By Mary Kilpatrick Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Marlene Herman owned two Cleveland-area Auto body shops before retiring last year. She says that women are sometimes taken advantage of because there’s an assumption they don’t understand mechanical issues.
I took my car into the shop last month for a tune up -- an oil change, brake check, the works.
The sensors on my dash had lit up like Christmas tree. Turns out, the car was fine, but the sensor was broken. I trusted my auto shop to tell me the truth, because honestly, I don't know much about cars. I know I'm not alone.
Women are sometimes taken advantage of by auto shops because there's an assumption they don't understand mechanical issues -- though plenty of men are in the same boat, said Marlene Herman.
Until her November retirement, Herman owned two Cleveland-area Aamco Transmission and Total Care shops, one for 24 years, and the other for 16 years.
"Often women just want it to work and want it fixed," she said. "In some situations, they certainly can be taken advantage of."
Women were asked to pay more for car repairs than men when it was clear they didn't know how much it should cost, a 2013 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper found. When women mentioned a cost for the car maintenance, the price difference between men and women went away.
Near Philadelphia, Patrice Banks created a #shecanic online community for "all my ladies who have been taken advantage of by a mechanic, felt powerless when their car broke down or needed to rely on a father, brother or male friend when they took their vehicle to a mechanic for service."
Cleveland.com reached out to auto shop experts to find out how women can ensure they receive the best service when they take their car in for repairs.
The big takeaway? Go to a reputable shop. Ask your technician to explain the problem so you understand. If you're unsure about the advice you're getting, get a second opinion. And if you're unhappy with the way you're being treated, try another shop. It's the auto shop's job to ensure everyone is being treated with respect.
"If you're not happy with them, then don't stay there. Go some place you're comfortable," Marlene Herman said.
Go to a well-known shop When you're trying to find an auto shop, check out Better Business Bureau ratings. Look at online reviews, too, but take those with a grain of salt. There's always going to be one or two bad reviews by customers. If the majority of the reviews are good, that's a good sign. You could also ask friend or family for advice about where they take their cars.
The internet is your friend When you think there's a problem in with car, look online to see what the issue might be, said Amy Herman, an auto technician for the Conrad's Tire Express and Total Car Care in Macedonia. "They can kind of get a feel for it before they take it in," said Amy Herman, who's worked as a technician for 21 years.
Ask questions Ask your mechanic to show you the problem in your car, and explain why it needs to be fixed, Amy Herman said. Ask why the work needs to be done, and the consequences of not getting the work done. Transparency is important. For example, Conrad's sends its customers videos with a rundown of the maintenance their cars need.
Educate yourself You can also ask to see the part that's getting replaced, and the new part that's going in to get a better idea of the issue, Marlene Herman said.
"If they had brake pads done, and they were squealing," she said. "They can show them a new one versus the one that came off the car that only has a quarter inch left, and the new pad has an inch, whatever the numbers are, then you feel better about the establishment."
You can also ask the shop to print out your car's maintenance schedule, which shows around what mileage car repairs are due.
That way, when your mechanic says your brakes need to be fixed at 70,000 miles, you can check the schedule.
Rule of thumb It's a good idea to take your car in for service every time you're due for an oil change, which is about every 5,000 miles to 7,000 miles.