Women now outnumber men as drivers in the U.S. According to Frost & Sullivan, this isn’t simply in the younger demographic categories, either. The trend is accelerated in women over 55. That means that women are now the auto industry’s main customer base.
Patrice Banks, author of “Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide,” someone who admits to being a “former auto airhead,” recognizes that women represent an important demographic in terms of marketing and being potential customers to auto-related business owners. Banks’ own journey is one based on education, which led to empowerment. From there, Banks ended up founding Girls Auto Clinic, a woman-run auto business with female mechanics.
Like many entrepreneurs, Banks left a place of comfort to start down the road toward something very different. She left a job with a six-figure salary as an engineer at Dupont and enrolled at Delaware Technical Community College. During this time, she was also working at a couple of Philadelphia-area garages for free. After completing her training, she opened Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. She also opened a manicure-pedicure salon next door. All to communicate to her (mainly) female customers that they mattered.
Never one to lay low, she’s now written a how-to guide for women (and men) with the goal of helping vehicle-owners properly “maintain their ride,” “think like a mechanic” and “get down and dirty under the hood.”
In the book’s introduction, Banks said that “women generally don’t have the happiest, healthiest relationships with their cars, or with their mechanics.” From the place that she says most women experience — feeling intimidated by the whole process of getting their car serviced — she lets readers know that her own way of dealing with it was avoidance. She said deferred maintenance is never a good thing when it comes to the long-term health of your vehicle.
It appears in reading her book and in reviewing interviews she’s done with major media platforms, like NPR’s “Fresh Air,” with Terry Gross, Banks has a prominent theme —women are treated differently than men at auto repair shops. This is more than just her opinion or based upon anecdotal evidence, however. According to a national survey conducted by the Car Care Council, nine in 10 women believe this. And if women believe this, it colors their interactions and experiences with auto repair shops and owners of these establishments.
Banks’ book is clearly marketed toward females. But as a male reader, I found there’s a wealth of material that would be very helpful to anyone that cares about their car, truck or SUV. Even drivers who consider themselves vehicle-savvy.
Banks’ story personalizes the information in the book. From there, she segues into an easy-to-use “how to take care of your car” handbook.
From a practical, user’s perspective, the guidebook’s trim size is similar to an owner’s manual. It’s a comfortable fit and should be sitting in the glove box: hence the smartly-named work.
Part I is all about getting to know your vehicle: things like vehicle essentials (year, make and model of your car), the VIN, operating tire pressure (and where to find this information), engine size and what your vehicle’s specific maintenance schedule is. She includes a page in there for you to write all this information down for handy reference in the future.
A practical assessment to determine whether this book is for you is to take her auto pop quiz she placed at the beginning. The questions are based on what she calls “myths and half-truths” people have about their vehicles. How would you do with these (answer myth or fact)?
- You must change your engine oil every 3,000 miles.
- You should inflate your tires to the air pressure shown on your tires’ sidewalls.
- Keeping your car warranty valid requires servicing it at the dealership where you bought it.
Buying an SUV means you’re safer than in a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle.
She includes several more. It’s likely readers will come away realizing they know less than they thought they did about their vehicles (like this writer did).
Her DIY tips are worth the price of the book. She walks you through what’s “under the hood” in DIY No. 1, checking and adding fluids like washer fluid, oil, brake and power steering fluid, in DIY steps 2-5, along with checking air tire pressure and tire tread (in DIY No. 6), changing a tire (DIY No. 7), and jump-starting your car (DIY No. 8).
Banks also provides readers with an overview of the steering system and suspension, the heating and air-conditioning components, as well as what kind of fuels should you be running for maximum performance and efficiency.
Lastly, she offers up essential tips on dealing with common roadside problems, including what to do in an emergency. You can always call roadside assistance — which probably means you’ll be sitting alongside some busy highway or remote back road, possibly in a potentially dangerous situation for 45 minutes or longer. These tips might just help you get the car running and allow you to get further down the road, and in a better place to obtain assistance, if necessary.
Banks teaches readers that being proactive is important and often prevents bigger problems. She then lists the things you should have in your “well-stocked vehicle,” including what she considers to be her “nonnegotiable essentials.” Like, do you have a small flashlight, a tire pressure gauge or a first aid kit in your car?
The book is filled with diagrams and schematics, all with clear notations that will help you understand what she’s talking about. I think a skilled mechanic would be impressed with what Banks accomplishes with her book.
Here’s a parting tip that will help you communicate to potential female customers that you care about them (and would be honored to have them as customers): buy a stack of these books and give one away each month (or even week). You could have a drawing. Get a poster from the publisher (they’d be happy to send them out) and have some on sale, including a customer copy sitting in your waiting room.
It’s obvious from the positive press she’s been receiving and the book’s inherent value, not to mention Banks’ savvy as an entrepreneur, that she’s struck a chord with vehicle owners, especially women.