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I can’t believe that this is the 10th volume of Shop Shots! It seemed like just yesterday that you guys were helping me name this series! As always, you will see pictures of the random things that I see around the shop. AND…..GO

This is a close up of some bearing damage inside a manual transmission. This actually belonged to a great friend of mine Daniel. His concern was a noise, and trouble getting into gear. We decided to replace the transmission, but I really wanted to see what went wrong. There was metal in the fluid, so I knew that it was bad new. I did a really early post when I first started this car blog. In that post you can see the metal chunks on the drain plug. This is one of the few manual transmissions I have had an issue with.

While we are on the subject of transmissions, here is the guts of an automatic transmission. This comes from when I was at training for Routan transmissions. This is about 1/4 of the parts that make up the rings, clutches, gears, seals and so on. Automatic transmissions are really an engineering marvel. Actually, all transmissions are pretty awesome.

This is leaves, pine needles, and dirt built up on the cowl of a Jetta. On the surface it just looks bad, but it is actually a big deal. I have seen countless cars get water leaks due to leaves building up on the cowl and around the windshield. The get stuck in the water drains and that water will go somewhere. The crappy part is that somewhere is inside the car. I actually totaled 2 cars due to water leaks caused by this exact thing! One was a Touareg that was had mold everywhere. The estimate I wrote was for about $42,000 in repairs. Take a minute and make sure you don’t this happening.

 

Last but not least, this is a quick video of a crazy noise. This car was whistling when it was sitting at idle. When I revved it up, it would stop, but as soon as I let off the gas, it would make this noise. I remember the first time I heard this I thought, “What the hell, this is not gonna be fun to fix”. It turns out it is a really easy fix. There is a check valve that only lets air flow one way. Well it gets stuck and causes this noise. WARNING– this noise is loud, I recommend turning down the volume!

Well, that wraps up another volume of Shop Shots. I am always looking for new post topics, if you have a suggestion, just contact me, or post up in the comments. Also, don’t forget to swing by Humble Mechanic on Facebook and say hi!

Today we will wrap up the 2 part post about scams! I really want to thank AskMen.com for making the post on their “Top 10 Mechanic Scams“. If you missed 10-5 check them out at Mechanic Scams Confirmed and Debunked

No.4 Unneeded air conditioning recharge

“You might think you know whether or not your air conditioning is fully functional, but the mechanic disagrees. “You’re only blowing X degrees,” he says, which stirs potentially unsettling mental images. Then he offers to recharge the system’s refrigerant, which is something most of us won’t touch on our own. So where’s the scam? If you’re not noticing any defects or diminished cooling ability, you’re probably just being asked to address an inconvenience before it ever happens. Again, not a car-killer, but it’s an issue of spending too much too soon.”

This is a tricky one. The say the word “unneeded”, and of course that means you don’t need it. There are some advantages to getting your a/c system serviced. When I do an a/c system service, I remove all the refrigerant, most of the oil, vacuum the system, then recharge it to the proper level.

Much like with coolant, refrigerant holds contaminants. Removing all of the refirgerent, will remove most of the contaminating debris from the system. Applying vacuum will boil off any moisture in the system. Then when charging it, you know your are putting in the proper amount. This can make an a/c system last longer, but keeping it clean and dry. ~Free Tip~ this works the same for your home’s a/c system. I learned that the hard way to the tune of $2500.

No.3 Premature shock/strut replacement

“Sooner or later, you’ll need to replace your car’s shocks or struts. The mechanic scam here is when “sooner” is pushed too hard. Do a little pushing of your own. The old bounce test on your bumper in many cases is still a reliable way to tell if your shocks or struts are really bad, but also pay close attention while driving. If the car is like a bobblehead doll after hitting bumps, pitches and rolls in slow corners or is noticeably unable to quietly absorb all but the slightest imperfections, then it’s time.”

I pretty much agree with them here and I am not sure this really applies to modern cars. I hardly ever replace shocks or struts. I will say that having the bushings checked is really important. They tend to wear out faster than the shocks. Not really much more I can add than that, great job on this one.

No.2 Fuel injection service

“Here’s a mechanic scam with ties to the engine and transmission treatments mentioned elsewhere. Again, it’s all about removing contaminants and restoring efficiency and performance, like finding “hidden” horsepower. And like the others, it’s to be taken with a massive grain of salt — probably best avoided altogether. Name-brand gasoline usually contains enough additives to keep typical engines free of serious buildup under normal conditions. If you do want periodic help, skip the expensive service and add a bottle of name-brand treatment to your tank, such as Techron.”

I have seen this go both ways. To me much of these services depend on the end goal. If you are trying to remove carbon on the back of the valves, a good fuel injection service just might do the trick. If you are trying to unlock “hidden horsepower”, you are wasting your money. I have done this on several cars and it has worked great. I have seen it not do anything before. Using the right type and good quality fuel can help with some of this. Also a “spirited drive” can blow the junk out. I wrote a post about best way to drive a car that goes into more detail.

No.1 Premature brake pads/rotors

“The mechanic’s not lying: You do need fully functional brakes, and the pads and rotors aren’t at their peak thickness levels. But think about it. Technically, “peak thickness” only exists upon installation; everything after that is compromised. So, don’t ignore your brake system by any means, but also be aware of what does and doesn’t happen when you use them. If there’s truly a legitimate issue, address it. If not, don’t get taken by this mechanic scam and spend money prematurely”

There is that word again, “Premature”. I have a asking that I use, mostly when talking about timing belts, but it applies here too, “better 5,000 miles early than 1 mile too late”. Sure you can run your brakes down to the last 0.5mm of pad, but should you? Nope, you should not. Brakes produce a lot of heat, a pad that thin can not dissipate heat properly. This can affect stopping distance for sure. Not only that, it can warp the rotor causing a vibration.

There is also a cost saving, replacing brakes when the rotors can be resurfaced will cost about $280 at my dealer.(don’t hold me to that, its just an estimate). Replacing the pads and rotors will cost $470, due to the extra cost of buying rotors. So is getting another 1,000 miles worth risking the price almost doubling? I would so no.

Well, I really want to think AskMen.com for writing that article, be sure to check their site out, its has some cool stuff for guys and gals. What did you guys think of this format? I might do something similar in the future,there are no shortage of “scams” out there right!

Remember that I am still taking questions for another rapid fire Q&A. Just contact me with your question. If you know of any scams, post them up in the comments, lets get it rolling!.

I am REALLY sure that someone will be pissed off at me for writing this post! This story will be a great example of cheaper is not better, and how important it is to have a mechanic you can rely on.

I got a text from my little sister Ashley. She asked my “how long is it ok to drive without that big plastic piece underneath the car?” I may have said it before, but she drives a really nice 1999 VW Passat wagon. Her car has a plastic shield, or belly pan, under the car. It covers up the oil pan and prevents things from getting up into the engine. Her car will run with out it, but it is something that needs to be there.

This is a picture of a good belly pan. When this falls off, it's $200+ down the drain, or down the highway 😉

So, I get the text, and text her back, “What happened to your belly pan”. She tells me that she took it to a place to get the oil changed that was not the dealer. The later then belly pan fell off while she was driving down the highway. The bad part is, the pan is totally destroyed.

Trying to be a good brother, I called the place and talked to the service manager. He was polite enough, but I could tell that he had no interest in dealing with me. I also called the local VW dealer. Basically the same treatment, but I was able to get the information that I needed. It turns out the cost of a new belly pan and related hardware was about $230.

The manager from the quick lube called her back and told her that they would pay up to $50 for a replacement belly pan, leaving her with a $170 bill. So far she has be out about 2 hours of her time, $35 for an oil change, and add on $170 for the belly pan. When I asked her why only $50, she said they told her it was held on with zipties and it was already damaged. That might be true, but why didn’t they tell her that when they were servicing the car? Not only that, but I have used zipties to attach belly pans, it works REALLY well.

This is Ashley's 1999 VW Passat wagon.

After some fighting, she got her belly pan replaced. It took several phone calls and I think her and her dad had to go down there, but it is fixed. She learned a few life lessons with this experience.

  1. Cheaper is almost never better. I still learn this one from time to time.
  2. There is a difference in getting your car serviced at a good dealer vs anywhere else.
  3. The people that work on your car better know what the heck they are doing
  4. Wasting time to try and save money is a bad choice.
  5. If a place does something wrong, YOU have to fight to make it right. Do not let someone walk all over you.

Well Ashley, sorry you had to be the topic of this post, but I thought it would be a good story to help everyone out. I am really glad you got your car fixed, and to quote her, “I know that now. First and only time I didn’t/wont take it to the dealer”.

 

Hey folks, it’s Thursday, so it’s time for another round of Shop Shots! This week we have some strange add-ons to a Beetle, a Jetta that was in a wreck, and some bad news about a timing belt. If you have some shop shot, or you want your car featured, please just contact me! There is also a section on the Forum for you to post up your car!

 

First up we have this Beetle. I took this picture a few years ago so I forget what I was doing to it. I have no problem with folks customizing their car, but I am not really a fan of this. As you can imagine, I got laughed at when I pulled the car in the shop. Pink lips, eye brows and Tinkerbell seat covers. Yep!

This is just outside the shop. I was coming back from lunch and the car was towed in. I believe this car came from a body shop. When cars are being repaired at body shops, they will “sublet” them to dealers for repairs. One of the guys in the shop removed the engine so the body shop could straighten the front end. The engine sat in our shop of about 3 weeks.

This WAS a timing belt on a 1.8t Beetle. If you notice all of the teeth are missing. A timing belt drives is the main belt that connects the upper and lower part of the engine. When a timing belt breaks, it can do catastrophic engine damage. I think that the water pump seized and ripped all the teeth off of the belt. Just another example of anything can happen at anytime to anyone.

So this is a shot of my home shop. You are seeing a picture of my 1996 VW Cabrio. When I got it, the car didn’t run, the top had a hole in it, and the car was NASTY. I paid about $500 for it. I installed a new battery, put a new ignition coil in it, and drove it home. When I bought this car, I was driving an Acura CL type-S. I sold that and drove the Cabby for almost 2 years. I really did like that car, and I wish I still had it. i might have some more pics of it somewhere, maybe I will post them up in the future.

Well, another week of Shop Shots in the books. Are we on the right track with the pictures? Do you want to see more carnage? If there is something you want to see featured, let me know! Oh, and don’t miss tomorrows interview. Bill will be joining us for a great interview from a guy that has been in the industry a long time. Don’t miss it!

{EAV:ab484783813500fc} ~ Don’t worry about that code, it is for a site called Empire Ave, its a pretty cool social media site. I just needed to get the code in to authorize my site.(I hope that I did it right) 😉

As everyone knows, I work for Volkswagen. While VW has a die hard loyal following, no one can argue that they have earned some negative press over the last 10-12 years. From window regulator issues, ignition coil disasters, and the entire launch of the 2004 Touareg, I don’t blame people for having a negative opinion.

A question came to me from Brandon on the FB page. He asked me to give him my “ABSOLUTE HONEST OPINION” about VW and their car. Here is some of our conversation regarding the issue. You can see the whole conversation here.

Brandon Byron

i want to hear your ABSOLUTE HONEST OPINION, working as a vw mechanic for so many years i have to ask the big question. No matter where you go online almost EVERYONE says they are unreliable, they break after 100K, they are junk, etc. You cant escape the VW hate online. So i am wondering from your perspective as having to fix them, does vw really mass produce cars that are holding together by thread and duct tape or am i just seeing all of the people with a negative experience talking about the cars? I really want to know as im looking to buy a new vw for my first car and I want to make sure i made the right choice. Thanks! 🙂

Humble Mechanic‎Brandon, you have a great question and some pretty legit concerns. I want to give you a better answer than I can at at midnight. I will put something together for you tomorrow. Thanks for liking the page, and I will answer all you questions tomorrow.

Humble Mechanic

Ok Brandon~ Here is my reply
It’s true, VW has earned a bum rap. From the window regulator issues, and the ignition coil disasters to the launch of the 2004 Touareg, there is no shortage of things VW has dropped the ball on.Then you go and read things in forums like VWvortex, and TDIclub. The cars get slayed, the dealers get slayed, the mechanics get slayed. The info is out there, and I have read enough to make me sick.
The truth is,YES VWs break. I have had to fix cars with <10 miles on them. I have had customers get there cars bought back because of issue after issue after issue. Also remember that I see the worst of the worst.Then there is the flip side. The reason that VWvortex, and TDIclub exist is because people LOVE there VWs. If the product was that bad, it would have a hard time earning the following that it has.
Remember, the loudest voices are the people looking to complain. People now have a platform that allows them to tell their story, be it good or bad. Visiting the VW facebook page is a perfect example of that. Here is what they will not tell you. Did they maintain their car? Did they do all of the things that are required on EVERY vehicle to keep it running properly? What are they comparing it to? Is a VW even right for them?
You are looking to buy a DRIVERS car, not a toaster(Toyota). If you want to have a car that runs properly at 100,000 miles, you need to do your part. Proper maintenance is key. Plus everyone needs to understand that things will break. You will need to replace belts, batteries, tires, and brakes. The odds of the check engine light coming on is VERY high!
That is not just VW.If you owned a 1995 Honda Civic, and never had an issue, do not expect your 2012 VW to be the same. not only is it a totally different car, but emissions standards, and government regulations are vastly different. These cars are held to a much higher standard than they were 15-20 years ago.

Picture C/O xkcd.com

I think I gave him the answer that he was looking for. I did want to expand a little about his concerns. Like I told Brandon, the loudest voices are the ones that are complaining. All of the social sites have given people a voice that they have not had since small town America.I think its amazing that we have this at our disposal. This does however allow people to complain about any and everything.

There is also the FACT that people are not looking to read about problem free Volkswagens. There were NO searches for any phrase I could think of that basically said VWs were great cars. I must have entered 20 phrases trying to find one. On the other hand ~74,000 people searched for “Volkswagen problems”. What does that mean? Well, before we buy something, we want to research the problems. Or, we have a problem and want to see what issues others are having. Misery loves company right 😉 It pretty much boils down to we want to read about problems, the numbers don’t lie!

Well, I hope that I have answered the question for Brandon and anyone else that might be concerned about cars and the negative thinks we read. What do you guys think? I think Brandon is dead on with his concerns, but just like anything else we need to take the information given and make our own choices.

Oh, don’t miss tomorrow’s post, we will be talking vehicle first aid kits!!! A good friend of mine is a nurse, and she is helping us(me included) build a first aid kit for our car! You can subscribe o the email list so you don’t miss anything!

I am a little reluctant to even write this post. I try t be really positive about things that happen in the shop, and this is a story about something not so positive. I am also reluctant because I don’t want to talk junk about the people that I work with. When I make a mistake, I have no problem telling you guys about it, but what I am about to tell you is about someone else.

Yesterday, I worked on a customers car, this customer has been one of my best customers over the years. She is a little old lady, and is as sweet as can be. She reminds me a lot of my grandma, who is one of my favorite people in the world.

When she came to pick her car up, they service advisor called me to the front. She told me that the work I just finished did not fix her car. Based on the week I was having, I would not have been surprised. She smiled and told me she was just messing with me(a taste of my own medicine). About 15 minutes went by, and another advisor paged me. They told be that someone had rear ended the lady. The auto park I work in has an awful intersection at the top of a small hill.

I drove up to the intersection to see if she was okay. She was really shaken up, but physically fine. The guy that hit her was totally fine. As I looked at the damage of both cars, I knew that she didn’t get rear ended, she must have pulled out in front of the guy. Her Beetle took some damage on the right side. The Mazda the other guy was driving didn’t do so well. The whole front of the car was destroyed. I helped her call a friend to come get her. I was also able to nurse the car out of the intersection and into a parking spot at the Porsche dealer. The cops came and did what they had to, and when her friend showed up, I went back to work.

30 or so minutes later, I get another page to come up to the service drive. The customer was there to pickup some info about where to have her car towed. We chatted for a minute, I gave her the information she needed so she was just about set.

This is where the story gets bad. I am writing this  and I know my blood pressure is gonna be sky high! This poor lady was just in a car accident, she was visibly shaken up, and asked for some water. Now, we have 2 drinking fountain in the waiting room, we have a vending machine in the waiting room, and we have FREE drinks up stairs. My service advisor looks her dead in the face and says “There is free water just up the stairs if you want that’. Guys, my jaw hit the floor. How the hell are you gonna tell this poor lady to walk up the stairs and get her own drink????? Thankfully, my service manager was standing right there and went to get it for her.

Now, I don’t pretend to be a customer service expert or anything, but what type of person does that? How would you feel if that was your mother or your grandmother? I didn’t say anything to the advisor, because what would be the point. Someone that would do that will never get why that is so bad. Really, how can you call yourself a man if that is how you would treat someone in the situation! I hate to admit that someone at my dealer would do that, but I have told you guys before, I will always be 100% honest with you!

Today, I went up to take some pics of the car. It honestly might total her beetle. The car is a 2000, so it wont take a ton of money to total it. It will most likely be better to just scrap it and for her to get a new car.

I have worked really hard over my career to try and get rid of bad customer service stereotypes at the dealer. This like this really set everyone back! So, what do you guys think? Am I just blowing this WAY out of proportion? Should I have said something to him about it? I would love to know your thoughts!

So this 07 VW Passat gets towed in on Friday. The customer said something on the engine broke.

We towed it in the shop and found out the engine mount on the passenger side of the car was broken. This is not something that happens all that often, but I have seen it before.

We installed the engine support and removed the mount. This is what we found.

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It was obvious that someone had “repaired” the mount. The problem withy the way that it broke is, it actually broke the lower part of the engine. The proper way to fix that is to replace the engine block(the block is the bottom end of the engine). I think that someone would be able to weld it, but we have to stand behind our work.

We called the customer and told him what had happened. He got really mad at us, saying “You guys did all the work on this car”. We had done work on the car, but it was MONTHS ago, and there is not one person in my dealer that would do something that awful.

The customer came by to take a look at the damage. The estimate was in the $7,000 price range. Obviously, he wasn’t a happy guy. Well, it turns out his son had done something to the car. I don’t even know what he was trying to do, but he is the one that added all the washers and nuts on the mount.

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The customer decided to trade the car in for a new car. The shop will most likely bandage it back together, and send it to auction. Side Note- these are the problems cars at small buy here pay here lots have.

I am all for DIY, just know when your out of your league. Also, know what to call a professional. If you get in a bind like that, just STOP and get some help!!

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