How women can and should be in control of their car’s maintenance
Google “girls and cars,” I’ll wait. All the hits are not safe for work, right? The narrative of girls being the ones who wash and model cars is indicative of a larger idea: women don’t know as much about cars as men do. I didn’t want to believe it — what does my gender have to do with anything? — but I was proven wrong at my car’s last six-month service appointment.
In early October, I took my 2016 Hyundai Elantra to the dealership for its regular service. In the final year of a three-year lease, I’ve had no issues with these services in the past.
During my appointment, the waiting room was unusually warm, like the temperature outside, and the seats as uncomfortable as expected. Just as I was getting drawn in to the CP24 story of Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper being in Washington at the same time, they said my car was ready.
“Hey Savoula, everything looks good,” the ever-affable Ben reported. I had to give the guy kudos—he repeated my difficult name a lot.
“Since I put on my winter tires last week, you guys didn’t charge me for tire rotation, right?” I jumped in.
I felt proud for knowing what usually comes in these six-month services. Truthfully, my knowledge of cars isn’t as detailed as I want it to be, so whenever I’m dealing with car-related checks, I pay close attention.
“Don’t worry, we didn’t rotate the tires. Here’s your total.” Ben showed me the invoice and I nodded. “Savoula, just so you know, usually every two years, cars have to go through a more extensive service where we perform a lot more maintenance. It’s usually $2,000 of work. Since you’ve reached that point in your lease, I’ll go ahead and add that total here and schedule you to come back.”
My eyebrows hit the ceiling; I couldn’t pick which expletive to start with. He spewed out words I didn’t understand, trying to explain why my car needed several different fixes. Ben’s geniality levels plummeted like a rock climber on a slippery foothold when he told me it didn’t matter what year the car was made—this service was standard procedure.
Thoughts 1 through 10 ran through my brain at the same time: should I just agree? But why wasn’t I warned about this upcoming $2,000 service before today? Is he just doing this because I seem naïve? Is it because I’m a girl? Wait…why is he typing right now?
“Sorry, Ben, I’m not going to be paying extra today. I need to think about it. Is there a pamphlet I can take home?” I meekly asked, feeling like not even his thick-rimmed glasses could shield the skepticism in his eyes.
“Sure, but you’re going to see it’s the right thing to do. Give me a call when you change your mind,” he replied, looking back to his computer and dismissing any other questions I might have had.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the same thing would have happened if I was an older driver. Or a dude.
I’m not alone in feeling like my gender played a role in how I was treated that day. Studies still show women leave dealerships feeling uneasy, uncomfortable and uneducated about cars.
A study released in December by CDK Global highlights 43 per cent of women who completed online reviews for dealerships found their experiences differed from the experiences of men. The most common words used in their reviews included “stressed,” “overwhelmed” and “panicked.” Rather than wait around for a dealership services manager or mechanic I found trustworthy, I put faith in myself and got educated (largely with the help of WikiHow).
Most recently with the bad weather, I found where the washer fluid reservoir is under the hood of my car and learned how to replace the fluid when I run out. I also discovered where to get fluid from (you can’t just mix soap and water and use it as fluid….I asked).
Ladies, try a more worthwhile Google search, like “girls learn cars,” and arm yourselves with knowledge from like-minded women. Those Google hits look more encouraging: let the Vroom Girls share how much to pay a mechanic; watch Jessica Chou show you how to negotiate the price of a car; or read Grease Girl’s Garage DIYs on how to perform some simple service tasks for yourself.
If more girls learn the basics about car maintenance, we can hopefully make a dent in the current narrative and prove women can be just as knowledgeable about cars as men.
Spoiler alert: my car is still surviving without the $2,000 service.
Savoula Stylianou, Author
Savoula is a writer, traveler, music lover and Harry Potter fan. She graduated from Queen’s University with her BAH and MA in Religious Studies before entering Humber’s Professional Writing and Communications program this year. The thing Savoula loves most about writing is finding the most creative ways to share an experience with readers, as so many writers she loves, like Judy Blume and Alice Munro, have shared with her.