General: Wheels for Women

Published by: on Tuesday July 31st, 2012

Some women tell me that cars and their working parts are as impossible to figure out as the men in their lives.  I’m here today to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way anymore!  One of my favorite jobs is to mentor women who are interested in learning about their vehicles into “could be, but don’t have to be” master mechanics and diagnostic technicians so that they (you) can then choose your level of knowledge about “fixing” your own vehicle.

First we’ll discuss safety issues.  Next you should know how your car works, what makes it work better and what will tear it up faster than a hang nail in nylons.  Please forgive the occasional pun; I am not in any way a sexist.  Sometimes it just makes for better copy.

Of course, you should always know why to choose a particular car (aside from color and prettiness.)  Just like men should choose for reasons other than engine size, torque and towing capacity.  In this economy, you want to keep your car till the tires fall off, put new ones on and keep going.  Any day you can burn a coupon-less payment book is a good day.  

The biggest complaint I get from women (besides my husband won’t change the oil) is how to handle yourself when you take your car to get it serviced.  “How do I not be the female who gets (fill in the blank…cheated, mistreated, overcharged) in a service department?”

For today, let me let you in on my top 15 things women should know about cars:  (Men you might want to keep up or the women in your life might not buy your, “My car was broken down story” for being late.)

  1. Don’t let your car run out of gas or run low on gas.  It can get debris in all kinds of nasty places and ruin your engine.  Not to mention, have you ever run out of gas in a good part of town?
  2. Tire pressure is important. Know your suggested tire pressure, how to add or reduce air from your tires, how to tell if the tread on your tires is good and where you can go to add air yourself if you need to.
  3. Change your oil. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t want to walk, change your oil.
  4. Scheduled maintenance. Read your car manual. Make a schedule. Keep it.
  5. Lock your doors. Every time you get out. Look under your car before you get in it. Park close to lights where possible. Lock your doors when you get in the car (before buckling up or digging in your purse.) If you are putting a baby in a car seat before you get in, always be aware of what is going on around and behind you. Keep your keys out and ready to jab something if necessary.
  6. Know your route. Tell someone where you are going and the direction you plan to take.
  7. Know how to change a tire.
  8. Car cell phone charger. Have one charged at all times. If your phone is not charging properly, check the charger and the car plug-in.
  9. AAA. No I do not get anything for referring them. Be safe. Not sorry.

10.  Don’t tailgate, especially in bad weather.

11.  Learn how your car behaves in adverse conditions.

12.  Learn some automotive words. Carspeak will get you a long way toward a good outcome with a mechanic. Learn descriptive adjectives like hesitation, acceleration and braking. Know the difference between a squeak, a rattle and a buzz.

13.  Learn basic maintenance. Do you know how to open your hood? Check your oil? What to do if your car is running hot? (Turn on the heater and pull over.) Never put diesel gas in a non-diesel engine. Hear a scrubbing noise? Check your brakes. By the time you hear the scrubbing, your stopping capability is basically metal on metal.

14.  Learn to drive a standard transmission.  Everyone should learn this skill. In case of an emergency, driving a stick may mean the difference between life and death. If you don’t have a manual transmission, I suggest asking a very forgiving friend who does to let you borrow theirs’ and then finding a huge parking lot for practice.

15.  Go off-roading. I’m not suggesting mud-bogging in your Mustang. Find an off-road vehicle like a Jeep. Learn how to use a 4WD, climb some rocks, and drive through difficult terrain. Don’t let snow or rain stop your practice. Learning to master inclement weather and a few tough places will do wonders for your self-esteem in case you every find yourself between a rock and a hard place.

I’m CAR MAN. Comment or question any time. (Two on the pavement, two on the dirt.)