This is a debate that has been made time and time again. Factory vs aftermarket one has the backing of the brand, the other is usually cheaper. As a dealer mechanic, I officially recommend using factory parts. 🙂


This is a part that is the same part that came on your car from the factory. For the most part, they are not made by the car maker. Volkswagen doesn’t make many of the parts that are on their cars, they are made by other companies.

Factory Parts–PROS–

  • Fit and Finish. The way that a part fits is crucial! The factory parts are built to the exact specs to ensre proper fit.
  • Warranty. If you buy factory parts, the part will most likely come with a warranty. It will often time be much longer than a non-factory
  • Updated parts. Dealerships know when parts get updated. Some parts get several updates, getting parts from a dealer will ensure you get the latest, coolest, fastest, bestest part you can
  • Service. The dealership should have the most extensive parts catalog out there. They can get pics and have mechanics to help if needed

Factory Parts–CONS-

  • Price. This one is pretty easy, factory parts are almost always more expensive. There is not much you can do about that!
  • Quality. Just because it is a factory part, is no guarantee of quality. You need to replace the part right? The quality might not be any better, but it shouldn’t be worse

Aftermarket Parts

These parts are not parts purchased from the dealer. They are not the parts that originally came on your car from the factory. They can be made by anyone anywhere. That can be a good or bad thing.


  • Price. This can be a great way to save some money. The competition level of AM parts is huge. That can drive the cost down.
  • Selection. There might be lots of choices. Some options might have slightly different features. They might overcome an issue with factory parts
  • Quality. It might actually be better than factory. Aftermarket companies do not have to have the “mass appeal” that the factory does. They can fine tune parts to make them preform slightly better. They do not have to meet strict government regulations.
  • Shopping options. Aftermarket parts can be shopped for the best deal. The internet has so many parts retailers, with some work, you will get a great price
  • Questionable Quality. this, in my mind, is the biggest issue with aftermarket parts. The quality has NO guarantee
  • Warranty. Most of the time you get NO warranty with aftermarket parts
  • Fit and Finish. The odds of an aftermarket part fitting and functioning just like a factory part is VERY slim
  • Selection. With so many choices on aftermarket parts, it might be difficult to figure out which ones are good, and which ones are not.
The truth about the whole thing is, it just takes research to know which is best. When it comes to repair after an accident, ONLY factory parts are OK. A perfect example of factory vs aftermarket parts is the 1998-2005 Passats. They HATE aftermarket parts. If a customer installed aftermarket axles several things will happen.
  • The will not fit, never no matter what you do, they will not fit.
  • If (somehow) they do fit, the ABS light comes on at 55mph
  • They ruin wheel bearings
I know this from several attempts at using aftermarket axles. The factory axle for these Passats cost ~$650 per axle. The aftermarket one costs ~$125. The savings in parts is HUGE! What usually happens is a customer gets aftermarket axles installed somewhere other then my dealer. Then they come in and say they have a strange problem. It is pretty obvious when the axles are not factory. Now the customer has to pay to fix the problem twice.
What do you guys think? Is it always worth the extra money? Can aftermarket actually be better than factory?

It is no secret that dealers have the most state of the art diagnostic equipment in the industry. Everything from our $1100 battery testers, to our $12,000 VW scan tool.  In fact, the amount of dollars that are spent on special tools and equipment is truly unbelievable. With all that money wrapped up in scan tools, many folks think that they are magic boxes that fixes cars.

The high dollar equipment is just another tool. They are VITAL to repairing most cars, but they don’t fix cars. Would you believe me if I told you a wrench fixed a car?, NO, the wrench was needed to fix the car, it was the mechanic that fixed the car.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard

“You can just hook it up to the computer and KNOW whats wrong with my car!”

Well, the truth is YES and NO. When I hook a car up to the scan tool, I read the information that is stored in the car’s computer. That information gives me the system that has failed. It does not say “replace this part”.

Take an Airbag light for example. When I use the scan tool to check faults, it will tell me the area that has a problem. If the fault is for the drivers airbag(the one in the steering wheel) that does not mean the airbag is bad. It just means that the system is faulty. The actual problem could be:

  • It could actually be the airbag in the steering wheel
  • the Airbag Module might be faulty
  • It could be the wires from the module to the airbag in the steering wheel
  • the “clock spring” might be faulty(see the bottom of the post for a description of this part)
  • the battery voltage might be causing a false error

Now, the scan tool will not say which one of these things have failed. That is where a mechanic comes in. The testing of components is where the problem is found. That is where the knowledge of the car, and the specific system is vital. It would be almost impossible to fix one of the failures listed above, if I didn’t know how it worked. I will say advanced diagnostic techniques for another post.

I think the issue comes mostly from service departments doing a poor job of helping cusotmers understand the process. Has your mechanic or service advisor ever taken the time to explain how this works? I would be willing to bet that very few have done that. I have heard it explained like this

“The diagnostic fee is $100. We will hook it to the computer and then tell you what is wrong with your car.”

That statement doesn’t really seem like your getting $100 in value does it? It just feels like a customer is paying $100 for a few minutes of work. If all things go right, hooking a car to the scan tool takes just a couple of minutes. –side note, that rarely happens, scan tools can get stupid sometimes– 🙂 Where the value comes from is

  • What the mechanic knows
  • the diagnostic equipment
  • the information available about repairing the car
  • special tools that it takes to fix the car.
What do you guys think? Does your mechanic/ advisor do a good just explaining things, and helping you understand what they are ACTUALLY doing? Do you even care, as long as the car is fixed?
**From above, A “Clock Spring” is what electrically connects your steering wheel to the rest of the car. It allows you to have a horn, and buttons on the steering wheel, and still use them with the wheel turned. The newer ones are a ribbon cable wrapper in a plastic housing. It has enough cable to allow the wheel turn fully in both directions. With the fault I talked about, this part is the most common failure.**

Happy Friday guys!

Today I give you some tips on changing a tire. I also show you how the heck to use that jack for your Volkswagen. The usage of the jack is VW specific, but the tips and tricks will apply any time you have to change a tire.

I am still working out the kinks of shooting videos, but I think this came out pretty good.  No editing at all..  That is my goal, shoot and post!

Here are some close up pics of the jack, the tool kit and the proper place to put the jack!


Your inside look into the world of car repair and Volkswagen Dealer service

Before I start coming off like I am hating on the A.S.E certification program, I need to tell you that I am an A.S.E certified mechanic. 🙂 That stands for Automotive Service Excellence!

The A.S.E certification program is designed to test mechanics and show they are knowledgeable about fixing cars.  The way it works is, a mechanic has to pass a series of tests, and work in the automotive field for 2 years. Now based on that, its a great program. If nothing else, it shows that a mechanic has the motivation to be a top mechanic. Over the years, I have found that certification programs like that do not tell the whole story.

There are benefits to the program. I think that employers like it because it shows a commitment by the mechanic. If a mechanic is willing to take all 9 tests, which are NOT easy, they should have a high level of dedication to the profession. That coupled with the ability to say your facility has “CERTIFIED MECHANICS” can mean a lot for customers. When I worked at Carmax they displayed each mechanics certifications on a board for everyone to see.

I did a google search on the phrase “how to find a good mechanic”. In that search, almost every site says, “Be sure they are A.S.E. certified. The problem that I have with that is, it means almost nothing. The ability to pass these tests proves nothing about fixing cars. You can not use it to gauge a mechanics integrity. It doesn’t mean you can trust them, or the work that they do.

At the dealership level, the broad knowledge that A.S.E. test on does not apply. It is understood that a dealership mechanic should know the basics about cars. In addition to that they need to know that brand inside and out. That is why people take their car to the dealer in the first place. I think the brand certification carries much more value. There are only 206 or so master certified VW mechanics in the USA. That says a lot about the level of commitment it takes to be a master certified dealer mechanic.

I will say that no level of certification, even specific brand, will tell the whole story. Some guys are better at taking tests than others. Some guys just don’t care about a high level of certification. That doesn’t mean they are not outstanding mechanics. Here are a couple of quick tips to finding your great mechanic!

  • They should have some level of certification
  • Some experience is important, but not everything
  • Talk to the mechanic – Having a conversation with the mechanic will tell a much better story
  • Ask friends that drive your kind of car
  • Bring them cookies – I have said it before, bribery gets you everywhere

These are just some very basic tips. In fact, this is a topic that deserves a dedicated post.


Hey guys!

I wanted to my hand at shooting a video today. I shot this to show you guys the tool kit that I built for my wifes truck.  I spent just under $100 for everything that I got.


After watching the video, I realized I forgot to mension fuses. I couldn’t find any fuse packs at the store. I will try and find some and update you guys on where you can get them.  I am still trying to figure out what the hell I am doing so bear with me guys..  Also, Not the quality I filmed in was AWESOME, on the blog, it sucks, I will work on better quality…

Please post what you think of the video.  Is this something you guys want more of?  Did it suck?

How honest mechanics get paid

As a mechanic, teamed up with a service advisor, it is part of my job to help customers make some tough choices. Something that come up a lot is deciding to fix all of a cars issues, or break the repairs up over time.

From a very selfish place, I would say always fix it all at once. I mean, that is how I get paid! 🙂 Truth be told, there are some advantages to getting everything repaired in one shot.

If you get multiple repairs at the same time, there will most likely be some overlap in jobs. For example, if I am replacing a timing belt, it will most likely be cheaper to replace the thermostat as part of that job, rather than a second repair.

There can be a savings in materials. Take that same timing belt job, if I replace the water pump AND the thermostat at the same time, it will save on buying coolant twice.

The shop might help you out. My dealer works really hard for all our customers, but someone doing a lot of repairs might just get a better deal. From parts prices, to labor costs, the big jobs allow for some flexibility.

Those are the big 3 reasons for getting all the repairs knocked out all in one shot. The negative is, of course, COST! Cost is usually the deal breaker on repairing you car that way. Sometimes you just can’t break the bank to pay for repairs!

There are some benefits to spreading out repairs too. This would be if you have 10 thing wrong, and fixed 1 every month.

Fixing your car this way will allow you to budget for future repairs. You can save up and get the big things fixed first.

The shop still might help you out. If the car is in a few times for repairs, the shop might still try and save you some money.

The big negative to doing repairs little by little is, things might pop up between repairs. This is actually really common. Nothing worse than planning out repairs, and something else go wrong. To be fail, that could really happen either way you go.

The best advise I could give is, make sure you have a great mechanic, and great service advisor(do not underestimate a great service advisor). They should be able to help you gauge the best approach to fixing you car!!

What do you guys think, am I out of line? How would you do it if you were faced with a large repair bill?

Happy monday everyone!

I had a post all written for day, but instead I wanted to tell you guys a cool story about a great customer of mine. I will call her Ann.

This morning I got paged up to the service drive. I walked around the corner, and much to my surprise there was Ann. It had been over a year since I had worked on her car. She moved to another part of the state, and I guess driving 5 hours for service didn’t was just too much. 🙂

She told me that her car was using oil. So after chatting for a minute about that, she tells me what had happen to her car over the last 33,000 miles. She was on a trip in PA. Driving down the highway, her timing belt broke. After getting it towed to the nearest VW dealer, she got the bad news. The engine had seized. I didn’t get the specifics of what exactly happened, but basically she needed a new engine for her 2005 Passat v6. -Side note this car looks just like mine-

The dealer that performed the work did a really good job. She said that they took good care of her while the car was being fixed. Ann made a choice to have a used engine installed in her car. Now, I am not sure that was a great choice, but it saved her some money.

Over the next ~14,000 miles, she found the engine was losing oil, about 1qt per 3,000 miles. This is actually well within an acceptable range, but it was getting worse. Due to the remote area she lives, no one near her wanted to work on the Passat.

Since she was in town visiting friends, she brought her car to me. I had worked on her car for about 2 years before she moved so we know each other pretty well. I bring the car in, and find that the valve covers are leaking oil into the spark plug holes. Not really a crazy repair, but not something that can be fixed in 15 minutes. I had also found a couple of other things that needed attention as well.

We talked about what was needed, and decided that repairing the car was the best choice. Her car is too nice to trade in for something else. I was able to find a car for her to drive so I could keep hers for the day. She went about her business and I am currently working on the car.

I wanted to tell you guys this story because I am really excited to have this car back in my bay. It is such a great feeling to have a customer come back after such a long time and make sure I work on their car! I hate that she had such a costly repair, but I am happy to get her back on the road!