Auto hobby shop serves as home away from home for shade-tree mechanics



by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs


12/17/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Auto hobbyists with base access have a great place to ply their craft, get helpful advice and more: the base auto hobby shops.

The auto hobby shops are located at Maxwell and Gunter Annex for all with base access, including active military, spouses, retirees, Department of Defense civilians and contractors.

Mechanics on staff offer customers advice and some services. The shops also have the equipment needed for everything from routine maintenance to advanced mechanics.

"People come to change their oil and do their brakes. Some have even rebuilt engines," said William Gilley, one of the mechanics on hand at the Maxwell auto hobby shop. "We provide all tools that you need to work here at no cost."

Services available for free or reduced prices include diagnosing air conditioning problems, discharging and recharging air conditioning, and clearing codes such as the check engine light. "In most cases, we help diagnose the problems," said Mr. Gilley.

For no charge to customers, they also can properly dispose of potentially environmentally damaging automotive materials, such as used oil, antifreeze and old batteries. There is a $2 fee per tire to dispose of tires.

When asked how the auto hobby shop can offer oil disposal free when auto repair shops charge a fee, Lee Lindsay, supervisor of the Skills Development Center, noted that waste oil collected on base is picked up by an outside oil recycling company, so they are able to provide the service free.

"Outside repair facilities would charge for this service to generate additional revenue," he said. "If we had to pay for the disposal of the oil, it would be necessary for us to charge a fee."

Rotating his truck's tires at the Maxwell auto hobby shop, 2nd Lt. Tyler Jensen appreciated having such a venue available for his routine maintenance needs. "It's priceless, really," he said. "Just the ability to come in and do routine maintenance on your vehicle saves a lot of money. Plus, you know who's working on your car."

Walter Austin Jr., a program coordinator for automotive collision repair at H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College, performed routine maintenance on his 1966 Ford F-100 at the Maxwell auto hobby shop recently. A retired senior master sergeant, he has been coming to the auto shop on a regular basis for 27 years.

What keeps him coming back? "Security, equipment, and friendly personnel, all professionals," he said.

The Maxwell shop has 12 bays and three employees, and the Gunter shop has seven bays and two employees. The auto hobby shops are fully staffed on their busiest days, Friday and Saturday, with a limited staff the rest of the week, said Mr. Lindsay.

To help grease the skids for those interested in do-it-yourself auto maintenance, the auto shop offers orientations once a quarter, which provide training on commonly used shop equipment such as auto lifts and tire balancers.