Tag Archive for: electrical problems

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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Volkswagen Drum Brakes Shop Shots
Happy Shop Shots day everyone! I am back in the shop after having a few days off. It is always tough to get back in the groove. Okay, let’s get this show rolling!
Lightning Strike On a CarThis picture came to me from a buddy. As you might guess, that is a circuit board from a module. This is the central electrics module. It is one of the main computers in the car. The customer was driving the car, and BAM lightning stuck it. It melted part of the car’s roof, and fried 3 module. Thankfully the customer was not harmed. Well, not physically anyway. I know if that was me, I probably would need a few days to recover. I can’t even imagine what that was like
Volkswagen Drum Brakes Shop ShotsWe are going a little old school today. This is the first car I worked on today. What you are looking at is a rear drum brake on a 1997 VW Cabrio. I was replacing the parking brake cable. Check out all the springs and clips that drum brakes have.
I remember when I first started. One of the guys in the shop told me to take my drum brake tools home. He said we never mess with drum brakes. About a week later, I had to rebuild a set of drums on a Golf. HA, glad that I am stubborn. A quick tech tip when it comes to rear drum brakes. Do one side at a time. That way if you get the springs mixed up, you can just compare to the other side.
Shop Shots CarbI thought it would be fun to keep with the old school theme today. 😉 This is not a Volkswagen carburetor. This is the carb from my 4wheeler, and the reason that there was not a post yesterday. I was in the process of selling my 4wheeler. It had a dead battery so I had not ridden it in a few months. I picked up a new battery, to the tune of $80 btw, and popped it in. It fired right up, SUCCESS!
Well that was until I gave it some throttle. It would just shut off. I messed around with it most of the day yesterday. Finally I just gave up and brought the carb to work. completely disassembling it, and cleaning it. I really hope that this fixes it. Another quick tech tip, working on a magnetic tray is perfect for things like this!
Finally today we have a Reader’s Rides submission. Check out Mathew’s Golf! I love love love those seats! If you want to have your car on Readers Rides, just email me some pictures and a description to Charles(at)HumbleMechanic(dot)com!
I come from a family of Volkswagens, my Golf is the 13th consecutive VW purchased in my family. I learned to drive in a B3 Passat and have been in love with hatchbacks/wagons ever sense.
Without further ado, here’s the details:
2000 Golf 2.0L – 151,000+ Miles
  • Unitronic Stage 1+ ECU Software
  • 22lb Flywheel
  • Sachs VR6 Clutch
  • Techtonic Tuning 260/268 Sport Cam
  • ABD CAI with K&N Cone
  • Audi TT Pedals
  • GLI Brushed Aluminum Trim (door handles, pulls, radio cage, & E-Brake)
  • GLI Shift boot with Euro Sport Edition shift knob
  • Custom Rebadged JOM Honeycomb grill
  • 10mm Rear Spacers, 7mm Front Spacer
  • 28mm Rear Sway Bar
  • Bilstien OE Sport Shocks with H&R OE Sport Springs
  • Helix LED Tail lights with rear fog
  • ECS Lower Grill Fog Lights
  • GLI Recaro Seats
  • Custom Pinstripe Headliner
  • Rebuilt Headlights with dual LED blinkers
  • Pioneer AVIC F-900BT Headunit
  • 3-spoke GTI steering wheel
  • 17″ Santa Monica Alloys, wrapped in Falken Ziex 912s (215/45 ZR 17 87W)
  • 12″ Alpine Type-S, 2Ω + 2Ω, SWS-1222D
  • JL Audio JX-500:1 Class-D Mono Amp
Not the best pics, but there they are…
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Automotive Service pictures Shop Shots VW belly Pan

Okay I have to tell you guys something. I never thought we would get to Volume 25 of shop shots. I just want to take a second to thank each and every one of you that have made doing this so much fun! Seriously, you guys freaking rock!

Let’s talk some automotive shop pictures! Oh, and I have another “Reader’s Ride” this week. Remember if you want to submit your car, just email me some pictures and a short description, and I will put you on. Don’t be shy 😀

Automotive Service pictures Shop ShotsGross! This is a pictures of a cabin air filter from a Jetta. As you can see it is filled with nasty. The stuffing that you are seeing is some of the sound deadener from the car. I didn’t find anything living in there(thank god). I was still grossed out by how much dust and junk was caked into the filter. Please don’t let your pollen filter get this nasty, especially if you have allergies. I will be replacing my filter as part of my road trip prep.

Automotive Service pictures Shop Shots VW belly PanThere is a rhyming saying about duct tape, but I will leave that to your imagination. Now this might come as a surprise, but duct tape can’t fix everything. This is the bottom of a Beetle. The customer had hit something at some point. The belly pan(part that is hanging down) has been torn off. The customer attempted to reattach it.

As you can see they tried several different methods. Duct tape didn’t work, so a bent up coat hanger is the next best thing. The big issue is the part that holds the belly pan up is broken. That would be a $800+ repair. We see this kind of thing a lot. I was lucky enough to catch a picture of this one. the guy that works next to me in the shop was working on this Beetle

Automotive Service pictures Shop ShotsI didn’t realize how weird this picture looks until now. I promise that I didn’t photo shop this or anything. Really, I would have no clue how to do that.

I was standing in the drive aisle waiting to talk to my service advisor. I glanced out to the covered breezeway. I was checking out a new 2012 Passat. I noticed something hanging from the car. At first I figured it was a clip from the car wrap.I must have looked at it for a full minute. Then it clicked, they are scissors. The scissors were jammed up into the little flap just in front of the rear wheel. I walked out and plucked them off the customers car.

It turns out the customer was talking to my service advisor. I walked back in and asked him if he wanted a survivor. I don’t think the customer thought that it was as funny as I did. How often do you see a pair of scissors jammed into the bottom of a car?

Reader’s Rides

Humble Mechanic Readers Rides

This is Garrett’s Jetta. Just some back round. Garrett has been an awesome part of the community. He is the one that chose Luv a Dub for the Cabby project! He also has had some crazy electrical issues. What kind of Vw driver would he be with out it? 😛 Thanks for submitting Garrett! Here is what He had to say.

Here’s a pic of my car to start. Hope everyone else digs the idea.
It’s a 96 jetta, 202k miles, pacesetter headers an custom cat-back, aluminum intake, pioneer head unit and speakers, 3000 watt 12 pioneer premier sub. Custom blue dash lighting. Eibach pro-kit springs and dampers. I drive it every day an love it very much 🙂

You survived another round of Shop Shots! I hope you all enjoyed. On a totally other random note, is anyone watching the Olympics? I am just now getting sucked into watching the swimming. WOW how awesome are these people. Good luck to all the athletes!

Volkswagen Cabriolet Humble Mechanic

There are time when fixing cars, that no matter how hard you try, things just don’t go right. Today I want to tell you all a story about fixing cars, helping a customer, broken parts and trying to make it right. Okay, here we go.

A couple of weeks ago, my service manage called me into his office. He showed me a letter that a customer wrote to our general manager. The customer that wrote the letter explained how she was disappointed in the service that she got from our dealer.

She brought her 2006 Touareg in for us to diagnose her check engine and traction control light. The tech working on the car found that it had an issue with a sensor that monitors the position of the steering wheel. He determined the problem was either the “Clock Spring” or the steering electrics module. He could not prove which one was bad, at least not 100%. He rolled the dice and picked the clock spring. I can totally justify his choice. Most times when you have a moving part and a non moving part, you pick the moving part. It is way more likely to fail.

It turns out that the 1st clock spring didn’t fix the car. Thinking it was the part was bad, he ordered another clock spring. When that didn’t fix the car, the tech replaced the steering module. Bahzing~ the car was fixed.

Now I know what you are thinking, that customer didn’t really need to replace the clock spring. You would be right in thinking that. Since we can not return used electrical parts to VW, the dealer had to make it right. We charged the customer what it would have cost to repair the car, and we paid for the rest.

That is enough for the customer to be upset, but there was more to the story. The customer was upset because of all the back and forth. They live over an hour away, so it was a big deal for them to bring the car back. We did give them a loaner car, but that had some issues too. It did take several weeks and several trips to finally get their car fixed.

A short time after they got the Touareg fixed, the steering wheel started to squeak. I think that was the final straw and the reason for the letter. The service manager and I talked about possible reasons for the noise, and how to go about getting it fixed. I figured that the trim was not installed properly, and it was rubbing the steering wheel. That can make one heck of a noise.

We got the customer back in to repair the noise. This is when I got the Touareg. I pulled the trim off only to find that the clock spring was the problem. Try as i might, I could not get the noise to go away. We didn’t have one in stock, but the Audi store up the road had one. I ran up to Audi and picked up the new part.  The install is pretty quick because I had the car taken apart. I installed the new clock spring and put the car back together.

Thinking that I had the Touareg all fixed, I started to pull the car out. Well, as (bad)luck would have it, the traction control light was on. I went round and round trying to get the light to go out. Several attempts of relearning the sensor, all to find that it would not set.

By now the customer had spent about 3 hours at the dealership waiting for me to fix her car. We decided to give her a car to drive and send her on her way. I stuck around a few minutes late to see if I could find the issue. I wound up putting the old part back in. Again Bahzing~ the car was fixed, well it still made noise, but the light was out.

So far we had 2 bad clock springs right out of the box. I ordered another new clock spring and got the car all fixed up, or so I thought. When the customer came to pick up the car, the Airbag light was on. My service manager called and asked me if I was suspicions of anything with the Airbag. I said no, because the light was off when I pulled the car out. The Airbag light will stay on if there is any issue, plus it is hard to miss that light being on.

Since I was off that day, one of the other techs checked it out and found that the connector for the driver airbag as loose. He popped it back and she was good to go.

So what is the moral of the story? Sometimes things just go wrong. We did everything we could to make it up to the customer. I spend a while chatting with her while she was waiting, keeping her posted on the progress. When you get bad parts, there is not much else to do but try and make it right. Plus I am mad at myself for not plugging in that dang airbag. I promise you that will not happen again!

I know that this was a long post, I just needed to tell you all the story.

Passat Engine Mount Auto Mechanic

We missed last week’s Shop Shots, but we are back today! This is your behind the scenes pictures of Volkswagen service. The good, the bad, and the crazy! Okay lets get to it!

Melted Volkswagen Fuse Auto MechanicThis is a fuse. Well, it is what is left of a fuse. This fuse came out of a Tiguan. We have seen a few Tiguans burning up fuses for part of the exterior lighting circuit. My buddy actually sent me this one. I think my dealer has seen 3 of them. I can honestly tell you all that I have never seen a fuse melted this bad.

Missing Intake Auto MechanicHAHA, I do actually laugh about 60% of the time when I put these pictures up. This Beetle came in this week. The car was towed in for another shop. The complaint was, “Brake pedal is hard to push”. I drove it into the shop, and sure enough they pedal was almost impossible to push the brake pedal. I also noticed that the MIL was on. when I pulled the car into the shop. This is what I found. The air filter housing, and intake pipe was MISSING. I laughed for a minute, then called a few guys over to take a look. When ever something like this happens, we all try to share the fun.

It turns out another shop put a brake booster in the car. They used a non-factory part, and it was worse than the bad one. The shop towed the car back to their shop to be repaired. HAHA

Passat Engine Mount Auto MechanicI posted this on Instagram a few days ago. Here is more information about these 2 parts. These are front engine mounts for a B5.5 Passat think 2001.5-2005. I refer to them as jounce bumpers. Most aftermarket places refer to them a snub nose mounts. Either way is cool by me. The entire engine was slamming up and down due to the condition of the mount. Oddly enough, the one on the left is the bad one 😉 Hard to believe that the part on the left and the part on the right are the same part. After I replaced the mount, the car was 100x smoother.

Smoking Volkswage Auto mechanicJust something fun to rap up Shop Shots. I noticed this just as I was about to lift the car off the ground. A cigarette got caught in the slot for the lower front spoiler. It stuck in perfect. Now the car looks like it is smoking. We brought the customer back to show her she had a broken CV boot. (btw I practice what I preach. Read “How to tell if a mechanic is ripping you off“) She noticed it, and asked me if I put that there. We all shared a good laugh at it.

Well, that pretty does it for another volume of Shop Shots! I think that I want to start taking your submitted photos for Shop Shots. What do you guys think? Post it up the comments below. I am sure some of you have some awesome car pics that you can share.

Volkswagen Beetle Sticker

Ah Shop Shots, some of my favorite posts are the pictures from the auto shop. Ok, no messing around, lets DO THIS!

VW Jetta TDI PictureIf you look close, you can see that the BACK of the car is covered in bug guts. Yep, this brand new car has been traveling at high speeds in reverse. Well, kinda. It just came off the shipping truck. Someone had to back the car onto the TOP level of a shipping truck. That is NUTS to think that someone backed the car onto the truck. I would have a panic attack trying to do that. Now, this is not really a life changing picture, but I swear I crack up every time I see it. Like EVERY time. 😀

Volkswagen Beetle StickerHAHAHAHA. WTH?? I am laughing about this still! See I take pictures almost every day. I don’t always use the pictures the same week I take them. I found this one again today. Why the heck do people put this on their car? Do they get paid for it? Are just really be fans of “$weep$take$”? You have actually seen the other side of this Beetle before. It is the wrecked Beetle I posted a few weeks ago. If anyone knows why people do this, please post it in the comments.

Tiguan Water LeakI have talked about Volkswagen water leaks in other posts. Here is a Tiguan that had a slight leak. This actually belongs to a buddy of mine. We had been trying to get his car in to be checked. Finally we got the leak fixed. I pulled the carpet up to dry it. I think it came out great. A little shampoo, a little scrubbing, and a lot of fan, the car dried up nicely. If you ever find water on the carpet of your car, understand that the water is probably deeper than you think. The carpet on most VWs sits about 1.5 inches above the body. That means there can be a ton of water standing before it is at the carpet level. If you find you have water, get the carpet pulled and dried. A shop vac will not do the trick.

Pig Volkswagen BeetleI think this goes in the “What the heck were they thinking” file. Then again, I bet my Cabriolet does too. 😉 This was sent to me by Steve in Chicago. Thanks Steve! I can’t really comment on what, of why someone did this. I have be be honest, it looks like they put some time into it.. The detail is pretty good. I am sure that Jim LOVES his little pig. HAHA!

Ok, this video is AWESOME! What you are looking at here is called the Leak Detection Pump(LDP). This pump is part of the Evaporative Emissions system on your car. This system controls fuel vapors from your car. Whether it is when your car is being filled with gas, or that hot summer day, it will control the amount of vapors released in the atmosphere. The pump pressurizes your fuel system to check for leaks. When the system fails, your Check Engine Light comes on.

This car came in with a check engine light on. I did a “smoke test” on the system. Basically I charge the system with nitrogen, and add a chemical that smokes. When I unplugged the electrical connector for the LDP, this is what happened. I have seen it before, and I always like to watch it.

Well, another week of Shop Shots is done. There is one more thing that I want to say to everyone. This post is my 100th post. I want to tell each and every one of you THANK YOU! I truly appreciate the fact that you take time out of your day to visit the blog, read the posts, comment and so on. I just cant say THANK YOU enough. Thank you to all everyone that likes the facebook page, or follow on twitter. I appreciate every “share” every “retweet” especially the one that said, “check out this VW blog, sans skinny jeans”. That one might be the funniest.  I feel really lucky to get to know all of you and I am really looking forward to the next 100,300,500,1000, and beyond! I hope that you enjoy the site,and get a good laugh all while learning some things about cars.. Seriously, THANK YOU ALL!!!!

I don’t need to say it, you know what to do. 😉

Hey folks! I want to first apologize about no post yesterday. I really hate the days where I don’t get a post out for you. Today I want to explain what a bad day for a mechanic looks like. I really what you guys to understand that I am NOT bitching about my job. I have committed to be 100% open and honest with everyone. That means that you get to hear the good, and the bad!

This is what a rough day looks like.

After doing a few easy jobs I pulled in a 2011 GTI. The concern was that the fans would run for a long time after shutting the car off. Depending on the length of time, this can be normal. I pulled the car in the shop and sure enough the cooling fans were running full speed even with the key off. The car had been sitting for a few hours, so i knew the engine was not hot enough for the fans to be on.

One thing to note, the check engine light was on. The customer made no mention of the light. On the surface that might not seem like an issue, but it puts me on a high alert. If they didn’t say anything about the light, what else are they not saying. Again, this might not be an issue, but I usually wonder why nothing was said. I guess another point would be, why didn’t the service advisor ask about a check engine light.

After some initial checking, I found that the car had a code stored in the engine computer for the fan, and for another emissions part. Since I was looking at 2 different issues, I had to start somewhere. I started with some very basic diagnosis, checking fuses, checking grounds, the battery. Didn’t really find an issue. I will save the boring “how to” of all the checks that I did, but lets just say, I checked a lot of stuff.

During some of the tests, I noticed that some things were not right. The ECM has tamper proof bolts from the factory, this car had regular bolts installed.The wiring harness looked like it had been tampered with. We had no luck getting a hold of the customer to find out if anyone had looked at the car. I removed the ECM and found that the wires had damage to the outer coating. It looked like someone had poked holes in them to test. This is a HUGE no-no especially on small wires. Now all the red flags were flying. It was time it figure out what the heck happened.

I checked the cars history at the dealer. It only had 1 service completed there. Then I checked the history at VW. It had 2 repairs that were NOT done at my dealer. We can only see what parts were replaced in the VW history. It turns out the ECM(engine control module) and the BCM(body control module) were both replaced about 2 months ago. ~The BCM controls almost everything non-engine in the car. It is a very important module.

So, that explained why the bolts were wrong and the wires were messed up, but didn’t help with the issue. We called the dealer that replaced the parts, they simply said it was because the car would not start. Back to diagnosing, I started checking into what was done at the other dealer. That lead me to checking the ECM coding. VW modules have different “programming” based on equipment. This ECM has what is known as long coding. It is 7-10 bytes, each has 8 bits. The 8 bits are represented by 2 characters(confused yet?).

The ECM installed in the car did not match the the number of bytes that is had when it was built. It might sound like a bad thing, but now I have something to go with. It was time to call VW technical help line. It is what we use when we need more help fixing cars. I wrote a post about what happens when a mechanic can’t fix your car a while back. It talks more about tech line. 😉 I called the folks at VW. After going through the basics, I told them what I found with the coding. I was on hold for about 10 minutes. The guy from tech line came back and said, “Forget about the coding, if you had looked at the part numbers, you should have known they were different”. Basically telling me I should have known it was fine.

He gave me some some things to check, and got rid of me as fast as possible. It was the classic, “Get him off the phone because I don’t want to deal with this problem.” The best part was, the test he gave me made NO sense. It would be like testing the battery to figure out why a tire is flat. After an annoying conversation with tech line, I decided to repair the bad wiring and go from there. During the entire time of working on this car, I could not shake the feeling that the ECM was the problem. There are times when it is cut and dry the module is bad, but MOST of the time it is a dice roll.

After fixing the wires, I was pretty much back to square 1. I loaded up the repair manual and spent some trying to find the common issue. VW repair manuals are populated by VIN. They should be specific to the car. Wanting to make sure I had all my bases covered, I started doing more wire checking. As I am looking at the wiring diagram, I find wires missing.

TADA~ wires are missing. Wait, how can wiring be missing? It turns out, the wiring diagram for that car is WRONG!!! The car was built 10/10, but the wiring harness must have come from the future. The diagram matched a car built 12/10. Thanks wrong information. Now with the proper information, I found that ECM was not sending the signal out properly. Ordered 1 ECM. I will update when the part comes in.

So what lessons can we learn here?

  • Well, I know I could have shaved some time off this diagnosis, by focusing on 1 issue at a time. I was sort of all over the place with it.
  • There are times when information is WRONG. (I am still mad about this)
  • checking history is important
  • Go with your gut. This is the most important part of the whole list!!!

Well, there you have it folks, a tough day for a mechanic. YIKES! Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I prefer twitter, but I am on both a fair amount. I wish that FB would fix their mobile interface.

If you want me to stop complaining about fixing cars, click one of the share buttons below. That will show me 😉