emissions inspections. The way their systems are set up, information from a yearly inspection gets fed into a central database as the special red, white and blue windshield sticker is issued. However, counties such as Jackson — where emissions testing has not yet become mandatory — have been scrambling to get online in time to comply with the new law. For these counties, new equipment is required to interact with the state’s central database.

All in all, what this boils down to for drivers is that — in addition to the $4.50 price increase for emissions inspections — the specific date for an inspection is eliminated. You won’t have to remember to look and see if it was Feb. 18 or March 18 that you’re due for a new windshield sticker. Instead, it will be a matter of having your inspection done within the calendar year.

“No one needs to jump up and do anything,” Cathey says.

If your inspection date comes before your registration renewal, go have your vehicle inspected when indicated. Your next registration renewal card will indicate your subsequent inspection date. If your registration renewal date comes before the date on your windshield sticker, follow the instructions provided with your registration and disregard the date on the inspection sticker. And if your next inspection date and your registration renewal are due the same month, you will not have to make any changes. You may have your vehicle inspected up to 90 days prior to your annual vehicle registration due date.

But regardless of when you’re due, do make sure you do it.

“If you want to get a tag, you will,” he says with a laugh.

(Conversations With Mr. Walker was written by Sarah Kucharski.)

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