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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.

This car came in one day last week.  The customers complaint was “My car is making a ticking noise”.  The noise was strange, it was loud when I was standing right a the engine, but when I walked about 10 feet back, it was super loud.

Complaints like this can be really tricky. On the one hand, some engines are just louder than others, on the other, I can’t just say there is nothing wrong. Also, there are a lot of factors that play into engine noise.

  • Is the oil in the engine right, both level and quality
  • Is other maintenance up to day
  • Did the customer do something they are not telling

I spent about 20 minutes listening to the engine with a “stethoscope”(in quotes because mine is missing so I use a long screwdriver). I narrowed it down to the valve train, the upper end of the engine. Since the VW 2.0t TFSI engine is kinda strange, the initial diagnosis was pretty easy. Removing a valve allowed access to check part of the valve train.

It turns out that the lobe on the intake cam was worn funny. Further inspection revealed more damage.Two of the rockers had floated off the valves(if your not totally sure what that means, don’t worry just know its bad.)

Now that I know what was wrong, it was time to find out why. I checked the faults stored in the engine computer. The check engine light was not on, but the ECM(engine control module) still had information stored. The fault stored was for “Engine over-reving”.  That means, at some point, the engine was spinning too fast. That can cause the type of damage that I found.  The ECM has fail safes built in to prevent this from happening. The ONLY explanation is the guy missed a gear on a down shift. That would mean that he shifted from 6th gear to 3rd gear, or something like that. The engine revved to 8400RPM. Thats about 20% too fast. The ECM has no way to prevent this from happening.

Now the customer is faced with a $2000-$3000 repair on his 2010 GTI with only 16,xxx miles. Its sad to see a car that I really love need that type of repair.

What do you guys think, should he fix it? Trade it in on a new car? I would LOVE to hear what you think.

 

 

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]

 

 

On Tuesday 11/22, I wrote a post with a story about me getting my butt kicked by a Jetta. I hope that it didn’t bum everyone out.  I will be honest, that really put me in a bad mood that night.  I was going to go out with some friends after work.  I decided to pass on the party, I didn’t think that I would be that much fun to be around.

After stressing out about that Jetta for 2 full days, I went in to work to “face my music”.  I rolled in early to get a jump on what I figured would be a nightmare. When I got to work the first thing that I did was try and start the Jetta.

Before I tell you guys what happened to the Jetta, I need to make sure everyone understands the way a mechanic’s mind works. After a few years of working on the same cars, a mechanics mind adapts to certain things.  You stop questioning WHY the car company does the things they do! Its basically a survival tool.  If I spent time trying to figure out WHY, I would have lost my mind years ago. I try to focus on HOW things work, not WHY they work the way they do.

Ok, so I get to work, I get in and try and start the Jetta. What happens, THE CAR STARTS?!?!?!?! It started right up like nothing was ever wrong. Even as I write this, I have no idea what happened.  I have been trying to build a story where this could happen. I got nothing. I just have to remember not to figure out why!

I test drove the car, ran the test that would not pass, and now the car is good.  Its crazy how the car just sat for 2 days, and “fixed it self’!

Do things like this happen in other jobs, or is this an auto industry thing?

 

I started this site to help folks with their cars, and to give everyone on inside look at dealer life. I try really hard not to make this a place for me to just bitch about my job. Today however, will be a different story.

The day started out pretty normal. I did a waiting oil change(that is were the customer waits, instead of dropping off their car), and replaced a bulb in the same car. I knew that I had a timing belt to replace when I was done. To be honest, that is the start of a good day!

Well, I worked on the timing belt for a few hours. I usually can’t finish one job without getting pulled off for something else. That is actually no problem for me. I enjoy being the go to guy.  One of those interruption, was the machine shop telling me that a cylinder head I set to be repair, was unrepairable. I will write a post about that story in a few days. With the timing belt wrapped up, time to move on to the next job.

I had ordered a part for a 2008 Rabbit on Saturday. It was a carrier for the passenger side door handle. This is where I think the day turned bad. It took me about 2 hours of messing with the carrier to get it fixed. I had to remove the outside of the door about 7 times. This is on top of the 3 times that I took it apart on Saturday. I skipped lunch to get the job done, but finally finished it.

I looked at a 2000 Passat for the sales department. We do what is called a “Used Car Inspection”. Its a check out of a car before it hits the lot. That car didn’t make the grade.

Next up would be the car that RUINED the day. I had been working on a 2001 Jetta with a really strange fault for the cam position sensor. I narrowed it down to being the adjuster for the cam shaft. In order to replace this part, both cam shafts need to be removed. I have replaced lots of these adjusters with no problem. I went to town on replacing the adjuster. Its not a hard job, just takes some time, and carefully marking the parts before removing them.

The replacement went pretty smooth. The trouble started when I when to start the car. It cracked, but would not start. The car had a fast crack. Usually a fast crank is a sign of low/no compression.  That means the engine won’t start. I took everything back apart to recheck my work. Everything was fine. I checked, and  checked, and checked and checked my work. Everything seemed to be inline.

I spent about 3 hours going back and forth with the work I did. I stayed about 2 hours late racking my brain, with no conclusion. I still don’t really know what the heck is wrong with the Jetta.  I will be heading in on my day off to figure it out.

Well, basically what I think is that something internal happened to the engine.  I am not sure what, but something went wrong.. I will update you guys when I figure out what the heck is going on.  I am pretty pissed about what ever I did to this car.  I just hope it doesn’t cost the dealer too much.. GRRRRR!

Be sure to sign up for email updates so you know what happens first!

Thanks

Charles

Metal chucks in a vw transmission problems

So I really wanted to write a nice blog about cars tonight. My head, however is just not into it. Its been a really challenging week.  Here is what went down.

The very first car of the week belongs to a good customer that has since become a great friend.  He called me and told me that he thought his clutch had went out in his 2003 Jetta.  I test drive the car and its making a crazy noise from the transmission.  I check it on the lift and confirm something in the transmission is not happy.  I drain the fluid and find chunks of metal. I quote up the rebuild parts, only to find its way cheaper to replace the whole thing.  I totally feel for the guy.  I think that started me bumming this week.

2 cars later, one of my sweetest customers came in with with her ABS (antilock brake system)  light on.  She drives a 99 Beetle.  This lady reminds me of my grandmother.  I pull her car in the shop, scan the codes, and find some bad news.  After some checking and testing some wires, it find that she needs a new ABS module to the tune of $2300.  I cant even explain how it makes me feel telling anyone that, but especially her..

Yesterday I spent about 4 hours dealing with a radio that would not work correctly.  A VERY long story short is that VW had updated the radio to one that looked like a radio from 2006, but the internal parts were new.  I found this out after 5 calls to VW, and of course the complete run around.   I am currently waiting to see if the 4th radio I get will work correctly.  This guy has a 2009 Jetta and cant use his Ipod.

Then today, I am pulling a car out of the shop right after lunch.  In the lot, a customer comes up to me and says

“Hi, are you the diesel guy?”.

I say “we don’t really have a diesel guy, we all kinda work on everything”.

“Oh, we talked a while back about me buying a TDI Touareg.”

I of course don’t remember right a way, but after chatting with him, we get on the same page.  He tells me whats going on with his 05 Beetle.  Based on what he tells me, I was pretty sure it needed a cam shaft.  I spend some time checking his car out, test driving it, running some computer diagnostics, and looking at scan tool data.  While I was still not 100% sure, I was about 85% sure that the car had some internal engine damage.  I bring him out to the shop and have another talk.  We decide that pulling the valve cover and looking inside the engine would be the next step.  I take the valve cover off, and find that the cam shaft has flat spots in it.  That’s a VERY bad thing.  He asks me what I think it will cost.  I tell him that I would bet its about $2200.  He tells me I am crazy, and that it couldn’t be more than $1200.  He was totally nice to me, I think he was floored that I thought it would be that much.  As luck would have it, I was off by $1200.  The estimate came to $3400 for a cam shaft and related parts and labor.  He is currently calling Volkswagen to see if they can offer him any help.

Oh, I also forgot that another really good customer turned friend was coming in.  I was paged up front, and there she was.  We chatted for a minute, and she could tell I had no idea why she was there.  I thought she just came by to hang out or something. (that does happen from time to time.  It usually makes my day so feel free).  It finally dawned on me that we had talked about her getting a state inspection done.

I know this post is full of bad news and me complaining, so for that I am sorry.  It just really bothers me when I tell people their car needs so much work.  It REALLY hits home when they come in and ask for me to be their guy.  It feels like I let them down somehow.

Thanks for reading, and I guess before you bring your car to me, see how the first car of the week went.  It could be a sign!