by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Within the first hour of free vehicle safety inspections here Dec. 2, three motorists were found to be driving with just drops of oil in their engines.
That wasn’t good, said John Pritchard, lead mechanic at the 21st Force Support Squadron Auto/Hobby Center.
“In the old days, you always had to tinker with your car,” he said. “Today, cars are computerized and tell you when you need service. So, people get lax on checking their oil and their tires.”
To help the car-care challenged, the Auto/Hobby Center mechanics teamed with the 21st Space Wing Safety Office and 15 volunteers to provide free vehicle safety inspections to Peterson and Schriever personnel to ensure vehicles are “ready to handle the Colorado winter,” said Lt. Col. Allen Reeves, 21st SW Safety Office chief.
With 10 open bays, the crew was set to provide up to 150 free vehicle inspections that included a check of the oil, lights, mirrors, fluids, belts and tire condition – an inspection with an estimated value of $50.
Oil, or the lack of, and balding tires are the two top safety offenses. Recently, an Airman within Air Force Space Command died in a vehicle crash where one of the main causes cited was bald tires, said Colonel Reeves. The fatality underscores the importance of checking the tread on tires regularly, he said.
“The bald tires did not give the driver safe stopping distance,” he said.
Good tire tread is a top winter driving tip from the Colorado Department of Transportation. In winter months, driving conditions change from sunny to blowing snow within an hour or two.
In normal weather conditions, a motorist should allow three seconds following distance. When driving in snow, motorists should allow twice the normal stopping distance, and when driving on ice, the motorist should allow three times the normal stopping distance.
Mr. Pritchard said motorists should not just rely on their computerized dashboards to tell them when it’s time for an oil change. Nothing beats a good old-fashioned dip stick check, he said.
He encourages Airmen to use the Auto/Hobby Center to “get to know their car.” The center has a certified mechanic on duty and can assist motorists with learning how to change their oil or even their brakes.
“There are no full-service gas stations anymore,” Mr. Pritchard said. “We tell Airmen, come by during the week; we have no problem walking them through an oil change.”
– The Auto/Hobby Center is open 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Closed Monday.
– Holiday schedule from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
The 21st Safety Office and the Colorado Department of Transportation offer these winter driving tips:
– Let you car warm up for a few minutes (do not leave the vehicle unattended)
– Clean the entire car of snow before you begin driving
– Winterize your car by checking the horn, lights, mirrors, wipers, brakes and tires
– Check antifreeze, defroster, emergency signals and heater
– Keep emergency supplies in the car. A blanket, jumper cables, first aid kit, flashlight, ice scraper, matches, a candle, sand/gravel and a small shovel are winter basics
– Let the snowplow drivers do their jobs by giving them extra room
– Slow down. Even roads that have been treated with liquid de-icer may be slippery
– Don’t use cruise control when traveling in winter conditions
– Call (303) 639-1111 or 511 for current road and weather information