Many is the person who stood at the side of the road, gazing into the abyss of metal and steel under a car hood, trying to figure out what goes where and which does what and why on earth the car decided to break down. A car may have cost you a year’s salary, but that doesn’t mean you know how it works.“Where is it written that you’re supposed to know how your car operates?” asks Kelly Williams, the Toronto-based NASCAR racer turned automotive educator.
“There are people who have a very good knowledge of how their vehicles work because that’s how their brain works, but there are a ton of people who just have zero experience. They put the key in, they put gas in, and that’s where it ends, and god forbid anything happens.”
Williams is returning to Leroy’s Auto Care (20 Oriole Parkway E.) this weekend for its second women’s car care clinic. Williams, who holds workshops across the province, seeks to provide answers to everything Elmira women want to know about cars but were afraid to ask.
“The women that come to my clinics are there because they want to learn more about their cars, and they want to feel more comfortable when they take their car in for service,” she said. “This is a way to do that. When they leave one of my car care clinics, they feel so much more empowered and confident when it comes to their vehicles.”
She added, “I try to keep an open forum where they can ask anything that they want, and if I don’t know the answer I can get one of the guys to answer it. One of the comments I hear is, ‘I’ve always wanted to learn how to check tire pressure,’ or, ‘I’ve never opened the hood on my vehicle before.’”
At the risk of painting a crude gender dichotomy, men are more stereotypically associated with car-related matters than women. Such popular distinctions are irrelevant for Williams.
“They don’t necessarily want to work on the cars – they just want to have a better understanding of what their car is doing, or when the service adviser recommends something.”
Indeed, who among us hasn’t been gripped with fear during our semi-annual checkup, faced with a list of potential car repairs but uncertain about which are actually necessary?
“That’s where the relationship [with the service person] becomes so important,” she said. “Most people aren’t in business to be shysters – they’re there to offer a service for your vehicles. But there are a few bad apples like any industry that have created that feeling.”
And as a grueling winter rages into March, a working car knowledge is as important as ever.
“A lot of people will say something that annoys me to no end: ‘Well, I was taught how to drive properly, so I don’t need to have winter tires.’ I just look at them and roll my eyes and shake my head.”
Williams’ women’s car care clinic takes place Saturday, March 1 at Leroy’s Auto Centre, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Contact Melanie@leroysautocare.net to register.