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Driving Bart Simpson

Hey everyone. I hope that you are all having a great week so far. I am back in the shop today. Last weekend was my long weekend off. Ah the beauty of a 4 day work week. Okay, let’s get these pictures rolling. One more thing, I emailed the winner of the tray again. If I don’t hear from them by the end of the day, I will pic another winner.

Blown up Turbocharger TDIThis nasty mess is the outlet side of a failed TDI turbocharger. Normally this would be nice and shiny looking If you look close you can see he blades of the turbine. They are caked with oil sludge and carbon build up. I am not really sure what caused this to happen, or how long the customer had been driving the car like this. When it came into the shop, it was smoking like crazy.

The shaft that connects the compressor wheel and the turbine wheel broke. The turbine wheel is what you are looking at here. It is completely seized. We tried moving it with a hammer and it would not budge. The fix for this issue, anew turbocharger.

Driving Bart SimpsonYou may or may not know this, but I am a pretty big fan of The Simpsons. So when I seen this I had to snap a picture of it. This was a 4ft tall stuffed Bart Simpson. So big in fact that it would not fit in the trunk of this New Jetta. I have no idea where the customer got it, or why they still had it, but I think it’s pretty cool. If it were next week I would assume they won it at the State Fair. We may never know the truth. I just like seeing fun stuff like this.

Failed Chains on VW VR6I posted this to Facebook earlier today, but I wanted to tell more of the story here. This is the carnage of a VR6 engine. The bolt for the oil pump backed out of the pump. This caused the crankshaft to turn, but the cam shafts to stay still. This is equivalent to a timing belt breaking. The end result is 18 bent valves, a whole lot of gaskets and seals, and about 20+ hours of labor.

I have heard these make noise before. It get really loud long before engine damage occurs. Generally the MIL comes on too. I am not sure the exact circumstance with this one. I guess it doesn’t really matter, the damage is done.

Last up is a video I shot last week. Unlike the picture above, this shows a really lucky customer. One of the guys I work with called me over to check out a timing belt on a V8 Touareg. The belt was so loose that I could have taken it right off. I am not sure how the belt was even on the engine. It looked as if the tensioner failed. Seriously, this is one lucky customer.

Well that wraps up another Shop Shots. Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. It is really easy, just click one of the little icons to the right, or to the left if you are reading upside down.

Today we are going to talk about a bit of a sensitive topic.

Should a repair shop be able to keep your car if it is unsafe?

Let me set the stage. A customer brings their car into the shop. The mechanic takes it on a short test drive, and finds the brakes barely work. After inspecting the car, the mechanic finds that the brakes are leaking fluid. This prevents the brakes from engaging. It is only a matter of a few miles before the car will loose all braking.

As you might guess, this is a very serious situation. I don’t think that I need to go into detail about how not having brakes is a bad thing. Not only does it endanger the driver, but all the other drivers on the road. Now the words that scare everyone come out of the customer’s mouth “I am not going to fix the car”.

Okay, we have established the fact the car is 100% unsafe. We also know that the customer is not fixing the car. What happens next?

The Shop Attempts to Keep The Car
What were to happen if a service station attempted to keep a car. I don’t think it would take very long for the situation to escalate. I am sure that law enforcement would get involved. Laws do very from state to state, but I could not find any state that said a service shop could keep a customer from there car. In fact I seemed to find the opposite. Shops can not get in the way of a customer taking their property. It is really that simple.

The Customer Takes The Unsafe Car
This is a very serious situation. Best case the customer gets the car home and parks it. Giving them time to get the car repaired. Worst case, the customer gets into an accident. You can fill in the blank on how bad that could be.

From a service department prospective, this is a HUGE liability. If that customer were to get into an accident, the blame would be immediately be focused on the service department. It would go something like,

I was just at the service place. They didn’t tell me that it was unsafe. I don’t know anything about cars. I trusted them to keep me safe.

The customer has a point. They do trust the service department to keep them safe. However, the customer the one that makes the choice to repair or not to repair.

In a perfect world, no cars would ever break. If they did break, everyone would have the time and money to fix them. So how does a shop handle a situation like this? If after informing a customer of the severity of the situation, they decline the repair. The shop will add a special note to the customers repair order stating the issue and the car in “UNSAFE”. Some refer to this as “red tagging”. The customer will then have to sign saying they understand.

What do you folks think? Should a shop be able to keep an unsafe car from leaving the lot? Or would shops use that as a “scare tactic” to strong arm customers in to paying for repairs? Post up your thoughts in the comments below. This is one that a strong case can be made on BOTH sides.

Don’t forget the enter the contest to win a Snap-On magnetic tray. All the details are listed at the bottom of yesterday’s Shop Shots post. I will pick a winner on Friday 10/05/12 in the evening.

Volkswagen radio button pealing

Hey folks! Wednesday is here and you know what that means. It’s Shop Shots day! As always, these are your behind the scenes pictures of Volkswagen service. Also, make sure you read the entire post. I have something special at the end 😉

Volkswagen radio button pealingIf you own a 2005-2008 or so VW, then this will look really familiar. This is a radio from a 2006 VW Jetta with the radio buttons peeling. The black “soft touch” has peeled off, it almost looks like it melted. This happened on some of the switches in the car too. My thought was that chemicals we put on our hands, lotions, and anti-bacterial, accelerated the wear on the buttons.

The buttons are not replaceable individually. I have heard of companies that can replace the face of the radio so you could keep the stock look. Like with any factory radio issues. I think you are better getting a good aftermarket radio. You will get more features at a better price.

Strange Volkswagen PartsI was walking through the parking lot one day last week and walked past this little part bag. I happen to read it while walking by. It took a second for my brain to catch up and realize that the description was something weird. I had to walk back and pick it up. DRUCKTASTE, what the heck does that mean? Since I do not know German, it was Google Translate to the rescue.

It turns out that DRUCKTASTE means PUSHBOTTON. This was a package for a trunk release button. In all the years I have worked for VW, and all the push buttons I have replaced. I never noticed what the package said. That is your German lesson for today.

Smashed VW Transmission PanI feel like I post a lot of smashed VW engine oil and transmission pans. This pan is from a 2007 or so Beetle. If you look at the lower left part of the picture, you can see some grass smashed up into the sub frame. This car had ran off the road. The good thing for the customer is they didn’t break the pan. It smashed it, but there is no fluid leaking.

The thing to be concerned about is the damage to parts behind the pan. There are electronics that live on the other side of that pan. Any impact can destroy them. That makes for a very unhappy transmission. I am surprised there is not a fluid leak.

Okay, you might be wondering why I am posting a picture of a Snap-on cake pan. Well this is actually a really cool Snap-on magnetic tray. I got this from my tool dealer a while back. I am so excited to reach 33 volumes of Shop Shots. I want to give this away. So here is how you can get this tray.

  1. Share this post on Facebook. You can either click the icon at the bottom of the post, or share it when from my Facebook post.
  2. Tweet this post out. If you are on Twitter.
  3. Share the post on your website or blog.
  4. Pin ANY of the pictures on the post.
  5. Sign up for email updates. See the upper right corner. If you are signed up already, I will give you an entry.

It is really just that easy. You can enter as many times as you share the post. Just post a comment here and let me know how you shared. I will draw someone at random and send them this brand new Snap-on tray! It is just a small token of my appreciation for all of you! I will pick a winner Friday evening 10/05/12!

Humble Mechanic Logo

You have heard the horror stories,

I took my car to a mechanic and they broke this part.

Today I want to dive in a little deeper into what goes on behind the scenes when a mechanic breaks something. Generally you read about the situation from a customers point of view. That is the one that counts. But it is not all hearts and flowers from your mechanics point of view either. I am sure that the owner, or dealer is not too pleased. Basically it is lose lose all around.

When I had first planned to write this post, I was going to tell you all a story about something that happened to another mechanic in the shop. As luck would have it, I broke something yesterday, and I want to tell you guys about it.

I was replacing a front differential in a 2007 VW Touareg. This is a job that I have done before, but not something that I do often. Replacing this part takes a fair amount of finesse. There is about 5mm of extra space needed to remove the part. It’s a hard job, just one that needs care.

Just about the time I had the differential out, it slipped just a hair. Next I see a connector swinging near the steering rack. It seems that when the differential slipped, it hit the connector on the steering rack, and broke it. Now just a broken connector is not a big deal. I can totally fix that. The bad part is, the part that broke is part of the steering rack.

I got to a good stopping point and evaluated the damage. Knowing how VW builds parts I was pretty worried. I got with one of my parts guys and we confirmed my fear. The part I broke was not a spare part. Even though I could remove the part, it is not available separate. We even emailed VW parts headquarters with no luck. 🙁

So what happens next? Well, first things first, I get to go and tell my boss that I potentially damaged a $1000 steering rack on a Touareg. I don’t break things that often, but when I do I go big. That is the part price only. After the shock of possibly buying a $1000 part pasted, we brain stormed on an alternative.

  • Repair the part
    This was built into another part. I tried to find a way to make a repair, but no such luck. It was just a mass of copper inside the sensor. Repairing the part is a no go
  • Shop aftermarket
    We spend a good amount of time trying to find just the part I broke. Unfortunately there was no luck in this department either
  • Just get a new one
    This is definitely the easiest option.  But we are not talking about a $10 part. This would require a little more thought that just “Go order it”
  • Junk yard part.
    Odd are this is the route we will take. It will save a ton of money over a new part. This can be a slight dice roll. It may take a few tries to get a good part.

Once we have a solution for the part, someone needs to install it. Since I am the lucky one that broke the part, I get to install it. One of the worst parts about breaking something is having to install it for free. When a mechanic breaks something, they have to replace or fix it. The bad part is they will not get paid for it. That is only fair, you break it you fix it. Only seems fair right?

 So let me just sum up how much breaking stuff really stinks, 

  1. Customer is not happy, and may be with out their car for a while
  2. Service department might be buying a really expensive part.
  3. Not only will the mechanic have to replace/fix the part for free, they feel really bad about it.
This doesn’t even go into what happens when a mechanic is shady and “fixes” things. That I will have to save for another day. 😉
If you are an mechanic in training, or still fresh, don’t worry. These things happen, I don’t care how good you are. Even the top techs make mistakes. Remember “A Bad Day For A Mechanic“? It can and will happen to anyone!
Shop Shots Car blog Auto Mechanic

Hey folks, it’s Wednesday so that means is time for some Shop Shots. As always this is your behind the scenes look at Volkswagen repair. Think of it as your way to see the crazy things that a VW mechanic sees, with out getting dirty. Don’t forget, if you want to share a picture from your shop, or of your ride, just contact me! Let’s do this

Shop Shots Car blog Auto Mechanic Volkswagen CC DamageI hate to see wrecked Volkswagens, but I really like to share the pictures of them with you guys. This is a picture of a 2010 CC. The left front got hit pretty hard. The outer edge of the wheel was about an inch off the ground. The strange thing about the damage is how isolated it is. I don’t think that a car hit it. The impact area is too small. I guess if a car hit at the right angle it would do that damage.

I would almost say that maybe a deer hit the CC. But the way the wheel is pushed in makes me rethink that. I will try and find out what happened. The truth is I probably won’t. I also find it strange we get so many wrecked cars. We don’t have a body shop.

Shop Shots Car blog Auto MechanicThis is fan destruction. This car came in with the concern “A blade on my fan broke and cut my coolant hose. When I opened the hood, I found this. The fan is missing all the blades. The radiator was all beat up, and a coolant hose had a big cut in it. I have never seen a fan break completely off the mount before. I also don’t really know how it didn’t punch a hole in the radiator.

I had to replace the radiator, the main cooling fan, the fan holder(also called the shroud) and the coolant pipe. Once I got all the parts replaced, I found the fans didn’t work. It turns out, luckily, the fuse was blown. That is probably the reason there was not more damage. Sadly we didn’t have the fuse in stock. I was not able to fully test the system. The customer declined ordering the fuse.

Shop Shots Car blog Auto MechanicOkay this will take some explaining. This is a shot of from under a beetle convertible seat, and behind the trim panel. I had to replace the rear window regulator on this 2005 Beetle. To gain access to the window regulator, the rear seat and the trim on the side. I removed the seat and trim no problem. So far nothing crazy, just another broken VW window.

When I went back to remove the window regulator I noticed something odd. There was something that was laying at the bottom. It was painted the same color as the car. That is odd because everything is just primer. Some how, there was a door handle just sitting behind the trim panel. How the heck does a door handle for the outside of the car get behind a trim panel in the rear of the car? Maybe it was at a body shop? I don’t know how it happened, but it sure is funny.

Shop Shots Car blog Auto MechanicI did a post yesterday about the new 2013 Jetta Hybrid.I had mentioned that the information is really limited because the car has not been released yet. Well here is a screen shot of our diagnostic software. As yo can see, it is mostly in German. Even though I have worked for VW for some time, I don’t speak any German.

The bad part is, this is the procedure for de-energizing the high voltage system. Good for us, the instructors had translated the test. I am 100% sure that this will be fixed by the time the car hits dealers.

Well, you have squandered away another Wednesday, but reading Shop Shots. Thank you Click and Clack for that line. HA. Most likely while you are reading this, I will be driving back from my training. Hopefully traffic will be good. Bad traffic turns a 5 hour drive into a 9-10 hour drive. You will know I hit bad traffic by the number of tweets I send from the road. Mass tweets=bad traffic. 🙂

Humble Mechanic Logo

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!)