Why women don't change tires

Insurance.com surveys drivers about everyday annoyances like flat tires and dead batteries. Fewer than half of women have changed a tire.

By QuinStreet Jun 17, 2014 11:19AM

This post comes from Karen Aho at partner site Insurance.com.

Insurance.com on MSN MoneyWomen apparently don't see a reason to kneel in the mud. According to a newly released survey by Insurance.com, only half of female drivers said they had changed a tire before, and a third said they wouldn't even know how.

Car tire © Sarah M Golonka, Brand X, Getty ImagesBy contrast, nine out of 10 men said they had changed a tire, with only 6 percent admitting they didn't know how.

"There was a time before cell phones when you had to know how to do these things," Insurance.com Managing Editor Des Toups says. "Even now, knowing how to change a tire rather than call emergency road service could keep you from making an auto insurance claim."

The auto insurance comparison website asked 1,000 men and 1,000 women about their abilities to deal with car-related maintenance and problems. These also included checking the oil, jump-starting a car and checking a tire's air pressure. All the respondents were married homeowners with children.

While men bested women in all four areas, the greatest discrepancy was in changing tires.

Could it have something to do with the strength required? That's what Jennifer Newman, an assistant managing editor at Cars.com, wonders.

"I thought, Oh my God, I'm one of these women: I've never changed a tire," says Newman, who could recall having only two flats. "Both of these times I was in a big SUV and just trying to loosen the nuts on the wheels, I couldn't even get them loose ... I called my husband."

Garages use power air wrenches and often tighten lug nuts beyond the recommended torque. Newman's 200-plus-pound husband had to stand on the wrench to jimmy the nuts loose. "If he's struggling, then certainly I'm going to struggle with it," she says.

And once the nuts are off, there's the matter of maneuvering the tire. The entire wheel component can weigh 45 to 80 pounds, says Sarah Robinson, a technical marketing manager for Michelin.

"The steel wheels that come on a lot of base model cars are very, very heavy," she says. "When you consider the rim weight, it's not easy."

Nonetheless, these aren't good reasons for all drivers to not at least know how to change a tire, say these and other female auto professionals. Cell phones aren't always in range, strangers can't always be relied upon, and multiple claims on your auto insurance for towing or emergency road service can eventually affect your rates.

"I'm a little surprised that more women don't say they know how to do it," says Newman, noting that women today influence 80 percent of car-buying decisions and clearly are well-versed in other aspects of preventative auto care.

Sisters are doing it for themselves, mostly

The Insurance.com data largely bears this out, with a majority of women professing to other regular maintenance checks. The survey found that:

  • 78 percent of women had checked their car's oil, compared to 93 percent of men; only 13 percent of women said they didn't know how to check the oil, compared to 4 percent of men.
  • 76 percent of women have checked the air pressure in their tires, compared to 93 percent of men; 15 percent of women said they didn't know how to, compared to 4 percent of men.
  • 65 percent of women said they had jump-started a car, compared to 88 percent of men; 26 percent of women said they didn't know how to jump-start a car, compared to 7 percent of men.

In a roadside emergency, women were most likely to call their spouse (58 percent) or roadside assistance (27 percent); men were slightly more likely to call roadside assistance (38 percent) than their spouse (31 percent).

That so many women aren't familiar with emergency repairs may also be a sign of the times.

In the Insurance.com survey, only 60 percent of all drivers under age 55 said they had changed a tire, whereas 80 percent of those 55 or older had.

"People always believe, ‘I've got my cell phone, I'll be fine’," says Robinson.

You don’t have to love it

Meanwhile, American car culture remains stubbornly male.

"A lot of the information that's out there seems to be geared toward men: the manner in which it's written, the pictures that are used, the terminology," says TerriAnn van Gosliga, editor of DrivingMamas.com. "You still have these scantily dressed women modeling these cars. How often do you see a half-dressed, ripped guy lying on a car?"

Van Gosliga created her own downloadable instruction cards on emergency repair after she said she was unable to find simple graphics online that would appeal to women.

"There are a lot of women who think you have to be really into cars to know these things. You don't," she says. "It's OK and it's good to learn about these things. It doesn't mean you're all of a sudden a motorhead.”

Besides, these women say, self-reliance is contagious. Robinson, who races cars in her free time, always included roadside repair the teenage driving courses she taught.

"I've seen the tiniest 15- or 16-year-old girl muster up the strength to change her own tire," she says. "It's just working smarter not harder… and having the determination to do it."

"When they realized, OK, I can actually change my own tire, there was a sense of accomplishment there," she says.

More from Insurance.com


Jun 17, 2014 1:15PM
Even though they would never admit to this, there are still a few things that a man can do better than a woman (boy-I'm going to get it for this one)
Jun 17, 2014 1:48PM
I drive a pickup and have personally shown men how to get their spare down from under truck.
If they are under 30 most  have never changed a tire ,jumped started  or changed oil. 
My dad would not let me leave home with my first car until I could do all.
Jun 17, 2014 1:32PM

I have changed multiple tires.  And purposely had the wife rotate all of the tires so she knew what to do in case of emergency.  We live in the boonies and can't count on cell coverage or other drivers to help out. 


With only 6% of men admitting they don't know how I also believe it is higher but when you pull data from only 1000 people and who knows where in the country they are from it makes a lot of difference. 

Jun 17, 2014 1:37PM
I'll admit, I know how to change a tire, but don't think I'd be able to with the newer tires, lugs etc.  I would definately call AAA on that one.  I can definately check my own tire pressure, and oil.  I change the headlights and tail lights when they go out.  That's no problem.  I re-wired my own house, changed the oil on my riding lawnmower, and changed the tires on that.  I fixed the holes in the drywall in my house, re-hung the garage door, put deadbolt locks on my back door.  All in all, I'm pretty self sufficient. Do I deserve equal pay for what I do in the work force....ABSOLUTELY.  I might not have the braun that guys do, but I have the brains to figure it out.
Jun 17, 2014 2:35PM
For women and men who don't think they'd have enough strength to remove the lug nuts, you can get a breaker bar with a long handle with a socket that fits the lug nuts and keep it in the trunk.  It allows you to get a lot of torque on the lugs to loosen them fairly easily.  Without the socket on the end it also doubles as a nice club if you break down in a nasty area. 
Jun 17, 2014 1:48PM

Physically, women generally are a liability. We'd still be living in straw huts if it we were dependent on women to build anything.

But for the most part they make up for that in other important ways, are soft and cuddly and smell good. We'd be lost without them.

Jun 17, 2014 1:27PM
This is why I have a cell phone and a membership in AAA.  I live in an urban area and am always in cellphone range.  My father used to send us kids and my Mom far into the ditch when he changed a tire  and after watching the AAA guy struggled to get my pickup stable on his jack, I decided that Dad was right. Its dangerous and I am not about to try it at my age (60).  So you all just go right a head.  I'll pay someone else to do it. That way they have a job and I stay safe.
Jun 17, 2014 2:01PM
You want to be equal right? Well, hop to it. Nobody's stopping you. 
Jun 17, 2014 5:06PM
Living in Denver, I asked my divorced neighbor if I could help her install her tire chains. I got a smart feminist  remark from her, went beck inside and watched her struggle putting chains on the rear wheels of the front wheel drive Camry. "If you're gonna be dumb,a gotta be tough"
A smart woman doesnt change tires....

A smart man doesnt wear heels

Jun 17, 2014 3:31PM
My  awesome dad taught me  how to change tires, check tread wear,  check air pressure in the tires, change oil, change air filters, change fan drive belts, water pump belts, change spark plugs and pretty much gave me an education on cars.  Every woman should at least know how to change a flat and be aware of what each of the warning lights on the car indicate.  She should also know how to check air pressure in her tires (should have an air pressure gauge),  and be able to check her oil.  These are easy to learn.  Geesh gals!  What would you do if you did not have a "man" in your life to do these things?  And I might add, do you honestly think all men know anything about cars?  Believe me - I know more than most men that I have met!  Learn to be self-sufficient! 
Jun 17, 2014 1:35PM
Most of them are too good to do it and don't have the upper body strength needed.  They just wait for some fool to come along and get his hands dirty while they stand there looking interested and helpless sexting their boyfriend.
Jun 17, 2014 1:56PM

While some say women don't have the strength - the reality is that they never tried to change a tire, so they have no idea what strength is needed anway.

The real reason is that the majority of women don't have a clue how to change a tire - this has been confirmed by my unscientific survey of my wife, daughter, several of her friends, several of my femaie neighbors and co-workers. Most admitted they don't know how to change if and even if they did.....they're afraid of getting dirty performing the needed work.

Jun 17, 2014 1:50PM

I think it would be great if all woman knew how to change tires, wash the car, wax the car, mow lawn, clean gutters, paint the house inside and out, take the garbage out, do misc. repairs around the house, etc. etc. etc.

As a single father I am required to have all of those skills in additional to what's left, scrubbing floors, food shopping, clothes shopping, making dinner, making sure the homework is done, parent teacher meetings etc. etc. etc.

BTW, I am the CSO for a global software company.

As a man who grew up during the heat of the woman's movement. I have learned to except their need to be better than me. Having grown up during those times, many of the men I knew had a rule. Never get closer than two arm lengths from a woman.

You see, during those years you could end up in a court room for the slightest infraction when it came to a woman. So, we simply kept our distance.

So ladies, give it hell but you have a long way to go to be better than this man,.

Jun 18, 2014 7:02PM
One evening my wife was leaving to run some errands when she realized she had a flat. She called me outside to ask for assistance. When I got out there, I said " YA KNOW,I COULD JUST TEACH YOU HOW TO CHANGE IT. IT'S NOT BRAIN SURGERY." To which she replied  " AS LONG AS YOU'RE WILLING TO CHANGE THE TIRES, I'M WILLING TO CHANGE POSITIONS." I could only hang my head in defeat as I jacked up the car.........
Jun 17, 2014 6:27PM

My 2 cents. 

Before my teenager was allowed to drive our cars:  She had to know how to check the oil, change a tire, and put gas in.

She brought a boy home from college one weekend and they had a flat in Chicago.  The boy did not have a clue, our daughter changed the tire and the boy was not on her list again as a person of interest.

Our daughter graduated with a masters and has traveled the world. Learn what you can and never be dependent.

A proud dad.

Jun 18, 2014 7:39AM
Too lazy? Too stupid? What happened to equality?
Jun 17, 2014 2:56PM
I know how to change a tire.......but it would take me almost 2 hours.  I don't have the strength a guy would have.  Or the patience.  AAA would be there sooner.
Jun 17, 2014 4:31PM
Dad made me change a tire  and understand jumper cables before I was allowed to get behind the wheel to learn to drive.  I've run into more women with no clue of how to use jumpers, much less how to change a tire.  Let's see, I can wait 3 hours on AAA or I can do it myself and be back on the road in minutes. HMMMMMMMM......  I don't change my own oil, but I can.  I'm the one who takes care of my oil changes, wipers, brakes, etc.  I either keep up with my maintenance by taking it to trusted mechanics or I do it myself.  I can pull out the front air handler to replace my headlight (dang Japanese car) and reassemble everything without breaking a nail.  Women who can't even figure out changing a tire or how jumpers work.... I have no time for victims.
Jun 19, 2014 10:07PM
If women would utilize half the energy that they use shopping for themselves - on changing a tire, this article wouldn't exist. I have no empathy for women here. If they can compete in the Olympics, play Pro Basketball, Pro Tennis, and just about every other sport men play - then they can "Change a Tire." 
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