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

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

Next week my dealership will be adding a “Quick Lube” team. The team will actually be called our Service Express team. The idea behind the Service Express team will be to provide another option for customers to get their cars serviced.

The way my dealership works now is, 90% by appointment. Basically, you would call and talk to a service advisor, schedule a time and date to bring your car in for whatever it needs. They do leave some open times for a limited amount of walk-ins, or emergencies.

The Service Express team will be another option. Customers will be able to walk-in and get an oil change, a bulb replaced, or wipers changed. They will be a dedicated team that will ONLY do that type of stuff. The team will have 2 service advisors, and 4 or 5 mechanics(not sure if that is what they will be called but they work on cars, so I am cool with it).  VW has a full training program for this team. They will have a strict routine to follow to be sure every car is done the right way in around 30 minutes.

I think it will be a good thing overall for our customers. It will give a lot more flexibility for customers to get their cars serviced. It will also help us compete with the Jiffy Service type places. Our prices are better, now the service can be more convenient.

The talk around the shop however is on the negative side. When you tell mechanics that the dealer is adding more people, most see only 1 thing. They see work being taken from them and given to someone else. Our pay plan is similar to a commission based plan(post about that coming soon). So more mechanics means the work is spread out between more guys. To be honest, they are right. Even doing an oil change pays more that not doing anything.

My thinking is slightly different. It is not that I breathe the “corporate air” that comes along with programs like this, it is more about the bigger picture. The advisors have a habit of not taking walk-in customers(side note, there is not many things that piss me off more than that). Any work that the Service Express team sells, other than bulbs ect, will be divided out to the shop. More cars in the shop will equal more work for everyone. I also think the advisors will not want to give work up to the Service Express team. They will find a way to help customers that they “could not” find before.

If the quality of their work is as good as ours, I think it will be a great thing. What do you guys think?

  • Does having a “Quick Lube” style option work better for you?
  • Would you feel like the service would not be as good as a certified VW mechanic?
  • Do you think the price should be the same VW mechanic VS non VW mechanic?

Post your thoughts in the comments, I am really curious to see what everyone thinks

WARNING!-There is a fair chance that this post will offend someone. It is not directed at anyone in particular, it is just my opinion. I do not mean to sound arrogant or better than anyone, so if I come across that way, well it is what it is!

I fan on the facebook page sent me this today:

“I was at a yard sale, and found an old high school auto shop text book, written in 1969. I took it home for one dollar. I was looking at the chapter on tune ups, and there was this: “Good work habits are important. The top mechanic arrives at work ON TIME and is absent only for GOOD REASONS. If he MUST be absent, he will notify his employer so that customer commitments and work loads may be adjusted. He is invariably a hard worker and during any periods in which he may not have a work assignment, he will busy himself in some way- cleaning tools, helping a fellow mechanic, etc. He takes pride in his work and pride in the business. He knows that by helping the business to prosper, he too will prosper. He gladly shares his knowledge with apprentice mechanics, and conducts himself, at all times, in a way that brings credit to the trade.” OK, that’s the longest post I’ve made yet on FB, but I thought it worthwile.”~~~~Thanks so much for sending this to me John!

What a brillent statement.  I read through it once, and thought, “That really decribes how I work”. I do much of what the article describes.

After reading through it a second time, I started to think how sad it is that this is NOT the norm. The fact is a worker the article talks about it now an “OLD SCHOOL” type worker.

In my last performance evaluation, my boss said to me, “You really have an old school work ethic”. On the surface, that could seem like a good or bad thing.  Knowing my boss really well, and knowing what he meant, I took it as a good thing. It does however have a negative connotation as well.

When I hear the term “Old School Work ethic”, I consider it a compliment. I think of people from my grandparents generation that worked hard, and made great lives for themselves and their kids.  The DID understand that (in general) what was good for the company is good for them. If the boss asked them to do something (with in reason) it got done, and they took pride in the work they did.  Back then, EARNING a paycheck was what it was all about. That generation earned what they had and were proud of it!

Today things are quite  different. The norm is not work hard and earn your pay check.  Now it seems that most people want to know what the company is going to do for them. If your boss asks you to do something, and you do it, you are a kiss ass.  It never ceases to amaze me that doing what you are paid to do now makes you a “company man or woman”.  They say that like it is a bad thing.  I am a company man. When my company makes money, I make money.  Its really that simple.

I do not want to belittle the average worker.  I have learned over the years that everyone works different. I use to get very frustrated because coworkers were not like me. I try to take it in stride, but it can be really difficult when your hard work is, basically, shunned by your peers.

I have no plans to change the way I work.  There are mechanics in my shop that are far better mechanically, that know more than me, that remember more than me, and can work at a faster pace.  The advantage I have is, I will out work most all of them. This work ethic has served me well in  my career, and I will NOT change.  I can learn new skills, adapt to changes in the industry, but I will NEVER let my work ethic slip!!

Metal chucks in a vw transmission problems

So I really wanted to write a nice blog about cars tonight. My head, however is just not into it. Its been a really challenging week.  Here is what went down.

The very first car of the week belongs to a good customer that has since become a great friend.  He called me and told me that he thought his clutch had went out in his 2003 Jetta.  I test drive the car and its making a crazy noise from the transmission.  I check it on the lift and confirm something in the transmission is not happy.  I drain the fluid and find chunks of metal. I quote up the rebuild parts, only to find its way cheaper to replace the whole thing.  I totally feel for the guy.  I think that started me bumming this week.

2 cars later, one of my sweetest customers came in with with her ABS (antilock brake system)  light on.  She drives a 99 Beetle.  This lady reminds me of my grandmother.  I pull her car in the shop, scan the codes, and find some bad news.  After some checking and testing some wires, it find that she needs a new ABS module to the tune of $2300.  I cant even explain how it makes me feel telling anyone that, but especially her..

Yesterday I spent about 4 hours dealing with a radio that would not work correctly.  A VERY long story short is that VW had updated the radio to one that looked like a radio from 2006, but the internal parts were new.  I found this out after 5 calls to VW, and of course the complete run around.   I am currently waiting to see if the 4th radio I get will work correctly.  This guy has a 2009 Jetta and cant use his Ipod.

Then today, I am pulling a car out of the shop right after lunch.  In the lot, a customer comes up to me and says

“Hi, are you the diesel guy?”.

I say “we don’t really have a diesel guy, we all kinda work on everything”.

“Oh, we talked a while back about me buying a TDI Touareg.”

I of course don’t remember right a way, but after chatting with him, we get on the same page.  He tells me whats going on with his 05 Beetle.  Based on what he tells me, I was pretty sure it needed a cam shaft.  I spend some time checking his car out, test driving it, running some computer diagnostics, and looking at scan tool data.  While I was still not 100% sure, I was about 85% sure that the car had some internal engine damage.  I bring him out to the shop and have another talk.  We decide that pulling the valve cover and looking inside the engine would be the next step.  I take the valve cover off, and find that the cam shaft has flat spots in it.  That’s a VERY bad thing.  He asks me what I think it will cost.  I tell him that I would bet its about $2200.  He tells me I am crazy, and that it couldn’t be more than $1200.  He was totally nice to me, I think he was floored that I thought it would be that much.  As luck would have it, I was off by $1200.  The estimate came to $3400 for a cam shaft and related parts and labor.  He is currently calling Volkswagen to see if they can offer him any help.

Oh, I also forgot that another really good customer turned friend was coming in.  I was paged up front, and there she was.  We chatted for a minute, and she could tell I had no idea why she was there.  I thought she just came by to hang out or something. (that does happen from time to time.  It usually makes my day so feel free).  It finally dawned on me that we had talked about her getting a state inspection done.

I know this post is full of bad news and me complaining, so for that I am sorry.  It just really bothers me when I tell people their car needs so much work.  It REALLY hits home when they come in and ask for me to be their guy.  It feels like I let them down somehow.

Thanks for reading, and I guess before you bring your car to me, see how the first car of the week went.  It could be a sign!