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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.

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!

I moved “Shop Shots” up to Wednesday this week. I will actually be out of town for a couple of days. I don’t think there will be a post Thursday or Friday. Make sure you check out the forum too. I know its called Technician DataBase, but its not just for techs. It is for everyone, customer, mechanic, enthusiast, we got some fun conversations happening over there! Go to Technician Database, and sign up, I will have to approve you so it might take a few hours to join. Also, be sure to post in the “First 50” thread, you will be locked in as a founding member, and I will be giving something cool away.


This is a picture that I took on Monday. I was doing a 20,000 mile service on a 2010 Jetta, and this caught my eye. The bolt was out about 1/4 of an inch. I checked the history to see if the shop had done any work in this area. The customer did have an alignment done, but that was at ~1300 miles. I wouldn’t think that it could be loose for that many miles. I am surprised that the customer didn’t notice a clunking due to the bolt being loose.

It actually brings up a good point. When something like this happens, what does a mechanic do? If I say something to the customer, we would get blamed for messing the car up. VW warranty would not pay to tighten a bolt. The best thing for everyone is for me just to fix it. Not really hide what I found, but it was not worth stirring up trouble over. I torqued the bolt, and went through the other bolts on the subframe just to make sure they were properly torqued. I didn’t get paid anything to do it, but I surely couldn’t let the car go with a loose bolt.

This is an axle from a 2005 Jetta. The outer joint to be exact. The boot was split, so I removed the axle to replace the boot. This is actually a really common repair. Something that I have done lots of times. A couple of whacks with a 3lb sledge hammer and the joint comes right off. This one however didn’t want to play nice. I tried for about 30 minutes to separate the joint from the axle shaft. I beat the out edge of the joint up pretty bad. I finally had to accept defeat and tell the customer they needed a new axle. It really sucks that the customer had to buy a new axle, but I really did everything I could.

Knowing that the customer had agreed to buy a new axle, I was totally determined to get he joint apart. I brought out the big guns. I used my air hammer, but all I did was break the joint more. Since I had to send the old part back, I figured it was better just to call it quits. I don’t like to lose!

This is a short video of a crazy instrument cluster. This Jetta had several water leaks. I never found any water in the cluster, but something really pissed it off. This might be one of the strangest acting clusters I have ever seen. Also if you don’t drive a VW, the buzz that this cluster is making sounds NOTHING like it should. I recommend watching this a few times. Watch how fast the 2 small gauges move. This car is actually still at my work. The customer fixed the issues, but they have not came to get it yet. I think we are going on 3 months. I am pretty sure it was towed in before Christmas.

I hope you guys have a really great weekend. I will be spending some time in the forum, so swing by and say hello! Also, if you want to connect with me, the 2 best ways are on Twitter, or just email me!

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

So something happened in the shop this week that is, short of hurting someone, every mechanics biggest fear.

A customer brought their 2010 Passat in for its first service.  With only 10,000 miles the car got an oil change, tire rotation and some other minor checks.  The mechanic that performed the service is one of the top guys in the shop.  He was my mentor when I first started, and is one of the smartest people I have met in my life.  He is not a “do it quick” type of guy.  I just want you to understand that something like this can happen to any of us, it just so happen that this was his time.

After performing the very basic service, the car ran in the shop of about 5 minutes.  Then, he pulled the car around, customer got in and left.  About an hour later the car got towed back in with the customer saying that it died.

Before the car got pushed into the shop, we got the full story from the customer.  They said that they were driving on the highway, and the oil light came on and was beeping and flashing.  The customer continued to drive the car another 7 miles and then the engine shut off.

We check and find that there is NO oil in the car.  The mechanic added oil and tried to start the car, but no luck, engine would not even turn.  The car gets pushed in the shop, which is not fun by the way.  The mechanic checks and finds that the oil filter was loose.  He pulls the filter off to find that the filter as 2 gaskets. It turns out that when he removed the original filter, the gasket stuck to the car, not the filter.  When he put the new filter on, it crushed the gasket enough to properly seal.  The customer driving the car on the highway caused the oil pressure to push the gasket off and pump ALL of the oil out of the car.

In the end, the Passat will need a new engine and a new turbo charger.  The cost of all of the parts will come in around $5000.  The mechanic that made the mistake will have to do about 2.5 days worth of work to replace the engine.  He will be working with out pay to get the job complete.  Also, that engine is on back order for about 3 weeks.

Here are the lessons that we can all learn from what happened

  1. Even the best can make mistakes.  This mechanic takes a ton of pride in his work.  He will be beating himself up about this for a long time.  Good mechanics hate making mistakes, and noting anyone can say will make him feel any better.  I completely understand how he feels.  I don’t wish that feeling on anyone!
  2. The customer will be taken care of.  I am not sure to what extent, but the dealership will make it as right as they can.  I personally feel really bad for the customer, and what happened to their brand new ca
  3. If you have a light flashing, or a warning beeping at you, please stop driving the car.  This is NOT the customers fault, but the damage may not have been catastrophic if they had pulled over right away.

I will try to get some pictures of the internal engine damage when he takes it out.

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