Roadside assistance: Does gender matter?

I set out from work today to run a couple of errands and had a flat tire on a four-lane road. (I’m female.) I pulled well off the shoulder and went about changing the tire. When I was about 3/4 of the way through it (car jacked up, flat tire ready to be taken off, spare ready to be put on), two guys from a highway mowing crew pulled up in their truck and asked if I needed help.

I said, pleasantly, “Thanks, but I think I’m about done.” They continued to hover, so I said, “I might need help getting the tire off.” I’d never changed a tire on this car before and didn’t know how “stuck” it would be.

That was their cue to take over, apparently. One guy took the tire off. The other went back to the truck and got his lug wrench, although I had one. He put the spare on, me handing him one by one the lug nuts I’d removed. He lowered and removed the jack, and then I got a brief lecture about how I shouldn’t drive too far on the spare. (Duh!)

I thanked them, and we went our ways.

So what might have been different if it had been a guy changing a tire? Granted, a guy NEVER would have said, “I might need help.” :smiley: But if he had, and you provided the specific help requested, what would you have done then?

I’m in no way dissing the fact that they stopped and helped. I was happy to have their help, even though I didn’t really need it. I’m just wondering how that scenario might have played out if I’d been a guy.

I’m guessing if you were a guy and had said that you didn’t need any help they would have left after hearing that. I wish someone had driven by when I had to put on a spare on uneven ground in the middle of the night on a desolate road and the jack kept tipping over and I had to basically lift up part of the car on my own. :slight_smile:

I learned not to assume things about tire changing when I worked for Penn DOT. Our car got a flat tire on the road, and my male partner had no idea what to do. He thought the best course of action was ‘drive it back to the office on the rim’.

I had to actually explain to him that the black round thing in the trunk is a spare tire. I had to show him how to jack the car up, how to remove the flat, and how to put on the spare.

He asked me how I knew how to do all that stuff. So I told him. My father believes that anyone who drives a car oughta be able to do basic shit like check oil, put in more coolant and wiper fluid, change tires, etc.

I figure anybody who’s got the jack under the car and the spare out of the trunk either knows what they’re doing, or has found the instructions in that little book in the glove box titled ‘Owner’s Manual.’

My dad did too, Og rest his soul! Yay, dads!

If you were a dude, you would have done the whole job by yerself at best, alone. No one would have offered you shit. Or you would have been robbed and stabbed.

And they still have “Ladies Night” at the bar…

My answer is - yes gender matters.

Say I was walking through a parking lot and came across a person changing a flat tire.

If said person is a male, I don’t even look to see if they appear to know what they’re doing. To some extent I just assume that they do. OK - if the guy is obviously elderly or appears physically incapable of getting it done safely, I’ll offer my assistance.

If the tire changer is a woman, I will likely offer my assistance if they appear to need it.

Why, though?

I suppose chivalry in the case of the woman in need of assistance and a feeling that a guy ought to know how to and be capable of changing a tire.

Why do I feel that even though this is honestly the way that I think about this, that it will come across as offensive to some?

3 things: As a guy I’ve helped other guys who would never have succeeded on their own because of complications (I’m talking some real doozies). 2nd, you should have broken the nuts loose while the weight of the car was on the tire. Most cars come with a single bar wrench to remove the nuts. If the car is jacked up then you can rock the vehicle off the jack with a single lever bar. In this case, a 4 post star wrench would be better because torque is applied in opposite directions against the nut. And 3rd, it is very common for mechanics to air-wrench a nut to 200 lbs of torque which is damned difficult to break loose if it’s not rusted. If it’s rusted, you’re screwed. I’ve had nuts that were so welded on that I snapped off the stud.

With that said, I would expect 90% of women to be less than enthused about changing a tire. It doesn’t mean they can’t, it means they don’t want to.

Yes, the guys assumed you were less inclined and/or skilled to change a tire.

I don’t stop to help people, because I know that a child could figure it out better than I could help them.

Once, I had a blowout on the interstate on I-30 in NE Texas. I basically got the trunk open to get the spare out before a (super-attractive) trooper stopped and took over. I don’t remember him asking permission to do things for me, but after watching me struggle with my shitty lug wrench, and went to his car and got his 4-way, and just… did it for me. (The blow-out was major and stripped some of my lugs! It wasn’t my faults)

Dude, where do you live? 'Cause I think you should maybe move.

I’ve had a couple of flat tires on the freeway. Both times guys stopped to help before I could do more than open the trunk. But I do know how to change a tire and was fully ready to proceed before the gentlemen arrived.

Word. I’ve tried to break wheelnuts with the shitty wrench that comes as standard with my Vectra and even with 250+ lbs of Mal jumping on the end of it, it wasn’t going to happen. Mrs M would be sunk without a trace.

I’ve also failed to torque the wheelnuts on my old BMW R1100 (the back-wheel fitting was like a car’s) and had the blessed good luck to be in a 40mph limit when they worked loose. :smack:

I would say gender matters. If I get a flat tire I don’t have to worry so much that my car being disabled and me visibly and obviously stranded there at the side of the road is going to appeal to predatory victimizers of a certain ilk.

If I were female, a lot more people would stop to help, but every once in a while some of the ‘help’ would probably involve flavors of ‘friendliness’ that would give me the creepy-crawlies, and a fraction of that would include various degrees of coercion attempts.

For that reason alone, if I had a daughter I’d make sure she could change her own tire, and I’d encourage her to rely on gut instinct as to whether to accept help or to reply “I’ve got it, thanks”.

Gender does matter. I’ve changed close to a dozen tires over my life, each for a female. I would never think to offer help to a male.

My daughter recently turned 16 and got a car. I got her a membership in AAA so that she can call them for help if needed.

This doesn’t really answer the OP’s question, but I just have to weigh in on the fact that I adore men who offer to help women stranded (or in your case, quite capable) with car problems. I am a throwback, who loves chivalry. I will always back off and play the “ohmigosh, thanks so much, I was lost” role for them to take over and feel like they have accomplished something – even if I am far more capable of fixing the problem (which has been the case at least once) – because I want to encourage that behavior.

As a point that I guess kind of answers your question in a backwards way, if a woman stopped and offered me assistance, I would thank her and tell her I was fine (if I were) – because I actually am capable of doing things for myself, and women don’t need chivalry from other women :smiley:
And I also point out that when my Dad was still around, he had a lot of car troubles for most of my life living with him, which resulted in his having to walk miles and miles to get home from his car broken down. I like to repay the people who were kind enough to stop and offer him assistance, be it a ride or help jumping his car or whatever. I am notorious for stopping to offer strangers rides/gas from my gas can/use of my cell phone/whatever – it’s just my way of paying it forward for the kindnesses given my Dad. In my case, gender doesn’t matter, I am no more likely to offer a female assistance than a male – though I am more likely to offer assistance (if I am in a hurry or really shouldn’t stop for some other reason) if there are children or the person is obviously aged.

I probably wouldn’t even slow down if it was a guy (elderly gentlemen and/or obviously handicapped excepted). Not only do I expect guys to know how to change their tire, if they don’t I expect them to pay someone to do it. Ladies should know how, but of course I’ll offer to help.
Slightly less (not at all) likely to offer assistance to a thin woman in a fancy car with fancy hair and fancy clothes.

If they were in the process of taking care of the situation, then no gender wouldn’t matter at all. Why would I stop and offer help when they are nearly done taking care of it themselves?

If I saw someone who said they didn’t need any help, but who hadn’t loosened the nuts on the flat before jacking it up, I’d probably stick around. It’s a pretty standard rookie mistake, and it often requires lowering the car and loosening the nuts before raising it again. If you didn’t realize that or didn’t think to try it on your own, you might well end up doing something stupid or destructive trying to get the tire off.

I’d be less likely to stay for someone who was confrontational or made it obvious that I was not welcome. Obviously, I’d be most likely to stay for a friendly attractive woman.

My dad was driving me once in a rental car when it got a flat tire. We had hardly pulled over for a minute before two nice young men pulled over and offered to change it.
And no, I’m not incredibly good-looking.

IME, I think it does matter…when you’re on the receiving end.

Not too sure about tires, but last week when I broke down at 10 pm with my stepkids in the car, I had them stand off waaay to the side in case someone plowed into the car, and tried flagging people down.


I finally decided that, as a guy, I may be seen as threatening. So I had the kids stand and “help” me flag passing motorists by, thinking that having the kids there would make me seem more trustworthy. Sure enough, the next person who drove past, stopped.

IMO, it’s good for her to know how to do the basic stuff, anyway, because nothing is worse than feeling totally clueless and at the mercy of people you don’t know. Besides, the AAA responders don’t always arrive timely, or wait to make sure that your car is actually going to start rolling properly before they take off. I can tell you it royally sucks to have to call AAA back 30 seconds after the tow truck sent to give you a jump tears out of the parking lot you’re stuck in, because your car stalled and died while backing out of a space, and now you can wait yet another hour for another truck to show up. :mad:

Some years back, I worked a lot by myself out in the countryside, along a road that saw fairly sparse traffic. For a while I had an old-fashioned HF radio that had to be attached to the truck battery for power. It never failed that when I had the truck hood up to hook up the radio (for scheduled morning chats with a colleague about 100 km away), people would stop and ask if I needed help. Yet the one time I had a flat (on a Land Cruiser) and struggled to change the tire myself, not a single person stopped to offer help. Could be that I was looking a bit disreputable just then - after all, showers were once-weekly affairs :smiley: - but I think in general the degree of male chivalry and/or potential for trouble is going to depend on the perceived helplessness of the woman in question.

Geez, where’s the gender equality? :smiley: