Car Chick’s Challenge – Auto Mechanics Often Overcharge Women, Report Shows

Mechanic Audra Fordin calls bluff on her male counterparts in an undercover TV segment that shows shady treatment of women in mechanics shops.

Women – What could they possibly know about cars? While the question makes us here at E3 Spark Plugs cringe, it’s one that guy-centric auto shops everywhere ask every day. And the answer often is an infuriating one. Producers with ABC’s new investigative consumer journalism show, The Lookout, focused their hidden cameras on reportedly shady mechanics in New York and New Jersey. If you’re a female car owner who may or may not know a spark plug from a shock absorber, what they uncovered is really gonna rev you up.

The Lookout‘s Undercover Mechanics segment features real-life mechanic Audra Fordin, who just happens to be a beautiful brunette. Show producers purchase two nearly identical 2011 Ford Escapes and assemble two teams – one all male, the other all female. They install brand new air filters in both vehicles and outfit the vehicles with hidden cameras under the hood, the fog lights, etc. Over the course of a few days, the teams independently visit five auto mechanics shops in New York and New Jersey to find out whether technicians treat genders differently when they present the same automotive issues.

At the first shop, a technician quickly fixes a problem with a $4 windshield wiper fuse for the guys, makes a mention of their pristine clean air filter and charges them $84 for parts and labor. But when the girls visit the same shop with the same problem, their fuse fix allegedly required a convoluted wiring job that cost $170 – twice the charge for the men’s team. They also insisted the girls needed a $50 PCV valve replacement and a new $25 air filter. But when Fordin inspected the women’s vehicle, she found that not only did the vehicle not need a new PCV valve, but that the valve that the technician gave the girls, saying it came out of their car, was not even the correct valve for that model. Fordin also could tell that none of that alleged windshield wiring had been done. In fact, dusty settled on the wires show they hadn’t been touched in ages. And the dirty air filter that supposedly came from the car? Fordin immediately noticed that it was covered with air dry, an absorbent used to soak up oil and other fluids from the floor.

We won’t spoil it for you by telling you how the tech reacted when confronted with his dirty deeds, or what his boss did to rectify the situation. But it’s important to note that other visits to local mechanics shops turned up very similar results for the male/female teams.

So how does a woman who isn’t quite so car savvy to protect herself? Fordin, who has been a gearhead gal for nearly 30 years, owns Great Bear Auto Repair and Auto Body Repair Shop in Flushing, NY, says the best offensive move is to know your vehicle. Get started by visiting her website, And see The Lookout‘s full Undercover Mechanics segment here.

Are you a woman who has experienced shady treatment at an auto mechanics’ shop? Share your story on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.

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