When it comes to car maintenance, women are in the driver’s seat these days.
“We have a lot of power,” said Lauren Fix, spokesperson for the Car Care Council. “The power of the stock market, without a doubt.”
According to the Car Care Council, around 85% of household car purchase and maintenance decisions are made by women. So in theory, the days when you were treated like a “little lady” when you walked around for the 30,000 mile tune-up or to have the timing belt changed are over.
“All the places that denigrate you or treat you fairly, they don’t deserve your money,” said Fix, author of Lauren Fix’s guide to loving your car
Few people really know about cars today – men or women, said Ron Minton of AAA Texas.
Of course, it’s probably good to know how to change the oil in the blink of an eye. But opening the hood won’t do much for the average Saturday afternoon backyard mechanic. Many newer models operate using computers, with as many as 23 on-board computers in some vehicles, Minton said.
BASIC CHECKLISTAuto maintenance experts say that reading and following the owner’s manual is the first step to proper car maintenance. But here are a few other things that should be checked frequently to keep the car running smoothly and to avoid more costly problems down the road.• Tires: Check them weekly for proper inflation and tread wear. Rotate them for every second oil change. Check the alignment.• Oil: The rule was that the oil had to be changed every 3,000 miles. Nowadays it depends on the car. Some can go double or even more. Read the owner’s manual to determine what is required for your car.• Brakes: Have them checked every time the car is in service.• Other fluids: In addition to oil, there is transmission fluid, engine coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. All should be checked and maintained.• Filters: The air and fuel filters should be changed regularly.• Belts and hoses: They need to be maintained and sometimes replaced. The owner’s manual will tell you when.• Markers: Most automotive manuals use these mileage markers for more serious service: 30,000; 60,000, 90,000, 120,000.Sources: Ron Minton, AAA Texas; Lauren Fix, spokesperson for the Car Care Council; Mark Orsack, Milstead Automotive Service Manager.
These automobiles require specialized equipment to diagnose and correct problems.
“We are moving away from this DIY approach,” Minton said. “Cars are so complicated.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t some basics that every car owner should know.
Rule of thumb # 1 is pretty straightforward: read the owner’s manual. It’s the booklet in your glove box under the extra towels and ketchup packets, Fix points out.
Then do as it says, said Amy Milstead, president of the Spring Milstead Group, which runs companies including Milstead Automotive.
Although she is not a mechanic, she grew up in the business. His father, Dick Milstead, started the family auto repair shop. Amy, the only girl in a family of seven, often heard her father preach about the importance of auto maintenance.
His post began with: Change the oil.
“If you don’t, your car will collapse. Then you’ll spend more money on the road,” Amy Milstead said.
Indeed, regular basic maintenance consists of fine-tuning the parts so that the assembly lasts longer. That’s important because most people keep their cars for longer than they used to, around 10 to 12 years, compared to seven or eight, Fix said.
Car maintenance is usually only for real experts, but it’s easy enough to regularly check tire pressure and replace wipers, she said. Another key is to help the mechanic diagnose the problem – it is not a straightforward task for people who are largely unfamiliar with the inner workings of their automobiles.
Fix recommends thinking of it like a visit to the doctor: Explain the symptoms as best you can, using all of the senses.
“Everything except the taste,” she said.
Although women have automotive purchasing power these days, auto maintenance still has a reputation for being a man’s world, Milstead said. She often hears stories of women whose car problems were dismissed even by the person they were paying to fix it.
As Amber Harrelson, service writer at Milstead Automotive sees it, women can be more hesitant when describing their car problem than men. It’s not necessary, she said.
“Men might not know how to change their oil, but if there is something wrong with their car, they’re more confident in describing it,” said Harrelson, whose job requires her to. works with customers and mechanics to get the car repaired.
Milstead and her colleague Kristin Venema recently hosted a workshop – Lipsticks and Dipsticks – aimed at giving women the information they need to be educated clients. They also have a workshop for teenagers, which was designed after Milstead realized that his daughter’s driving lessons lacked basic interview information.
For most people, keeping their cars in good running condition is about finding the right mechanic.
Make sure the store is clean and tidy. Mechanics must be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. AAA Texas also approves the stores after rigorous evaluation, said Minton, who is a master technician.
And in an age when women control the finances of the car, it also helps to read the writing on the walls of a store.
“If they have female calendars,” Minton said, “you’ve come to the wrong place.”