All vehicles need work at one time or another. However, this doesn't have to break the bank -- at least, it doesn't at the Fort Belvoir Auto Skills Center
Located in Building 1462, 9290 Gunston Road, the Auto Skills Center allows ID cardholders on post to maintain their own cars, trucks or motorcycles for much less than it costs to pay a mechanic, using the bays, lifts and special equipment at a reduced price (and of course, no cost for labor).
"It's a great price. I don't have to pay for any tools," said Derrick Metzer, a contractor, while he worked on his motorcycle, Oct. 2. "In under an hour, for $150, I can change the (brake) rotors and pads. It's $500 off base."
The Auto Skills Center has new business hours, as of Oct. 1. It is open Wednesday -- Friday, noon - 8 p.m. and Saturday -- Sunday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
If community members don't know how to maintain their vehicles, the Auto Skills Center can help with that, too. The center offers Automotive Maintenance Training Classes, Mondays and Tuesdays, 9 a.m. - noon. To register, call (703) 806-4088.
"We offer those classes when we're closed so we can get a one-on-one with the customer," said Deborah Patterson, DFMWR recreation supervisory specialist.
The class goes over safety equipment and working with the tools, and also teaches basic maintenance skills, like checking fluids and changing a tire.
"It's very handy," Patterson said. "Maintenance is very, very important. If you go without checking your fluid, you can blow your motor."
In the future, Patterson hopes to offer an auto detailing class as well.
All patrons are required to take a 30-minute Auto Skills Safety Class before they can start using the center. For times and dates, call (703) 806-4088.
Once do-it-your-selfers understand the basic safety rules, they can get started. The Auto Skills Center has 13 bays, seven lifts, and a variety of basic tools assigned to each bay. Lift bays cost $5.50 per hour to use, and flat bays cost $3.50 per hour. Special equipment is also available to rent, typically for less than $5.
Geraldine Manning, Army retiree, said she uses the Auto Skills Center to do a variety of work on her car, from regular tune-ups to fixing the water pump or the brakes.
"I do a lot of my own work and the shop is an excellent place to save a lot of money," she said.
On Oct. 2, Manning worked on her air conditioning system and power windows with a friend.
"I enjoy working on cars," she said. "You just have to keep them up."
For those a little less mechanically savvy than Manning, staff members are always available to give advice and guidance, Patterson said.
"They're very friendly," Patterson said. "We try to give great customer service. Anyone that is in need of help, the staff is more than willing to assist."
The staff can also perform maintenance services at a discounted rate, by appointment, including an oil change, coolant flush, tire rotation and balance, brake service, air conditioning service, belt service and auto detailing.
The Auto Skills Center also offers free jump-starts to anyone on Fort Belvoir during business hours.
For more information, call the Auto Skills Center at (703) 806-4088, or visit ties/ArtsCrafts/AutoSkillsShop.php.