Local News

Girls can learn more about what's under their car hood

AVON PARK - Lorrie Key remembers a time she had car trouble but couldn't get the mechanic to understand her and ended up having to ask her husband to take the car to the shop.

"I want to be able to do it myself," she maintained.

Jane Taylor, whose husband is a mechanic, just lets him deal with the repair folks, not sure if she can get a fair shake because she is female.

"They will tell you, 'You need something else done, something more expensive,'" she figures.

In order to get women better acclimated with their cars, learn some basic car maintenance, driving safety and how to communicate with a mechanic, South Florida Community College's Corporate and Community Education is offering three "fun, interactive car care clinics for women."

The two-hour, once-a-month classes will be taught at SFSC's automotive service laboratory, where professor Dan Keller teaches students to be mechanics for entry-level jobs.

As part of the curriculum, SFSC's automotive technology students work on cars brought in by the public.

Some of these are women, who sometimes hand Keller an invoice or an estimate from a car repair shop and ask him if the charges are legitimate.

Keller hopes one of the classes, "In Your Service Experience," will teach participants how to better identify problems in their car so they can explain the "symptoms" to their mechanic and learn how to ask the right questions in the lingo technicians use.

"The more descriptive you are, it will aid the service technician," he said.

And the more car-smart women are, the better they can learn ways to make sure their vehicle actually needs the service being recommended, Keller said.

The "In Your Service Experience" class, which will meet from 10 a.m. to noon April 26, will also talk about multi-point inspections.

Key, who is the coordinator for corporate and community education, said they were brainstorming ideas for new classes last summer and came up with the car clinics.

"We try to think of an idea that people would be interested in," she said. "You have to stay with the times."

The first class, on general maintenance, set from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 22, will focus on how to check vital car fluids, such as motor oil and even transmission fluid, and when they need to be changed.

Participants also will "get comfortable" inspecting belts, hoses, air filters and other maintenance points so they can also do preventative maintenance and get the problems fixed before they worsen and get more expensive, Keller added .

"In All About Tires," women will learn how to change a tire if they need to, recognize worn-out tire treads and what to consider when purchasing new tires. Participants will learn what a good tire is and which one is right for their car. They will also get tips for staying safe while waiting for roadside assistance.

That class will be held from 10 a.m. to noon March 29. Agero also will give out free tire pressure gauges to everyone who attends the class, Key said.

At least one local mechanic believes the classes will benefit those who attend.

Clinton Cool, who owns Cool's Automotive, said all car owners should be informed about how their vehicle works and be vigilant about unscrupulous car repair shops and know how to identify them.

He said sometimes women who bring in cars to be fixed have trouble explaining what is wrong with their car. The more aware they are of how their car works, the more descriptive they can be while explaining their issues, he said, and the easier it will help the technician identify the problem.

Participants may opt to take one, two or all three clinics.

The cost of each clinic is $20. To register, call 784-7405.

Key said students have to register through SFSC's registration department and they should be enrolling students until the Friday before the class.

Keller, who has taught both male and female students, is excited about the clinics.

While community courses on general maintenance are offered in other places, teaching tips on how to deal with mechanics was his own brainchild.

"It's got to be interesting," he said of the classes. "This is going to be my first, all-female class."