Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Girl Scouts and the Car Sense Badge

Scheduling a class in November for outside can be a little risky in Pennsylvania, but I'm happy to say that November 8th was a balmy 65 degrees with full sun. Thank goodness, because I was teaching the Car Sense badge to 81 girl scouts and their 30 troop leaders.

As interesting as I think my lecture is, I knew that the girls wanted to get outside and get their hands dirty. So, we spent a half hour going over the different components the girls would be checking and then headed out into the warm weather.

While it was a little crazy with about 15 vehicles being worked on, the worksheet was pretty easy to follow and I found myself answering questions about what some of the things were under the hood and if it was a problem if there was no oil on the dipstick....Yikes!

The girls checked oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering and washer fluid levels. They learned how to check tire pressure and where to find the proper reading on the vehicle and in the owner's manual. From there they had to look up different things in their owner's manual so that I knew that they could find it.

Overall it was a great day. Of course I need to thank Theresa for coming with me and being a trooper  answering questions and helping with the groups, it made my job a lot easier with so many girls.

Everyone had a good time and learned about important things that anyone can check on their vehicles. Thanks again to the Eastern Region of Pennsylvania Girl Scouts and Linda Delenick for putting this program together and working with LSYE so that girls can see that women do these jobs too!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reno, Emily Miller and Rod Hall Racing

October is almost over and I have been so busy I haven’t even had time to post all of the cool things that have been happening. Now that I have a minute to breathe, I wanted to catch you all up. It all started with an incredible trip to Reno, Nevada on October 5th.

I think I need to back up a little and explain that about a year ago I contacted Emily Miller, who does off-road racing with Rod Hall Racing After reading an article about her second place win in a race from Vegas to Reno I thought it would be interesting to talk with her. I believe this was the first time for a woman in this race. We stayed in touch and I had a great time following her in Morocco when she and her navigator Wendy Fisher, entered an all women off-road race as the first American team. After she returned, she told me to stay tuned for a special class she wanted to run in the fall and hoped that I could come.

Well, the class ended up being an invitation only event for 14 women in off-road driving. I was going to get there no matter what. I thought this was an incredible opportunity and should not be missed. I was right! For 3 days I had the opportunity to spend time with some amazing women and learn all about driving off-road in the Hummer H3 and the Ford Explorer. Each vehicle had a different kind of tire, from mudders to a typical street tire. I was amazed at how both vehicles responded to the different kind of driving we did. I am truly a Hummer fan now!

We drove up steep hills, through mud bogs and even had the chance to do a hot lap with Emily. I think I speak for everyone when I tell you that was the most fun I’ve had in a long time! Rod, from Rod Hall Racing, spent time with us and actually enjoyed his day with the “ladies”. Learning from a legend was a real treat.

Sue Wright, an engineer with Hummer, and Rhonda Wood from Michelin gave us some great insight on the vehicles and tires as well. We even got to go to the Automobile Museum in Reno, which happened to be right across the street from our hotel…go figure.

What an amazing experience and opportunity to spend time with Emily and the Rod Hall Racing Crew. Thanks everyone for an adventure of a lifetime!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Cool Tool, CarMD Code Reader

I recently had the opportunity to try the CarMD code reader. It's a great little tool that let's you retrieve a code when your check engine light comes on.

Most people don't know that you can find out these codes by simply purchasing a code reader that plugs into almost any vehicle. For less than $100 CarMD will not only tell you the codes that have been stored in your vehicle, but it also plugs into your computer and allows you to get valuable information about that code from their website.

They do a good job at explaining the possible problems and give you an idea of what it might cost to get it fixed. This arms you with information to take to your service shop and not feel like their giving you some bogus information that only they know.

It's important to note that this tool will not clear your codes or fix your vehicle. You should still have the problem properly diagnosed by a technician. Many times just replacing the component that the code tells you is the problem may not be the answer. There could be something else making the component give a bad reading.

Having this tool however allows you to do more research on the possible problem and gives you confidence to talk intelligently with your service provider on how to repair the vehicle.

Here's a quick video about your check engine light that I did for Galtime.com and I show the CarMD tool.

Check Engine Light Video

You can also go to my site for a discount when you purchase the CarMD code reader.

Ladies, Start Your Engines Website

This is a great little tool that could save you money and also help you learn more about your vehicle.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Women and Parking Lots

I was recently at the grocery store when I noticed a woman standing near her vehicle with the hood opened. She was alone and attempting to contact someone on the phone. Whenever I see women alone with a broken down vehicle I try to stop and at least offer some assistance.

Women can feel vulnerable when their vehicle breaks down for a couple reasons. 1. They may not know what's wrong and how to fix it. 2. Men who are strangers may stop to help and this may not be safe.

I have actually felt like the women I've helped were relieved that a woman stopped to help them. I don't treat them like they don't know what they're doing and I try to help them understand what went wrong if I can.

The woman in the grocery store lot seemed to have everything under control. She had contacted the lot security who was on the way with a jump. I stayed to help out. The young man had a jump box with a broken clamp and I wondered how he intended to get it to work.

I stood back for a moment and let him do his job. When the vehicle wouldn't start I had to step in :) I was able to get a good contact and get the vehicle started. I also talked to the woman about what her options were for her battery problem. She was very grateful for the help and thanked me for the information.

I couldn't help but wonder what the security guard would have done if he couldn't get the vehicle started...he probably would have told her to get a tow. I think it's important for women to look out for each other. If you see a woman broken down and you can stop, even if you only have moral support to offer, it could still mean a great deal. Staying with her until the vehicle is taken care of and you know she's safe is just as important as offering car advice.

I enjoy helping people in general, but am especially happy to be able to help women with a broken down vehicle feel a little safer.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Radical Wrencher, GM and the Twin Cities

Just back from a whirlwind tour of Minneapolis/St. Paul teaching classes for GM, I'm hunkering in for a lazy Sunday afternoon. I like the traveling thing...don't get me wrong, but it's good to be home.

I hit the ground running in Minneapolis. I had about an hour once I reached the hotel before Jennie and Kelly from GM showed up in the new 2010 Equinox to take me to a TV interview with KARE channel 11. The host's of the show, Diana and Pat were fun and I think I even taught them something they didn't know in my 2 minutes of fame. :)

From there we headed over to Merit Chevrolet to a full class of women, a quick bite to eat and back to the hotel by 9:30 pm. I was in bed by 10 pm so that I could get up early, picked up at 5:30 am, to get to Rosedale Chevrolet and do the FOX channel 9 morning show with M.A. Rosko. We did four 2-3 minute segments for live TV...I had a blast and M.A. now knows how to change a tire!

Our class that night was full again and we even had a couple bloggers to help showcase what LSYE and GM are trying to do...which is to empower women and let them know that GM is interested in their female customer's safety and making them feel comfortable with coming into their dealerships.

So this trip was great fun and another opportunity to work with GM. Thanks again to Jennie and Kelly...and to Amanda, their PR person, for making everything happen and making it look so smooth!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Introducing the Cheater Bar

So last time Lori introduced one of her favorite tools, the Jump Box. This time I thought I'd introduce one of mine...

<Drum roll please>

...the Cheater Bar!

"What on earth is that?" I can hear you asking yourself, I can almost see the furrowed brows and cocked heads through the computer as I write this. "It looks just like a pipe. What am I supossed to do with it?"

There are probably many things we could come up with to do with it if we got creative... not all of which am I here to endorse (at least not officially!) However, more than a nifty way to protect yourself against unwanted attention, or a handy tool for releasing your aggressions from a bad day on some poor inanimate (please) object... This simple piece of metal pipe is how little people like me get to act like we're VERY VERY strong!

Because as women our stregnth tends to be in our legs not our arms, and using our legs isn't always an option, the Cheater Bar levels the playing field. Simply slip it over the wrench your using and it instantly and dramatically multiplies your stregnth by increasing your leverage. The longer the pipe, the more everage, the stronger you 'become!'
It's simple, it's inexpesive, and it's totally underappreciated.

I have one in my tool box, one in my car and of course one at my house. The Cheater Bar is particularly handy for us ladies when changing a tire on the side of the road. Most places that put on tires use air tools, which means the bolts are *super* tight and often very difficult to get loose with just the tools that your car came with, especially if you live in a wet or snowy climate where rust makes the lugs even more difficult to get loose. One little piece of pipe could mean the difference between sitting and waiting perhaps hours for help, or getting on back on the road to safety.

There are a few companies selling fancy cheater bars online. For example check out these neat extendable lug wrenches at www.thefind.com/hardware/info-telescoping-lug-wrench Or you can always go to your local hardware store and buy a piece of pipe like I do - sometimes you can get remenant pieces for free or at least very cheap. And don't worry, no one is gonna blame you if you find another use for it as well. In fact if you do - please share!

Happy wrenching...
The Wrench Wench

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No, see – we *are* the help….

I have to admit that sometimes I like to have fun with the reactions I get from people when they find out I am a mechanic… Is that a bad thing? ;)

Recently one of my customers called me to see if I could come to his rescue… his car stalled and wouldn’t start up again – it was parked at the parking lot at his work – not far from my shop and would I possibly be able to go check it out and see if I could get it fixed without having to get it towed? No problem. From the sounds of the symptoms I was pretty sure I knew what it was and if I was right it was something I could easily fix in the parking lot. He wasn’t going to be there, but the key was there and I could have at it.

I brought Christina (the other female technician that works for me) because we’d had a rough week and I had a hunch that this was gonna be fun… I thought I’d share ;)

We loaded some basic tools and testing equipment and headed on down… to the local fire house.

The guys were hanging out back when we pulled up… all eyes were on us as we got out of the car and walked over to my customers car and got the key. I went over and let them know who we were and what we were doing messing with one of their co-workers cars. They just nodded and stared with furrowed questioning brows. Christina and I got to work. Within minutes three or four more firemen appeared from within the house and made their way over to us… “Excuse us ladies – is your car stuck? You need some help?” We are both in uniform and have a spread of tools in front of us, so I thought it should be pretty obvious, but I turned and smiled – “No, thanks – we’re good. We ARE the help.” And then we watched them back pedal ;)

We went and got the part we needed, leaving them speechless, and then got on with installing it… as I worked we gathered a small crowd around us… they were really nice guys and while they weren’t at all rude or condescending – they were definitely intrigued and curious. The questions while I worked all seemed very skeptical, arms crossed - asking what I was doing… how I knew that was the problem… how long I’ve been a mechanic… how I learned to be a mechanic… where I worked…. And on and on…

When the time came for Christina to turn the key and test if we had fixed the car or not – a hush fell over the crowd. Because of the nature of the repair… it’s normal for it to take a few tries – so of course it looks like I don’t really know what I’m talking about after all. I see some smirks out of the corner of my eye just in time for the engine to right on cue start up and start purring like a kitten.

Immediately the crossed arms drop and the first voice I hear says slowly... “what did you say the name of your shop was again?” I pulled my cards out and passed them around smiling… they invited us in and gave us some freshly brewed ice tea and we all shook hands and smiled and waved as we drove off… Christina and I giggling like school girls to ourselves all the way back to the shop…

There are definitely times I wish that who I am and what I do was more “normal” and accepted… But then it's little moments like this that make all the struggle worthwhile ;)

Happy wrenching...

The Wrench Wench

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Women and Driving from the Radical Wrencher

The other day I was talking to a woman about my classes and she was telling me how she'd like to take it, but she didn't have a car. I hear this a lot because I live in the city, but to be honest...I don't understand it. Most people at some time in their life will own a vehicle and we all ride in them. Why not learn what we can about them?

I think that women often rely on men to repair and take care of their vehicles. Older women tell me they don't need the class because their husbands "do all that". Maybe it's just one more thing that women don't want to have to take on if they don't have to, but I think it's important to at least know enough about your vehicle to make educated decisions about repairs.

I thought for sure that when I started teaching these classes that I would get young women, just out of college, wanting to learn about how to maintain their vehicles. What I've found is that I have a lot of women 50 or older that no longer have a man in their life and want to know how to do things themselves.

Women are still taught very little about their vehicles and expected to call "dad" if there's a problem. Unfortunately "dad" can't help you if you're 500 miles from home. I think it's especially important for women to understand their vehicles from a safety perspective. You never know what that 'Good Samaritan' is going to do when they stop to help.

Bottom line, it doesn't matter if you own a vehicle or not. You probably will one day and I'm sure you ride in them. As a woman you owe it to yourself to take advantage of any knowledge you can learn to empower yourself. Let's not fool ourselves....understanding your vehicle is no more a man's place than cooking in the kitchen is a woman's!

P.S. My dad does all the cooking :)


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Filming with the Radical Wrencher

So last Sunday I packed up some bottled water and snacks and headed out for a day of video shooting. I have to tell you that I have a whole new respect for actors. I don't know how they do it. What seems like such a fun and glamorous job to me is tedious and exhausting at best.

Teaching a class to a group of women wins hands down as opposed to trying to give that same information to a camera lens. Words get jumbled, eyes wander and don't seem to look at the camera, thoughts of how to get my point across in a minute means I forget important points...it's all a huge learning curve.

The funny thing is that I end up loving the end product and the idea that women who can't take my class get a visual of how to do things, like changing a headlight bulb. I'm sure I'll get better at it and maybe even one day I won't dread "shoot day"!

Everyone on the shoot is very encouraging and tells me how good everything looks, but inside I'm thinking I just want this to be over :)

So where can you see these videos you're probably asking? Well, I'm doing them for a new website that will launch in just a couple weeks called www.galtime.com. It's a great new website that will offer women access to information on health, finance, family, career, cooking, relationships, beauty/fashion, entertainment, DIY and more.

You'll be able to watch my videos, read informative articles from Bogi and ask us all of your car questions. I'm pretty excited for the launch, but you don't have to wait, go visit the site and sign up. There's already a free give-away!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Favorite Things...from the Radical Wrencher

The other day I was talking with someone about jumping their vehicle and we got on the topic of a battery jump box. It was amazing to me that they had never heard of it. Maybe because I'm involved in the car industry I hear more about these things...so I thought I'd write about it.

First of all, a jump box is what you would use to jump a dead battery. There are several reasons why I like them. One, they're easy to use. Two, it's hard to really cause damage even if you aren't sure what you're doing. Three, and most important...you don't need anyone else to help you, you can jump yourself.

When you use battery jumper cables you must rely on someone else's vehicle to jump your vehicle. You need to make sure that both of you are very sure of what you're doing, and there is always a possibility that you could cause damage to electrical components on the vehicle that is doing the jumping.

If you have a service like AAA, you'll notice that they don't even use jumper cables anymore....they come with a jump box. This decreases their liability of damaging your vehicle. I highly recommend the jump box for women just on the safety factor alone. As long as you have it with you and you keep it charged, you can jump your own vehicle without having to rely on anyone else.

You can purchase these jump boxes at many automotive stores or places that sell automotive supplies. You'll probably have to spend at least $50 or more for a good quality jump box, but then you will always have peace of mind in case you should ever find yourself in a situation where you need a jump.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Radical Wrencher, San Diego and GM

First of all I cannot believe that it’s Thursday already….where did this week go? I had every intention of writing about the San Diego trip as soon as I got back, but time just slipped away.

Oh well, let me back up some and catch you up. Last weekend I flew out Friday night from Philadelphia to San Diego. When I went through security in Philly my bag was pulled aside to be checked. I wasn’t really surprised, I was carrying a bunch of promotional screwdrivers. You’d have to stab someone with a lot of them to do any damage and they must have realized that, because they didn’t seem too concerned. What they did ask me was if I was carrying a brake pad.

I laughed and said I was. I had wanted to bring a worn pad to show what it looked like. I am always unsure what to bring when I travel. When I teach the class in my area I have a whole bunch of things I take with me, many of which would not do well in my luggage. Anyway, the young male security checker seemed excited because apparently he had guessed right from the x-ray. They re-ran my bag and I was on my way….with everything I came with!

Once I got to San Diego I had about an hour wait to meet up with Bogi (wrench wench) who was coming in from Phoenix. This was the first time we were actually meeting even though we’ve been talking for a while. We checked into the hotel, had dinner with Diedra from GM and by 10:30 pm I was dead to the world….only to find myself wide awake at 4:30 am. I forced myself to stay in bed until a friend from back home called around 6 am not realizing where I was.

We headed over to the Marvin K. Brown Dealership where LSYE taught 2 classes for GM. All of the participants had a great time and Bogi and I realized just how compatible we really are. We had the rest of the afternoon to chat, make our business plans and compare notes.

I will only say that there are some big things in the works for Bogi and I with LSYE. It’s exciting to work with someone who has the same vision about educating women about their vehicles. I think we’re going to make a great team by combining our efforts with all of the skills that we both bring to the table. So stay tuned and we will fill you in on what we have planned as the year progresses. Click and Clack….here we come!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gardening with the Radical Wrencher

On Saturday I spent some time in the afternoon with a neighbor who is home-bound with pneumonia. We are both part of the garden club for the park that is across the street from me. She had mentioned that she needed some help re-potting some seedlings that she had grown, so I volunteered.

I have always loved gardening. There's something satisfying about planting seeds and taking care of them until they produce food that you can eat. I am still amazed every year when this happens, and I've been growing vegetables since I was a kid.

But I think for me it's also about the tranquility of being outside, putting my hands in the soil and feeling a connection to nature. It's relaxing and peaceful...no cell phone ringing, no real sense of time passing...just a quiet time for me to regenerate.

As we sat out on Vicki's front porch and planted, many neighbors stopped by to say hi. Each time Vicki introduced me and told them that I work on cars. She seemed so proud to know a woman who does this, it just made me smile.

I realized as I sat there with my hands in the dirt, that I just love working with my hands. There is such a satisfaction for me to be able to fix things, plant things and just generally work with my hands. It seems that I'm always finding something to do that gets my hands dirty. I think it makes me feel alive and there's nothing like getting in there and giving it a good effort.

I know I've said this a thousand times, but don't ever be afraid to try something new...you just might find out that you love it and that you're good at it.

And never be afraid to get your hands dirty! :)


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wrench Wench Round Table Pt 2

I hate going to get my oil changed because they are always trying to sell me all sorts of stuff – like the filter for my air conditioning. They wanted to charge me $50 and I heard that is something I can do myself!

Ladies correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure she’s not alone in that feeling. *And* she is absolutely right – it is something that she (or anyone for that matter) can do on her own and save lots of money. Plus it feels pretty good to know you did it yourself.
Air filters and Cabin filters (the filters for your AC system) are generally pretty easy to change once you know how. The first time you do it you may find it a little tricky – but after that you’ll be a pro and be able to do it in less than ten or 15 minutes at the most.

The Air Filter is for the air your engine breaths. It will always be in the engine compartment and generally held in by a few clips or maybe a few screws. Most can be changed in just a few minutes once you know what you’re looking.

The Cabin Filter is for the air you breath. It is often behind your glove box, or sometimes under the hood close to the back of your engine compartment (near the windshield). Look in your owner’s manual or ask your mechanic next time you see her. If their not happy to show you, maybe its time to look for another mechanic…. But that’s just my humble opinion ;)

With both filters, I’d check them every other oil change (more if you live in a particularly dusty climate). Its just like checking a filter on your AC at home, or for your air purifier or hepa vacuum cleaner…. Sometimes it will be so filthy that it’s real obvious that it needs to be replaced. If you’re in doubt – hold it up to the light. If the light can’t get through – neither can the air!

You can often get the filters for *much* cheaper than it is being sold to you at the repair shop. The woman who asked the question was being charged over $50. I looked up her year make and model and she does have a unusually high cost filter… but not that high. List price from the dealer was $22.50, which means it would probably cost 15 – 18 at an aftermarket parts store like AutoZone of Checker. Once she gets good at doing it in five minutes or so – that’s roughly $30 she’ll be saving herself!

As a shop owner I guess I’m not really supposed to be saying all this – but than we never charge labor on filters at our shop, and we’ll always offer to show you how to do it if you want to attempt it yourself the next time. Next time you’re at the shop, ask them to show you, look it up in your owners manual or online… better yet enroll in a class with me or Lori!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wrench Wench round table...

I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop after a long and busy day at the shop… I spend so much time here I should be paying rent. In fact, when I tell my staff that I’ll be spending the day at my office – they know that means I’ll be here glued to my computer and buzzing from my non-stop consumption of iced tea.

Tonight, I’ve come here to write… It’s the only place I can get any writing done and I’ve had *really* bad writer’s block recently. So I set up the computer and opened a clean new file and sat…. staring at a black screen… wondering why it is that I can talk about cars for hours and yet when I sit down to write it all goes running to hide in the dark corners of my mind.

The woman next to me saves the day. She motions at my shirt and asks if I work there or if it is just a cool shirt for fun. I’m still wearing my uniform. I tell her not only do I work there, but I own the business. She is obviously excited – tells me that she used to be really interested in cars and used to think she might want to go into mechanics. I share with her that I’m stuck thinking of things to write about…see if she has any suggestions... and soon there is a group of 3 plus me having a small automotive 'round table' of sorts. Each takes their turn asking a question and than I go off… the “rambling wrench wench” teaching and explaining away. An hour later… and I’m back at staring at a black screen – stuck again. So strange!

So here are some tips from the conversation…. ;) it’s only a little bit of a cop out!

I had a chip in my windshield, washed my car and now the whole windshield is cracked!

You’re driving down the road and a rock flies at you and hits your windshield… what to do? First, once you are at your destination take a close look at it - but don't touch! If it is a chip (there are no little lines or ‘legs’ coming out of the center of it) you have a good chance that it won’t spread, but it might still be worth having a glass place repair it. They essentially fill the chip with a special material that keeps it from spreading. I’ve heard that you can fill it yourself with crazy glue – but I’ve never tried it and doubt that it will last long term… for a run in your stockings maybe – but your windshield?

On the other hand – if it’s a star (there are legs or lines coming from the center) – than it is just a mater of time before the star becomes a crack and spreads across your windshield. All it takes is hitting a bump at the wrong angle or washing your car with cold water after it’s been sitting in Arizona’s 120 degree heat!

Getting it fixed sooner rather than later is a good idea. In some states you can get a ticket or fail your state emissions inspection for a cracked windshield because it really can be dangerous.

Before you run and call your insurance though, check with your agent. Sometimes it will increase your deductible and make it not worth it over the long run to go through insurance. And generally I advise staying away from the glass repair folks that approach you at the car wash. I’m sure many of them are wonderful and reputable – but there have been lots of insurance scams uncovered with less than honest glass companies. Instead ask your family and friends or your favorite mechanic for a recommendation, or check consumer reviews online. Most places will come right to your work or home and will take care of billing it to your insurance for you making it really convenient so you have no excuse! If you choose not to use insurance expect to pay between $150 and $450 depending on the year make and model of your car.

So much for writer’s block! Since I’m so long winded…. I’ll save the other tips for another day.

Stay tuned! ;)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reality from the Radical Wrencher

It was a rainy day yesterday and like most people I don't always think about my wiper blades until it's raining and they don't clear the windshield like they should. It makes me laugh sometimes that I spend so much time giving this advice and then don't have time to listen to it myself.

Unlike most people however, I carry extra blades in my truck. I'm not really sure where they came from. They are probably from a purchase I made once when I was in an automotive store and it struck me that I probably need them.

It was easy enough to just replace the offending wiper and go on my way. So don't wait, like me, until it's really annoying to see out your windshield...check your wiper blades about every 6 months and replace them once a year or more often if need be.

Now I'm hoping that I remember to throw that bad blade away so I don't reach for it next time! ha


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thoughts from the Radical Wrencher

So for the last week and a half I've been helping Dan pack up his wood shop to move to a new location. For the most part it's just been the two of us. This week we had to load his storage pod and that meant that we needed some burly men to lift the heavy equipment out of the basement and carry it to the pod.

I've gotten very comfortable working with Dan. He respects what I do for a living and thinks it's great. He tells everyone he introduces me to what I do. The two movers came and apparently Dan told them what I do too. They not only think it's cool, but one even asks me a question right away about a problem he's having with his truck.

I found myself feeling like I was back in the shop again. It was so easy to be with these guys. We talk cars, Harleys and even an occasional bad joke slips out. I think it's funny how after just a few hours there seems to be no distinctions between all of us.

We've had some candid conversations, and while we may not all agree, there is mutual respect. I find this refreshing. It's nice when I can be around men who are not afraid to admit that they know nothing about cars and to hear about how they often feel pressured to act like they do.

After 20 years of working with men, I have to say I know a lot about them. Because I work right along side them there are often no pretenses as to how they should act around me. Don't get me wrong, I'm quick to tell them if I find something they say or do to be offensive, but for the most part we've developed a great camaraderie.

Many times I think I'm lucky to have been able to get away from all the stereotypes and just work and have conversations from one human being to another. I think I'm going to miss working with the guys next week.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Musings from the Radical Wrencher....

Saturday I was teaching a class and we were going over fluid levels and how to check them. After we talked about everything, one of the women said "this is what they charge $40 for?". She was referring to some of the ads that have people come to their shops to check and top off fluids.

I guess I don't really think about it because I have always taken care of my own vehicle, but she made a great point. She realized that after I showed them everything, it was a less daunting task than they had thought. I think that there is merit in offering a service like this to people who don't have time or interest in checking it themselves, but in today's economy, a little knowledge can save you some money.

I always encourage the women to get under their hood and familiarize themselves with where everything is located on their vehicle. I tell them that if it explains how to check it or replace it in the owner's manual, then it's something they can do.

Obviously there are some jobs best left to a trained technician, but the simple every day walk-around maintenance items can often be done by the owner of the vehicle. It's also an opportunity to catch things before they become serious problems by simply knowing what you're looking at.

It was great knowing that I was able to de-mystify some of the automotive jargon for this group of women. By giving them confidence to explore their vehicle on their own and know how easy it can be to maintain it, they can now be educated consumers and that their automobile may not be so mysterious after all!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For the last couple days I've been working with someone who does woodwork. We've been breaking down the shop in his home to move it to his new work space. My initial reason for helping was to make some extra money. Once I got there, my whole perspective changed.

First of all you need to understand that I'm a huge fan of power tools. While hand held ones are what I usually use, I'm always fascinated by larger equipment. Well he has it. Routers, saws...things I've never heard of that do really cool things to wood. We hit it off right away.

He laughed the first day when he told me that my eyes where huge looking at all of the equipment. I think for most people that like to work with their hands, no matter what it is....it's easy to be pulled into other interests like plumbing, electrical and wood workeven if you don't do a lot of it.

For me it's all about building something, or understanding how something works and then making it work for you. I have to laugh though, because again I've been sucked into something that few women do...again. Almost as rare as working on cars, women in woodworking is also something more men tend to do.

And why is that? Because we wouldn't want the little women to get hurt using this dangerous equipment! :) He's already asked me to come help him set up the new shop with him....which of course I'm all over. I have a great old desk at home I'm hoping to take to his shop once he's set up and learn all about refinishing it. Of course I'm also itching to get on that band saw!

I cannot stress enough to women, if there is something that you love to do, but have been afraid to try because someone has told you it's too dangerous, or women don't do that....stop and think to yourself...why not? and give it a try. I am most happy when I have a project to work on that doesn't involve sitting at this computer all day! Which I have to tell you I've already had to remove the keyboard to fix..yet another "hands on project"

Get out there and play...the world is a big place and there's lots of fun things to try and learn!


Monday, May 11, 2009

Wrenching in heels?....Not a good idea!

So Friday I had a filming scheduled for Channel 3 in Phoenix – “Your Life A-Z” I do a short segment with them every few weeks sharing basic car care tips and simple things that everyone should know about their cars. Its lots of fun for a few reasons… the fact that I love teaching and empowering people through knowledge is the obvious one. The less obvious is that it’s one of the few times I get to dress up these days, and despite the fact that I’m a mechanic and love getting dirty… I also really do love being ‘girly’ and dressing up nice once and awhile ;)

The day started out nice and smoothly, woke up early picked out a nice shirt and clean nice jeans, did my hair (translate: wash, brush and leave down instead of pulling back), threw on some make up (translate: mascara, lip gloss) and slipped on some cute retro heels. Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know you’re all thinking “that’s *all dressed up*?” I know – but for me… that’s a big deal!

I rolled into the shop to make sure my team was all set for the few hours I’d be gone, picked up my props and headed to the studio. The filming went great – I get less nervous every time… still takes about half an hour for my heart rate to return to normal though!
I got back to the shop which was busier than I have ever seen it, realizing I’m gonna have to hit the tools I grab my uniform shirt and pants and go change… only to find out that I *completely* forgot to bring a pair of shoes! So what’s a girl to do? I throw the heels back on and head into the shop….

Let me tell you – it was quite the look…

I told my staff it was our new uniform. Interestingly Matt responded without hesitation “just wait – I’ll show up like that on Monday,” while Christina on the other hand looked at me stunned…. “But –“she stammered “I don’t even know how to *walk* in heels!”
I worked for three hours that way… fixing coolant leaks, doing brakes and running around managing the shop and chatting with customers (who all got a good laugh out of it) till my lifesaver of a mother showed up out of the blue and offered to go to my house to pick up my work shoes!

While I often joke that I’d make a fortune (and go completely against everything I believe in) if I opened up an female only shop where the women wore bikinis and high heels, after a partial trial run – the idea is officially off the table. I don’t know how women wear heels all day long… I was miserable!

My tip for the day? Heels and car repair definitely do *not* go together.
I tell my students this, but I’m apparently better at giving advice than taking it: Keep a pair of old sneakers in your trunk just in case you ever need to change a tire… or (note to self) run a repair shop!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Sunny Day....

The sun finally poked it’s head out this morning and I wasted no time putting my shoes on and heading out for a walk. My destination….the library. I love where I live because I can walk to many of the places that I need to go. I stopped to talk to a neighbor who was working in his yard and another who was out for a walk with a friend.

Most of my neighbors are in their 70’s so like me, they’re around during the day. Many of them know me as the girl who works on cars, or the one who rides the Harley. People wave even if they don’t know you. This is why I like living in the city as opposed to the burbs. I actually talk to my neighbors here.

The neighbor who was walking with a friend told me that she had recently had surgery and so she was taking it slow and just walking around the block. We chatted for a few minutes and her friend asked me my name. You know I ALWAYS have my business card in my pocket for just such occasions…so I handed her one. She smiled and said “you go girl!”

She loved the fact that I was doing something to empower women. We said goodbye and I headed back on my way to the library. I think I had a smile on my face for the next 2 blocks. It’s never easy starting your own business, but I have to say that so far it has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

I think it’s because my business is not about me and how much money I can make, it’s about reaching out to as many women as I can to empower them and teach them something that can truly make a difference in their lives. I have never gotten a negative reaction to what I do and often women hug me after a class. When was the last time you were rewarded in this way for doing your job?

It’s days like these that make me forget about the struggles of trying to make it on my own as a female business owner and remind me why it’s worth it. Doing what you love always brings things around full circle and it’s the passion for doing it that makes you successful.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Enough Rain Already

I’m starting to think that I’m living in Seattle with all the rain we’ve been getting here on the east coast recently. I know I shouldn’t complain, it is spring after all. But I’ve mowed my lawn twice in 4 days, and that was in between storms.

I realized that it’s not only me that’s affected by the weather, but my 21 year old truck as well. For years the pop up sunroof has leaked onto the driver’s seat when we get a hard rain. I keep a plastic bag in the truck so that I can sit on it and not get wet. The most annoying thing is that it drips while I’m driving, right on my head. Of course I always forget about it and I’m surprised to find water running down my face after hitting a bump.

I also have a pulley that squeals when the engine is running after it rains. For some reason I feel I need to set an example of a finely tuned vehicle and it bugs me that, until it dries out, I have this loud screeching noise. I’ve lubricated it, and that works for a while, but like a human….the truck is getting older and the weather affects it.

I also get a brake squeal after it rains. I know, I tell everyone that it’s normal…but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. The latest problem is that even after it’s dry, I still get the noise sometimes. I mostly hear it on the passenger side front, so I keep that window rolled up so it isn’t so loud. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to ignore noises that you hear coming from your vehicle, find out why it’s doing it.

Pay attention to whether the noise is only at start up, or maybe when it’s cold or wet out. Does the noise go away after you drive for a while? By paying close attention to when the noises occur you’ll be able to help your technician do a better job at diagnosing the problem. In my case, I am my own technician and if I don’t fix it early when I first hear the noise, I know it could become a bigger problem down the road and cause me more of a headache to fix.

So if you find an annoying or problematic issue that’s happening with your vehicle in the wet weather, write it down so that you can talk intelligently to your technician. Fixing the vehicle right the first time is a win/win for everyone, now if I could just remember where I left my umbrella.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Aren't you that Car Lady?.......

I was recently at a gathering in my neighborhood where I only knew the people giving the party. As I was introduced around the room, some of the people felt they knew me from somewhere. All of a sudden someone said “Hey, aren’t you that car lady?” I had to laugh and then I told them I was.

I teach a class for the local community and for the last year, they have posted my picture next to the class description. I never really thought anything about it, but I have had people see me in the neighborhood and recognize me. It’s a strange feeling to be recognized by strangers, but also fun to hear them tell me that they want to take my class. Women get excited when they hear what I do and they are eager to learn about their vehicles.

I understand this because I know that many of them have never had the opportunity to learn about their vehicles. If you had told me 20 years ago when I started turning wrenches that I would one day stand in front of a group of women and teach them about cars, I would have said no way.

When I first started working on cars I did it because I loved working with my hands, solving new problems every day and not worrying about getting dirty…..not because there were no women in the shop and I was trying to prove a point that women could do it too.

I did learn however, that women wanted to know more about their cars and they didn’t like the way they were being treated by shops and service personnel. I thought that maybe if I could teach them the basics about their vehicle and give them the terminology, they would feel comfortable talking to their service representatives. This would also help them to become more confident and better-educated consumers.

I found that these classes have been just as rewarding for me. I love the fact that I am able to give back to other women the knowledge I have attained over many years. The look on their faces when they learn how easy it is to change a tire is something I cherish every time I teach. Women are strong, smart and want to learn if given the chance and I enjoy every opportunity I get to work with them. I’m not sure how I feel about being called the ‘car lady’, but it beats being called ma’am!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The rambling wrench wench......

Yesterday I spent the morning learning how to use a weed eater and than figuring out how to rewire the ballasts for all the fluorescent lights in the office… Not what I would normally expect to be doing as a mechanic in my own auto shop – but it reminded me of an important lesson… A few customers came in while I balanced at the top of a ladder, various electrical tools in hand, each of them commented with something along the lines of – ‘wow – you’re an electrician too?!’

If there is one thing I learned from my long journey of becoming an auto mechanic and a shop owner it is this – the *only* thing that ever holds me back is my own fear. Once I got myself out of my own way, got over my fear of all things mechanical and unknown – not only did I excel at automotive work but nothing scared me anymore. (Ok – that’s a lie, I still don’t like swimming in the ocean *grin*) I’m not an electrician, not a roofer or a plumber – but I’ve tried my hand at all these things and when something needs to be done, I figure out how to do it. It was the fear that always stopped me in the past. Fear of doing it wrong, or breaking something, or getting hurt, or looking foolish. Sometimes that fear still tries to stop me, but I recognize it for what it is and do my best to push through.

This above all – is why I teach the classes I teach. Because shaking or working through the fear was so liberating and empowering for me. I want more than anything to share that with other women. Even if you never want to change your own tire, or learn to diagnose your car or even check your own fluids… there’s something powerful about knowing you could if you wanted to.

We've got a class coming up on the 16th at the shop... maybe you'll think about signing up? What could be more fun than a bunch of cool chicks hanging out and talking cars? Plus, you may just surprise yourself with what you find you are capable of!


Monday, May 4, 2009


This is a place where Lori and Bogi plan to not only help you understand more about the vehicle you drive, but to share our stories of being female technicians and our continued effort to show the world that women can fix cars too!