Honestly, I go back and forth with this idea often. Having worked in customer service for so long I understand the desire to be a condescending jerk sometimes. Its hard to hold your superior knowledge in even with friends. “You wait to change your oil until your light comes on? You know what those lights are called right?” (“idiot lights”) “You’ve lived in the desert for a year and you never bother to check your air filter?” I can be a jerk too. But that jerkiness comes from a place of experience. How do I know to check my filter? I stalled. How do I know the importance of oil maintenance? I had a car that leaked occasionally and really had to watch it carefully. When you have a great dad, brothers, ex-boyfriend, or informative mechanic in your life, partnered with a fifteen year old car with 330,000 miles on it, you tend to learn through experience.
That being said, when I came across a problem I didn’t fully understand, I wanted to know why it happened. Was I neglectful? Do they just wear out? When do they wear out? What are the signs in case it happens again? I want to know everything.
When you regularly take your car a thousand miles from anyone you know, the idea of self-reliance and competency really becomes solidified. You want to know what the problem is and how to fix it (or more realistically, how much you should pay to have someone fix it).
There is a stigma in the auto world, largely based on mounds of numbers and evidence, that even in 2017, it’s kind of still a boys club. Catalyst did a study in 2015 that found only 1.2% of mechanics/service techs are women, and overall, only 21.5% of the total industry are female. So chances are, depending on where you go, your mechanic and even the guy at the front desk is going to be a man. This is where “man-splaining” was invented my friend.
Before I get a bunch of angry comments about being a man-hater and whatever the female equivalent to misogynist is, I want to clarify: Most male mechanics are not jerks. But in my personal experience its usually been about half. It’s a subtle comment. An exasperation at having to explain a “basic” automotive function. Trying to upsell a service that could reasonably be put off for another year. This is what I mean when I say jerk. And honestly, it’s not just me!
Women have complained about this for as long as I can remember. Growing up everyone always told me, “take a man with you, so they don’t try to rip you off”. It’s even led to founding of websites like Womenautoknow.com where you can look up and review mechanics online based on their set of standards. If a mechanic is featured on WomenAutoKnow.com they have taken a pledge to be family friendly (no bikini posters etc), have a clean restroom, and promise to fully explain any repair or problem to your understanding before starting work… shouldn’t this just be an overall standard??
Anyways, here are a few suggestions to finding a great mechanic:
- Try to seek one out before something really goes wrong. Go in for a pre-road trip check-up, or just an oil change & rotation. See how they handle the little things before something major happens.
- Ask a “stupid” question that you kind of already know the answer to. How they treat the response will tell you loads about not only their level of respect for you, but also their ability to break down a problem in ways you’ll actually understand.
- Check out their reviews online, or use WomenAutoKnow.com. And keep in mind that just because one guy is a jerk, doesn’t mean the rest of the guys there are. I have a great service guy at our local Goodyear, but there’s another old guy there who is the poster boy for mechanic jerkiness. I’ve learned to just ask for the one I like, or claim he was already helping me, and I’ll gladly wait for him to finish with his other customer.
- When you’re dealing with something major, check the average service prices online. Check the wear and tear standards for certain brands. With the magic of the internet, we no longer have to settle for just taking his word for it. Put it on yourself to be informed.
- And lastly, just trust your instincts. Try to build a relationship with one place, but don’t be afraid to shop around a little too.
A well maintained vehicle is crucial to the enjoyment of your time on the road. Don’t let the stress of dealing with a service take the fun out of the prep work. Always do a pre-road trip maintenance check, and factor in things like oil, coolant etc, into your road budget. It’s important to remember it is just a machine. Do not let it intimidate you! (Even when it yells at you in German. see below). There are amazing, wonderful mechanics out there, taking the time to find one can make all the difference in your experience! Good Luck!