Volkswagen water damage

We all know that drinking and driving is bad.  More important than anything, its dangerous.  The number of anti drinking and driving ads should tell the story.

Your probably wondering why a mechanic would be writing a blog post about drinking and driving.  I do not work in a body shop. I am not a paramedic, police officer, or any type of first responder.  I can’t say anything about that side of DUIs.

The side that I see is purely related to vehicle electrics. One of the “punishments” of a DUI is having a starter lockout device installed. Most of us call this a breathalyzer. Basically, it prevents the starter from turning until someone blows into it.

The person that gets the DUI has to pay for this device to be installed, they have to pay monitoring costs, and they have to pay to have it removed. Check out some of the cost of DUIs.Here is where I come in.  It seems that the guys, or gals, that install these devises, do not know much about modern cars.  I have ran into 2 that they have messed up.

The first time I encountered a breathalyzer issue was on a GTI. The girl had the thing installed, then the check engine light came on, and the car would not run. After some initial diagnosis, I found an injector wire that was soldered. Now the actucal WIRE repair was fine, but soldering on modern cars is a big time NO-NO.  It turned out that they fried the engine computer.  This type of repair runs about $1500.  Thankfully for her, the company that installed it, paid for the repair.  Plus note, she is now a great customer of mine!

The latest fun with a breathalyzer is actually still going on.  I am not sure how long this guy has had the breathalyzer in his Touareg, but my guess is about a year. His Touareg has had a number of issues over the years.  I mean, the 2004 Touareg had its problems all on its own. This time the car got towed in because it would not start. I spent some time with it and found that the ECM(engine control module) was not being controlled properly. I jumped the power relay (which controls power and ground ironically enough) and drove the car in the shop.

I must have spent about another hour testing different systems. I narrowed it down to the ECM. We told the customer that we would start with replacing the ECM,and go from there. He purchased an ECM from a junk yard. Thats not really something I want to install, but its what the customer wanted so I used it.

After installing the ECM, the car started right up. “GREAT, I fixed it”, thats probably what I said, and I probably said it out loud, because I tend to do that. I put the covers back on with the car running and cleaning the car up. When I shut the car off, the cooling fans stayed on. If I had the Touareg running for an hour, that would not have been a problem. I only had it running for a few minutes. Not knowing if the issue was the used ECM, or something else, I was basically back to square one.

I spend about 2 more hours searching wiring diagrams, and tracing circuits. It turns out the relay that I had an issue with initially, was still the problem. Now the problem was the relay would not release(before it would not activate). So after banging my head against the wall, I decided to pull up the relay plate and just “take a look”. As any tech with a few years under their belt will tell you, “sometimes you just got to dive in and take a look”.

What I found was SEVERAL main power wires that were under water. Even if you are not a car person, you know that electricity and water do not mix. I have repaired tons of wiring harnesses due to water damage. This one is the first Touareg that I have seen it happen to.  I guess when the company installed the breathalyzer device, they did not secure the cover properly. The box is right under the windshield wipers, so water was bound to get in.

The scary part about these harnesses, is VW is not really that clear on where they go. It could just be the connectors under the hood, it could be ALL the wires from the headlights to the taillights.  The only way to know for sure is to order one and see. Most of the body harnesses cost $2000-$4500 for the part, and probably about the same for labor.

The crazy thing is, the car is just in a holding pattern. The customer is fighting with the company that installed the breathalyzer to make them pay for the damage. They say they are not responsible for ANYTHING. To the customer point, they are the one that messed his car up. On the company’s side, if he would have never got a DUI, it would have never been a problem.

I am not really sure what will happen with this repair. I will write a new post as soon as I get an update.  Be sure to subscribe for all the updates!

4 replies
  1. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Oh man, those pictures are great. Very sad situation, but you’re right – if the guy hadn’t gotten the DUI this never would’ve been a problem.

    Reply
    • Humble Mechanic
      Humble Mechanic says:

      I would much worse for the guy, IF he didn’t have a history of being a really difficult customer. I will say that he has been pretty understanding and nice with us. I am pretty sure that he has been less than forgiving to the other company.

      I wish I would have started doing this blog years ago. I would have hundreds of water leak damage pictures.

      Thanks for reading Daniel

      Reply
  2. Ken
    Ken says:

    Hi Charles,
    thanks for the post.
    Can you explain why soldering in a car “is such a NO-NO”.
    Is this throughout the harness or just on the wires carrying signals to the computer/modules?
    Those thin wires can be a pita to crimp.
    Thanks and love the site.
    Ken

    Reply

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  1. […] has been a long time since I posted a VW water leak picture. The last one was a Touareg water leak. That is actually a good thing. Water leaks can be one of the most awful things to deal with, both […]

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