The sounds of pneumatic wrenches and hydraulic lifts could be heard throughout the bays. One person was replacing brake pads; another was working on an exhaust pipe at Fort Hood’s Sprocket Auto Crafts Center — a place soldiers can gather to work on their cars for a small fee.

The Sprocket Auto Crafts Center has 26 bays for the do-it-yourself auto technician. Patrons can do oil changes, brake maintenance, engine repair, tire work, air conditioner service and electronic diagnostic testing to analyze engine problems. Assistance and instruction is available for the less experienced technician.

“If you never worked on your brakes before, I will teach you from start to finish how to inspect them and help you order the right parts if needed,” said John Justis, a recreational assistant with Sprocket. “You can spend $700 on a brake job downtown or spend less than $100 to do it yourself and learn something about your car in the process.”

Sgt. Gary Jimenez, a medic within the 1st Cavalry Division, usually does minor maintenance on his car and recently got instruction on proper brake pad replacement.

“The customer service is great,” Jimenez said. “Everybody here is adamant about working with and helping the soldiers if we have any questions. The staff really motivates the soldiers to work on their vehicles.”

Soldiers conduct maintenance on vehicles and equipment in the Army, Jimenez said. Conducting maintenance on your own personal vehicle is an extension of what you do in the Army and soldiers should take it up if they can.

Sgt. Allen Harris enjoys his job as an artillery mechanic within 1st Cavalry Division, and decided it would be easy to transfer some of his skills to personal vehicles.

“I like getting my hands dirty; that is what drew me into becoming a mechanic,” Harris said. “Taking machines apart and learning the details fascinates me.”

Justis has roots with shops such as Sprocket when he was in the Army. He began working on his vehicles in 1985 when he was stationed in Germany as an Army cavalry scout.

“I was breaking things on my pickup truck all the time,” Justis said. “I was paying a fortune to have the shops fix the truck in Germany. Eventually, I started getting parts for my truck and figured out how to save money by repairing it myself. I did my very first engine swap in the auto crafts shop using a Chiltons manual.

Justis encourages family members to use the auto craft centers such as Sprocket to save money. He does this by sharing his knowledge of car care with others as he goes out to teach classes at the community centers of Fort Hood.

“Typically spouses of deployed soldiers will come out and I will teach them basic maintenance such as how to change a flat tire, and how to help each other check out lights on cars,” Justis said. “They can also tie a maintenance focus into family readiness group meetings.”

“Nobody gets paid enough to just throw money away,” Justis said. “If you can fix your car for just a fraction of the cost, it just makes sense.”

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