Maternal instinct, repair-shop exploitation, or other?

Frequently, we get posts here of the nature, “My mechanic wanted to rotate the cupholders, at a cost of $27trillion dollars, and I thought I was being ripped off…but I drive around with my child, and I’d hate to have something happen…so I authorized the work.”

Almost always, the poster is a mother (often new mother). Very rarely is the poster a father…even though he would have as much at stake (most likely) as the mom.

Now, my question would be: is this just a fundamental trait of motherhood, or is it mechanics laying a guilt trip on moms, or is it a feedback effect of the first two?

I’ve already considered (and rejected) the “women don’t know beans about cars” arument: not because they don’t, but because–nowadays–the majority of men don’t, either.

Men don’t often ask for help or outside opinions.
Men are less likely to share that they might have been taken.


The girls may be more readily on the alert due to the unfortunate higher degree that it happens their way.

It may also be the non-scientific demographic of people who use this site. We’re seeing a ratio played out purely by chance.

The shops may be subject to gender bias as well. A guy complaining gets resolution and a gal gets a song and dance ?
Then, soon following, she’s all over the airwaves with the bad p.r., he sees no further need to vent.

guys are more likely to go to an independent shop. Women are more likely to go to a dealer or a chain store. These days, even the mechanics have a hard time keeping up with all the stuff engineers want to throw at them.

I think Ken hit on the truth. Men get ripped off juust as often by the same crooks, but our macho doesn’t allow us to admit it…not even to ourselves.

It’s about domain. At the risk of over generalizing on the other end and as little as moms appear to know about cars would you guys rather be more expert in;

-rearing children
-cooking dinner
-running the household
-organizing the kids schedule as well as their own and yours
-maintaining your and the family wardrobe

Again, I apologize for generalizing and with regard to all you guys who do the above mentioned but; moms have more important things to do and they are actually willing to ask. This is often because they have little time to keep making the same mistakes over and over again while dealing with a car, where we guys do and keep expecting different results.

As a single father I have to take exception, guys can cook, and some of us can sew, we can do laundry, and shop, and organize a schedual. Yeah, some Macho guys wont, but not because they cant, just because they dont want to. But you know, a chiltons or Haynes is still less than 35 bucks, and any woman who wants to know the basics of how a car works, and what the parts are called, and what they do, can learn about it if she knows how to read. That wont stop shops from going for the gusto in our wallets though will it?

I Think It’s Called Salesman(women)ship, Equal Opportunity Money Extraction, And It’s Not Always A Bad Thing. I Hate The Expression, But It Could Be A “Win-Win” Situation.

I’m not getting into the gender thing. I don’t think that’s it.

When I worked in a parts department one time I had a Manager that looked a little like Howdy-Doody, but he could sell a glass of water to a drowning man / woman. When somebody was completing a minor parts purchase he would inquire if their car was outside. If they answered in the affirmative, he would “vault” the almost 4 foot high parts counter and beat the owner to their car.

“Are you married ?,” He’d inquire. “Any kids,” He’d ask." any positve response was followed with, “And you let them ride in this car with tires that look like that ?” or “You’re kidding.” " When was the last time you put wiper blades on that thing?"

He’d launch into a sales pitch explaining the latest tire or windshield wiper blade promotion (even if there wasn’t one) and about how he had the “pull” with the service department to get the car right in. While in service, they’d discover bad brakes and other iffy equipment.

Here’s the win-win (wince). They’d leave knowing they did what was overdue and corrected what was dangerous to their family. He’d enhance his commission check and earn “tire bucks” for each tire sold.


I attribute it too men knowing more in regards to how the system works (but just a little more). My example is with my neighbor and her KIA that was making noise and vibration from the compressor. She came to me knowing I was a mechanic and not because of my mechanical skills but because I know how the business works from A to Z I was able to not only find a TSB that applied to her car and problem but also informed her about the policy or practice of “goodwill” that all manufactures extend (she was out of warranty by 2 months). KIA fixed the car for free and it was all because I knew what to look for and how to apply what I found.Many people be they male or female just don’t know how the system works and how to smell a dodge or a scam.

SOMETIMES and only sometimes the woman come into the shop assuming or knowing they are going to get ripped off and no matter how good a deal they get or how honest the shop is they know they have been ripped.

I don’t think this is the norm but it happened to me years ago. After I called her on it she was apologetic for her actions.

Repair shops pull the same stuff on men too: “I wouldn’t want my wife to drive in a car with a [insert problem] like that…”

Meaneyedcatz, the overwhelming majority of people who bring a car into a shop drive in convinced they’re going to be ripped off regardless of gender. It’s a normal fear of the unknown combined with the fear of handing over control combined with the fact that most of them have actually been ripped off in the past.

The fact is that there is a lot of unconscionable work out there, some of it institutionalized, like speedy-lubes dishonest tricks to convince the customer that he/she needs the differential and or tranny flushed. And the shops that prey on people’s fears, like the one that stamps UNSAFE TO DRIVE in big red letters on the shop order for something like a noisy muffler. Yes, this is based on a real story.

And we won’t even talk about CEL lights and EVAP systems and the insecurities they cause.

Women are a lot harder to deal with in regards to automotive problems. Even men who may not be mechanics or even know much about it often have a faint inkling here and there about how something works. (conversations with friends, TV shows, etc.)
Very, very few women have an inkling and that’s not meant in a sexist manner. It’s just the way it is and I’ve found that with a little basic explanation of a problem men may get it whereas women may not.

If there is anyone in this universe that I absolutely cringe about the thought of discussing or explaining a car problem with it’s my wife. After going on 38 years I’ve long since given up. More than a few dozen times there’s been disagreements and heated discussions when I’ve tried to explain even the simplest car fault or hiccup to her.

She still knows zilch about cars and when a problem occurs she will try to tell me that what I’m telling her is dead wrong. A few years back I replaced the rear brake pads on my Lincoln Mark. Six months later she comes in saying the brakes are squeaking and that it’s my fault because I just did the brake pads. She flat refused to believe that I did the rear and the squeak was on the front so I had to drag out the receipt pull the page up on the parts house website and prove it to her.

To add to this a bit more, she’s even strongly insinuated several times that I’ve “ripped us off”. WTH?
A few years ago I did a bunch of work on a collector car for my daughter. She pays for parts and I furnish the free labor. The parts were at cost, no markup, and close to 40 hours of labor was done free. I was also accused by my wife of “ripping my daughter off”.
So considering this kind of attitude is prevalent what chance does a mechanic who does not know the customer have? Near zero.

One of my “ex’s” argued with me about her engine being mounted transversly, either it is or it isn’t, no in between. What it is, is that I needed to find a way to allow her to back down but still keep her pride.

Same problem with tha KIA Serice Advisor that missed the AC bracket TSB for my neighbors car. He would not admitt to making a mistake. I went over his head and the Service Manager agreed it fit the TSB and put it on, AC compressor is silent now (and so is the Advisor). He never came to me and said “sorry I missed that one”.

I have found that both the sales dept. and the service dept just hate it when a customer comes to them prepared, but it won’t keep them from trying to get one by on just about anyone.

I have been “jaded” by so many years in this business where if there is a chance to run some one down it is usually taken, but isn’t that the way it is with just about any job?

You know, I wish more women gave a crap or had more of a desire to learn about the inner workings of an automobile. I hate hearing the,“I’ll just bring it to my dad, boyfriend, brother, etc. and have him tell me what to do.” My friends do this all the time and I freakin’ hate it!

If I had a dad and he knew anything about cars, I’d be in heaven. My best friend’s dad has been my expert on what x,y and z means and can you teach me blah, blah and blah. Unfortuntly, he is also an alcoholic with increasingly complicated health problems (mostly because of the drinking) and my ADD keeps me from retaining anything longer than five minutes but so many intelligent, motivated and other-wise successful women have NO desire to learn anything about a vehicle!

I’m sorry but it just pisses me off because all these women are serving to do is increase the gender-bias and sterotype that keeps golden dollar signs flashing across male mechanic’s eyes.

I know their are many women who are just as smart- if not more so- as their male counter parts when it comes to auto mechanics and I admire and applaud all those women. I just wish those women wern’t the minority.

ok4450- Sounds like your wife is overly confident.

I was raised believing that mechanical aptitude belonged to men and that women weren’t cut out for it. Fortunately, over the years, that changed.

I now truly believe the ability to become skilled in the technical professions has nothing to do with gender. It has everything to do with individual interest, aptitude and expectations placed on a person during their formative upbringing years.

Unfortunately, too many girls, during their middle and high school years, succumb to all the pressures and expectations that lead them to believe they are not good at math, science, and technical subjects. That sets them on an unfortunate path for life.

I was surrounded by men who did not know much about cars. My dad let the engine on a one year old VW seize because of low oil. He did not check the oil level, assuming it is a new car, this continued even when the engine was making weird noises-he assumed the valves need adjustment and could wait until the next service. Why VW honored the warranty and gave him a new engine is beyond me.
Also had a neighbor, the kid was finishing his masters in mechanical engineering, could not even jump start his car.
Having said that, my wife does not know anything about cars either. Every time I am a bit worried and mention that she should check for puddles of fluid or instruct how to jump the car/where the spare is, her respond would be; seems like the car is not reliable, should we buy another one? So I have learned just to reassure her that the car is in perfect shape and just drive her car myself periodically.