Hey everyone, it’s time for Behind the Wrench! Today we have a former mechanic who now teaches the craft to the next generation! It is my absolute pleasure to have this interview with Bill!

William (Bill) Foster
How long have you been in the Industry?
40 years
What is your current job title?
Program Director, Tech School
What were you doing for your first automotive job?
I started out working for Sears Automotive, busting tires, changing oil, you know, grunt work.
In the years you have been in the industry cars have changed so much, what is your favorite thing cars are equipped with now that they were not when you started?
As a music fan, I really like the way radios have progressed. Otherwise, GPS rocks.
Were cars really built better when you first started working on them? Is “they just don’t build them like they use to” really true?
Cars were easier to work on back in the 70s, but they needed a lot of work. By 70K, one had to have suspensions rebuilt and sometime, major engine repairs. Newer cars don’t have to be worked on as often. It is true, they don’t make them like they used to…they make them better.
Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?
My last hands-on job was at an independent. During my career, I worked for both dealers and independents both have their good and bad.
Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.
Currently, I’m a director and a teacher at a technical school in a manufacturers program. I like it because I get the skinny on all the new technology and I have a 40-hour week.
When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?
Summer, boating and jet-skiing. Fall and Winter, hiking.
What kind of car do you drive?
Old Jeep Cherokee. It pulls the boats and takes me to the trails.
 What was your first car?
1969 Camaro SS. 396, 4-speed.
What made you want to work on cars?
A hands-on career with good pay. I have no regrets on that decision.
What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?
A kitten. I rescued it with welding gloves on. When the owner would not take it, I suggested that I put in back in the engine bay where I found it. She changed her mind. They became good friends.
Do you have much customer interaction?
As a tech, yes, and I hated it. As a shop manager, yes, but it was my job. As a teacher/program director, it’s my job and I enjoy it.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Turning on light bulbs in normally dimly lit brains.
If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?
As a technician, I would avoid being directly involved with customers. I would second guess becoming certified, as you get all of the problem cars.
The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?
The next time you go to the doctor, and then have to go back for the same problem, and you get charged for it, think of how cheap the car repair was. Remember, doctors bury their mistakes.
Are cars harder to work on(for a pro mechanic) now? Cars are loaded up with computers, does that make it easier or harder to fix?
Cars are harder to work on for pro mechanics…who think they can repair cars with their wits. You need diagnostic skills, diagnostic tools, and service information. I was fortunate to have worked for employers who purchased good service manuals and equipment.
Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?
Full-service oil changes.
How important is reading your vehicles owner’s manual?
It is very important to read the owner’s manual; you miss out on all the features of a car if you don’t.
Have you read the owners manual to your car?
Yes. After I drove a car for 6 years and found out about the auto-headlight function, I started reading them.
What tool in your tool box do you use the most?
Hammer. Just kidding, DVOM.
Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?
The brand with the best service. Currently, that’s Snap-On.
If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?
Scanner, DVOM, test light. I enjoy the challenge of drivablility and electrical work…now that I’m not on flat-rate.
If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?
DVD player to watch Bond movies.
You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?
Toyota or Scion because of the dependability. Actually, I did that for two of them.
What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?
Your local tech-school instructor works hard to get young men and women ready for entry-level employment. They are not masters yet, and will not be for a few years to come. Give them a chance as someone did you one day. It is frustrating to watch young people work hard for a year or two learning a career just to be denied a chance, or get paid so little that pizza delivery is a better choice upon graduation. It happens every day.
WOW, 40 years in the business. Bill, you must be a trooper! Folks,I really want to thank Bill for such an awesome interview. If you have a question for Bill, post it in the comments.Be sure to swing by and check out Bills website over at AutotechsForum.com. He has a great blog about cars too.
If you want to be featured, just Contact Me. I am always looking for new folks to interview!
I hope everyone has a great weekend. Hit me on Twitter that is the fastest way to get in touch with me.

Hey folks, it’s Thursday, so it’s time for another round of Shop Shots! This week we have some strange add-ons to a Beetle, a Jetta that was in a wreck, and some bad news about a timing belt. If you have some shop shot, or you want your car featured, please just contact me! There is also a section on the Forum for you to post up your car!


First up we have this Beetle. I took this picture a few years ago so I forget what I was doing to it. I have no problem with folks customizing their car, but I am not really a fan of this. As you can imagine, I got laughed at when I pulled the car in the shop. Pink lips, eye brows and Tinkerbell seat covers. Yep!

This is just outside the shop. I was coming back from lunch and the car was towed in. I believe this car came from a body shop. When cars are being repaired at body shops, they will “sublet” them to dealers for repairs. One of the guys in the shop removed the engine so the body shop could straighten the front end. The engine sat in our shop of about 3 weeks.

This WAS a timing belt on a 1.8t Beetle. If you notice all of the teeth are missing. A timing belt drives is the main belt that connects the upper and lower part of the engine. When a timing belt breaks, it can do catastrophic engine damage. I think that the water pump seized and ripped all the teeth off of the belt. Just another example of anything can happen at anytime to anyone.

So this is a shot of my home shop. You are seeing a picture of my 1996 VW Cabrio. When I got it, the car didn’t run, the top had a hole in it, and the car was NASTY. I paid about $500 for it. I installed a new battery, put a new ignition coil in it, and drove it home. When I bought this car, I was driving an Acura CL type-S. I sold that and drove the Cabby for almost 2 years. I really did like that car, and I wish I still had it. i might have some more pics of it somewhere, maybe I will post them up in the future.

Well, another week of Shop Shots in the books. Are we on the right track with the pictures? Do you want to see more carnage? If there is something you want to see featured, let me know! Oh, and don’t miss tomorrows interview. Bill will be joining us for a great interview from a guy that has been in the industry a long time. Don’t miss it!

I sometimes feel like the world is against Volkswagen. People are always saying “I hear VW has tons of electrical problems”. Well, I don’t really agree with that, but I will save how I really feel for another post. This is about a REAL problem I found on a Jetta.

The customer comes in and says “Sometimes my door buttons do not work”. After a conversationwith the customer, I find out that her driver’s door is not working all the time. There are times when we have to extract the right information from a customer.

When I got in the car, I checked the door. Big surprise, everything worked just fine. I pressed every button on the door, they all worked like a charm. I pressed the auto-down button for the window, and opened the door. When the door got about half way open, the window stopped, all the lights went out on the door, and the instrument cluster started beeping funny. Well you can check it out in the video.

Strange isn’t it? It turns out that the ground wire in the boot between the body of the car and the door was broken. It would make contact with the door shut, but open when the door was open. I am really glad I was able to capture it on video. Usually the strange electrical problems are so sporadic, there is no chance of catching it.

So I did a little rapid fire Q&A session. I got some really good feed back. If you have a question or a topic, article that you would like me to talk about, just contact me or post it in the comments section. I kinda liked doing it, so post it up!

Real quick, I just want to take a second and thank each and every one of you that have read my blog, liked the FB page, chatted with me on twitter, posted and comment and so on. It really mean a lot to me. The success of this site is thanks to all of you! Our little community is growing every day, and I am really excited for the things to come. Also, that you to everyone that has shared this site, that is the best way for us to grow! You folks are truly awesome!

This is inside the boot between the door and the body of the car. The wire that is broken is the main ground(negative) wire. With out it, nothing will work.

Is it better to wait with your car, or should you drop it off for repair?This is a really big point of contention in the shop. From the service advisors to the technicians, everyone has an opinion, and they are all right, just ask them. 😉

Like anything, there are pros and cons to each. From a mechanic’s point of view, dropping it off is best. It takes any time pressure off of us and lets us be thorough. It also keeps a service advisor from bothering a mechanic while they are trying to work. I will save my opinion for the end. 🙂

Let’s take a look at some pros and cons a customer might experience,

Pros to waiting at the dealer

  • You will generally get done faster if you are there waiting
  • Most dealer have free snacks
  • I can’t imagine a dealer not having WIFI, at least you can get work done
  • It is a great place to meet folks. I talked to a customer that met his girlfriend in our waiting room. How cool is that!
  • There will be no back and forth on the phone if the mechanic finds something wrong with your car.
  • If they do find something wrong with your can, you have an easy out if you DON’T want to fix your car. “Sorry I can’t wait that long”.
  • If something is wrong, you can see it yourself. Even if you don’t know what you are looking at, it will help to see something the problem, and prevent unneeded services
  • You can test drive the newest coolest cars
  • You have leverage to getting a better deal. Asking for a coupon or a loaner car so needed repairs can get completed. You won’t have that if you drop your car off.

Cons to waiting at the dealer

  • You are stuck waiting at the dealer.
  • It can get boring waiting, if the waiting room is lame
  • There is a chance that a salesman will try to sell you a new car~only a con if you don’t want a new car
  • You might get stuck longer if your car needs further repairs
  • Again, YOU ARE STUCK there.
  • You might have better things to do than wait
  • Mechanics might rush through the job

Like I said there are some good and some bad about waiting. What about your other choice, leaving your car? Pros and Cons~~~GO!

Pros to dropping your car off

  • You are not stuck at the dealer in a boring waiting room
  • This will give the mechanics more time to do their job as thorough as they can.
  • If the mechanic needs to contact a “help line” for assistance, they are free to do so.
  • You just might get a car wash(no promise)
  • If gives the mechanic a chance to earn the money you are paying. It keeps most of us from getting fussy.

Cons to dropping your car off

  • You have to make arrangements for a ride twice
  • You can rent a car, but that adds to the bill
  • There will be multiple phone calls, emails, texts no matter what
  • There will be even more phone calls if the mechanic finds something wrong
  • You have to get your car by the time they close, or “No Car For You”(are soup Nazi joke lame)
  • They might take their sweet time, and push your car until the end of the day.
  • You BETTER trust your mechanic, you can’t see a problem like you could if you were there.(If you have been following my advise, that is not an issue) 😉

When I wrote that out, I really did make a strong case for waiting on your car didn’t I. To me, it doesn’t really matter. Yep, I not mind either way. If you want to drop your car off awesome! If you want to come and hang out while I work on your car, that is cool too. I strive to do the same job either way.

Just remember, it is YOUR choice. If you wait, do not get mad when it takes a little longer then you thought. 🙂

What do you guys think? Do you prefer to wait for your car at the dealer? What is your main reason? How can dealers make the waiting room better? Hit me with what you got!

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Humble Mechanic Tool Box


Happy Monday everyone! As you know, today is my first day back in action. I had a great few days off, but it feels nice to be working on cars again. Anyway, I was thinking of something a little different today. I am doing a “Rapid Fire” question and answer post. These are mostly questions that have come in from Humble Mechanic Facebook page.And GO~

James~ Why do some car models stay in production forever (911, Beetle, Accord) while others only last for a few years before a similar but slightly different one replaces it?

Good question. I think it largely depends on sales. If a model sells really well, there is no need to update right away. There cold also be an issue with manufacturing parts to keep up demand for another year. Also changes in D.O.T. regulations and auto industry standards can force a design change. The switch from OBD I to OBD II is the reason there was no Jeep Wrangler in 1996, and the 1997 was totally redesigned

Craig ~ When is that Audi r8 tdi coming?

Soon I hope. The more TDIs we have on the road, the more R&D will go in to improving the technology. That will drive prices down so normal folks like us can afford it.

Benjamin ~what does a Chevy volt run in the quarter? 😉

Probably pretty quick. Electric motors have high torque and it is available instantly. You just might not make it much further than 1/4 mile. Especially if you have the heat on. Right Nissan??

Glenn ~1. In today’s car world, what can the “average” person actually maintain on their car? Years ago I was able to do a lot , now I’m lost under the hood.
2. Who do you trust to maintain your car, OTHER then yourself ?

1)The “average” can do a lot, but chooses not to. I usually recommend everyone know how to,
Change a tire
Change their wiper blades
Check all the fluid in the car(if that is applicable)
Check tire pressure
Beyond that, knowing how to change engine air and pollen filter is really good. Also knowing how to replace all the bulbs in your car is an awesome skill.
2) I am not a fan of letting anyone else work on my car. It really stresses me out. If I had to, i would interview the mechanic working on my car.

Brandon~ i was just wondering what your thoughts are on the upcoming Jetta Hybrid

I think the technology is really cool. VW tested the design with the Hybrid Touareg. I am a little concerned with reliability, but that comes with any design change. The one good point, there are some die hard hybrid fans, so that might open up a new and different customer base for VW.

Jeff~ What is your honest opinion about 2012 VW Passat made in U.S. and do you think VW will be reliable as a Honda? Thanks 🙂

So far the Passat has been great. The majority of the technology in the Passat has been in other VWs for a few years. The only system that is really new is the Urea injection for the TDI. We will have to see how that performs long term. As far as compared to the Honda,time will tell. All German cars are DRIVERS cars, that usually comes with more maintenance, and more service, but we shale see.

Jeremy~I’ve heard all VW dealer shops do is check the computer (previous blog posts noted that it’s NOT just that) and determine whether or not THEY will install a NEW tranny or send you elsewhere for a rebuild or used or whatever… what’s your take on it?

I would love to say that every mechanic goes through all the steps every time, but that is just not true. Transmission, especially automatic, can be really tough. You basically break it down into 3 categories, Electric, hydraulic, and mechanical. From there, you just plug away until you get close to an answer.
The fact is, most techs just check faults, and replace the trans. We don’t do much rebuild at the dealer level, its just as much to rebuild as it is to replace.

Steven ~ Just got a flat on my new 2012 Touareg…is a new tire covered?

Odds are that tire would not be covered under VW warranty. VW does not warranty tires. Any warranty on a tire would come from the tire manufacturer, like Michelin. The only way a flat would be covered is if the rim or the valve stem had a manufacturer defect. They will not cover outside influence, or damage. I have seen very few tires/flats covered under warranty. I have seen the dealer pay for repairs for brand new cars, or for really great customers, but it doesn’t happen that often.

Well, that pretty much round out the questions that I have. What do you guys think of this format? Is this something you would like me to do again? Feel free to post in the comment section and tell me what you think. If you have a question you want me to answer, you can Contact Me, or email me at Charles (at) hollerhomestead.com

Also, you might have noticed that the header is different. Does it blend with the back round too much, or is it good? One last thing, I added an archive section on the right side of the page. You can go back and check out some of my earlier posts. Some are really bad, so its funny to read.


Hey everyone!

I hope you are all enjoying a nice Saturday. It’s warm and raining here. As you know, I have been on vacation from work this past week. I just wanted to give you a little recap of my week off…In no particular order.

On Wednesday, I was featured on a really cool automation blog. Matt over at CashDollar.biz and I talk about car technology. We get a little more techie than I normally do here, but I think it turned out pretty great. Swing by and check it out.

I hope everyone got to see yesterdays video post. It is just a quick video showing you How to check and replace a fuse. I did that video after a conversation with a customer, who had no idea how to replace a fuse. Remember, we all start somewhere.

Article Mention
An article I wrote a while back was mentioned on a preparedness site called Prepsted.com. Shawn wrote a really post about vehicle maintenance, and brief How-to on changing oil. Head over and check out Shawn’s site. He has TONS of great information on homesteading, and some around the house tips.

Around my house
Since our travel plans were cancelled, I used the time off to work around the house. My big accomplishment was getting a blueberry patch started and finished. I know its not cars stuff, but just something else I am into.

I love the weeks where I can get 5 good posts done. I also had some time to work on another site. It is not fully up and running yet, but as soon as it is, I will let you guys know.

I will be back in the shop next week. I am looking forward to getting back to wrenching, but I have enjoyed the hell out of being off work. Not to mention the fact that I will be catching up for about 2 weeks. 😉

I hope everyone has a great weekend!


Ok, to some of you this might be a really simple thing. Lets remember that at some point ALL of us had to learn this.

I shot this video after a conversation with a customer. Like I said in the video, a customer brought her car in because the 12v outlet was not working. This is actually something that happens a lot. I replaced the fuse and pulled the car around. I put a couple of extra fuses in her ashtray so that if this happened again, she could just replace it, and save a trip in to the dealer.

When I showed her the fuse that needed to be replaced, she looked at me like I was stupid(a look I know very well) 😉 Well I showed her exactly how to replace the fuse. It really hit me and made me fell like an ass. I mean, its just fuse right. Well, there was a time when I had no idea what that meant. So here is how you check a fuse with a test light. This is not the only way to check fuses, but it is one the of fastest, and I think, the easiest.

Oh, that is not the test light I use at work. I have that for use at the house.I also recommend keeping a few extra fuses in your car just in case.

Hey, if you have not checked out Pinterest, it is a pretty cool site. It has replaced my bookmarking on my computer. If you need an invite, let me know, I will hook it up! I hope you guys have an awesome weekend! I will be fighting my allergies all weekend!