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Ladies get clued up so your mechanic can’t take you for a ride

Teresa Spenser Higgs Miwa

It’s Women’s Month and the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), wants to empower women with the ‘chutzpah’ to deal with their motor mechanic as deftly as they do their hairdresser or the school principal.

MIWA’s Eastern Cape vice – chairperson, Teresa Spenser-Higgs, says MIWA strives for its accredited workshops to be places women are comfortable enough to walk into on their own and feel at ease in – just as they would at their hairdresser or children’s school.

“For example, as mothers and caregivers we have a basic knowledge of first aid. Even though we are not doctors, we still know what to do in an emergency. We want to empower women to feel the same way when it comes to their vehicles.”

Spenser Higgs notes that women are better customers than men because they don’t pre-diagnose vehicle problems. Some men tend to be “Google mechanics”.

“Women mostly give good enough descriptions of the problems in a manner that makes it easy for the technician to make an accurate diagnosis. However, we have found that women ignore vehicle problems a little longer than they should. This, we believe, stems from an uncertainty about car issues and not wanting to be made fun of by their male counterparts.

“I want to tell all women out there that nobody knows your car better than you do and 90% of the time your instincts are correct!”

She adds that delaying having your car checked out when you pick up a problem could result in an even bigger issue by the time you get it to a workshop.

To help women take back control of their vehicle maintenance, Spenser Higgs says the first step is to get schooled on the basics – how to change a tyre in an emergency, how to check the oil and water levels (without the petrol attendant doing it for you), what the dashboard warning lights mean and when you should rather have your vehicle towed than continue driving it.

What is also important is to know what to look for when choosing a workshop (to protect yourself from unscrupulous mechanics).

Here’s her five point checklist:

•             Are the technician’s qualifications displayed? Most professional businesses are proud of their staff and the business’s accreditation and should have these up for all customers to see. It goes a long way in creating peace of mind and, is a buffer for you to fall back on should you receive inferior service.  Always check they are a bona fide MIWA member. You can do this by checking all accredited members on either the RMI website or the MIWA website.

•             Is the business clean and neat? Just because it is a motor workshop doesn’t mean the place should be a shambles or dirty. The same goes for the staff. They should be professionally representing the workshop at all times.

•             Does the workshop source its own spares? If they don’t, you should be hearing extreme warnings bells. A good restaurant would never ask you to bring your own ingredients. If the workshop doesn’t source its own parts this is usually a sign that they don’t guarantee their workmanship. A good workshop needs to supply its own spares to ensure the quality of their workmanship.

•             Does their invoice list all products and quantities used? Is it transparent and informative? Don’t pay before you have scrutinised the invoice and ask if you are unsure of anything on the invoice.

•             What are their working hours? Most workshops only work a five-day week. Technicians also need to recharge their batteries from a full week of physical labour.

•             And finally, always insist on being provided with a quote for repairs before approving the commencement of work. It is always good to know what expense you are in for.

“In conclusion, two more important tips on your journey to being an audacious car owner – firstly, never (ever) trust a workshop willing to backdate your service stamp. If they can be dishonest about small things imagine the big things they can be dishonest about,” Spenser Higgs says.

“Secondly, be willing to walk away if you get a bad feeling about the workshop, the quote or the way you are being treated. Put your foot down and walk out the door.

“Yes, statistically, women are easier targets when it comes to auto repairs but with knowledge about the basics of car maintenance and the confidence to approach a workshop on your own, you can secure the same treatment and service any man expects from his workshop,” she concludes.