Interested in Starting Mechanic Courses? Here are 5 Automotive Inventions Created by Women

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If you’re interested in starting mechanic courses, it can be useful to know the history of how our modern cars came to be. Automotive history can also be a fascinating lens into how innovations are conceived, developed, and adopted over time.
Although their contributions might not be all that well known, many women have played a pivotal role in this history, inventing some of the most important features which we now take for granted, like the brake pad and the turning signal.
Here are five automotive inventions created by women.

1. Brake Pads Were Invented by Bertha Benz on the World’s First Road Trip

Bertha Benz was the wife of automotive pioneer Karl Benz, of Mercedes-Benz fame. When sales of her husband’s newly developed Motorwagen were slow to take off, she took it on herself to take the vehicle, along with her two teenage sons, on a 106-kilometre journey to her mother’s house, to publicize the car. Along the way, Bertha demonstrated her own extensive mechanical abilities, making an emergency repair to the ignition with her garter, and unclogging the fuel line with nothing but her hairpin. Not only that, but it was during this journey that Bertha invented the forerunner of today’s modern brake pads. When the worn-down, wooden brakes in the Motorwagen began to fail, she visited a cobbler to install leather soles, leading eventually to the brake pads that students at mechanic school today would be familiar with.

Brake pads are now an important part of every car’s braking system
Brake pads are now an important part of every car’s braking system

2. Margaret Wilcox Invented the First Automobile Heating System

Margaret Wilcox, a mechanical engineer born in Chicago, developed a system to heat cars all the way back in 1893. The design heated the cab of the vehicle by way of an opening releasing hot air from the engine, and while it doesn’t bear much similarity to the heating systems we see today, it was the first of its kind.

3. Mary Anderson Developed the First Manual Windshield Wipers

On a frosty day in New York City in 1902, Mary Anderson watched a driver going down the street with his front window open, unable to keep his windshield free of the falling sleet. Up to this point, motorists had to open their windows during cold or wet weather, or stop driving to get out and clear them. On her return to Alabama, she developed the first effective manual windshield wipers.

4. Charlotte Bridgwood’s Automatic Wipers Are Now Standard

Manual wipers were, however, considered exhausting to operate by auto enthusiasts. This is why Charlotte Bridgwood improved on Mary’s design by inventing the first automatic, electric-powered windshield wipers in 1917. Unfortunately, the feature only really took off after Charlotte’s patent expired in 1920.

Both manual, and later automatic, windshield wipers were invented by women
Both manual, and later automatic, windshield wipers were invented by women

5. Students at Mechanic School Should Know of Florence Lawrence and her Contributions

Interestingly, Charlotte’s daughter, Florence Lawrence, not only became a successful movie star, but also made her own significant contributions to automotive design. Frustrated by her inability to predict what the motorists ahead of her were going to do, Florence came up with the idea of “auto-signalling arms,” a precursor to the turning signals you’ll see in mechanic courses today. Her design used flags on both sides of the car which could be triggered from inside at the push of a button. She also invented the forerunner of the modern brake light, a system which flipped up a stop sign in the rear window of the vehicle when the motorist stepped on the brake. Curiously, she patented neither design, so although they went on to become standard features of all modern cars, she received little credit for these ingenious inventions.

Are you interested in getting a career in the auto industry?

Contact Automotive Training Centres for more information about our auto mechanic course.

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