Car care made easy at Automotive Skills Center

Karl Weisel/FMWR
Patrons work on their cars at the Wiesbaden Automotive Skills Center.

It’s not quite noon on a Tuesday and cars are already lined up outside the Wiesbaden Automotive Skills Center – their owners eager to get to work on their vehicles or get assistance from the staff.
“It’s always really busy when we first open,” said Richard Babcock, Automotive Skills Center manager.

With years of experience and certification shared by the center’s staff, patrons are assured of a wealth of highly qualified tips, guidance and information.
“We’re here to make taking care of your vehicle easier. We know it’s challenging to maintain your vehicle, and we’re here to help,” he said. “Our staff performs to the best of their ability. They know what needs to be done and go out of their way to help people and the community.”

Wiesbaden’s Auto Skills Center was recognized as the Best Medium Sized Automotive Skills Center in the U.S. Army worldwide in 2016.
“We tailor our services to meet the needs of the community. I think we offer more services than most other shops of our kind,” Babcock said.

In addition to the staff, including individuals with 40 and 50 years of experience and U.S.- and German-training and qualifications, the center manager said several volunteers (Ernie Cojoe, Nico Debehets and Connery Zaleski) pitch in to enhance the overall support available.

“Keep in mind that we’re a self-help shop — that’s our primary mission,” he said, stressing that the facility is chiefly intended for local community members to work on their own vehicles, although various services such as oil changes, battery replacements, wheel alignments, tire mounting, computer diagnostics, brake services and more are available.

“We can perform general repairs — no overhauls or timing belts, things like that,” Babcock said, advising that more complicated repairs should be done at a commercial facility.
“Most of the stuff we can handle,” he said, explaining that only about 5 percent of the service requests are referred to commercial repair shops.

Patrons are advised to make appointments as soon as possible (at least two weeks in advance) to reserve bay space or when requesting service as these are limited to five a day. People must also supply their own parts, but the staff can provide assistance on determining which parts are required. Used tires and other parts may also be available for sale, he said, depending on the tire size and make of the vehicle.

The main thing is leave plenty of time, Babcock said, advising all U.S. Army Europe-registered drivers to get their vehicles inspected as soon as they receive their notice of pending re-registration and inspection.

“Plan ahead; don’t wait until the last minute,” he said, pointing out that most people get their renewal reminders about two months in advance, offering lots of time to arrange for any needed service or repairs. Waiting until the last minute can result in stress and trouble getting help from the staff.

“We can help you, but you’ve got to have time. We always prefer that you make an appointment, but the second option is to leave your car here when we open, and in most cases, we’ll get to it by the end of the day,” Babcock said.

he Automotive Skills Center is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
It features an adjacent self-help car wash. Patrons can purchase tokens to use the car wash at the center’s service desk (with cash or credit card) during normal hours of operation or at the token machine (which accepts $1, $5 and $10 bills) all day and after normal hours of operation.

The Automotive Skills Center manager said plans are in the works to expand the facility.
The center also features regular self-help classes including Brake Service and Basic Car Maintenance — and holds open auctions for used vehicles throughout the year.

For upcoming dates and a list of prices, services and vehicle donation or disposal options, visit https://wiesbaden.armymwr.com/programs/automotive-skills or call (0611) 143-548-9817.