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Girls In The Hood High-School Girls Hold Their Own In Summer Auto Mechanics Class

MONDAY, AUG. 4, 1997

Decades ago, a woman wouldn’t have thought of changing a tire herself, let alone get under the hood of a car. It wasn’t proper for fragile women to get dirty and use their delicate limbs to hoist a tire. A man was always around the corner ready to help if you had car problems.

Today, women have the opportunity to learn the basics of auto mechanics, and many think they should. But still, the numbers show they’re more likely to sign up for cosmetology or home economics than auto mechanics classes.

This summer I took basic auto mechanics at the Spokane Skills Center to learn the difference between a transmission and a crankshaft. The five-week course ate up 3 hours of each day. Instead of sleeping in, I changed oil and alternator belts, learned about the interior upholstry and identified the mess of parts underneath the hood.

The class had three girls and 17 guys, nearly a 1 to 6 ratio. You’d likely find the opposite ratio in a still-traditional girls’ class such as creative sewing or cosmetology.

Tiffany Jones, 15, took auto mechanics because her mom wouldn’t let her drive a car unless she knew how it worked.

“When people say, ‘You are taking auto mechanics?’ I just reply, ‘Do you have a problem?’ I highly recommend this class. You don’t want to rely on men and auto mechanics the rest of your life.”

Skylar Bourne, one of the guys in the class, said, “Women should take auto mechanics so they can help themselves. They need to know the lingo so they won’t get ripped off by mechanics.”

Women can feel trapped when their cars make clunking noises or won’t run. They don’t know what is happening so they take it to a mechanic who might tell them the muffler bearing is loose and will cost $134 to replace. (There is no such thing as a muffler bearing). If women knew more about their cars, they could confidently understand what needs fixing.

Shane Splonski from Cheney said, “Women drive cars. They should know how to fix them.”

Most of the guys in the class didn’t mind the girls taking the course. Still others feel that men are more talented at repairing cars.

Jeremy Culp, 16, said, “Guys know how to fix cars better because they have more experience.”

Now, women have the opportunity to gain the same experience. If they don’t learn the skills from a male figure, they can take classes in high school or at a community college.

Chuck Dravland, the summer instructor said, “Anybody can take auto mechanics, especially if they’ve never been taught about a car before. This is something both guys and girls should know.”

Angel Halbig, 16, challenges girls to take the class and understand more about their cars.

“Keep an open mind. This isn’t a hard class, and the guys aren’t overbearing,” she said.

From this class I now know what to do if my tire blows out while driving, what to do to my car’s oil every 4,000 miles and when to get a new mechanic when one tells me I need a new muffler bearing.

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