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Auto Skills Center helps people save money, learn to do own repairs

Sgt. Maj. Matt Shoemake, 1st Aviation Brigade Concepts and Requirements Directorate, uses the ball-joint press as he works on his vehicle at the automotive skills center Feb. 12. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Sgt. Maj. Matt Shoemake, 1st Aviation Brigade Concepts and Requirements Directorate, uses the ball-joint press as he works on his vehicle at the automotive skills center Feb. 12. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: February 18, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 18, 2016) -- Gear heads and car buffs have a place on post to get a little one-on-one time with their rides, but the Fort Rucker Automotive Skills Center isn’t just for those who know their way around an engine.

The ASC provides a place where people can bring their cars for do-it-yourself maintenance and repairs, as well as have access to trained instruction, assistance and a host of equipment most won’t find in their garage, according to Tina Barber, center program manager.

In addition to its 26 car bays, 13 car lifts and 12 flat bays that allow customers to work on their own cars, performing maintenance ranging from oil changes to engine repair, the facility also boasts a paint booth, body bay and a myriad of services available to Fort Rucker patrons.

One of the more popular programs the skills center provides is the self-help program, which allows patrons to sign into the facility and conduct repairs on their own vehicles, providing the tools and equipment people need to do so.

Gail Stewart, military veteran, recently learned how to change the oil in her own vehicle and said she brings her car up to the center to perform her own maintenance any chance she gets.

“I’m just trying to save money and learn from this great experience. I love it,” she said. “I get to pull my hair back and do what I’ve got to do. I feel like I appreciate (the work) more when I do it myself – I’m going to try to learn to do it all.”

The skills center holds instructional classes for those who are interested in learning how to perform general car maintenance on their own vehicles. Classes include oil changes, tire maintenance, tune-ups, transmission filter service, front and rear brake service, and diagnostic scan tool usage.

Additional classes can be arranged by groups or individuals to fit special needs by request, added Barber.

The facility is also home to a paint booth, which can be rented by the hour or day, so that people can work on their own custom paint jobs. Barber said people who wish to utilize the paint booth must have working knowledge on how to restore and paint a vehicle, as there is no instruction in this area.

The skills center even has a propane resale operation, where people can go to refill their propane cylinders.

If people aren’t keen on getting their hands dirty and doing the work themselves, the skills center has a mechanic-for-hire program that people can take advantage of to have maintenance and work performed on their vehicles at very competitive prices, according to Barber.

“In most people’s lives, the two biggest expenses are homes first and, secondly, vehicles,” she said. “The biggest advantage to Soldiers and authorized personnel is monetary savings. Patrons can literally save hundreds of dollars through the self-help program because they are doing the work themselves instead of hiring a repair shop.”

The facility also has two self-help car wash bays, complete with a vacuum cleaner, shampooer, a fragrance machine and vending machines stocked with towels, air fresheners and automotive cleaners to fit people’s needs. In addition to the car wash bays, the skills center also has an automatic car wash, which is open to the public that boasts four wash settings from an express wash to the works.

If people want a more detailed scrubbing for their autos, the skills center also provides an auto detail program with packages ranging from partial to full detailing.

For Sgt. Maj. Matt Shoemake, 1st Aviation Brigade Concepts and Requirements Directorate, who regularly visits the shop to do his own vehicle maintenance, the automotive skills center is a valuable asset to Fort Rucker’s Soldiers and families.

“It’s good to have a facility like this here. A lot of the (population) on Fort Rucker moves around a lot and many of them don’t have houses or garages that they can work in,” he said. “It helps people be a little more efficient and not have to pay the huge prices of an outside shop. It’s just an awesome place.”

For more information, call 255-9725.

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