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Mechanics WORST nightmare

Published on July 8, 2011 under Humble Mechanic

So something happened in the shop this week that is, short of hurting someone, every mechanics biggest fear.

A customer brought their 2010 Passat in for its first service.  With only 10,000 miles the car got an oil change, tire rotation and some other minor checks.  The mechanic that performed the service is one of the top guys in the shop.  He was my mentor when I first started, and is one of the smartest people I have met in my life.  He is not a “do it quick” type of guy.  I just want you to understand that something like this can happen to any of us, it just so happen that this was his time.

After performing the very basic service, the car ran in the shop of about 5 minutes.  Then, he pulled the car around, customer got in and left.  About an hour later the car got towed back in with the customer saying that it died.

Before the car got pushed into the shop, we got the full story from the customer.  They said that they were driving on the highway, and the oil light came on and was beeping and flashing.  The customer continued to drive the car another 7 miles and then the engine shut off.

We check and find that there is NO oil in the car.  The mechanic added oil and tried to start the car, but no luck, engine would not even turn.  The car gets pushed in the shop, which is not fun by the way.  The mechanic checks and finds that the oil filter was loose.  He pulls the filter off to find that the filter as 2 gaskets. It turns out that when he removed the original filter, the gasket stuck to the car, not the filter.  When he put the new filter on, it crushed the gasket enough to properly seal.  The customer driving the car on the highway caused the oil pressure to push the gasket off and pump ALL of the oil out of the car.

In the end, the Passat will need a new engine and a new turbo charger.  The cost of all of the parts will come in around $5000.  The mechanic that made the mistake will have to do about 2.5 days worth of work to replace the engine.  He will be working with out pay to get the job complete.  Also, that engine is on back order for about 3 weeks.

Here are the lessons that we can all learn from what happened

  1. Even the best can make mistakes.  This mechanic takes a ton of pride in his work.  He will be beating himself up about this for a long time.  Good mechanics hate making mistakes, and noting anyone can say will make him feel any better.  I completely understand how he feels.  I don’t wish that feeling on anyone!
  2. The customer will be taken care of.  I am not sure to what extent, but the dealership will make it as right as they can.  I personally feel really bad for the customer, and what happened to their brand new ca
  3. If you have a light flashing, or a warning beeping at you, please stop driving the car.  This is NOT the customers fault, but the damage may not have been catastrophic if they had pulled over right away.

I will try to get some pictures of the internal engine damage when he takes it out.

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5 Comments

  1. kevinvw

    That does suck, I’ve always taken pride in being a very good technician and fixing cars right the first time. But like you said we all make mistakes. I still have the repair order from 2002 when I did 1 of the first v6 passat timing belts I had ever done. I misread the torque spec for the timing belt tensioner and overtightened the bolt. 2 weeks later the car was towed in and sounded like a diesel! Timing belt tensioner bolt had snapped causing the timing belt to jump time on a full interference engine. Not good. Bottom line, your %100 right, everyone makes mistakes. Its how you go about fixing your mistakes that makes the difference.

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