I Love My Job: The Woman Changing the Face of Auto Repair

Ladies CAN be mechanics, and Patrice Banks has a women-run car shop to prove it.

Courtesy photo.

Patrice Banks has singlehandedly popularized the idea that women should, without a doubt, have power in the auto mechanics industry. Banks officially opened the Girls Auto Clinic in November 2016 to give female mechanics a space to offer full-service auto repair. The Upper Darby shop doubles as a beauty lounge where shop customers can get manis, pedis and blowouts as they wait. Banks walked away from her career as a DuPont materials engineer to become a mechanic and launch a movement that’s determined to transform women from “auto-airheads” to #sheCANics. Last month, Banks, who often rocks bright red heels at her shop, published the Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide, a book that encourages women to get down and dirty under the hood. Here’s what Banks has to say about her exhilarating journey to date. 

I grew up in … Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

When I was younger I wanted to be … an engineer. I was always interested in understanding how things worked and were put together, and figuring out the best way to build and do things.

The stigma associated with female mechanics is … that females can’t be mechanics. There is an idea in the culture that women can’t understand automotive technology or that it’s just not for them. That idea is slowly changing, and I hope that Girls Auto Clinic helps that change come about more quickly.

Taking a leap to change careers and start my own business was … refreshing, rejuvenating, and exciting. I couldn’t wait to get started on something that I felt was my purpose.

My go-to karaoke song is … TLC’s “Baby Baby Baby” or “My Own Worst Enemy” by LIT.

At DuPont I learned … operations, managing others, the importance of understanding mindsets and behaviors of others. Women are treated the same as men when they speak up or speak out.

I drive a … Jetta usually, but it’s in the shop for repairs. I’m currently driving a Chevy Impala.

If I’m not at the shop I’m likely … hard at work at home.

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A social issue I care a lot about is … female empowerment and creating more opportunities for women in positions of leadership. The future is female!

One skill I’m still honing is … the skill of listening! I love to talk but want to get better at listening.

The first time I looked under the hood of a car I was … probably the first time I bought a car when I was 16.

The first thing I learned to fix was … probably a toy. I was always pulling things apart and putting them back together again as a kid.

A challenge I’m constantly up against is … managing my stress and listening to others when they are trying to give me advice.

I take my job seriously because … what I’m doing is very important. I know there are a lot of people watching me, and I want to accomplish to the fullest what I’ve started. I want to continue empowering women through their cars, and I want to grow so I can reach as many women as possible and give more opportunities to women in the automotive field.

I decided to write a book because … I realized that with my blogs and the takeaways pamphlets I handed out at my workshops, I had compiled a lot of really valuable information. People were really receptive to my writing style and the way I approached the explanations of different parts of the car. People could understand what I was explaining and wanted to read more to learn more. I wanted to create a go-to guide for women to demystify their vehicles and to reach the women in parts of the country that I can’t get to yet.

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The best part of my job is … working with the amazing team of women who have come together to support the mission of girls auto clinic. I love seeing the excitement of the people who love the idea of girls auto clinic, and every time we teach a car care workshop, the excitement and appreciation of the women shows me that I am doing the right thing.

Outside of my work, I’m known for … being funny and free spirited.

The auto repair industry still needs … WOMEN and transparency.

The last song I listened to was … “Love Galore” by SZA.

The last book I read wasTools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, and also my book The Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide.

My morning routine includes … journaling or reflecting and planning my day.

The last pinch me moment I had was when … I was on Good Morning America and Michael Strahan told me he loved my business!

A lot of jobs are still regarded as “for men” because … we live in a patriarchy.

I decided to open up my business in Upper Darby as opposed to anywhere else because … the space I found there fit the bill. I am from the Philly area so I wanted to start where people knew me. I originally wanted to open the shop in Philadelphia, but the space I found in Upper Darby was perfect for what I wanted to do with the salon.

The gender wage gap … holds back our economy and our families.

When I first told others I wanted to become a mechanic myself they … said great idea!

Some recent examples of sexism I’ve experienced include … men asking to see my hands when I tell them I’m a mechanic or saying I’m a distraction because I wear heels.

My favorite thing about cars is … that they represent freedom.

The people who visit my shop tend to … be very excited and want to look around. A lot of the people that come in have seen us on TV, so they want to come in and just see the space in person. Our auto customers are usually hanging out in the TV room, getting some work done in the lobby and lounge, or in Clutch Beauty Bar getting their nails done.

The most rewarding car repair I’ve done … it’s only rewarding when you are working on your own car!

A personal goal I’m working on is … listening more.

Something that still intimidates me about cars is … I can’t drive a manual or stick shift car.

Something I learned from teaching car repair workshops to women is … it is fun to talk about how cars work.

The best career advice I’ve ever been given is … be yourself. People who matter don’t mind. People who mind don’t matter.

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