Wanted: Women Mechanics

by Betsy Hoffman
Chair, VTC Automotive Technology Department

The automotive industry needs thousands of intelligent, trained professionals to serve in many different capacities. Industry leaders especially want women to join the field, and they are willing to pay us! Finally, the value of women is realized, at least in the automotive industry.

Beginning in the late 1960s with the Clean Air Act, fueled by the oil shortages of the early 1980s and then propagating at a rate matched only by the electronics industry, the automobile has seen tremendous change in the past thirty years. Emissions have been reduced by 92%, fuel economy has nearly doubled, and electronics have become the standard of control. The average vehicle now has three on board computers, and some house over a dozen. And the complexity is not even close to its crest.

The Clean Air Act of 1990 dictated enhanced emissions testing, which requires whole new methods of testing, diagnosis, and repair. Additionally, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has required new emissions diagnostic regulations, named OBD II, to take effect January 1, 1996. As an example, these computer-controlled On Board Diagnostics must monitor for an engine cylinder misfire by making very accurate measurements of engine speed. When an engine misfire could cause damage to the catalytic converter, or allow emissions to rise more than 1.5 times the federal standard, the PCM, Powertrain Control Module, will flash the MIL light on the dash. It can also turn off fuel to the affected cylinder. Wow! That is a fast, smart car.

So why are women needed? Well, the sophistication of automobiles must be matched by the professionals who service them. And hold on, no need to call me biased yet. The perception of automobile service professionals has not been upgraded along with the technical complexity of the automobile. Women can jump start this change in image and provide great service work to customers. Smart cars need smart, professional service. Customers want trained, trustworthy service people who can communicate effectively with them to explain the problems and the cost. Everyone will win when the image of the dim-witted grease monkey dies. And everyone knows women can help.

Shop owners know, service managers know, customers know, and dealership owners know. Tool and equipment manufacturers know, and electrical and computer design companies know. Newspaper and trade journal editors know, publishing companies know, and schools know. It seems everyone in the enormous automotive industry recently realized the value of women, and wants to employ them.

And how can you qualify? There are plenty of roads into the field. The first step for many girls or women is to realize that there is nothing mysterious about the automobile. There is nothing hidden or deep in its engine, or wiring, or dashboard, or computer programs. The operation, design, diagnosis and repair of the automobile can be learned by anyone. Sure, some guys get a head start in the backyard, or it seems maybe even in their crib, but that is the basic stuff. You can't learn how a misfire monitoring strategy operates by hormonal osmosis. Anyone, male or female, can learn it from technical courses. Yes, books, diagrams, and explanations backed by a solid education in math, science, and electricity can develop into a thorough understanding of the modern automobile. Be anxious to learn, act professional, pay attention to detail, and pick out an exciting, great paying job in the automotive field.

c 1995 Women in Technology News, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 1995

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