Northwest men lead ladies on DIY car maintenance



​​​​​SEATTLE – If you’re a Northwest driver, chances are you’ve experienced a dead battery, flat tire, or low oil in your automobile. But do you know how to handle those basic repairs yourself? The latest poll from PEMCO Insurance suggests that Northwest men and women are generally a maintenance-savvy bunch, but as many might assume, men lead the way when it comes to hands-on car care. 

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, men in Washington and Oregon are more than twice as likely as women to have ever changed their own oil, with 74 percent of men doing so. And while the gender gap is significant, the poll reveals that nearly one-third (30 percent) of Northwest women say they’ve changed their own oil, too. 
“That stood out to us,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. “While the data generally show more men do their own car maintenance, we were surprised to see that almost one in three Northwest women say they have hands-on experience with oil changes.” 
Women are considerably more likely to say they’ve checked their oil level than changed their oil. Nearly eight out of 10 women (79 percent) report they’ve checked it, while more men (91 percent) report the same.
Women trail men more significantly, however, on using jumper cables to revive a dead battery. About two-thirds of women (64 percent) have jump-started their own car or someone else’s compared with 88 percent of men. 
Men across the Northwest also are twice as likely to have changed a flat tire (86 percent of men versus 44 percent of women). 
“Gender shouldn’t be a barrier to maintaining the car you drive. Even if you prefer to hire roadside assistance for breakdowns, all drivers should know how to remedy basic disruptions like flat tires or dead batteries, so that you’re not stranded in unsafe circumstances,” Osterberg said.
Among local men, Oregonians squeeze ahead of their Washingtonian neighbors when it comes to the dreaded task of installing tire chains for winter weather. As much as 74 percent of men in Oregon say they’ve installed tire chains while just 61 percent of Washington men said the same. 
Whether drivers are experienced gearheads or car-maintenance novices, PEMCO recommends consulting an expert before tackling most vehicle repairs. Remember the following maintenance tips to help guide the process: 
Checking or changing the oil
  • The owner's manual for your car will say how often you should change your oil, but a good rule of thumb is every 3,000 miles. 
  • To get a clear oil-level reading, park on level ground and turn the motor off. Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, and reinsert it to gauge how high the film of oil reaches on the stick. 
  • When you check your oil level with the dipstick, the following signs could spell trouble, such as water or fuel contamination, or excess oil in the tank:
    • bubbles or foam
    • a milky appearance
    • a strong smell of gasoline.
  • If you do change the oil on your own, be sure to identify where you can take your used oil to recycle or dispose of it responsibly.
Check for tire tread wear
Use the penny trick: Insert a penny into the tread groove with Abe Lincoln's face showing, but with his head upside-down. If you can see all of Abe Lincoln's head, it's probably time to replace your tires.
Using jumper cables
Make sure you know if either vehicle uses an electronic ignition system or is an alternatively fueled vehicle – jumper cables could damage it. 
For a complete summary of PEMCO’s poll results visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in November 2014.
About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.
About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit