I just got back from changing the transmission fluid in my car at the Automotive Skills Center, which is located on the military base where I work. It was my first time to use the shop, and I was really impressed.

You might have read DanMosqueda's Oppo post about how the Automotive Skills Center works. Basically, it's a fully outfitted auto shop where people with access to a military base (military and civilians) can work on their cars for a small fee. After taking a brief safety tour, you're left mostly to yourself to work on your car using the shop's tools. Of course, if you have a question about something, the shop staff will help you out.

I decided that changing my transmission fluid would be a good first use of the shop. A couple weekends ago, I went to my parents' house (I live in an apartment) and attempted to change the fluid with the car on jack stands, but I couldn't get enough leverage laying on my back to remove the fill plug. Shortly after that frustrating failure, I read about the auto shop and went to take the safety tour. Tonight, I simply drove up, showed one of the staff members my card (pictured above), and was directed to a lift bay. For $5/hour, I had access to the lift and more tools than I am ever likely to own. The fluid change was a breeze.

I have very little automotive repair/maintenance experience and was wary of looking like a moron in front of other more experienced car enthusiasts, but the Auto Skills Center had a really relaxed atmosphere, and I didn't feel out of place. If you have access to one of these shops, I recommend you visit it. I'm planning to go back soon to do some other repairs.