Getting the family car ready for spring, summer travel

Having a family from the KMC stranded somewhere in Europe because of car trouble while on their spring or summer vacations is the last thing Don Breton wants to happen.

“Our goal and purpose is to try and avoid car problems that could leave our patrons stranded out on the road late at night,” said Mr. Breton, who is U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s Pulaski Auto Skills manager.

That’s why last year he initiated free car inspections twice a year – once in the winter to ensure patron’s vehicles are safe for bad weather and then again in the spring for vacations and road trips.

“We have found (through these inspections) several hub bearings, tie rods and ball joints that were in poor condition – all to do with the front-end – which means in every case the car was not safe to drive on the road,” he said.

So far, close to 500 people have had their cars checked at three free car inspections, but that’s not stopping Mr. Breton. The next Spring Safety Day will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Pulaski Auto Skills on Pulaski Barracks.

Ranging from checking windshield wipers to lifting vehicles up to check underneath for any safety concerns, inspections take about 20 to 30 minutes. These free inspections are quite in-depth and could cost about $80 to $100 in the states.

“Our hands physically test the front suspension so we are checking specifically for ball joints, tie rods and hub bearings,” he said. “We also do visual inspections to the best of our ability on brakes.”

Created by Mr. Breton, inspection sheets are very thorough, said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Vinson, from the garrison Chaplain’s Office, who was with his wife getting both of their cars inspected at all three previous safety days.

“They checked all the important stuff and even made sure we had ice scrapers in our car,” said Staff Sergeant Vinson at last year’s Winter Safety Day.

“Another important thing that we caught was incorrect tire pressure,” said Steve Pelletier, the garrison’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director. “We corrected it on every single – more than 100 – cars at (last year’s) Spring Safety Day. This is not only a safety concern for Soldiers, but it also saves them money.”

Once a safety problem is identified at the inspection, patrons are coached on the different avenues they can take to get their cars fixed, such as where the best place is to get it fixed or Web sites to order parts. Mr. Breton said his staff has already made sure generally-needed items such as windshield wipers, first aid kits and warning triangles are stocked and ready for retail.

“I already have it on my schedule,” said Emma Vinson, Staff Sergeant Vinson’s wife, in response to whether or not they will be at this Spring Safety Day. “A free car inspection – can’t beat that.”