A post came into the blog yesterday about brake fluid. If you have been following along with my posts, you know I have done some about brakes, and brake fluid. This comment came in response to my “5 things everyone can check post

Good article, please advise folks not to top off their brake fluid.
If brake fluid is low, get a professional to check your system for leaks, or check the pads (or shoes if you’re whip is old enough). If you top off the fluid, then put on new pads, you’ll end up with a mess!

When I first read the comment, I thought- crap, I forgot to say something about brake fluid. That was obviouly not the point the commenter was making. The point of the comment is, brake fluid is low for a reason. It has either leaked out, or takes up the space of worn brake pads.(if your not sure what I mean, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter for this post)

That really got me thinking about some automotive basics. A highly skilled, highly trained mechanic will always tell you “start with the basics” and “Keep It Simple Stupid”. What most mechanics will not tell you is, how many times they got burned by not following their own great advise! To be honest, I am right there with them!

At the dealership level, we see some of the craziest problems. Thankfully, we have tens of thousands of dollars worth of diagnostic equipment at our disposal. Dragging out the big guns is not usually the best first step!

I remember one time a customer brought their car in because the battery kept going dead. I did some basic checking, the battery voltage, the generator output, and so on. I could not find anything out of the ordinary.  I preceded to perform a “Parasitic Current Draw” test on the vehicle. This test will tell you how much the battery is draining when it should be “sleeping” The results for the test were way above the specification. So the next step would be to find out where the drain was coming from.

I spend about an hour or so digging thought wiring diagrams, trying to figure out what could be staying on. I removed the radio, disconnected every sensor I could get to, removed trim and started to disconnect modules. Nothing seemed to make the drain go away. I forget what I was about to unplug next, but I climbed in the back seat, looked down and found a flashlight plugged in to the 12volt outlet. I removed the light and the drain went away. I would guess that I had spent a good 2 hours working on this car. All because of a flashlight! Yep, A FLASHLIGHT!

I could have fixed that car in about 5 minutes if I would have checked the easy stuff first. For some reason, I let my ego get in the way of what I was doing. Bad move on my part. How do you tell a customer they have to pay $300 for me to remove the flashlight from their car? You can’t, that job was one that I got to fix for free!

Starting with the basics is improtant! Making it a habit is be tricky!

I hope you guys got a good laugh today! I hope everyone has an awesome weekend!

Its only a tab for a valve, but it will get fixed

Yesterday my serivce manager asked me for some help. He said that the Service Express guysIts only a tab for a valve, but it will get fixed needed some practice, and wanted to know if they could use my Passat. I was not really due for an oil change, but my car is a tricky oil change to do the right way. Oh, just so everyone knows, I drive a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon, that my friends named “The Danger Wagon”

I work across the shop from the Service Express lane. Seeing my car on another lift made me very tense. I am the only one that has worked on that car in about 70,000 miles. The last guy that worked on it is one of the team leads in the shop, and the BEST mechanic we have! Now guys that are as rookie as it gets are working on my car.

The whole idea behind S.E. is to be fast. When the program is in full swing, it will take about 20 minutes from start to finish. Since the boys are still learning, it took about an hour and a half. The oil change on a 1.8t Passat is not the easiest oil change. If you don’t do it just right, it makes a HUGE mess.

After they finished the service, I thought it would be a good idea to do a little quality check. Turns out they didn’t do such a great job. The checks they perform(lights, tires) were perfect. The oil change, not so much. There belly pan was covered in oil, a clip was installed wrong, and they broke the air box. The oil and clip were a really easy fix. Just some clean up. The airbox however, will need to be replaced. It was nothing that would effect performance, but I get OCD so I need to fix it.

I don’t want to sound like I am giving these guys a hard time. This was actually a really great teachable moment. I showed them what they did, and how to do it properly for next time. I am pretty sure they got what I was saying, they might have been a little scared ;). It is also a good thing that it was my car(not really for me). I would much rather them be able to make a mistake, and see the result right away. This worked out great because we did not make a customer unhappy.

I will be sure to keep everyone posted about their progress. It will be fun to follow along while they learn the ropes!

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

People tell me, almost daily, “I can just do that myself”. Normally, I laugh it off and think “good luck with that”. The truth is, lots of jobs can be done by someone with very little skills and just a few tools. I wont be teaching you how to do your our work, but here are some things that you need to consider when tackling a DIY repair on your car.


I think that about 70% of people do not let a mechanic fix their car because of price. We all look to save a buck everywhere we can. Saving $25 by replacing your own air filter seems like a good idea right? If your time is worth $25 per hour, and it takes you 3 hours, NOT worth it. If you can do it in about 1 hour or less, do it!


You will see that most of these completely overlap! If you can pay a mechanic to do a job that take him, or her 45 minutes, but you take you 4 hours, pay for it. You will spend more time screwing around with it than its worth, pay it and go do something fun, or go back to work!


Some jobs, most on VWs, require specialized tools. This can be something as common as pliers to remove clamps or Torx drive bits. It a tool that is only used for 1 certain job on 1 type of car. If the repair in question MIGHT require on of these tools, consider paying of the repair. If you can justify buying to tools(this is something I NEVER have a problem with:)) then it might be something you want to consider fixing yourself.


This one is tricky. There is so many great resources online to get repair information, that anyone can learn anything. A friend of mine Katie used a YouTube video to learn how to replace a filter in her car! The look on her face was a look of pure pride! The information is out there, don’t use that as an excuse.


This one is EASY. If you love working on your car, then DO IT! The cost of the tools, time, know-how will all be worth it. It will be worth it because you will enjoy the time working on your car.


There is a DIY caution that I want to give everyone. If you decide that you are going to work on your own car, I support that 100%! (I mean that is one of the points of this blog!) Just understand that if something gets messed up, it is NOT covered under warranty. It will most likely cost you more now. A mechanic will have to undo what you did, then fix the initial problem

Here are some really great DIY things that I recommend people doing(unless you are my customer)

  • Wiper Blades
  • Light Bulbs(some are a pain, ask me if you are not sure)
  • Cabin Air Filters
  • Engine Air Filters(some VW filters suck, ask me 1st)

There are other things that are DIY, but the the maintenance stuff is easier! I left off spark plugs because they need to be properly torqued( you need a torque wrench). I also left off oil changes. In my mind, its too much work, a big mess. My dealer charged ~$14 in labor for that service. WELL WORTH IT!

What do you guys like to do on your cars? Did I forget anything easy that people like to DIY?

failed wiper blades

Today I want to give everyone 5 things that they can check on their own cars.

These are really quick and easy checks. With some practice, it will take about 5 minutes to complete. Consider doing these checks when filling your car up with fuel!

Checking tires is pretty easy. I recommend turning your steering wheel all the way to the right or to the left(it doesn’t matter which way). This will allow you to check the condition of both front tires. You will be looking for any strange tire wear. The colors on the tires below show what it should not look. Be sure to check your tire pressure. The tires should be cold to get an accurate reading.


This one is easy. If they do not clear the windshield properly, just replace them! Please do not wait until the look like this!


I recommend doing this with your car running, so you will not drain the battery. Just turn the lights on, take a walk around the car and make sure they work! Be sure to look at the license plate lights too. You can check the turn signals inside the car. If they blink at normal speed, they should be fine. You will need a helper to check the brake lights!


This is the part that you might get a little dirty. Make sure you have a clean towel or a paper towel. Most cars coolant(antifreeze) can be judged by looking through the bottle. If you have a VW, it is pink and the bottle it is in is clear. To check the oil, be sure your car is on a level surface. Remove the dipstick, clean the oil off, and reinstall the dipstick. Now, put the dipstick back in, remove it again and look to see how much oil is on the stick. There will be indicator marks on the stick to tell you where the level should be.
Also, check the brake fluid and power steering fluid. Please make sure that the windshield washer fluid is correct for the season.

This one is pretty important. Always make sure your windshield and rear window are clean. It will totally make driving at night better. It also goes with out saying, make sure your mirrors are properly adjusted and clean.

Side note, if you are my customer, just bring it to me, I will do it for you!

Is this stuff everyone checks? Post up what you think in the comments!!

Oh, another side note, I wrote this whole post including pics on my phone. If the format is goofy, that is why. I am still working out the kinks, but I wanted to get this post up for you guys!

How honest mechanics get paid

Like I said in yesterdays post, when I am out of the shop, cars are not at the front of my mind. I like talking about the industry, but not always the nuts and bolts of the job.(I feel like there is a joke in there somewhere) 🙂

When I talk to people about my job, one of the questions I get all the time is, “Has work been busy?”. That is a really interesting question, because it always leads to me explaining how most mechanics get paid. After I tell people, they usually say, “Wow, I never imagined that you got paid like that”. So I thought I would give you guys the low down on how I get paid, and how Flat Rate works.

Most dealership mechanics get paid on Flat Rate. The easiest way to understand Flat Rate is, I am paid based on productivity. The more work that I do the more I get paid. It is a pretty simple concept, but let me break it down a little more. I think if more people understood how mechanics get paid, they would appreciate what we do a little more.

Like I said, I am paid on productivity. Each job has an amount of time that it pays to complete. Lets take a job like replacing a headlight bulb. That job pays me .3 of 1 hour(that is 18 minutes). It does not matter how long it takes me to replace, I get paid .3 hours. If I can complete the job in less time, the extra is a bonus. If it takes me longer to complete, I come out losing. So if I made $10 per hour, I would get paid $3 to replace a light bulb.

What that also means if I am not working, actually doing work, I am not getting paid. I could go in to work for a 10 hour day and only get paid for 1hour. The flip side is, I can work a 10 hour day and get paid for 20 or more hours. It is a pretty interesting pay structure.

The times are based on several things. My dealer uses a calculation of warranty time. There are other labor guides that shop use like All-data, and Motors. They “say” the use the average time it takes a master mechanic to do the job. I think that sometimes they just make stuff up, because the times can be crazy!

I did a search to see what other say about how mechanics get paid. They are ALL written by professional writers that really do not understand the job. The system has pros and cons for mechanics and for customers.

Pros for the mechanic

This one is easy. The harder a mechanic works, the more they get paid. Simple! Working hard directly pays off. If its a job that does not pay well, you can hustle through it and move on to the next job that pays better.

Cons for the mechanic

There are some jobs that suck, plain and simple. They take longer than they pay. The other big con is, if there are no cars in the shop, mechanics get paid nothing! There is also the opportunity to take short cuts to do jobs faster. I can tell you, that almost always come back to bite a mechanic!

Pros for customers

The times are set. You will not have to pay more money because it takes longer to complete a job. This also makes mechanics work harder to get cars finished.

Cons for customers

Just like for the mechanic, it opens the opportunity to take short cuts that can result in the car not getting fixed. It also can let customers question how much they are paying. A job that takes 3 hours to complete, might cost a customer 6 hours worth of labor cost. ~this can be a post all on its own~. My reply to that is, “Would you want to pay more if it took longer?”. The answer is always no. 😉

That is pretty much the basics. Flat Rate is a love/hate relationship for me. Love the good days, HATE the bad ones. I think that I will dive deeper in this topic. Its one that is debated a lot in the shop.

What do you guys think? Good or bad for customers, mechanics?




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

Happy Monday everyone!

I am out of the shop today on a long weekend. Due to that I didn’t really feel like talking about automotive theory or vehicle systems. I thought I would tell you guys the story that pushed me to start this blog and get involved socially online.

In April or May of 2011, I had a conversation with my service manager. We talked about starting a Facebook page and Twitter account for the service department. This came about because the sales department had made several attempts and doing it, and failed. Like I said in my very first post, we [service department] have an awesome relationship with our customers. The service manager and I really wanted to take the relationship we had in the dealer and bring it online. We knew it would make a statement to other dealers that “THIS” is how to be a great service department.

I jumped in with both feet! In about a day, I started a Facebook page, made a twitter account and got the ball rolling! The ball dropped a few days later when we were told “We do not want multiple places for our customers to go”. I was pretty surprised. What that meant to me was, “We only care about selling people cars”.  I could have totally read that wrong, but I doubt it. The service manager really went to bat for us. We usually see things eye to eye, and I know that he wanted to make the same impression that I did. The powers that be had spoken and decided they would rather pay a “social media” company than let us do it for free!

After a couple of days of being kinda pissed, figured I could just do this myself!  I also had been giving my wife a hard time about starting her blog, so there was no reason I shouldn’t do my own. I got the domain, pickup up some hosting and launched this site! Something that you guys may or may not know is, I do not know much about computers. Well, computers that are not in cars anyway! I can’t tell you how many hours I spent watching YouTube videos trying to figure out how to build a website. I also want to thank Nick from Save Our Skills. He really helped me out early on. I launched the site on June 23 2011.

Just before launching the website, I scored a free copy of “The ThankYou Economy” from The Survival Podcast Gear Shop. It is interesting how somethings line up! The book talks about businesses that do it right, and how they use the tools online to do it! That just validated the fact that I needed to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account!(Be sure to follow them both!).

I have really started to gain some traction with both of those online tools. The really funny thing is, my dealership is moving in the opposite direction. I am not bashing them, just telling facts. I really do love my dealer. Like I said, the dealer pays a company to manage their “social media”. My favorite example of why this is bad comes from a Facebook post on New Years Day. The posted this statement “Happy 2012! What’s your top resolution? Mine is to laugh more!” Not exactly a thought provoking statement is it? Just to be clear, I am not busting on them, I just like being right. 🙂

I really want to thank the folks that decided to keep the dealers page a sales focused page. It really was the push that I needed to do this blog. Also, that to Kathi from Kruse Control INC. Our conversation on Facebook gave me the idea for this post. I have really enjoyed the interactions that have come from “social media”! A lot of the posts have come from questions or comments on Facebook and twitter.

I hope you guys have a wonderful Monday. Long weekend or not, make it a great one. I am lucky enough to be on my long weekend so I will be back in the shop on Wednesday!

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

Happy Friday everyone!

I am writing this “unintensional” post today about customer service. See I actually recorded a podcast about this very topic. After fighting with it for about 3 hours(all while the carpet guys are banging away up stairs) I gave up and thought I would just write a post.  I will most likely record the podcast again and give it another try using something other than GarageBand.

Before I get going, I just want to thank everyone for the support over the past few months. I have been working on building the blog and getting some good content up. As you might know I am working with a buddy to rebuild the site to better fit what I want it to be, and to look cooler too!

When you think about the job of a mechanic, you usually don’t think about it from a customer serivce stand point. Most people think of it as a greasy dirty job, which it can be at times, but they don’t think about how much customer interaction that I have. I say I because I feel like most mechanics do not have as much interaction as the should.

I called this post “A dealership of One” beacuse that is how I work. I treat what I do as if the dealership was called “Charles Volkswagen”. I want to make it so that every customer that lets me work on their car knows who I am. I enjoy taking a few minutes out of my day and chatting with folks about cars, tools, weather, whatever it may be. It is actually a really nice break from wrenching on cars. The idea of running my business as in this way really helps set a customer at ease. For me its abuot building confidence, and trust in a relationship. I want my customers to know that if they need something for their car, wether it is a lightbulb replaced, an oil change, or something major repaired, I got their back. Even if we have to have that dreaded talk about getting a new car!

Its funny how just a little bit more “Give a damn” really make a world of difference. A prefect example is a quick story about a customer of mine named Lauren. I met her when my service advisor paged me up to talk to a customer. After a breif chat, she asked me a question that I would have never expected ANYONE to ask.

Who is the manufacturer of the oil filter you are going to use in my car?

I am sure that the look on my face was priceless. I knew that some of our filters were made by a company called MANN, but I had no idea the answer to her question. There are a few ways that I could have handled the situation.

  1. Tell her I did not know and move on
  2. Find the answer to her question

Here is what I did, I went and checked a couple of oil filter to see where they were made. Unfortunaly for Lauren, they were not the filters she was looking for (read that as a Jed:)). So did I really help her out, NO. Did I really do that much extra for her, NO! Did I use a moment to show a customer how much I really value them, and their car YES! Because I took that 5 minutes to help her out, I feel like I will have a customer for life. In fact, I seen Lauren last week, and after working on her car, I stopped and chatted with her about the next service. She told me that she wanted me to be her mechanic from now on!

Folks THAT is what this business lacks! Its actually what most business lack. I wish that more mechanics would just take the time to really understand things from a customers point of view. It costs a lot of money to buy and maintain a car. You should feel good about having someone that you trust to take care of you and your car!

If you are a mechanic and you DONT work this way, YOU ARE WRONG! I will say it again YOU ARE WRONG! You get paid well for working on cars, and customer deserve your BEST!

If you are a car owner and don’t bring your car to me,(It better be because you do not live near me) find a good mechanic. If a mechanic won’t talk to you, keep looking. There are some great mechanics out there, it just takes some work to find them.

I hope this gave you guys a look into another side of what I do. It is something I have not written about before, but it