Barbara Terry started her journey to becoming an automotive expert at the age of 5. With six older brothers, Terry quickly learned that if she wanted their attention, she’d have to check out their interests, which included tractor repair. That start in rural Texas led to 15 years of talking about cars on television and via advice columns. And now she’s here to share her expertise with us.
Photo credit: Cars.com
Terry’s path to automotive expertise has been one of experience over formal education. While she started learning about cars at a young age, her passion and interest propelled her to make it into a career. She explains that when it comes to cars, hands-on learning is above and beyond anything you can learn from a book. “I can diagnose certain things on a car that I would have had to have experienced beyond what a textbook can tell you.” And this is something Terry stresses, particularly for women: Get in there, and get familiar with your car!
It’s her clear expertise that allows Terry to be comfortable and confident working in an industry that is traditionally dominated by men. When she was first starting out in 2004, some male journalists questioned her credibility as an automotive mechanic. However, their suspicions were quickly shot down when she proved her skill time and again.
When asked what the best thing about working in the automotive industry is, Terry joked that it’s “working around a lot of good-looking men.” She added that it’s really great to be part of a team in which your skill is appreciated. The worst thing — beyond all the dirt and grime — is the angst she puts on herself for wanting to be the best in her field.
With all the expertise and skill behind her, we asked Terry to share a few bits of automotive knowledge for the average woman:
1. Learn how to check the oil. It might seem easier to just go get your oil changed, but learning how to check your own oil can save you in the long run — both in time and money!
2. Learn how to check tire pressure. And, according to Terry, it’s also key to learn how to replenish tire pressure.
3. Replace your wiper blades twice a year. “Wiper blades are made of rubber, and that can rot or corrode. 98 percent of our driving decisions are based on visibility, and if we can’t see clearly out of our windshields, we’re a danger not only to ourselves but [to] the passengers in our car and other drivers on the road,” explains Terry.
And the No. 1 mistake women make when it comes to caring for their car:
Terry says, “They don’t equip themselves with the knowledge that they need. Knowledge is power. Your car is what gets you from point A to point B. So why not study your owner’s manual, pop the hood, familiarize yourself with things. Really learn about what is wrong with your car before taking it to a mechanic, or narrow down what can possibly be wrong. And that’s for both men and women.”