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How to Lead a Car Care Clinic

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SHOP STATS: Wessbecker Automotive  Location: Castle Rock, Colo.  Operator:  Mark Wessbecker  Average Monthly Car Count: 200   Staff Size: 5 employees (3 technicians, 1 service writer, vice president)   Shop Size: 2,400 sq ft; Annual Revenue: $750,000  

Mandi Selman watched an upset customer walk into her shop, Wessbecker Automotive in Castle Rock, Colo., following a visit at another shop. Distraught, the customer tearfully explained how the shop estimated her brake work at $800 and was told her vehicle wasn’t safe for her children.

"We got it in here and it just ended up needing brake pads,” Selman says. “So it went from an $800 brake job to a $200 brake job.”

Selman knew her customer wasn’t properly informed on what her car issue was at the other shop. After the customer left, Sell\man felt she needed to bridge the gap of discomfort between women and auto repair shops.

“I said, ‘enough is enough,’” Selman says.

A couple weeks after the customer’s visit, Selman approached her shop's owner about introducing a then-weekly teaching series to women in the community. To her excitement, the shop owner was on board and allowed Selman to create her own class.

Each month, women in the community are invited into the shop, where they’re given an in-person demonstration on the makings of a vehicle: how the brake system works, when spark plugs should be changed, how to check ball joints, and more.

“There’s only so much I can teach them about cars,” Selman says. “I’ve got it down to a science now.”

Teaching was never in her path, nor was working in the automotive industry, but both have come in handy for the monthly car care instructor.

Selman began as a service writer in 2015 at Wessbecker Automotive after leaving her job at a daycare center. While she learned about the makings of the shop from sources—her father, the master technician, as well as fellow service writer friends—she found learning the ropes of the industry to be second nature.

 

It’s my goal to make women feel comfortable in the shop and know that they receive honest work. After our customer was concerned about a price that was set for her car at a separate location, our shop was able to be a resource and explain that she was given the wrong price for a repair, and that we wanted to help. I heard about another lady having a class and brought up the idea of hosting a weekend women’s car clinic to my boss. Once he was on board, I had my first car clinic a few weeks later on a Sunday afternoon in January of this year. It originally started as a weekly event, but I changed it to a monthly workshop.

The clinic is set up as a show-and-tell and attendees are encouraged to ask questions throughout. I want to bring honesty into the shop so everyone knows that technicians are trustworthy people. It’s sort of my goal to have students just feel comfortable in the shop.

We’re not open on weekends, so I’m the only one who opens up the shop for my class. As a service writer, I hear a lot from customers about the type of concerns they have with their vehicles. I usually try to keep the material pretty consistent, but I do often have requests for certain lessons that are posted on our Facebook group, “Womens Car Care Clinic.” I’ll post about upcoming clinics in the group and I’ll also answer any questions women have about automotive issues. I just want to help in anyway that I can.

When the clinic starts, I have everyone stand around the car for a demonstration. There is really only so much I can teach since manufacturers are so different. Teaching has been a new experience for me because even though I’ve taught for a few months now, I still get a little anxious in the beginning. Once we start talking, though, I really enjoy getting to inform these ladies. The automotive industry can be confusing, so I want to make sure women are understanding the process as I go through the vehicle.

The first thing we go over is everything under the hood. We’ll talk about maintenance such as spark plugs, carbon tracking, and how to jumpstart a battery.

I’ll then lift up the car and we all gather underneath to go over specific parts. I think it’s important to understand what a ball joint is, what a control arm is, a tire rod and all of those things. Afterward, we’ll go over the brakes and how the brake system works.

When I first started working for Wessbecker, I wasn’t familiar with the makings of the automotive industry; my dad is a master technician, so he would describe processes for me to understand which helped me in my position. Besides my dad, I really paid attention to how the process was being explained at the shop and I also read magazines in order to learn.

It surprised me how quickly everything came to me when I started to grasp how the mechanics work. During my work day, I spend a lot of time speaking with customers, but I’m also on the shop floor asking guys about questions.

I try to keep clinics to around 10 women at most since we’re around a car during the clinic. I’ve been really surprised by how this clinic has taken off since January. We’ve had visitors from 15 to 60 years old attend. I’ve had Girl Scouts come in and there’s always interest when I post about upcoming clinic on our clinic’s Facebook page.

In the future, I would love to have high schoolers visit the clinics, as well as driving schools.

I’ve reached out to both in regard to a partnership, and I’m still waiting to hear back. I think it would be beneficial to learn about the makings of a vehicle first hand, especially for girls just learning how to drive.    

Every clinic is different, but for the most part, I tend to teach the same basics to everyone who visits. Sometimes we have local businesses donate food before our clinic starts and that gives us the chance to eat and get to know one another.

I really enjoy getting the chance to talk with everyone before the clinic starts, and I especially love when there’s questions from attendants when I’m going over specific parts. My goal is build a better understanding of what the name of a certain part is or what it means to have a specific part fixed.

The main thing that I want guests to take away, if anything, is to make sure there is oil in a vehicle. In my experience, the worst phone calls I’ve had to make are letting customers know that they need a new motor after running his or her car out of oil.

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