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Empowering women motorists

It’s a sad fact that many women feel daunted when they enter a mechanic’s workshop; usually because they don’t feel comfortable in their knowledge about vehicle-related issues. They worry that the mechanic may laugh at their attempts to explain their car’s problems, or because they’re concerned the mechanic may try to cheat them.

The best way to help women motorists feel more empowered is by arming them with knowledge – and assuring them a MIWA accreditation means they are dealing with mechanics who can be trusted, and who will provide impeccable service.

MIWA accreditation is therefore the first thing a woman driver should look for when selecting a service, as this is a sign that they adhere to rigorous standards and that there is recourse should they believe they have received inferior service. It’s also a good idea to look for the technician’s qualifications, which should be clearly displayed. The absence thereof may be a warning sign, as is an untidy and disorderly workshop or staff who look as if they have no pride in their work. Female drivers are advised to request a quote for repairs before work begins (so that you have an idea of the expense) and to thoroughly check the invoice upon receipt. Ask if you are unsure of anything. A red flag should be raised if a workshop is willing to backdate your service – it’s a sign of dishonesty, and it is crucially important that your technician is transparent in all areas of the business. If you have a sense that he isn’t, or if you have a bad feeling about anything at all, be ready to walk away.

MIWA’s Eastern Cape Vice Chairperson, Teresa Spenser Higgs,  says that women needn’t feel uncomfortable when approaching a mechanic because no one knows their car quite as well as they do. It also helps that they generally give good descriptions of any challenges they’re experiencing, without including any information they may have gleaned from the Internet – as male drivers often do! She urges women to overcome their feelings of discomfort, as the longer they leave a vehicle issue, the more serious it becomes.

It also helps to learn a little, so that you are not powerless should you need assistance and can’t find help nearby. It’s worth learning how to change a tyre, check oil and water levels, and be able to recognise when you can continue driving your car and when towing is required, for example.

Create a more effective filling station experience

Most motorists drive in and out of their local filling station without giving any thought to what happens in the minutes between – but the reality is that a vehicle can incur serious damage if processes aren’t followed correctly. That’s why it’s always important to pay careful attention to what the attendant is doing, and how. Here are some of the key issues to watch out for:

  • Safety: Before you visit the filling station, make sure that all valuables have been removed from the car. It’s also wise to ensure the car is properly locked if you choose to get out to check on the attendant so that you don’t become a victim of car jamming.
  • Using the incorrect fuel: Although a petrol-powered car won’t start if the tank is filled with diesel, a diesel engine can be significantly damaged if the attendant mistakenly uses petrol. If such an error has been made, don’t try to start the car – don’t even put the key in the ignition. The car should be left in neutral while you seek help: you’ll need to have the car drained, flushed and refuelled at a MIWA accredited workshop, as failure to do so will inevitably lead to the car grinding to a halt. If this does, indeed, transpire, it should be treated as a breakdown.
  • Checking oil if the car is not stationary. While most newer cars have an oil level sensor which makes it possible to check oil levels electronically on the speedometer or onboard computer, it’s important for drivers of older models with a dipstick to wait until the car has been still for at least 10 minutes before checking. If a top-up is required, be sure to check the specifications listed in the owner’s manual so that you use the correct oil grade – unless there is no oil at all, in which case it is best to use whatever oil is available.
  • Overinflating tyres. Check the recommended tyre pressure listed on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door or inside the owner’s manual. Overinflated tyres become inflexible, which puts them at risk of damage from potholes, curbs and debris.

Addressing misconceptions around Right to Repair 

Although the Right to Repair campaign has gained excellent support following its introduction just one year ago, a number of consumers remain confused about certain provisions stated in the guidelines. Here’s a handy explanation of the areas which seem to attract the most questions.

  • Your right to choose a service provider comes at the point of deciding whether or not to purchase a service plan. In fact, if you have purchased a plan, your vehicle may be serviced only by the provider named in the contract – consumers may not take the car to an independent service provider and then claim the cost of the service back from the manufacturer.
  • You are entitled to service a vehicle purchased before 1 July 2021 at an independent service provider. However, this holds true only if the car was purchased without a service plan, or if the plan expired before the warranty.
  • Warranties can be voided only where there is a causal link. For example, if your engine seizes after you have fitted an aftermarket tow bar, the manufacturer may not void your warranty because the tow bar is not an original part.
  • There is no official list of approved parts. That said, motorists are advised to use non-original parts of traceable origin, which have been manufactured by an OEM parts manufacturer. It’s also a good idea to request an accompanying warranty.

To provide further information around motorists’ rights, Right to Repair has released a series of seven brief podcasts, available on the Right to Repair website and YouTube. Please like and share to play your part in educating our consumers.

Goodbye, Robin

This month, we bid farewell to Robin Naidoo, who retired at the end of June leaving us after almost 50 years in the industry.

Robin started his career as an accounts clerk at Diesel Fuel Injection back in 1974, a company registered with RMI’s forerunner, the Motor Industry Federation. In 1983, Diesel Fuel Injection changed its name to S.A. Dieselec Services and joined the Bosch Network.

Robin swiftly established himself as a very involved and valuable member of our community and has filled many important posts, starting with his election to the MIWA regional committee in 1999. He was a member of the committee until 2013 and served as chairman of the KZN region while also representing the association on the National Executive Council. He was, moreover, a member of the training and labour committee. Robin served on other key bodies, including the regional Merseta board and the regional MIBCO board, and was appointed Director of the Natal Towing Association. In 2014, he joined the RMI as the Consumer Affairs Officer, a post he held until retiring on 30 June. 

Robin’s experience and expertise meant that he was often called upon to help MIWA and other association members in dispute resolution, or to help with complaints from the Motor Industry Ombudsman, National Consumer Council, Consumer Protection Services, and the National Consumer Tribunal. He also shared his knowledge through seminars on the Consumer Protection Act, and even created several podcasts on the topic. Robin became known as someone to turn to when assistance was needed to set up a workshop, as his wealth of insight in this area was truly valuable.

We thank Robin for his incredible service over many, many years, and wish him the very best of luck and happiness for his next venture after a distinguished and successful career.

Congratulations to our five-star graded workshops 

We have recently completed standards and grading audits in the Eastern Cape, and the process is now underway for workshops in Gauteng and Pretoria. Congratulations to all workshops that received five-star grading: Autotonik, Ross Tech Auto, Bavaria Auto Tech, Wesson’s Tyres – Grahamstown, African Trucking Services, Cartime – Chatsworth, Mark’s Motors, Stamford Hill and Strictly VW – East London.

Please remember that, in future, you will be able to check the final audit report, along with your star rating, on our website.

Meeting the members: The Central Region 

Every month, we get to meet members of our regional committees. This month, we’re getting to know more about the members of our Central Region. This is a large region and it is a pleasure to introduce you to the team.

MIWA Exco member Anthony (Tony) Andrews joined the industry in 1992, honing his skills first at Hyundai and then Ford. He started his own business, Mr Mechanic, after qualifying in 2017. Having started as a small enterprise in Florida Hills, the business has grown and evolved until, in 2021, Tony relocated to new premises able to accommodate more vehicles. He hopes to open another shop soon and to see his company keep growing. As a MIWA Exco member, Tony is serious about seeing RMI placing greater emphasis on repair and service for clients. A devoted family man, Tony enjoys fishing in his free time.

Nico Grobler took over the family business started by his father in 2005, having joined the team in 1990 – by which time it was already 20 years old. Having earned an N6 diploma and qualified as an artisan at Olifantsfontein Training Centre, he was eager to expand the business and soon introduced a truck repair service. A MIWA Exco member, Nico is passionate about encouraging engagement from MIWA members. He is very serious about promoting quality service and upholding standards and is proud of the work done by Right to Repair in this regard.

MIWA vice chairperson Nathanial Lesenyego is proud to be sharing his knowledge and making a mark on the industry. A qualified electrician, Nathanial commenced his apprenticeship in 2001, and is now a specialist with key skills as both a diesel and petrol mechanic. Nathaniel has worked for some of the industry’s largest brands, including General Motors, Mercedes Benz SA, BMW SA, Nissan and KIA, and has developed his skills base through training in Germany, the United States, Dubai and China. He opened his own workshop, based in Akasia, Pretoria, in 2019, and is looking forward to seeing it grow as he provides employment and empowers other South Africans.

Martin Mboweni established his workshop, Lux Auto Tech, in Silverton in Pretoria in 2019, but moved to the Limpopo village of Nkoankoa during the pandemic – not only because the workshop had grown to the point where extra space was needed, but also because Martin wanted to support the government in its efforts to bring more support and business to South Africa’s townships and villages. A member of RMI’s Transformation Committee, Martin maintains that his current studies have helped to strengthen the symbiotic quality of his relationship with MIWA: as much as the association has helped him gain access to key data required for his thesis, he is eager to share his learnings to benefit all members.

A qualified motor mechanic, Les McMaster has been an invaluable member of the motor industry for more than 50 years. He joined RMI in 1990 and has been a member of the Exco for 20 years, serving as MIWA Chairman as well as RMI Regional Chairman. Les owns two workshops: the five-star graded M-Centre in Centurion, as well as the more recent Move in Hyde Park, where he is a shareholder. As a pioneer of Right to Repair, he is especially excited by the changes Right to Repair is bringing to the industry, and is looking forward to seeing the movement gain greater traction. He would also like to see aftermarket workshops gaining more control over their own futures – an area where Right to Repair certainly has a positive influence.

Jerry Pillay’s passion for cars saw him join the industry 30 years ago, working first as an apprentice and then, after qualifying, as a mechanic for Mercedes. His eagerness to learn about different makes of cars and grow his knowledge saw him take on a post as a workshop manager until he was given a chance to run the parts division of Hyundai. Realising the market demand for quality repairs at an affordable price, he established his own workshop ten years ago; an entity which evolved into JP Motors in 2016. Jerry is honoured to be a member of MIWA’s Exco and would like to see greater involvement with RMI members so that a network of knowledge sharing and assistance is created.

Living by the motto “Every day is a new day; every day is a learning day”, Happy Tabane is a qualified mechanic with more than 15 years’ experience. He opened his workshop, TD & HB Repairs, in 2017. 

Founder of Secunda-based mechanical works specialists Womech, Dineo Glomane is also the workshop manager and director. Dineo is a qualified auto electrician, having started her career in the trade after completing her studies in electrical engineering in 2002. Dineo switched her focus to auto electrical, then completed her apprenticeship between 2005 and 2008. Dineo’s experience includes stints at MAN Truck & Bus as well as BMW (where she worked as a technology trainer) and CTC, finally taking on a post as a trainer at SG Coal. She set up her company in 2017, and started operating full-time two years later. Dineo is proud to be flying the flag for women in an industry which is still dominated by men – every day, she works to prove that women are just as adept, if not more so.

Andrea Bogner Botha is another woman breaking industry stereotypes. She is the MIWA Regional Chairperson for the Central Region and also serves on the MIWA National Executive Committee, merSETA, MIBCO, and serves as the national representative of  MIWA’s training committee. Andrea is the proud owner of five-star graded Bogner Motorway and Transport, a workshop that was established by her father 30 years ago. She took over the family business seven years ago and deepened her involvement in the industry in 2015. Andrea is proud to head up a woman-run workshop, but she’s also incredibly proud of her outstanding staff, many of whom have worked with her for 20 years. Always forward-looking, the team will embark on gas training, to facilitate gas conversions, next year.

Alvin Main has been part of the Kigima Auto Electrical Training Centre, previously known as Caelex Training Centre,  for 10 years. In addition to his post as Training Centre Manager for Kigima, he is also Procedures Manager for Caelex Chris Auto Electrical. While Kigima specialises in auto electrical training, Caelex’s focus is on parts. Alvin enjoys sharing his passion for training with other members of MIWA’s Exco, and believes that as electric vehicles become more common, extensive training will become a must. At the same time, he is eager to see extra mechanical training offered to mechanics who wish to grow their skills base. Alvin is proud of the dynamic nature of the Exco team and looks forward to seeing them make a significant impact on the industry.

Drawing on his 30 years’ industry experience, Carlo Du Plessis’ team works on all cars and makes (including electrical work) at his Bosch service centre, Cencar/Cendiesel. Carlo is a qualified Bosch system technician, served as Chairman of the Bosch Marking Forum and was a member of the Bosch network for 12 years. He joined MIWA’s exco so that he could play a part in solving industry problems and finding solutions, and because he believes that unity is power – but, at a personal level, being part of this team also provides an opportunity for personal growth.

MIWA East London’s Women’s Month

True to MIWA East London’s belief that Women’s Month should be about empowering women, the committee invited women motorists to gather for an evening of education.

The events focused on basic maintenance tips to help cars run smoothly, with MIWA workshops throughout the region taking part. Highlights included an explanation about how to handle accidents, delivered by Duncan Beukmann, owner of a local towing company, while David Spenser Higgs and Cliffie Jacobs showed guests how to change a tyre, how to check oil and water, which smells in the car spell danger, what different warning lights mean, how services differ and why it’s important to use the correct oil. 

The event was also used as a platform to create awareness around  RMI and its associations and the importance of using a MIWA-accredited workshop. Going forward, plans are afoot to host more such evenings in an effort to change the perception of the industry as one that is a predominantly male environment that women don’t understand.

The response from the audience who attended was amazing. One attendee, Daphne, even posted:

“Last night I attended a truly empowering workshop on basic car maintenance and how to change a car tyre in an emergency. As part of Women’s month and hosted in a workshop at a garage by people passionate about their trade and customer service, I learnt so many tips and will never again do things I took as normal practices. I am more confident to look under the bonnet and know what I am looking at and for. More importantly, I learnt WHY I should do things differently. Thankfully 30% of mechanic workshops in our little dorpie are registered with national bodies that set high standards and have safeguards for customers in the event of something going wrong.”

– Daphne

Congrats Cliffie, Teresa, David and Duncan – you guys rock!

Building industry skills

MIWA continues to support skills development amongst South Africa’s youth. The association was recently represented by Reemo Swartz, Regional Manager and MIWA Associational Representative for the Free State and Northern Cape, who judged the automotive component in a skills competition hosted by HTS Louis Botha School in Bloemfontein. The competition also tests participants’ aptitude in welding, construction, woodworking, plumbing, power systems and electronics. Swartz was joined in his judging activities by Jonathan Stanfly of JM Automotive in Bloemfontein. 

Three participants in every division have been selected to compete in the finals taking place in Bloemfontein from 11–18 September.

From the Director’s Desk, August 2022

If you’re anything like me, you find Woman’s Day in South Africa a complex issue. On the one hand, it’s important to empower women; but on the other, the holiday intended to do this seems to have become an excuse for commercialism. 

I’m proud to say that MIWA has fulfilled the true intent of this occasion with an edition that imparts critical knowledge for women drivers, giving them tips that help them rid themselves of that overwhelmed feeling when they enter a technician’s workshop. We’ve also included ideas on how to get the most out of your next visit to the filling station. Our East London Committee even hosted an event to help provide vital skills on basic car maintenance for women drivers.

This month’s newsletter also contains information about our latest skills development initiatives, as well as news on workshops that have undergone grading audits. You can look forward to getting to know more about the members of our Central Region Committee, too, and read up on the illustrious career of Robin Naidoo; an essential member of our team who bids us farewell as he takes up a well-deserved retirement.

Until next month, when we celebrate spring, we wish you happy reading.

Pieter Niemand,
MIWA National Director