By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)March 15, 2019
Whether the goal is to make it run or to make it shine, Fort Jackson's Auto Craft Shop has the tools to make automotive dreams come true.
It's a do-it-yourself shop with a twist. Trained staff is available to assist as needed.
The Auto Craft Shop has always provided Soldiers with a place to bring their cars for servicing, said Darlene Hines, deputy operations chief of the Directorate of Family, Morale, Recreation and Welfare, the department that runs the operation.
"Maybe they don't have all the tools they need," Hines said, "but the auto hobby shop does."
It's a convenient place for Fort Jackson patrons to service their vehicles for the lowest price around, said shop manager Ken Fletcher.
"Some people come because they need to drive," Fletcher said. Others have luxury cars and need a place to "just play with them."
Battery charging, alternator testing, rotor turning, oil changing and sandblasting for rust removal are just a few of the services customers can take advantage of during a visit.
Air conditioner recharging and motor and transmission replacement are also offered.
A former command sergeant major who ran the installation's mechanic schools, Fletcher has done it all since he took over the shop 14 years ago.
"I cleaned (the business) all up and put it under direction," Fletcher said. Now he typically sees between 15 and 30 clients per day.
Because of the shop, "I think (Fort Jackson) got safer cars," Fletcher said.
It's a way to give back to the community, as it "makes a young Soldier proud to really have something nice" that they worked to create and weren't overcharged for, he added.
Some can't afford to take their vehicles elsewhere, and "we try to be there for them," Fletcher said.
The shop's four technicians are formally trained in mechanics and can provide assistance as needed.
"It's a do-it-yourself shop," Fletcher said, "(but) we do assist the customers with things that he or she might not know."
Staff can provide printouts with directions and walk clients through the process.
"It cuts the price down," and it provides quality assurance, since patrons see the work being done. It reduces the time spent without a car, too, he added.
The Auto Craft Shop also features an auto detailing business, which offers interior and exterior vehicle services. Waxing, leather treatment, shampooing and stain removal are a few.
Fletcher said he wanted to provide his customers with an inexpensive way to get their cars cleaned at the same time as they get them fixed.
A detailing service "just seems like a natural partnership" with the auto craft business, Hines said.
Fletcher signed on Columbia native Brittany Greer, 28, who earned rave reviews for a car she had cleaned for an Auto Craft Shop annual car show.
The car shows are held at Patriots Park in July and winners earn sponsor-donated prizes. There were more than 500 participants last year.
They give automotive enthusiasts a chance to show off their handiwork, some of which is done at the craft shop.
The Auto Craft Shop is open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The main Auto Craft Shop services are $4 per hour plus the cost of using special tools.
The shop can also order and help install vehicle parts for a discounted price.
See the Auto Craft Shop website at https://jackson.armymwr.com/programs/autocraft-shop or call 751-5755 to learn more.