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Ask Wanda: A New Q&A Series Unearthing Car Service Insights

We all wish we had a friend or relative who was an expert on car maintenance and service to help us when something goes wrong. Luckily for us (and you) we have Wanda. Wanda Cockrell is the Fixed Operations Director at the Ourisman Automotive Group and oversees the service operations of over 13 dealerships in the DMV area.

Wanda is a 30 year veteran of the auto service industry and she’s here for a new monthly blog series called “Ask Wanda” where we will unpack your most burning questions about car service and maintenance, learn tips and tricks to make owning a car easier, and get an exclusive peek behind the curtain at our dealership service centers.

To kick us off, we decided to get to know Wanda a little better and talk about what car owners should be thinking about heading into the winter season when more folks are opting for road trips over air travel.

So, as our resident expert we’d love to get to know you a little better. Tell us about yourself!

Well, I can tell you I definitely have an OCD bend to me! My very first job was in landscaping and that’s where I learned of my love of cutting grass. It’s just part of my personality, especially since patience is not one of my best virtues. I love being able to see the immediate outcome of my actions, and cutting the grass is such a cathartic way to do that. I joke all of the time with my wife that my retirement schedule will include cutting the grass everyday.

Really, cutting grass! I actually agree, cutting the grass is one of those tasks that seems grueling but I totally understand the dads out there that are always mowing the lawn because it really can be cathartic.

Exactly. So after that first job, I ended up getting my Bachelor’s degree from Mary Washington College, and then from there I’ve been in the automotive industry for most of my career. I had a brief stint to try my hand at fast food restaurant management, but I didn’t enjoy that as much.

I started in customer relations, just making phone calls. That’s where I learned my love of delighting customers. It’s not enough for me to just rectify customer issues and make them whole, I really need to understand what went wrong and why so I can improve our process or create a new one to make sure it never happens again.

So after getting your degree, what made you decide to get into the auto industry? Something you studied in school?

My love for cars actually started when I was much younger. Growing up, my Uncle Chuck  was a mechanic and he always came over after his day job to work on my parents cars. Even though he was always working and I’m sure quite tired, he always answered my seemingly never-ending questions and his patience and willingness to help me learn I think instilled in me a natural understanding, familiarity with cars.

It made it easy for me to focus on the service and fixed operations side when I got into the business. Fast forward to now, managing the Fixed Operations side of the business, I’m in charge of managing everything on the side of the house that has to do with service, repair, and parts – including the parts we sell to outside groups via wholesale.

Today, I live in the Rockville/Aspen Hill area with my wife and two dogs. We love outdoor activities like hiking and geocaching, and are big fans of the Washington Nationals. My wife is a Ravens fan but I like to just pick a team and root for them each time we watch, so my loyalties aren’t really to one team or another.

That’s great, I think everyone should have an “Uncle Chuck” that helps foster curiosity and passions when they’re growing up. Switching gears a little (see what I did there), what’s one thing every car owner needs to know heading into the winter season?

This is a tough one. I think one big thing I wish every car owner knew heading into the wintery season is that AC isn’t just for summer! Folks often don’t realize that one of the key functions of their “AC” is actually conditioning the air and removing excess moisture from it. In the summer, that’s why you see water dripping from your car sometimes. In the winter, however, that “conditioning” function becomes even more important when defogging your windshield.

It doesn’t mean the air is going to be cold, necessarily, it just means your car is going to take the air through the evaporator to get rid of excess moisture. Yes, the air is drier in the winter usually but anytime you take cold air and turn it to warm air to heat your car, there’s going to be condensation. Some newer cars turn this function on automatically, so don’t override it if you see this happen!

The other tip that’s kind of adjacent to this is to use fresh air whenever you can, instead of the circulator button. Using fresh air will prevent any kind of mold/mildew and odor from developing in your vents. Sometimes people turn the recirculation function on in the summer to try to cool the air in the car down more quickly, but from a car care perspective it’s better to use fresh air when you can.

One other tip that is winter weather specific is give your car a few minutes to warm up – particularly if you’re going to run your windshield wipers for frost or snow – you want to let it warm up first. (For more winter weather car tips, check out our holiday road trip checklist!)

If that rubber is frozen and you turn the wipers on before the car has warmed a little bit, it’s going to deteriorate the wiper rubber much more quickly. You don’t need to wait 10 minutes, but just a few minutes will help a lot.