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Hey folks! I know it’s only Wednesday but I am doing Shop Shots today.

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This is a picture of a 2007 Jetta. This car is a victim of a problem called coolant migration. What can happen is coolant will travel through the electrical wires from the coolant bottle it just about anywhere in the car.
The customer brought her car in saying that the fuel gauge was not working. We pulled the cover over the fuel pump and found coolant pooled up in the valley of the connector. The problem is coolant will travel EVERYWHERE. The proper repair is to replace the harness from the coolant bottle to the pump. That involves replacing the main harness for the body of the car. Basically, it is every wire and connector from the head lights to the tail lights. The car gets stripped bare! Not a job anyone wants to do, EVER!

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I took this picture when I was checking another fuel gauge issue. This is under the back seat of a Touareg. Don’t worry, I wore gloves. 🙂 When I told the customer, she said, Just go ahead and throw all this away. I took a few minutes and cleaned it up some what. There was chocolate so old, it have turned into dust! It was pretty gross, and of course, that is where I had to work. Yuck!

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This one came in today. I pulled a used CC in the shop to do a used car inspection. Like every used car I do, I check to see if there is anything good. I found about $0.14 in the cup holder, but I never expected to find that!! I am not really sure what I will do with them. I might just let the detail guys handle it. Not really something i want to mess with!

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Ok, so this is totally not my shop! I think I had mentioned that I would be out of town for a couple of days last week. Well part of the trip was a brew tour of NoDa Brewing Co on North Davidson in Charlotte, NC. We actually stayed across the street from the NASCAR hall of fame. My wife and I try to take brew tours any time we travel. I think this is a 15 barrel system. If your ever in Charlotte check them out! Their beer rocks.

Don’t forget to check out the forum! If you signed up and have not been approved, please let me know. I have been getting TONS of spam so I want to be sure I didn’t miss anyone!

Since it was 8 years ago today, I thought I would tell the story about packing up and moving to work for Volkswagen.

In 2003 I started with the Volkswagen academy. This was a full time, 11 week training program for mechanics. Before I started, I was told I would have a 50% chance of staying in the area I lived in. I figured that I would take those odds, there are tons of dealers around the area. The worst I figured I would have to move across town. The Chicagoland area is huge, it shouldn’t be a problem right?

Well, the very first day, the very first thing the instructor says is, “If you plan on working in the area, there is the door. You have NO chance of working in this area”. Not much of a 50% chance is it? I decided to stick with it(obviously). I had lived in the same area for my entire life, so this was a huge thing for me.

I think it was about a week before the training was over, when I landed my very first interview. I actually called all 3 dealers in the area I wanted to move. The 1st guy told me to come down when I was done training. The 2nd call I made, the service manager and I hit it off and told me he would make arrangements come down and interview. I also made another call to the 3rd dealer in the area. This jerk wouldn’t even talk to me.

The service manager flew me down on a Friday morning. I remember it pretty well because it was like -14 air temp. My Mitsubishi hated being driven in the cold. I got off the plane to a beautiful 60 degree day in the south! Looking back, I might have moved anyway. 😉 I met up withe the service manager and shop foreman. We went back to the shop, checked the place out and then grabbed some lunch. The interview was pretty casual. It was more of a “lets make sure he is not a total jackass” meeting.

I was offered the job that day. Next up was the phone call I had to make to my wife. Her and I both had lived in IL our whole lives. I had to call her and tell her that next week we were packing up and moving 5 states away. Lucky for me, she was 100% on board. I think the change of scenery was a good thing for both of us.

While I had some time before my flight, the shuttle driver took me to a few places to find an apartment. With the apartment secured, I hopped scooted back to the airport and flew home. All and all is was a super awesome, busy, stressful day.

The next week was full of training for me. My wife quite a job that she had for over 10 years. We had so many loose ends to tie up, I don’t really remember much. I do remember that we had to rent a moving truck and trailer. The day before we left, it was a Saturday, we started to load up our little apartment in IL.  I also remember taking my grandma’s car to Carmax to sell it. Some friends took us out to dinner to say some very heartfelt goodbyes. To this day, I miss every single one of them.

Sunday morning some of our family came over to help us pack and load up the truck. Our plans were to leave around 5pm, drive straight through and roll in around noon. WELLLLL, it turns out, a fully loaded moving truck with a trailer will only go about 65mph. Plus driving through IN with snow and the wind blowing makes for an awful drive. I think that we all stopped in Kentucky for a few hours of sleep. My first drive though the Appalachian Mountains was AWEFUL! Little sleep, big moving truck with a trailer, in a place I had never been.

We rolled into town about 11pm Monday night. It was too late to get the keys to the apartment. Now we had to find a hotel to stay the night in. This was in 2004, well before everyone had a smart phone or a GPS in their car. We got the room and totally crashed out. The next morning, I had to take my buddy, who is awesome and helped so much, back to the airport. I was really sad to see him fly back to IL.

I went back, picked up the wife and headed to the apartment. We got the keys and we were home! Well, the apartment had not been cleaned, so it was super nasty. Never the less, we busted butt and got the whole truck unloaded in just a few hours. By the time we were done, all I wanted to do was take a nice hot shower, plug the TV in and chill. As (my) luck would have it, NO HOT WATER!!! It took a few more hours to get them to come and fix the water.

I didn’t have to report to work for another week. That gave me time to go to Sears and pick up my new tool box. We spent the next few days cleaning that nasty apartment. I still don’t think I ever touched that floor with my bare feet. It was really that gross. Boy was I glad for the day we moved out of that apartment.

Well, I know that we didn’t really talk cars today. But this time of year is really a time where I think back about how my life has changed over the past 8 years. 10 years ago, I would never have thought I would be working on cars, living in NC, and even crazier, writing about it. I hope you guys enjoyed this post. Tomorrow we will be back to talking about cars, I promise. 😉

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

We have sort of a joke in the shop. Its called “Tech Tip of the Day”.  

Its used when someone figures out something really complicated, or more often when someone does something STUPID! Something like “Tech Tip of the day, don’t forget to tighten the wheels”. That is not one that I have heard, but the bonehead move I did today is pretty close.

I worked on a car Monday. It came in for a check engine light on. The fault was related to the thermostat. I replaced the thermostat, and sent the car on its way. Well, today the car comes back with the check engine light on again. This time the customer was saying that it was running funny. I checked and found that it was a bad valve in the intake system. Volkswagen has a warranty extension on this part, so its pretty common. There are two parts that get replaced during this repair. One is the valve, the other is a pipe. Thankfully the guy was pretty cool about coming back in. I was glad because the problems were unrelated.

I replaced the valve, no problem. When I replace the pipe, I dropped both bolts, which is not a big deal. I just got a couple of new bolts and installed the pipe. I had to let the car run for about 10 minutes while the scan tool did its thing. I was changing oil on another car while I waited for the scan tool to finish running. With everything checking out, I pulled the car around and went back to working on another car.

About 3 hours later, I was cleaning up my tools. I noticed a small hose under my work bench. I picked it up and thought, “what the hell is this”. Then it dawned on me. It was part of the pipe that I just replaced. The metal pipe also has a rubber hose attached to it. With the panic setting in, I had my service advisor call the customer to come back in for a 3rd time.

The whole time I am kinda tweaking about leaving the hose off. It’s not that I put the hose on wrong, or didn’t tighten a clamp. I FORGOT TO PUT THE HOSE ON. How does that even happen?? I guess it goes with out saying that I HATE messing stuff up like that. There is really no possible excuse for doing something that stupid. Thankfully my lack of focus was a big inconveince to that customer. On another job, like brakes, that type of mistake could get someone hurt. The worst that could happen here was an oil leak, and maybe a check engine light.

The customer came back, about 4pm. I pulled the car right in and put the hose on. The job only took about 10 minutes to complete. Of course, I was totally mad(at myself) the whole time. I pulled the customer’s car around and brought him is keys. That is something that a service advisor would normally do. Seeing how it was my fault that he was back, I wanted to apologize to him face to face. The customer was pretty cool about it. We chatted for a bit and I explained what happened. It was nice that we both had a good laugh about it.

As luck would have it, the  customer is a Canes fan. I gave him my email, and told him I would buy him a beer at the next hockey game. If he tailgates with us, I would even buy him 2. Oh, thats right, we can tailgate for hockey!

I guess the moral of the story is, EVERY mechanic makes mistakes. It doesn’t matter how long you have been doing the job. It makes not difference how many certifications you have. Things are going to happen. It is how you handle the mistakes that make all the difference in the world.

I really felt like keeping today’s post fun. I thought I would post some pics and tell you guys the stories behind them. I think this will be cool. Post in the comments what you think. Also, this might be a cool post to share!

This is a picture of a VW thing. I don’t really know what the year is. This is the very first thing I seen when I went to the dealer for my interview. I flew out of Chicago Midway in the dead of winter. I got to the dealer and it was 55 degrees. They had just cleaned up from an ice storm, the reason for the snow on the ground. I remember leaving Chicago, the temp was, -14 degrees AIR TEMP! Talk about shocking.

I flew down for just one day. In that day I had a great lunch/ interview, got the job(DUH) and found an apartment. Needless to say, it was one for the best, most stressful, craziest days of my life. I had to call my wife and tell her, in 2 weeks we are moving to a state she had never been to before. Oh, by the way, this was my first trip to NC as well. Nuts? Maybe, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

This is an EOS. I took this at a training course in Atlanta. It was the first and only time I have ever been to Atlanta. Not much of a fan, but whatever. This is actually the service position for the convertible top. The trunk is fully released, and the top is about half way open. I would bet that any mechanic that has to do this to an EOS, will not be happy!

The one good thing about Atlanta, is that I got to visit a good friend of mine. I had not seen Katie in years, so it was great to catch up. We had some good sushi and craft beer. If you guys didn’t know, I am a HUGE craft beer fan. I actually home brew as well.  🙂

AH, the Bentley. This is by far the most expensive car I have ever worked on. I think this model is a Bentley Continental. The general manager of my(and several other) dealer got married. I guess they took this Bentley to the wedding. The owner of my dealer group has millions of dollars worth of cars. Its actually crazy some of the cars this guy has.

On the way back from the wedding, the Airbag light came on. My boss asked me if I could check it out. I did my normal diagnostic routine, and found that the fault was for the drivers airbag. I started to take the airbag off and found something familiar. It looked just like a VW Phaeton. Turns out, it is a fancied up Phaeton. Even down to the clock spring, it had the same part number and everything. Crazy right! So I was working on a $125,000 car, owned by the owner of the company, driven by the general manager of ~9 of the ~30 dealers in the company. No pressure right?? WRONG! I was tweaking out. I got everything worked out just fine..

 

A post came into the blog yesterday about brake fluid. If you have been following along with my posts, you know I have done some about brakes, and brake fluid. This comment came in response to my “5 things everyone can check post

Good article, please advise folks not to top off their brake fluid.
If brake fluid is low, get a professional to check your system for leaks, or check the pads (or shoes if you’re whip is old enough). If you top off the fluid, then put on new pads, you’ll end up with a mess!

When I first read the comment, I thought- crap, I forgot to say something about brake fluid. That was obviouly not the point the commenter was making. The point of the comment is, brake fluid is low for a reason. It has either leaked out, or takes up the space of worn brake pads.(if your not sure what I mean, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter for this post)

That really got me thinking about some automotive basics. A highly skilled, highly trained mechanic will always tell you “start with the basics” and “Keep It Simple Stupid”. What most mechanics will not tell you is, how many times they got burned by not following their own great advise! To be honest, I am right there with them!

At the dealership level, we see some of the craziest problems. Thankfully, we have tens of thousands of dollars worth of diagnostic equipment at our disposal. Dragging out the big guns is not usually the best first step!

I remember one time a customer brought their car in because the battery kept going dead. I did some basic checking, the battery voltage, the generator output, and so on. I could not find anything out of the ordinary.  I preceded to perform a “Parasitic Current Draw” test on the vehicle. This test will tell you how much the battery is draining when it should be “sleeping” The results for the test were way above the specification. So the next step would be to find out where the drain was coming from.

I spend about an hour or so digging thought wiring diagrams, trying to figure out what could be staying on. I removed the radio, disconnected every sensor I could get to, removed trim and started to disconnect modules. Nothing seemed to make the drain go away. I forget what I was about to unplug next, but I climbed in the back seat, looked down and found a flashlight plugged in to the 12volt outlet. I removed the light and the drain went away. I would guess that I had spent a good 2 hours working on this car. All because of a flashlight! Yep, A FLASHLIGHT!

I could have fixed that car in about 5 minutes if I would have checked the easy stuff first. For some reason, I let my ego get in the way of what I was doing. Bad move on my part. How do you tell a customer they have to pay $300 for me to remove the flashlight from their car? You can’t, that job was one that I got to fix for free!

Starting with the basics is improtant! Making it a habit is be tricky!

I hope you guys got a good laugh today! I hope everyone has an awesome weekend!