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As a dealership level mechanic, this is not really something that I run into very often. Most of the folks that modify their cars do not take it to the dealership for repairs. I do occasionally run in to a modified car. Whether it is for performance, or just for looks, it can create a few issues, especially when a car is covered under vehicle warranty.

From a personal standpoint, I think modifying cars is great. It allows folks to make something their own. It lets their personality and love for their car show. It can truly be a great reflection of a person. It shows a great passion for their car. It doesn’t matter what other think, its about the person modifying the car.

From a profession standpoint, I actually look at it a few different ways.

I couldn’t care less

Looking at it solely from a nuts and bolts machine, it really makes no difference to me if the car is modified or not. I do not have any type of relationship with the CAR. My relationship is more with the customers. This is really where my opinion doesn’t matter. I have seen some “less that tasteful” mods come through the dealer, but again, I couldn’t care less. (actually, I usually get a good laugh)

I love it

It makes for something different in the shop. I have seen thousands of VWs, over the years. When a tastefully modified car come in, I will admit, I get excited. Some nice wheels, a PROPERLY done suspension, some performance upgrades, all make a car stand out in a good way.  Now, poorly done mods are good too. The worse they are, the funnier they are. The more duct tape, the better 😉 I wish I had more pictures of awful mods.

I worry about it

Like I said, I have seen some poorly done mods. The thing that concerns me most is safety. Cars that ride WAY too low, is a prime example. Lowered suspension changes lighting angles, changes impact points in a collision, and reduces your visibility to other cars. The other one I see a lot is adding car stereo equipment. I have seen wires ran under the car unprotected, pinched in doors, ran through metal with out protection. This can be a fire hazard to say the least. If you choose to modify, PLEASE do it right/safe.

I hate it

This is where I usually fall in the dealership. This comes from a completely selfish place. Just about any time someone has their car modified, it makes more work for me. Lowered suspension mean extra work getting the car on the lift. Cold air intakes can make batteries harder to replace K&N air filters are good about tweaking Air Flow Sensors, making them do weird stuff Aftermarket stereos give another element to disconnecting batteries and dealing with wiring. On the newer VWs, people can change coding in modules. This can make things like, windows down with remote. The problem is, changing to the wrong coding can make the car do the craziest things ever!

There is also the question of vehicle warranty. Did the customer damage something when doing the mod? Is the problem directly related to the mods? As far as that goes, it really depends on who is working on the car. Personally, if I can’t PROVE 100% that the mods caused the issue, I take care of the problem. If the customer were to call VW, they would say fix it anyway. This way just makes me a hero!

Anther issue I have is mantenance. When you modify a car, the maintenance cost will be higher, and its often overlooked. The fancy wheels and boomin stereo, doesn’t look good when your car is broken down

This is a little video of the Jetta that I was working on today.

I got the car around 11:00.  The customers complaint was that the windshield wipers would stay on ALL the time.  I spent the better part of the afternoon trying to figure out what was wrong with the car.

This type of car really makes ya put on the thinking cap. Every time that I would press the horn, the wipers would move fast, and the high beam indicator would come on. CRAZY problems!

Below are some pics of what I found.  I am still not 100% sure whether I fixed the car.  I replaced the fuse block on top of the battery.  That seemed to help, but I am not completely satisfied.  I will keep everyone updated on what happens!

Have a GREAT weekend!

Charles

[slideshow]

 

 

I wrote a post last week about what happens when an aftermarket breathalyzer is installed poorly. It is HERE if you missed it.

Well, as promised, Here is the follow up to what happened.

When I published that post, the repair was in a limbo state. The customer didn’t want to pay the bill, and the company that installed it didn’t want to pay the bill. I noticed yesterday that the Touareg was still at the shop, but it did not have license plates on it. It had been days since we had heard anything, so my service adviser called the customer. He said that they actually bought his car from him!

I don’t have the juicy details about how much they gave him, but honestly, I don’t think that he cared.  It probably worked out the best way that it could have.

I am sure it was some type of insurance settlement. I don’t think that this customer will be buying another VW, but more importantly, I don’t think that he will be drinking and driving again. I HOPE ANYWAY!

 

Volkswagen water damage

We all know that drinking and driving is bad.  More important than anything, its dangerous.  The number of anti drinking and driving ads should tell the story.

Your probably wondering why a mechanic would be writing a blog post about drinking and driving.  I do not work in a body shop. I am not a paramedic, police officer, or any type of first responder.  I can’t say anything about that side of DUIs.

The side that I see is purely related to vehicle electrics. One of the “punishments” of a DUI is having a starter lockout device installed. Most of us call this a breathalyzer. Basically, it prevents the starter from turning until someone blows into it.

The person that gets the DUI has to pay for this device to be installed, they have to pay monitoring costs, and they have to pay to have it removed. Check out some of the cost of DUIs.Here is where I come in.  It seems that the guys, or gals, that install these devises, do not know much about modern cars.  I have ran into 2 that they have messed up.

The first time I encountered a breathalyzer issue was on a GTI. The girl had the thing installed, then the check engine light came on, and the car would not run. After some initial diagnosis, I found an injector wire that was soldered. Now the actucal WIRE repair was fine, but soldering on modern cars is a big time NO-NO.  It turned out that they fried the engine computer.  This type of repair runs about $1500.  Thankfully for her, the company that installed it, paid for the repair.  Plus note, she is now a great customer of mine!

The latest fun with a breathalyzer is actually still going on.  I am not sure how long this guy has had the breathalyzer in his Touareg, but my guess is about a year. His Touareg has had a number of issues over the years.  I mean, the 2004 Touareg had its problems all on its own. This time the car got towed in because it would not start. I spent some time with it and found that the ECM(engine control module) was not being controlled properly. I jumped the power relay (which controls power and ground ironically enough) and drove the car in the shop.

I must have spent about another hour testing different systems. I narrowed it down to the ECM. We told the customer that we would start with replacing the ECM,and go from there. He purchased an ECM from a junk yard. Thats not really something I want to install, but its what the customer wanted so I used it.

After installing the ECM, the car started right up. “GREAT, I fixed it”, thats probably what I said, and I probably said it out loud, because I tend to do that. I put the covers back on with the car running and cleaning the car up. When I shut the car off, the cooling fans stayed on. If I had the Touareg running for an hour, that would not have been a problem. I only had it running for a few minutes. Not knowing if the issue was the used ECM, or something else, I was basically back to square one.

I spend about 2 more hours searching wiring diagrams, and tracing circuits. It turns out the relay that I had an issue with initially, was still the problem. Now the problem was the relay would not release(before it would not activate). So after banging my head against the wall, I decided to pull up the relay plate and just “take a look”. As any tech with a few years under their belt will tell you, “sometimes you just got to dive in and take a look”.

What I found was SEVERAL main power wires that were under water. Even if you are not a car person, you know that electricity and water do not mix. I have repaired tons of wiring harnesses due to water damage. This one is the first Touareg that I have seen it happen to.  I guess when the company installed the breathalyzer device, they did not secure the cover properly. The box is right under the windshield wipers, so water was bound to get in.

The scary part about these harnesses, is VW is not really that clear on where they go. It could just be the connectors under the hood, it could be ALL the wires from the headlights to the taillights.  The only way to know for sure is to order one and see. Most of the body harnesses cost $2000-$4500 for the part, and probably about the same for labor.

The crazy thing is, the car is just in a holding pattern. The customer is fighting with the company that installed the breathalyzer to make them pay for the damage. They say they are not responsible for ANYTHING. To the customer point, they are the one that messed his car up. On the company’s side, if he would have never got a DUI, it would have never been a problem.

I am not really sure what will happen with this repair. I will write a new post as soon as I get an update.  Be sure to subscribe for all the updates!