Where do you find mechanic classes for women? Are there such classes? Should women take these classes? And what should I look for in a class?

-Nancy, Seattle

A few years ago I came across some information that indicated some of the community colleges in California were offering adult “automobile shop” facilities. If a student signed up for this, he/she would have use of the repair facilities and get some guidance from the instructors.Do you know of any place like this?

-Jay Doraiswami, Calif.

Nancy and Jay, many community colleges offer low-cost automotive technology training, from consumer/beginner level to high-end professional upgrade courses. I’m unaware of any courses exclusively offered to women, but women are welcome and do nicely in courses at any level.

With the demise of many high school auto shop programs and a decline in old school hot rodding, the average male student is faced with the same challenge describing the difference between a MAF sensor and a MAP sensor as the female student sitting beside him.

The consumer courses offered by many schools provide an understanding of basic maintenance, including tire changing, jump-starting and noise and fluid leak identification, as well as what to look for in a repair facility, when purchasing insurance, and so on. Great stuff, and these classes are popular because of their fun, low-key presentation style.

Jay might find it more difficult to find an open lab atmosphere for his roll bar installation as many auto classes beyond the basics are now structured to meet NATEF (National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation) guidelines. NATEF is the education arm of ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence), and prescribes skill sets needed by professional technicians to perform competent, ethical and efficient diagnosis and repairs.

Squeezing in an off-subject topic is difficult at best, and likely discouraged. If the diagnosis or repairs needed on one’s vehicle falls into a given NATEF task area, the real-world vehicle fault or condition might be a welcome addition to a lab session. I spend perhaps an hour each day creating and repairing bugs (engineered faults) in my activity vehicles and welcome the challenge of actual situations and assisting a vehicle owner with needed work.

If a nearby program is unavailable or difficult to budget time for, an automotive service textbook might provide useful and interesting information. I highly recommend “Automotive Service” by Tim Gilles. It’s well written and illustrated, and provides solid bumper-to-bumper basic theory, inspection, maintenance and repair information.

Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose.