FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Enhancements to Fort Rucker's Automotive Skills Center aim to make the facility more useful and efficient for both staff and patrons.

Tina Barber, ASC program manager, said the installation of seven new lifts allows the facility to better meet the needs of the community.

"The new lifts replaced older equipment that was still functional, but did not have the lifting capacity to meet the needs of the community," she said. "We went from two-post lifts with a 9,000-pound lifting capacity to two-post lifts with a 12,000-pound lifting capacity. We also have three four-post lifts with a 14,000-pound capacity. This upgrade has really enabled us to support more Soldiers and authorized personnel."

The center's floor was also resurfaced, which Barber said improved the esthetics of the facility and made the cleaning up of petroleum spills less labor intensive.

"We have also purchased upgraded tire mounting and balancing equipment," she said. "Just as the heavier duty vehicles required increased lifting capacity in the lifts, we needed to upgrade our equipment to handle the mounting and balancing of the heavier, larger tires of those vehicles.

"Also, the upgraded equipment makes the dismounting and mounting of low profile tires a one-person operation, whereas before, it could take two or three individuals to dismount and mount a low-profile tire," she added. "The self-help community and our Mechanic for Hire personnel are thrilled with the upgrade. We were turning business away and referring them to other repair facilities, prior to obtaining the upgraded equipment."

ASC offers a variety of services for authorized personnel.

A self-help program -- patrons can sign into the facility and conduct repairs on their own vehicles. ASC has the tools and equipment needed to complete the repairs.

Instructional classes -- oil change, transmission service, front brake repair, rear brake repair, ignition system tune-up and how to use scan tools.

Mechanic-For-Hire program -- patrons can have their vehicles worked on by a trained professional.

Car wash facilities -- two manual and one automatic car wash bay. Two vacuum cleaners, one combination vacuum and shampooer, three vending machines and a fragrance machine. The automated carwash is now also a 24-hour operation, as are the manual wash bays. There is also a free standing dryer system that has been installed at the end of the automatic wash bay. It is activated when either the $8 or $10 selections are chosen.

Auto detail program -- ASC offers various packages to patrons, from partial to full detailing

Propane resale operation -- ASC fills propane tanks of various sizes, including recreation vehicles.

Paint booth and areas for restoring vehicles -- The center does not offer instruction in this area. Patrons must have all the working knowledge necessary to restore and paint a vehicle.

According to Barber, ASC is an invaluable resource for Soldiers and families living on a tight budget.

"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.

"Patrons can also save hundreds of dollars through the Mechanic-for-Hire program," she added. "Our labor rate is presently $45 per hour. Our patrons express their appreciation time and time again over the savings."

Barber said many patrons are intimidated by the growing complexity of today's vehicles, but ASC offers several weekly instructional classes to bridge the knowledge gap.

"ASC offers instructional classes on a weekly basis, but instruction is available on a daily basis through the employees on duty," she said. "We insist to our patrons that many repairs are well within their ability to learn and we encourage them to do so. Safety is always the first concern and we stress this to our patrons on a daily basis.

"It is awesome to witness the sense of accomplishment in our patrons after they have repaired their own vehicles," she added. "It is knowledge that they can take wherever they go."

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 255-9725.