Pet Peeve #9: Sexist Mechanics

Why is it that a large number of men who repair cars believe that every man knows more about cars than any woman?  The condescension and ignorance drive me absolutely crazy.  It’s 2009 for heaven’s sakes!!  Haven’t these guys ever heard of Women’s Lib.?

My first blatant experience of this was when I was in college.  I went to start my car in the parking garage one day, and the engine just started revving out of control even without my foot on the gas pedal.  When I called for a tow, though, I was informed that tow trucks were unable to maneuver in the parking structure and I would have to get my 1983 Chevy Citation down the spiral exit ramp on my own.  I quickly enlisted a group of friends to help me push the car out, and my friend’s boyfriend offered to steer the thing in neutral down the spiral.  Thankfully we were able to stop the car before it rolled into the street.  Even though I had been the one talking with the tow truck operator during the whole thing and it was my car, as soon as the car was out he started addressing all questions and comments to my friend’s boyfriend.

A few years later when my husband and I had to take his car into the same shop (the only one in town that took AAA), I would ask the mechanic a question and he would look at my husband and give him the answer.  My husband knows even less about cars than I do (which isn’t saying much about either of us).  It was rude as well as annoying.

And just to prove that this is not some small town Kentucky issue, there was a shop down the road from where we now live in Illinois that I would take the car to for repairs and maintenance for time to time.  Inevitably, at the end of every visit the manager would say, “Now tell your husband that such and such will need to be fixed soon.”  Never mind, that they had probably only seen my husband in there one in every five or six visits.

Lately, I got a dose of the less blatant condescension when I tried to take our mini-van in to the Honda dealership where we bought it.  I learned the hard way that they have a first come, first serve policy for any type of maintenance or repair.  And I get the impression that they put more emphasis on getting oil changes done rather than major repairs.

The service manager that I drew by bad luck was a man probably in his mid to late 50’s.  The whole time I dealt with him he was impatient and talked  down to me like I was an annoying child because I wouldn’t agree to drop my van off at 8:00 in the morning and leave it all day long.  Never mind that we are a one-vehicle family.  Never mind that we could not borrow another car for a whole day or afford a rental.  Never mind that we have three children in car seats that are safer if the seats are not removed unnecessarily once installed properly.  I’m not even sure that I could re-install the baby’s seat correctly on my own.

After tangling with him, in desperation I went to a different Honda dealership and dealt with a much nicer guy who gave me better advice.  And after talking to the company that manages our extended service plan, I realized that the first guy had been lying to me.  Because I wouldn’t be a good little girl like he wanted, he had misconstrued the details of what needed to be done on the car to try to force me.  Needless to say I will not be returning there for any more automobile work.

I dread whenever car repairs are needed, because besides the money I never know when a mechanic may try to play on my perceived (or real) ignorance just because I am a woman.  I had one place try to get me to replace something really expensive that didn’t need replacing at all.  Now I always try to find places that have at least one woman on staff.  For while that woman may not be a certified mechanic, they tend to know more about cars than I do and they also tend to set a tone of respect for female customers that is sometimes lacking in boys only clubs.

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