Tag Archive for: electronics

It is the same old story.

This car is a great car that will never break. But you need to buy a warranty “just in case”

If you have ever bought a car, you know the pitch. You have sat in the finance mangers office with they tell you how much you “need” that warranty.

Something that you guys may not know about me is, I have said those words. Years before I was an auto mechanic, I sold cars. That is right, I was a used car salesman. I spent about a year selling cars at Carmax. It was my very first job in the auto industry. Not to toot my own horn, but I was pretty dang good at it. Much like my job now, I was always ALL about the customer. I will save that for another post. Lets talk extended warranties.

If you listen to Clark Howard, he will tell you “Never buy an extended warranty”. He says that on everything except a car. So should you buy an extended warranty? Lets look at some pros and cons.

Here are some good reasons to buy that extended warranty

  • Fixing cars can be very expensive
    Not only the cost of labor, but the cost of parts can be really high.
  • Cars are not getting easier to work on.
    It takes thousands of dollars of tools and diagnostic equipment to properly work on cars
  • Vehicles have more electronics than ever
    Most modern cars have 20+ modules. That can add big dollars to a repair
  • It can reduce the worry of owning a car
    Do we really need more to worry about? I know I don’t

Warranties are not all hearts and flowers

  • It can cost over $2000.
    That is a lot of money to add to the cost of a car
  • You might not ever use it
    There is a chance that your car will never ever break
  • Your repair might not be covered.
    No warranty covers everything. NONE OF THEM! I don’t care what the sales person says
  • There is fine print
    It is a contract, there will be fine print!
  • Like other things, may people think they are a rip off.
    There is a possibility.

Considering whether to buy a warranty is a big decision. Most people do not consider it until they are having to say yes or no. If I were buying a car today, I would most likely buy a warranty. Yeah, I can do all the work my self, but I like not having to buy parts. Here are the things I would consider when thinking about an extended warranty.

  • Do I have the money to make a $500-$1000 repair. I might not want to make the repair, but cars don’t break when it is convenient.
  • What does it cover? Buying an “exclusion policy” is the ONLY way to go. That is a policy that will tell you what they DO NOT cover. If it is not listed, it will be covered.
  • Does it cover consequential damage? Lets say the power steering pump goes out. This causes damage to the power steering rack. Will the warranty cover both parts?
  • Does it cover electronics. If not, PASS! No point in buying a warranty that does not cover electronics.
  • Is there a deductible? Many warranties have a $50-$100 deductible That is not a deal breaker for me. Just something to be aware of.
  • Where can I get the car serviced. Some warranties only allow you to get your car serviced at certain places. Again, not a deal breaker, but something to consider.
  • Will I have to pay out of pocket for the repair? The good companies will pay the repair place directly. No need for customers to pay, then hope to be reimbursed.

A better way to think of a warranty is like an insurance policy. Something to have in your pocket in case something goes wrong. I usually ask people if they are willing to put an extra $30 away for cars repairs. If the answer is no, then buy the warranty.

If you have any extended warranty questions, feel free to ask me. I have been dealing with them since 1999.

Do you enjoy the site, have you been able to learn something from reading the post, and comments here? It would mean a ton to me if you would consider sharing it. Really, it means a lot to me. 😀

It is no secret that car technology is advancing at an insane pace. In the almost 9 years I have been working on cars I have seen some pretty awesome advances. A perfect way to show how far we have come is something as simple as a light bulb.

When I started with VW the 2004 model was the latest and greatest. Even in 2004 we had some pretty smart cars. But the light bulb was still a pretty simple setup. Here is basically what it took to light a bulb in your car in 2004.

Light a light bulb Basically you just had a few parts.

  • Battery. This will provide power to the light
  • A fuse. This will protect the circuit from damage
  • A switch to control the light
  • The light itself. Hard to talk about lighting a light bulb, with out the light bulb right.

Power will flow through the fuse, to the switch then from the switch to the bulb, and light the bulb. BTW I am not interested in debating power flow from power to ground pr ground to power for this post. Lets save that for another day. 😀 This is a pretty simple setup. Problems could be found by using a simple test light.

Oh how far we have come. Today we have a much different way to light the same bulb.

Lighting a Light bulb todayNow we have added a few parts.

  • Battery, pretty much the heart of the cars electrical system
  • Switch. you still have to still have to turn the light on.
  • Bulb, still need the bulb to light the bulb
  • Module, now the power, and ground for the light are controlled, and monitored by a module. the module acts as a fuse as well
  • Diagnostic connector. This is how we monitor the bulb

As you can see lighting the bulb seems to be much more complicated now. We have added modules and diagnostic ports. Why the heck would they do that? Is it because VW likes to over engineer things? Nah, it’s all about the driver. By using a module(that will talk to other modules) we can alert the driver when a bulb is out. You can even get super awesome and have lights turn themselves on.

The diagnostic approach is a little different. Now mechanics can use a scan tool to diagnose an issue with a light. I can use that scan tool to activate the light to test the activation side of the circuit. I can also use the scan tool to monitor the position of the switch. I can watch the readings change from “ON” to “OFF” when I push the button.

I have mixed feelings about both setups. The old way requires taking things apart to test. Usually you can be sure of the issue. With the new way, you can watch what is happening on a scan tool, but you add the “magic box”. You can’t know for sure what is happening inside there. Sometimes that requires a roll of the diagnostic dice. I guess it boils down to knowing the system. It doesn’t really matter how you feel about it, you still have to know it.

What do you guys think? Is throwing a bunch more electronics in a car a good thing? Is giving the mechanic a “hands off” way to diagnose a car the wave of the future? Are you an old school test light fan? Post it up! BTW~ This was my first attempt at making a wiring diagram online. I don’t think they came out that bad. Not great, but not bad…

Remember, you can join up on the mail list. It is super easy and you will not miss a post. I know I asked a lot of questions of everyone today, but I have one more. If you were part of an elite group what would you want to be called? I am thinking of naming the email list. Something like the “Humble Club”. Any ideas? You guys seem to always come up with really awesome stuff.

If you didn’t understand anything about the wiring diagrams I posted, its cool, just share them with your friends. Oh, and don’t feel bad, there are a lot of mechanics that don’t understand wiring diagrams either.

A friend of mine posted this article today. It is a story about the government making a “black box” mandatory in all new cars. I like to talk about conspiracies as much as anyone, but I don’t want you to think I am scaring anyone! While Alex Jones is not the one that wrote the article, I need to be clear about my feelings before we get rolling. I am not much a Jones supporter. I think he gets it right sometimes, but usually hypes things up and promotes fear mongering. I am not down with that. Ok, with that out of the way, lets move on.

The post states

Section 31406 of Senate Bill 1813 (known as MAP-21), calls for “Mandatory Event Data Recorders” to be installed in all new automobiles and legislates for civil penalties to be imposed against individuals for failing to do so

So what does that mean? It means that the government wants a flight recorder style device installed in cars. Info Wars would have you believe that the government wants to steal the information from your car, and use it against you. Ah, my friends, odds are your car already has this device(s).

Every module in your car is simply a little computer. Like all computers data is saved and can be retrieve a later date.Take your engines computer(ECM) for example. When your check engine light comes on, your ECM stored data. It stores how fast you were going, what the engine temperature was, what gear you were in, and many more parameters. I use that data to help diagnose your car. ECM data, storage is nothing new. If your car is a 1996 and newer, it must store that type for information.

Here is where things get a little spooky. If your car has airbags, it has a module that controls the system. Much like the ECM an airbag module stores data. The exact information that is stored is not commonly known. In fact VW doesn’t really tell us what they store. But lets think about what we would want to know about a driver when they get in an accident.

  • How fast they were going
  • Where you wearing your seatbelt
  • Did they hit the brake
  • Did they turn the wheel
  • Where the lights on
  • Was a turn signal on
  • Where the wipers on

Now, this type of information would only be stored in the event of airbag deployment. Since I don’t see many cars after accidents, I don’t know the exact information that can be extracted. Also, like other information, a log in might be required. There are some functions of our scan tools that require a log in. VW doesn’t give those log ins freely. Trust me when I say that the information can be retrieved. As cars become more advanced, the information that can be stored will increase. So at some point, when someone gets in a wreck, the car will know if you are changing the station on the radio, rolling down the window, or even moving the seat. The technology is there. All modules can communicate with each other, either directly or indirectly.

The really creepy thing for me is

Biometric face-recognition and transdermol sensor technology that prevents an inebriated person from driving a car by disabling the automobile has already been developed, in addition to systems that refuse to allow the vehicle to start if the driver is deemed to be overtired.

You can bet something like this will be in cars very soon. I guess I wont be able to have been on lunch anymore. 🙁  NOTE~I don’t have beer on lunch or any time during work. That is stupid!

But what does this mean for us? Not much really. If big brother wants the information it is already there. Remember that big ordeal with Toyota and “unintended acceleration”? That stored information is how Toyota engineers studied the cases, and proved that one guy to be a fraud. The only thing that is a VERY slight concern to me is, systems like Onstar. The direct satellite link to a car is a little creepy. The funny thing is, I have my phone on me all the time, not much difference I guess. 😉

Folks, please do not panic about this type of thing. There are many more issues in our world that we need to focus on long before this one. Besides, the time to worry about this type of thing was 10 years ago. There is no going back. I will say, IF you are worried about things like this, stop driving, cancel your cell phone, and get off the internet. Ok, don’t get off the internet because you need to keep visiting this site. 😉

One more thing. I am working on a few things, but I need some help from you guys. What type of products do you buy for your car? Cleaning products? GPS systems? Ipod holders? Is there a product out there that you have always wondered if it worked, or it was worth the money? Post in the comments and give me some ideas.

If you think we should all wrap our cars in tin foil so the “man” wont know what it is thinking, click one of the share buttons below. That will show ’em.

Hey everyone, it’s time for Behind the Wrench! Today we have a former mechanic who now teaches the craft to the next generation! It is my absolute pleasure to have this interview with Bill!

William (Bill) Foster
How long have you been in the Industry?
40 years
What is your current job title?
Program Director, Tech School
What were you doing for your first automotive job?
I started out working for Sears Automotive, busting tires, changing oil, you know, grunt work.
In the years you have been in the industry cars have changed so much, what is your favorite thing cars are equipped with now that they were not when you started?
As a music fan, I really like the way radios have progressed. Otherwise, GPS rocks.
Were cars really built better when you first started working on them? Is “they just don’t build them like they use to” really true?
Cars were easier to work on back in the 70s, but they needed a lot of work. By 70K, one had to have suspensions rebuilt and sometime, major engine repairs. Newer cars don’t have to be worked on as often. It is true, they don’t make them like they used to…they make them better.
Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?
My last hands-on job was at an independent. During my career, I worked for both dealers and independents both have their good and bad.
Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.
Currently, I’m a director and a teacher at a technical school in a manufacturers program. I like it because I get the skinny on all the new technology and I have a 40-hour week.
When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?
Summer, boating and jet-skiing. Fall and Winter, hiking.
What kind of car do you drive?
Old Jeep Cherokee. It pulls the boats and takes me to the trails.
 What was your first car?
1969 Camaro SS. 396, 4-speed.
What made you want to work on cars?
A hands-on career with good pay. I have no regrets on that decision.
What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?
A kitten. I rescued it with welding gloves on. When the owner would not take it, I suggested that I put in back in the engine bay where I found it. She changed her mind. They became good friends.
Do you have much customer interaction?
As a tech, yes, and I hated it. As a shop manager, yes, but it was my job. As a teacher/program director, it’s my job and I enjoy it.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Turning on light bulbs in normally dimly lit brains.
If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?
As a technician, I would avoid being directly involved with customers. I would second guess becoming certified, as you get all of the problem cars.
The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?
The next time you go to the doctor, and then have to go back for the same problem, and you get charged for it, think of how cheap the car repair was. Remember, doctors bury their mistakes.
Are cars harder to work on(for a pro mechanic) now? Cars are loaded up with computers, does that make it easier or harder to fix?
Cars are harder to work on for pro mechanics…who think they can repair cars with their wits. You need diagnostic skills, diagnostic tools, and service information. I was fortunate to have worked for employers who purchased good service manuals and equipment.
Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?
Full-service oil changes.
How important is reading your vehicles owner’s manual?
It is very important to read the owner’s manual; you miss out on all the features of a car if you don’t.
Have you read the owners manual to your car?
Yes. After I drove a car for 6 years and found out about the auto-headlight function, I started reading them.
What tool in your tool box do you use the most?
Hammer. Just kidding, DVOM.
Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?
The brand with the best service. Currently, that’s Snap-On.
If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?
Scanner, DVOM, test light. I enjoy the challenge of drivablility and electrical work…now that I’m not on flat-rate.
If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?
DVD player to watch Bond movies.
You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?
Toyota or Scion because of the dependability. Actually, I did that for two of them.
What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?
Your local tech-school instructor works hard to get young men and women ready for entry-level employment. They are not masters yet, and will not be for a few years to come. Give them a chance as someone did you one day. It is frustrating to watch young people work hard for a year or two learning a career just to be denied a chance, or get paid so little that pizza delivery is a better choice upon graduation. It happens every day.
WOW, 40 years in the business. Bill, you must be a trooper! Folks,I really want to thank Bill for such an awesome interview. If you have a question for Bill, post it in the comments.Be sure to swing by and check out Bills website over at AutotechsForum.com. He has a great blog about cars too.
If you want to be featured, just Contact Me. I am always looking for new folks to interview!
I hope everyone has a great weekend. Hit me on Twitter that is the fastest way to get in touch with me.

I sometimes feel like the world is against Volkswagen. People are always saying “I hear VW has tons of electrical problems”. Well, I don’t really agree with that, but I will save how I really feel for another post. This is about a REAL problem I found on a Jetta.

The customer comes in and says “Sometimes my door buttons do not work”. After a conversationwith the customer, I find out that her driver’s door is not working all the time. There are times when we have to extract the right information from a customer.

When I got in the car, I checked the door. Big surprise, everything worked just fine. I pressed every button on the door, they all worked like a charm. I pressed the auto-down button for the window, and opened the door. When the door got about half way open, the window stopped, all the lights went out on the door, and the instrument cluster started beeping funny. Well you can check it out in the video.

Strange isn’t it? It turns out that the ground wire in the boot between the body of the car and the door was broken. It would make contact with the door shut, but open when the door was open. I am really glad I was able to capture it on video. Usually the strange electrical problems are so sporadic, there is no chance of catching it.

So I did a little rapid fire Q&A session. I got some really good feed back. If you have a question or a topic, article that you would like me to talk about, just contact me or post it in the comments section. I kinda liked doing it, so post it up!

Real quick, I just want to take a second and thank each and every one of you that have read my blog, liked the FB page, chatted with me on twitter, posted and comment and so on. It really mean a lot to me. The success of this site is thanks to all of you! Our little community is growing every day, and I am really excited for the things to come. Also, that you to everyone that has shared this site, that is the best way for us to grow! You folks are truly awesome!

This is inside the boot between the door and the body of the car. The wire that is broken is the main ground(negative) wire. With out it, nothing will work.

Ok, to some of you this might be a really simple thing. Lets remember that at some point ALL of us had to learn this.

I shot this video after a conversation with a customer. Like I said in the video, a customer brought her car in because the 12v outlet was not working. This is actually something that happens a lot. I replaced the fuse and pulled the car around. I put a couple of extra fuses in her ashtray so that if this happened again, she could just replace it, and save a trip in to the dealer.

When I showed her the fuse that needed to be replaced, she looked at me like I was stupid(a look I know very well) 😉 Well I showed her exactly how to replace the fuse. It really hit me and made me fell like an ass. I mean, its just fuse right. Well, there was a time when I had no idea what that meant. So here is how you check a fuse with a test light. This is not the only way to check fuses, but it is one the of fastest, and I think, the easiest.

Oh, that is not the test light I use at work. I have that for use at the house.I also recommend keeping a few extra fuses in your car just in case.

Hey, if you have not checked out Pinterest, it is a pretty cool site. It has replaced my bookmarking on my computer. If you need an invite, let me know, I will hook it up! I hope you guys have an awesome weekend! I will be fighting my allergies all weekend!

Hey guys,

I got a video for you today. A while back I mentioned a part called a Clock Spring. I didn’t say anything else about it. As luck would have it, I replaced one the other day. Since I had the spare part, I thought that I would shoot a quick video and show you how it works.

Well, that pretty much explains it. If you have any questions, post them up in the comments. Also, go to Technician Database, that is the forum was talking about. Be sure to go and post in the “First 50”! I really want to give something cool away.

Just one more thing. Here is a little tease of the rough sketch of our new logo. What do you guys think?