Teresa Aquila : A Mechanic With (Nail) Polish

Teresa AquilaTeresa Aquila knew she had a knack for mechanics when at age 8; she snuck into her uncle’s garage, tore apart and reassembled his lawn mower.

As a teenager, Aquila was more interested in what the boys had under the hoods of their cars than what they had on their minds.

And despite her mother’s efforts to turn her into a perfect specimen of a female domesticity, Aquila at age 18 bought her first car, a 1963 Chevy Impala, and immediately rebuilt its engine.

But to look at the 33-year-old Aquila you’d never know that this 5 foot-1-inch, 110-pound curly-haired brunette with bright, but chipped, nail polish is a mechanic for the Washoe County School District.

But looks are deceiving.

Give her the right tools and she can do just about anything, including blazing a trail for women through that lonely, unchared, vast land of mechanics that is inhabited mostly by men.

“Mechanics always came naturally to me, it wasn’t a struggle,” Aquila said. “My mother always said “You should stay in the house and cook or sew.”

“She made me enroll in a sewing class in junior high, I passed the class but it wasn’t my favorite subject.”

Aquila said she taught herself how to work on cars, with a little help from books and an occasional fellow mechanic.

Neither her parents nor her four brothers and sister are mechanically inclined, she said.

Her first mechanical job was repairing heavy equipment for Ralston Purina here in Sparks. Then she worked for Porsche Cars North America and Specialty Brands, again, doing mechanical work.

“Every mechanics job I’ve ever had, I ‘ve always been the first female there,” Aquila said. “I broke the barrier.”

She also worked in the parts department of a local Grand Auto store, dishing out advice to shade-tree mechanics and building a local clientele. “Once this guy came in and asked me, “Do you have any guys behind the counter? And I said, “No, but I have a couple of boys,” Aquila said.

Although Aquila got the customer his male clerk, she ended up helping him anyway. It seems the customer learned that mechanical ability is not based on the level of male hormones a person has. “And that guy became one of my most faithful customers,” she said.

Nine months ago, Aquila beat out 52 other applicants to become one of the school district’s eight mechanics who service 190 buses plus an assortment of district cars and vans.

“It’s the first job I’ve had where everyone accepted me for what I am,” Aquila said, noting that on one job her co-workers sabotaged her work. She admits that she has to work twice as hard as the men, just to prove she can do the job.

“I enjoy it though it’s been a struggle at times,” she said. “I have to fight male chauvinism. “But I’m not out to change anyone’s opinion, I just want people to accept me for what I am.”

Even Aquila’s mother has come around to accepting her daughter’s mechanical inclinations. After all, her daughter works on her car as well as her boyfriends” and friends’ cars.

Recently, after getting the idea from a friend, Aquila produced a videotaped lesson to teach women the basics of auto maintenance and repair.

Entitled “Teresa’s Garage-Getting Started with the Basics,” the tape teaches women how to check their vehicle’s fluid levels, the battery, the tires and how to change the heater and radiator hoses.

Originally  Written by Faith Bremner 

(Published March 17, 1988 in the Sparks Tribune)


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