Dread going to an auto mechanic? Once upon a time, Patrice Banks did too.
The self-described “auto-airhead” said getting an oil change would always turn into something more expensive, and she never could tell if she was getting scammed.
“I always felt like I needed a guy to help me and that I was being taken advantage of – so I started looking for a female mechanic, for resources online to help me, and I couldn’t find them,” said Banks, the founder of Girls Auto Clinic and an author.
Banks decided she had enough. While still working as an engineer at DuPont, a Fortune 500 company with a six-figure salary, she told CNBC’s “On the Money” she signed up for night school at her local community college to learn about automotive technology.
The engineer said she was on a mission to not only empower herself, but to help other women maintain their cars.
Five years after graduating, Banks opened up a garage outside of Philadelphia called Girls Auto Clinic, in January 2017. She said her garage sets itself apart by having female mechanics on staff, running car maintenance workshops – and having a beauty salon in the waiting area.
“I’m not an automotive company, I’m a female empowerment company,” said Banks. “I’m here to help women solve their problems, educate and empower them when it comes to their cars, make sure that they are smart consumers and confident drivers.”
Banks said she wants to expand her business to more cities because she sees those areas as having the greatest need. It’s what prompted her to write her book, “Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide.”
Yet why, in 2017, do so many women still feel taken advantage of by mechanics and dealerships? Banks said she believes we need to change the culture around the industry.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 2 percent of auto mechanics were women and only 13 percent of car salespeople in 2016.
“I’m an engineer and I was an ‘auto-airhead’ and I didn’t think I was going to understand it,” Banks told CNBC.
“We subscribe to those stereotypes, women and men do. So it’s going to take a lot of representation – women and men seeing girls working on cars, seeing girls selling cars, for them to believe it’s something women can do and that they can do very well,” she added.
For the “auto-airheads” out there, Banks suggested three key ideas to keep in mind for your car: Get your oil changed promptly when it’s due, keep your tires properly inflated, and don’t ignore a funny sound, smell, or vibration.
“Don’t turn up the music to mute the sound out or pray it stops. Take it to a mechanic and make sure the car is safe to drive,” Banks told CNBC.
When it comes to buying or leasing a car, the Girls Auto Clinic founder said finding a salesperson and dealership that you are comfortable is key. Also it’s important to know you’re driving and saving habits.
If you know you’re not good at taking care of cars or saving money, Banks said you may want to think twice before getting for a luxury brand, and consider getting an aftermarket warranty.
Banks added: “People often think about the cost of the car for insurance and upfront, but you also want to think about what is it going to cost to maintain it and can I afford it?”
On the Money airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.