Pam Oakes promo photoThe editors asked if I could write an article regarding the “Mars versus Venus” approach when it comes to auto service and repair. Well, you know, everyone thinks that the “guy” is going to do a better job of keeping his vehicle running. Right? I mean, aren’t us gals supposed to be picking up the kids from soccer practice and doing the grocery shopping?

Times have changed.

Though the decades of giving auto classes and talking to groups regarding car care, I can honestly say that – hands down – women are the savvier when it comes to car care. I don’t know if it’s because of the “women’s movement” of the 60s and 70s that pushed us out of the kitchen? Or, is it because more and more females are wearing a multitude of hats, including “head of the family” and “car care guru.” No matter what the catalyst, females had to pony-up when it came to getting those horses under the hood fixed – like it or not! And, I’m not talking about any scientific polls or surveys, just look around the waiting room of your local auto center and see who’s behind the wheel: women!

I have to say, that most of us are beginning to like it — a lot! I notice that when I give in-the-shop courses that it’s mainly females who show up in the bays for class. They are all learning one thing: how to keep money in their wallet when it comes to mechanical maintenance. The ages are varied. You have the working mom standing next to the great-grandmother – yes, great!

And, no pun intended — well, maybe so, who can help it – this is great experience that the generations can learn about what drives their vehicles and how to make them last for a long, long time. So wonder the average age of today’s cars and trucks on our roadways are more than 11 years old!

But, seriously. I truly believe that guys – especially the older generation — are avoiding the actual “get re-acquainted” with your vehicle classes due to pride. As teenagers and young adults, guys fixed their own rides. They exchanged cylinder heads for more power, transmissions for more torque. What could a class teach them about auto care?

Well, men, it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile, as the commercial used to tell us. It’s a different automotive world with different rules.

For example: Did you know that there is difference regarding fuel for your ride? No, I’m not talking about the octane. I’m talking about the formula. That’s right! How the fuel is blended. About a dozen years ago, a group of auto manufacturers got together and asked the petroleum companies for a special fuel blend that would make their vehicles get higher mpg, lower emissions and keep carbon buildup out of the intake. A handful complied and has been deemed “Top-Tier” fuel. And, it doesn’t matter what the octane your vehicle requires: 87, 89 or 92. All fuels are the special blend.

And, here’s another example of not keeping up with the times. I had a customer in my shop a few weeks ago asking about tires. His vehicle required a speed-rated “V” tire – per the manufacturer. The driver didn’t know that there were speed ratings on tires. After explaining the difference between the “S” rating and the “V” rating, the consumer said that he didn’t drive that fast and wanted to put the cheaper, “S” rated tires on his car.


You can’t go cheap because it costs in the long run. The reason the manufacturer placing a specific tire size and rating is directly related on how the vehicle steers and brakes. There is no substitution. There are no cutting corners. And, that ASE Blue Seal shop is not going to bend the rules for you, either. Oh, yeah, I’m sure that this gentleman could find an unscrupulous shop to put the lower speed rated tires on his ride. But, why? Why would you risk your safety, your family’s safety and those around you, just to save a buck or two? And, think of the outcome if he was to get into an accident. One of the first things the insurance inspector is going to look at is tire condition and proper fit. If the improper speed rating is on the vehicle, the accident victims are going to have a field day with him and the installing shop. Because, in the end, it is your responsibility to make sure the proper repair is performed on your car or truck.  Not worth the risk, guys!

And, here’s another tidbit most guys are missing out on: basic upkeep. There is a maintenance difference if you are a “normal” driver or a “severe-duty” driver. It’s all depends upon you, not the machine contrary to popular belief. You could be a “severe-duty” driver, but your neighbor just might be a “normal” driver. Some factory, recommend oil changes are at 3,000 miles while others are set at 7,500 miles. The key to the maintenance puzzle all depends upon how and where you drive; what you are driving and down what type of roadways.

Yes, automobiles are not fully automated – yet – and you need to pay attention to your vehicle, or your ignorance will rack up a hefty price tag at the shop. It’s one way or the other, folks. So, take every opportunity to educate yourself when it comes to auto maintenance. It’s just not the consumer who has to keep up with the times. We, as ASE certified technicians, have to update ourselves often regarding manufacturer changes.  So, don’t think you’re alone in the car care game.

The plus side?  Just think of the money you will save – for that great vacation or new pair of shoes — by having the knowledge to know what is right and what is wrong for your car or truck.

About The Author

Pam Oakes is a shop owner, ASE-certified technician, automotive author, automotive speaker, and syndicated radio host of “Car Care for the Clueless” on CBS Radio, CoachMeRadio, and AOL Radio -- LIVE@5 p.m. every Friday. And, yes, she still “turns wrenches.”

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