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I know that I have mentioned before, I try and spend time reading people’s posts in forums. I want to get the unfiltered opinion of how customers feel about their car. Sadly it almost always focuses on broken cars. I am actually fine with that. I get to hear about issues that I might otherwise not hear about.

There does come a point where I get really frustrated. It generally comes from statements like

My car is broken and it is only a year out of warranty.Then VW only offered me $1000 extra for a trade in.

Now, let’s break down that statement a little bit.

  • My car is broken
    Yes, all cars will break at some point
  • It is ONLY a year out of warranty
    Fact, it is out of warranty
  • VW offered me $1000 extra
    The manufacturer is offering to help

Let’s take just about any other product and see what you would get a year out of warranty.  A few years ago, the A/C in my house went out. It was just 4 months after the warranty went out. They told me that They would send someone out to give me a quote. They also said because I was out of warranty there was nothing that they could do. Believe me I pushed the issue as much as possible.  That repair set me back about $2500. Try holding out on fixing your home A/C in the middle of July. That ain’t happening. Would you be happy about making that repair? My guess is no(I was not).

So what is the point? There is a term called Mean Time Between Repairs. That basically means that failures are very predictable. In a machine with thousands of moving parts and millions of circuits running everything from safety systems to interior lighting, is it a shock that things will fail?

Then there is also the old saying “Never buy the first year of a model”. I am sure if you asked anyone that owned a 2004 VW Touareg this would totally agree. That is actually how my wife and I got our first dog. The customer had a 2003 Beetle Convertible. She works in dog rescue and was in the shop all the time with her Beetle. She was fostering a beautiful little brown dog named Brighton. Now that little girl is my FooDog.

Fast forward to the 2012 Beetle. VW is having issues with the windows. They are hitting pinch protection and not closing properly. It is a completely frustrating thing for customers. Having to screw around with the buttons until the window closes properly.

My overall point is this. Your car will break! It is that plain and simple. It might break under warranty. It might break 2 days out of warranty. If it is a reasonably time after the warranty, the manufacturer should help you out. But at some point your warranty will end. As much as it stinks, it will happen. Even if your warranty was 150,000 miles. At some point you will have a repair to make. The only thing we can do is prepare for it, and bite the bullet when it comes.

Oh, one last thing. Don’t think that I am saying manufacturers don’t have their part to play.


Shop Shots Auto mechanic pictures

Hi folks, it’s Wednesday so that means you get some Shop Shots today! These pictures come to you from behind the scenes of a Volkswagen dealership’s service department. This is some of the things that auto mechanics see.

Shop Shots Auto mechanic picturesThere is actually a lot going on in this picture. This is a 1999 VW Passat. The car came in for an issue with the ABS module. I hopped in the car and seen this. The door panel was missing. This is not something I was overly concerned about. The customer didn’t mention anything about it. If you look where the glass meets the door, you can see two wedges. That is what is holding the window up.

I am sure that the regulator had failed. The funny thing is, the left rear window was the same way. This poor Passat was just about at the end of it’s life. Oh, and it smelled awful.

Shop Shots Auto mechanic picturesOUCH! What you are looking at here is the oil pan for the transmission. This customer ran something over. What ever they hit punched a very strange hole in the transmission pan. Generally when a transmission have this type of damage the underside of the car has multiple impact points. This one didn’t. It was just this damage.

If you look inside the pan you can see some of the valves in the valvebody. Those are the valves that control the transmission fluid and make the transmission work. As you can imagine, this caused a pretty severe leak. The transmission actually had to be replaced. Thank goodness for car insurance.

Shop Shots Auto mechanic picturesI was getting out of a car last week. As I went to shut the door, this little guy caught my eye. I had to take a second look. Then I had to pick him up and see if it was in fact Jim McMahon. I am sure I have told you guys that I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I have been a Bears fan my whole life. I still remember the 1985 team and the Super Bowl Shuffle. Granted I was 5 but I still remember it.

What the heck is a customer doing with a Jim McMahon figure in the door panel of their car? You just can’t make this stuff up.

Well, that does it for another week of Shop Shots! I am back in the shop today after having a few days off. Next week I will be traveling for VW training. I will be going to class for the Jetta Hybrid. I am really looking forward to the class. I really think hybrid tech is cool. I can totally foresee many of the things on hybrids being standard equipment on nonhybrid cars in the near future.

Do you dig this blog? What to help spread the word and grow our community? There are so many really easy ways to do it. Share it on Facebook, tweet it out on twitter, and for shop shots, feel free to pin it to one of your board on Pinterest. I am pretty sure if you do that your car will get better gas mileage. (okay, probably not, but that would be really awesome!)

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This question comes up a lot.

How do I know when to get my car fixed, or just get another car?

Thankfully the question comes up much more than the situation. There comes a time when a car reaches the end of it’s reliable life. That means the car costs more to keep on the road than it is worth. Or it will cost about the same as a new/newer car.

So how do you know when it is time? Well, if your car is 15 years old and needs $7000 worth of work, I would say that would be a no brainer. Usually it is not that cut and dry.

I had a really great customer bring her car in for a major service. The service was about $550. As I took a look at her car, I found a few other things that would need attention soon. None of the times themselves were a big deal. The sum off all the things that were needed, was about $2000. Not including a transmission that was starting to shift funny.

Having a $2000 bill on a car is nothing to sneeze at. I had an honest conversation with the customer. I told her that it was not a good idea to make the repair. We also decided that doing the tune up was not a great idea at that time.

I told her that it might be time to trade her Jetta in for another car. She did just that. She traded her 2002 Jetta in for a 2011 Jetta. In a total stroke of luck, her old Jetta needed to have the catalytic converter replaced a few months later. That would have set her back another $1500.

I got pretty lucky on that one. So how did I know it was time? Well, I didn’t really know. It was just a matter of repair costs. Spending about $3000 on a 10 year old car is not that bad. It is not bad if those repairs will keep that car running great.

If you are ever faced with this situation, here are some tips you can use to make that really tough decision.

  • What is the overall shape of your car?
    If your car is a big pile of junk, it may be time to cut your losses. If your car is in good shape, but needs some repairs, making the repair can be a good idea.
  • How many repairs have you made in the last year?
    If you have done a bunch of repairs in the past year, keeping the car and making another repair can be a good choice. If you spent $3000 in the last year or so, another $100 repair is a smart move.
  • Are you making repairs to limp the car along, or are you making all the repairs
    If the repairs will totally fix all the issues on the car the repair might be a good choice. If you need to spend $2000 to just limp the car for another month, that would be a bad move.
  • How many months of car payments will the repair cost equal
    A $5000 repair is 20 months of $250 a month. Just something to consider.

As you can see there is not a clear cut answer most of the time. I will say that there are a few repairs that are deal breakers for me. Things like

  • Replacing engines
  • Replacing/ rebuilding transmissions
  • Major electrical issues. Most electric modules are expensive $600

This is just another example of why everyone needs a mechanic they can trust!


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I have mentioned before about getting an second opinion on car repair needs. I stand behind that advice for sure. There are times where taking your car multiple places is a bad idea regardless of cost. There are also times where saving a couple of dollars is not worth the time and trouble.

A customer brought their car in for my dealer to diagnose the MIL. One of the team leaders in the shop diagnosed the MIL as a failed control solenoid. The customer declined the repair. A few days later she brought the car back. She was mad at us because we “misdiagnosed” her car. The tech that first looked at the car took another look at it. He found the solenoid he recommended never got replaced.

It turns out the customer took the car to another mechanic. The mechanic replaced the wrong solenoid. We told her she still needed to have the solenoid replaced. She blamed us for the mistake. I am not sure where the lapse was. We told her the name of the part, gave her a print out of the fault, and even gave her the part number. To me, that seems pretty cut and dry.

That customer declined the repair again. Since a few weeks had gone by, we assumed that she had gotten her car fixed. Well the dealer received a letter from the customer. She informed us that the solenoid didn’t fix her car. She took it to an Audi tech and he fixed it for $5. In her letter she explained how we cost her over $700 that she didn’t need to spend. Of course she wants her money back for the diagnostic fee.

This puts everyone in a really tough situation.

  • The initial repair shop
    It puts the initial shop in a strange spot. If the initial shop makes the repair, and it doesn’t fix the car, they have a chance to test the repair. If the they didn’t get it 100% right, or there is another issue, they have a chance to make it right.
  • The shop making the repair
    When a customer comes in and says, “I need this part replaced” I get nervous. I usually don’t know the back story behind the repair. Generally I get something like. “The guys at AutoZone said it was bad”. I am not a big fan of getting put in that situation.
  • The Customer
    Odds are the customer still spend more money doing this. Plus the time and gas to take their car to multiple shops. The goal of saving a few bucks is generally goes right out the window. It seems to leave customers feeling taken advantage.

This is just another reason to make sure you find a mechanic, and stick with them. Even if your mechanic gets it wrong, they have a chance to make it right. Just remember that spending a bunch of time, and effort to save a few bucks is rarely worth it. I have learned that lesson so many times it is not even funny!

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This story comes from deep with in the Humble Mechanic customer service files. Okay this is actually something that happened yesterday. 😉

From time to time I like to share with you guys a story about doing the right thing. Service departments get a bad rep so when something good happens, I feel like I need to scream it.  I need you guys to understand a couple things about these type of stories.

  1. I am in no way bragging. Do not take this as a “look what I did” type of post.
  2. I want you all to take something away from this. I hope you will use this to do something good for one of your customers.

I had looked at a customer’s air conditioning system about a month ago. When I looked at it the first time, I found the a/c compressor was failing. Her car is a 2007 GTI with the 2.0t FSI. The compressor on those cars are a common failure point. I was able to get the a/c working better, but he system was failing. The estimate that I gave was about $1500 or so. The repair involved replacing several components and cleaning all the lines. As you might imagine, the customer declined the repair. $1500 is not pocket change. Plus the a/c was working much better, so she decided to hold off.

Fast Forward to yesterday. The customer had made an appointment to get her a/c replaced. She came in and we chatted a little. It turns out, her a/c has been working great! Her and I went over the pros and cons of making the repair vs not making the repair. I explained to her how not making the repair was really up to her. If she did wait, it would not cost her any more money. The parts were already failing. The repair I quoted would fix the car no matter how bad the a/c failed.

She again opted to wait on the repair. Now, here is what that cost me. It cost me about 2/3 of the day’s pay. Talk about a bummer for me. It was the big job that I had planned to do that day. The good part is, I was able to make the time up with other work.

Here is the real reason I am telling you all this story. I earned something with this customer that is far beyond the 7 hours pay. That is 100% trust. Think about it. I just told a customer she didn’t need a repair. What mechanic, or anyone in a service business does that? Someone who really gives a crap about their customers and their good name. It shows my customers that no matter what I will do right by them. That my friends is what it is ALL about!

If you are not doing right by your customer you are WRONG! I like to use these 2 little sayings from Gary Vaynerchuk  “It is about legacy, not currency” and “It is about running a marathon, not a sprint”. It is hard to argue with that!

I hope you guys can get a little something out of this post.The customer service part of my job is something that I take very seriously. I hope that all of you do too.

If you liked this post, please consider sharing it. It takes just a second to click one of the buttons below. See, wasn’t that easy? 😉

Shop Shots auto mechanic pictures

Hi everyone! It’s Wednesday, so that means I am taking you inside an auto shop with Shop Shots! These pictures come from the shop that I work in . The pictures might not be cars that I am working on, but they are all real. Let’s do this!

Shop Shots auto mechanic picturesFrom time to time I find something gross. This is one of those times. This is a car that the guy next to me was working on. I walked over to check on what he was doing. I noticed a fair amount of oil under the intake manifold. The crank vent pipes tend to break on the 1.8t engines. I grabbed my flashlight to get a better look.

I happen to notice this little dead mouse. It looks like he was there for a while. The guy working on the car freaked out a little. It was kinda funny. Usually I am the one to get freaked out by stuff like this. I guess since I don’t have to work on that car, it was not as big of a deal. Poor little guy.

Shop Shots auto mechanic picturesOn a much less disgusting note, nothing died in this picture. This is the guts of a fuse panel. The customer brought her car in with some lighting issues. I found a fuse that was melted. It is something that I have seen a few times before. Thankfully, I had seen it before. This issue kicked another techs butt. I had the benefit of remembering his struggles, so I didn’t have to.

I wanted to see if there was an identifiable issue with the fuse block. I found the damage, but no culprit. I expected to see evidence of water intrusion. Not so much. Still I like to see what is going on inside the magic boxes. 😉

Shop Shots auto mechanic picturesThis is a shot I took of a screen in Guided Fault Finding(GFF). GFF is part of VW’s scan tool software. There are times when a really funny screen pops up, and this seems to be one of them. Please allow me to clarify what this is saying.

  • If the customer complains about this issue, treat it like it is a problem.
  • If there is a TSB or other repair information, follow what that says to do
  • If the first two things do not apply, don’t worry about it. There is nothing wrong

I love finding gems like this! HA

This falls under the “you gotta do what you gotta do” category. I actually borrowed this picture from my buddy on Twitter Jeremy. All I can say is Vise grips saved the day! I hope this is a temporary fix. If not they are asking for trouble, but it is still really dang funny!

Well that wraps up another week of Shop Shots. If you have any pictures that you want to submit for shop shots, just contact me! Also if you want to show case your car drop me a line! Oh, I hope that I didn’t gross everyone out too much with the dead mouse. 😉

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Back when I was in automotive tech school, I had a vision of what being an auto mechanic would be. When I got into the “real world” of being a mechanic, I found things to be very different. Not in a bad way, but different.

I can remember thinking this job would be all fun and working on awesome cars. Fixing cars like clockwork, and never wondering if the repair would be right. I never even thought that a car would come back not fixed properly, or that I would accidentally break something on a customers car.

Here are some of the things I never expected to be, as an auto mechanic.

Life Counselor

I was talking with my boss the other day. He really put the life counselor part of the job into prospective. We are working with the second most expensive thing that most people will ever buy. It is not uncommon to see repair bills over $1000. If you are not rich, or crazy spending that type of money is not a light choice to make.

Now consider there are times when a car is not worth fixing. I have had to help several folks make the tough choice to sell or trade their car and buy a new one. That is not something anyone should take lightly. Like I said, it’s the second biggest purchase most folks will ever make.

Then there are the times where a mechanic has be give the confidence back to the customer. If you have ever been stranded because of a car breaking down, you know what I mean. You loose confidence in your car. You think that piece of junk is just a piece of junk. Even if it is a small repair, it can happen. Part of my job is to help customer through that and love their car again!


This came as less of a surprise, but I didn’t expect it to be all the time. I have talked about how I training newer techs before. What I mean here is teaching other people how are not techs, about cars. I get to teach customers about their cars. I get to teach the service advisors about very technical things, even if they are not technical. They are usually the ones that have to explain issues and repairs to customers. So if the advisor doesn’t understand, how could a customer? Then there are sales people. Ugh, I will leave that out. Actually, I am just messing with them. I enjoy most of the sales folks we have. Plus, I sold cars before so I understand them better than most. I just enjoy giving them a hard time. 😉

A Master Guesser

In training, be it tech school or continued, a tech tought to fix cars. They tell you that you will always be able to identify problems, and find the solutions. You are lead to believe that you will always have a “smoking gun”.

I can tell you this is not the case. Yes many times you find a problem and can be 100% sure that it is the right repair. There are many more times where you have to rely on what you have seen in the past. Then there are times when you have no other choice, than to roll the dice.

I never expected that. I thought mechanics always knew exactly what the problem was. It is kinda like a doctor practicing medicine.

I would say that those are the big three on my mind right now. There are some little things that I can think of that were very different.

  • I never expected my pay to be so controlled by someone else, that is not the customer. All the hours funnel through the service advisor.
  • I never expected that tools were so expensive. I use to think that Craftsman was outrageously priced. HA, I love buying Craftsman now.
  • I never expected to have so much customer interaction. It is definitely a fun part of my job.
  • I never expected the ups and downs with work. I thought is would be a steady stream of cars. Truth is, sometimes your are slam busy, and sometimes you are just hanging out.
  • I never expected the amount of continued training. I am not sure why, I should have seen that one coming. It is much more than a couple of classes every year.
  • I never expected the amount of information car companies send out. It feels like there is a new TSB, or tech tip, or recall every day. It is the thing I struggle with the most in my job.
  • I never expected to need a 2nd elbow. There are some of these dang bolts that are really hard to get to and a second elbow would really help. That and magnetic finger tips that I would control the magnets with my mind. That would be cool!

Well, I hope you all enjoyed the post today. I have enjoyed looking back over the years of working on cars. Seeing the way the industry works vs the way I thought it would work. I hope that I didn’t scare you guys that are in tech school right now 😉 This industry can be awesome, once you learn it!

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