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VW Damage from a Rat

At some point in every car’s life, it will break. Whether it is a part failure, a workmanship issue or outside influence, we can all plan to see it at some point. Then there are the strange things we hear about. Things that you don’t really expect to happen.

This a Jetta that got attacked by a rodent of some kind. Okay, I am not 100% sure this was a rodent, but it was a creature that did this damage. Maybe a Bigfoot, or a Chupacabra 😉 I am sure this is something that mechanics in rural areas see more than I will. So when we see damage from animals, it is a big, and usually expensive deal.

VW Damage from a RatI am not really sure what made this critter was doing here. There was about 10 inches of chew marks. This is the heat shield attached to the bottom of the car. My guess is, this didn’t feel to great on his teeth.

VW Damage from a RatThis was the main reason the customer brought the car in. The critter chewed the wiring harness for the rear oxygen sensor. That caused the check engine light to come on. All 4 of the wires for the O2 sensor were chewed. The little bit that you see here was all he left.

The wires were chewed from the sensor to the connector. The only right way to make this repair is to replace the sensor and harness. The wires are molded into the case of the sensor. They technically could be repaired, but it may be an unreliable repair.

VW Damage from a RatHere are some more damaged wires. This a a vacuum pump for the brake system. These wires are not chewed all the way through, but will still need attention. If left alone, the wires will corrode and break. There are a few different ways we can go about repairing these wires.

  1. Cut the chewed sections out, and splice in new wires. That is not a bad way to make a repair. There will be 2 connection per wire if the repair is made this way. If the repair is done properly, it should hold up just fine.
  2. Replace the terminal and wiring. This would be the proper VW wiring repair. The damage is really close to the connector. That gives us the option to replace about 6 inches of wiring including the terminal in the connector. This is the best way to make the repair. It will only have 1 splice in the wire.
  3. Just tape over it. I would not recommend making the type of repair here. That is not a long term type repair. The strands of wire are jagged, and could pierce the tape. The heat level at this location can get really high. That can weaken the tape and cause moisture to get in the harness. Also remember this is outside the car AND on the bottom. When making a repair in this location we need to consider road debris, road temperatures, and water all affecting the repair.

VW Damage from a Rat

This is another shot of the damaged wires above. The damaged section is about 3 inches. Dang that little critter.

What do you guys think? Have any of you seen stuff like this before? If so, please share your story in the comments below. I always like hearing this kind of stuff. I am sure that many of you have seen this type of thing before.

Okay, I have a few other things I need to tell you all about.

  • If any of you have damage from the hurricane, I hope you are okay. I have been obsessively watching the coverage on TV. The damage is crazy, and we have only just begun to see the full scope. Hang in there.
  • If you ever have an idea for a post, please let me know. I want to make sure that we are talking about the things you guys want to know. Some of the best topics come from you. Just contact me, or post your thoughts in the comments of a post.
  • If you are in the Raleigh NC area this weekend, PLEASE come to the DubsForACause. I will be there hanging out. I am also one of the official sponsors 🙂 It is free but please bring some canned goods to donate. I am sure that they will take cash too. Cool cars, great folks all for charity, what is not to love.
  • Somehow I missed that we passed 200 posts! not really sure how I missed it. This is actually number 205. With that I want to thank you all for being so awesome. I really appreciate the help and support you have all given me. It has been a lot of fun. I have also learned so much it is not even funny. I hope that the information here has help you out in some way.
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What Exactly Is A Master Certified VW Mechanic

You don't have to have 520 hours of training to know things about your car!

The average car driver is not a car expert. In fact, many drivers feel like they don’t know a thing about cars. That is just fine. But just because you are not a car expert, does not mean you don’t know anything about cars.

I have said before, there are a few keys to not getting ripped off, or taken when it comes to car repairs.

  • Asking questions
  • Being confident
  • Follow your owners book

Those are a few tips that will help you avoid getting ripped off. You can read more on How To Tell If Your Mechanic Is Ripping You Off.

The tip of being confident is what I want to talk about today. So you think that you don’t know anything about cars? Well, I would be that you know much more than you think. Let’s think about how much you DO know about cars.

Filters
Everyone knows what a filter is. It keeps junk out of stuff. We have them in our homes to filter the air for our heat and A/C. Or in our coffee pots to keep the grounds out of our drinks. Filters to the same thing for our cars.

  • Oil filters keep crude from clogging oil ports, or damaging bearings
  • Engine Air filters keep sand, and dirt from getting into airflow sensors and the air stream of the engine.
  • Cabin filters keep dust and and pollen out of the cabin of our cars.

Tires
You don’t have to understand the highly technical manufacturing process of making tires. Or truly understand how different tread patterns affect driving characteristics. All the average driver really needs to understand is the condition of their tires. Proper inflation, tread depth, and wear pattens are the keys to safe tires.

Wiper Blades
Much like other parts of a car, we don’t need to understand the technology or design of wipers. We just need to know that they clear our windshield. I also have some quick wiper blade tips.

  • Keep your windshield clean.
    It will help the blades from streaking or missing spots on the windshield.
  • Keep the blades clean.
    Cleaning the blades themselves can prolong the life of the blades. That being said, you can’t over replace the blades.

Vehicle Lights
As technology advances, the way light bulbs are lit. We went from very basic vehicle electronics to fully module controlled lighting systems. But your average driver does not need to understand all that. We only need to know when the lights are out. Well, the knowledge of how to replace a bulb is good to know too.

When we take things that sound complicated, or highly advanced, down to a basic level it makes them really easy to understand. When we understand the basics, we can have some confidence when dealing with an auto repair shop.

You don’t need to be intimidated when dealing with a service shop. You need to feel empowered, and confident. If you are not sure about a recommended repairs, ask, ask, ask. The more questions that you ask, the more you will know. The more you know, the better you can feel about making choices with your car.

If you are part of the great community on Facebook, I need some help. See Facebook changed the rules on the pages that you like. It makes it so you may not see all the posts that a page does. From time to time I post things to Facebook that does not make it on the blog. It is frustrating for me on the blog’s Facebook page and my personal page(which I don’t use much). If I want the entire audience to see a post, I need to pay for it. At some point, I will be willing to do that. For right now, that is not in the budget for the blog. So here is how to make sure you get all the updates.

To receive ALL of our posts, you must do the following:

1) Go to our page.
2) Hover your mouse over where it says “LIKED” and click on “Add to Interests Lists”

By doing this, you will continue to receive ALL of the posts

Thanks for helping me out with that. It makes me think I need to put more time in on G+. I have the page, I just don’t use it much.

Volkswagen electrical repairs

We talked yesterday about getting stuck as an auto mechanic. Like I said it happens to all of us. So today I thought I would share some auto mechanic secrets. 😉

Over the years I have seen some strange things. You can read just about any Shop Shots post to get an idea of some of that stuff. There have also been some really weird things that have fixed cars. These are all real. I could not make this stuff up. Trust me, I have tried.

Hard Reboot aka Battery VooDoo

Volkswagen electrical repairs

Thanks to a fellow VW tech for this pic

This is my go to repair. When ever I have a strange electrical issue I do this. It is basically a hard reboot of all the car’s computers. It is kind of like your computer at home. Sometimes it gets stuck in “stupid mode”. Or like my old TV. Sometimes the sound would not work. If I pulled the plug out of the back, then plugged it back in, it would work. That TV just died. HA

To perform the “battery voodoo” Disconnect both cables on the vehicles battery. Then touch them together. I generally leave them for about 5 minutes or so. This will reboot the entire car. It forces all the modules in the car to recheck themselves and talk to each other. There is probably a million different things that this has fixed. It is fun to watch new technicians faces when they learn this for the first time.

This is generally the first things that VW tech line tells us to do when we call them. One word of caution. If a car has to batteries, disconnect BOTH batteries, or make sure you don’t try and start the car. It turns out that a Phaeton will start with the convenience battery disconnected. It then sets the jumper wire on fire. 🙂 Oh, another word of caution, don’t put out car fires. Just let the car burn.

Soft Vehicle Reboot
While this does not fix as many issues as the battery voodoo, it does do some cool stuff. VW had a flash update a few years ago.Sometimes when the update finished, the MIL would be on. There would be no codes stored, or information given. The light would stay on until you locked and unlocked the car. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, but it worked.

There are 2 ways to soft reboot a car.

  1. Simply turning the ignition on and off. That is called a key cycle. That will make the car do a partial reboot. Plus many sensors need to see a key cycle before they come online
  2. The second way is really simple, but sounds tricky. All you have to do is get out of the car, and get back in. If you get out of the car, lock it, unlock it, and perform a key cycle, the car will do a full soft reboot.

From time to time we have issues with cars not communicating with our scan tools. The fix was a the full soft reboot (#2). The soft reboot is nice because it does not delete all the cars values like the battery voodoo. This is a good first step specifically for a customer.

Unplug The Problem Module
This one is pretty new to me. We had a guy in the shop going round and round and round with an issue on a 2001 or so Passat. He replaced what he thought was the issue. Double checked, then triple checked his work. He tried to do the battery voodoo and it didn’t work. Left with little choice, he called VW tech line. They told him to unplug the module for about an hour. Would you believe that fixed the issue?

It seems that some of the older cars get stuck in “stupid mode”. That was the first time I have ever seen that happen. I know that he felt great to get the car fixed, and even better knowing he didn’t mess up the car.

Recode The Module
Most, if not all, modules in cars have a coding. That is what tells the module what it is, and what features the car has. Recoding that module performs a hard reboot, but only on that module. The best example is the older Touaregs and Phaetons. When I would run into a strange electrical issue on either one of those cars, I would recode the “Gateway” module. That was like the main communication point for all the modules in the car. I would go into the module with the scan tool and recode it. I would not change the coding, but recode it to the same coding. The coding was 6, and I would just recode it to 6. That would force that “Gateway” to recheck the entire system. It worked like a charm.

On the newer cars, this is not such a great choice. Codes are now “long coded”. Instead of being a coding of 6, it is more like 015b05661a0000001b. Getting that coding wrong can be a disaster. I miscoded a convenience module on a 2007 Passat one time. Many things didn’t work, but when you opened the trunk, the gas door opened. When you opened the fuel door, nothing happened. I had to call VW and get the proper coding.

I have no doubt there are many other strange things that fix cars. Do you know any? Post them up in the comment section. I know I get a kick out of that type of thing. I am sure that everyone else will too.

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Snap on Auto Mechanic's wrench

I was out shopping some tool storage things last week. I have also been looking for a basic tool kit I can buy for the house. Now that I have the Cabriolet, I do a fair amount of wrenching at my house. I don’t want to spend a lot of money, but I don’t want to buy junk either

Today I want to give you guys some advise on buying tools in a kit, or building your own set.

Buying A Set

You can make a really good arguments on both sides. Cost, storage, and needs all play into making this choice.

Pros

  • The cost per tool is cheaper.
    You will almost always get more tools for the money when you buy a complete set.
  • Its easy
    It is a grab and go solution, gotta like that.
  • Tool storage
    A lot of tool sets come with some type of storage setup. Generally that makes them very organized and portable.
  • They all will match
    This is just something to feed my tool O.C.D. 😉
  • You may get some tools you never thought you would need
    That 1/2in 3/8 drive extension may come in handy. It is something I would not buy separate.
  • They make great gifts (hint hint) 😀

Cons

  • You will get tools you might not need
    The first tool set I bought was a Craftsman kit. I don’t remember how many pieces came in the set. I do remember that about 1/4 of the tools were Allen wrenches. I didn’t need 50 Allen wrenches.
  • Most sets are not complete
    I have found that many sets are missing tools. The set I was looking at last week had no 16mm sockets. If you work on VWs that is something you need.
  • There are so many choices
    I get really overwhelmed when shopping for kits. Do I pick the one with 99 pieces, or the one with 104 pieces? This is about the time I give up shopping.
  • The storage might not be what you want
    Just because a tool set comes with storage, doesn’t mean it is a good one. It might not fit the space you have. It may not be the way you want your tools set up.

Build Your Own

Just like buying a complete set, building your own customer set has pros and cons. Consider these when thinking about building your own kit.

Pros

  • You can get exactly what you want
    No need to pay for the tools you don’t need
  • You can buy a little at a time
    Kits from the big boy tool companies are REALLY expensive. You can buy them bit by bit instead of shelling out the cash all at once.

Cons

  • Most likely you will spend more money
  • You will have to find your own tool storage
    Tool storage can be very expensive
  • It takes time
    Piecing a tool set together yourself will take time. If you are not in a hurry, no big deal.
  • You might get a mismatched set.
    This can be good or bad. Good you can get better tools for a job. For me, I don’t like to have tools not match. Sorry just a little OCD 😉

So what should you do? Well, like all good questions the answer is “It depends”. If I were starting with no tools, a kit would be perfect! Once you have the basics, you can add on from there.

 

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Shop Shots Automotive serivce pictures

This is a swollen seal on a coolant flange, caused by an oil leak

We have talked before about repairs you can wait on. Things that are not safety items or are not vital systems are the most common. There are a few repairs that seem like they can wait. But may have consistencies to waiting. Let’s take an oil leak for example.

Let me set the scene for you. A customer brings their car in for a service. During that service the tech finds the car has an oil leak coming from the valve cover. The customer did not see any oil leaking onto the ground. The customer declines the repair. A month later, the customer has their car towed in because it is over heating. On further inspection the car has leaked all the coolant out. Now the car has an issue with the coolant leak.

So what in the world happened? Well, the oil leaking from the valve cover leaked on to the plastic coolant flange. The oil causes the rubber gasket to swell. That makes for a heck of a coolant leak. Now the car has a coolant flange that needs to be replaced, on top of that oil leak.

Times like this is when having a great service advisor and mechanic team are vital. They can fully evaluate the leak. Mechanics can not predict the future. What we can do is tell what might happen if a repair is not made. Valve cover gaskets leaking on the coolant flanges is a really common example.

If you are not seeing oil leaking on the ground, or smelling oil burning doesn’t mean oil leaks are not serious. That is one of those repairs that can cost a lot more if put off too long.

Volkswagen Reliability

Happy Monday everyone. I hope that you enjoyed the first week of the NFL season. If you are not much of a football fan, I still hope you had a great weekend.

Today I want to answer a question that I get all the time. This question comes from a lot of people. But the first person that ever asked me this was my wife.

After you take something apart, how in the world do you remember how it goes back together?

Well, like all great questions, the answer is “It depends”. There no 1 sure fire way that mechanics remember how to put a car back together. We are all different, and the things that I do might not work for someone (or anyone 🙂 ) else.

Start Smart
It all starts with taking things apart in a smart way. For me, that means I take my time. Each part that comes out, gets placed in order.I usually place my parts right to left. I also keep the bolts with the part. For example, when I take off an engine pulley, I keep the bolts in the pulley. That way I don’t have to worry about getting bolts switched around.

Good Labeling
The first time I did a cylinder head gasket I labeled every part. I used masking tape to mark where every part went. Every hose, every connector got a little strip of masking tape so I knew where they went. Well as you might expect, the boys in the shop spent a few days busting my chops about it.

Now that I have some years under my belt, I would probably joke around with a new guy about that too. All kidding aside, that is a great way to make sure things get put back where they belong.

Take A Picture, It Will Last Longer
This is something that is a fairly new idea. When I started working for VW no one had a camera phone. Now, I know some old timers are saying “They didn’t even have cell phones when I started working on cars”. That goes to show how technology as advanced in the last few years. Now I can snap a crystal clear picture of something before I start. That is something not even a factory repair manual can provide.

Volkswagen Reliability

This is a great example of taking things apart in groups

Removing Parts Together.
The easiest way to remember how to put something back together is, not taking it apart. So what do I mean?If you are removing an assembly, that has parts attached, leave the parts attached. If I am replacing a front brake rotor, I will just undo the caliper and leave the brake assembled. This feeds into my “do as little as possible” mindset.

Those are some of the things I do to make putting things back together go a little smoother. Okay, I am gonna let you all in on a couple of little mechanic secretes. There are a few cheats that we have that most people don’t know about. These also help mechanics put things back together

  • Most electrical connectors are different. This will help mechanics from getting connectors switched around. Warning~this is not 100% of the time.
  • Things want to go back together right. This is especially the case with wiring harnesses. When a harness sits in the same place for years it develops a memory. That makes it really easy to install it in the proper place
  • Manufacturers are consistent. VW tends to use a few different versions of fasteners. Even though there are a million bolts in a car, there might only be 50 different ones. From there, you can generally tell what it does by the size of the bolt. A bolt that holds the suspension, will be different than the bolt that holds the radio in.
  • We forget sometimes. There are times were I just forget where something goes, or how it goes. When that happens I have the luxury of a lot full of Volkswagens. Yep, there are times when the only way to get it done is to check another car. This is where I totally feel for the mechanics in the aftermarket, they don’t have that advantage.

Well, I hope that answers the question for all of you. We all have our own little tricks to remember things. It takes a long time to hone that skill. But if you are a DIYer just make sure you keep everything neat, take a lot of pictures and label everything!

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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!