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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!

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

People tell me, almost daily, “I can just do that myself”. Normally, I laugh it off and think “good luck with that”. The truth is, lots of jobs can be done by someone with very little skills and just a few tools. I wont be teaching you how to do your our work, but here are some things that you need to consider when tackling a DIY repair on your car.

Price

I think that about 70% of people do not let a mechanic fix their car because of price. We all look to save a buck everywhere we can. Saving $25 by replacing your own air filter seems like a good idea right? If your time is worth $25 per hour, and it takes you 3 hours, NOT worth it. If you can do it in about 1 hour or less, do it!

TIme

You will see that most of these completely overlap! If you can pay a mechanic to do a job that take him, or her 45 minutes, but you take you 4 hours, pay for it. You will spend more time screwing around with it than its worth, pay it and go do something fun, or go back to work!

Tools

Some jobs, most on VWs, require specialized tools. This can be something as common as pliers to remove clamps or Torx drive bits. It a tool that is only used for 1 certain job on 1 type of car. If the repair in question MIGHT require on of these tools, consider paying of the repair. If you can justify buying to tools(this is something I NEVER have a problem with:)) then it might be something you want to consider fixing yourself.

Know-How

This one is tricky. There is so many great resources online to get repair information, that anyone can learn anything. A friend of mine Katie used a YouTube video to learn how to replace a filter in her car! The look on her face was a look of pure pride! The information is out there, don’t use that as an excuse.

Passion

This one is EASY. If you love working on your car, then DO IT! The cost of the tools, time, know-how will all be worth it. It will be worth it because you will enjoy the time working on your car.

Caution

There is a DIY caution that I want to give everyone. If you decide that you are going to work on your own car, I support that 100%! (I mean that is one of the points of this blog!) Just understand that if something gets messed up, it is NOT covered under warranty. It will most likely cost you more now. A mechanic will have to undo what you did, then fix the initial problem

Here are some really great DIY things that I recommend people doing(unless you are my customer)

  • Wiper Blades
  • Light Bulbs(some are a pain, ask me if you are not sure)
  • Cabin Air Filters
  • Engine Air Filters(some VW filters suck, ask me 1st)

There are other things that are DIY, but the the maintenance stuff is easier! I left off spark plugs because they need to be properly torqued( you need a torque wrench). I also left off oil changes. In my mind, its too much work, a big mess. My dealer charged ~$14 in labor for that service. WELL WORTH IT!

What do you guys like to do on your cars? Did I forget anything easy that people like to DIY?

How honest mechanics get paid

Like I said in yesterdays post, when I am out of the shop, cars are not at the front of my mind. I like talking about the industry, but not always the nuts and bolts of the job.(I feel like there is a joke in there somewhere) 🙂

When I talk to people about my job, one of the questions I get all the time is, “Has work been busy?”. That is a really interesting question, because it always leads to me explaining how most mechanics get paid. After I tell people, they usually say, “Wow, I never imagined that you got paid like that”. So I thought I would give you guys the low down on how I get paid, and how Flat Rate works.

Most dealership mechanics get paid on Flat Rate. The easiest way to understand Flat Rate is, I am paid based on productivity. The more work that I do the more I get paid. It is a pretty simple concept, but let me break it down a little more. I think if more people understood how mechanics get paid, they would appreciate what we do a little more.

Like I said, I am paid on productivity. Each job has an amount of time that it pays to complete. Lets take a job like replacing a headlight bulb. That job pays me .3 of 1 hour(that is 18 minutes). It does not matter how long it takes me to replace, I get paid .3 hours. If I can complete the job in less time, the extra is a bonus. If it takes me longer to complete, I come out losing. So if I made $10 per hour, I would get paid $3 to replace a light bulb.

What that also means if I am not working, actually doing work, I am not getting paid. I could go in to work for a 10 hour day and only get paid for 1hour. The flip side is, I can work a 10 hour day and get paid for 20 or more hours. It is a pretty interesting pay structure.

The times are based on several things. My dealer uses a calculation of warranty time. There are other labor guides that shop use like All-data, and Motors. They “say” the use the average time it takes a master mechanic to do the job. I think that sometimes they just make stuff up, because the times can be crazy!

I did a search to see what other say about how mechanics get paid. They are ALL written by professional writers that really do not understand the job. The system has pros and cons for mechanics and for customers.

Pros for the mechanic

This one is easy. The harder a mechanic works, the more they get paid. Simple! Working hard directly pays off. If its a job that does not pay well, you can hustle through it and move on to the next job that pays better.

Cons for the mechanic

There are some jobs that suck, plain and simple. They take longer than they pay. The other big con is, if there are no cars in the shop, mechanics get paid nothing! There is also the opportunity to take short cuts to do jobs faster. I can tell you, that almost always come back to bite a mechanic!

Pros for customers

The times are set. You will not have to pay more money because it takes longer to complete a job. This also makes mechanics work harder to get cars finished.

Cons for customers

Just like for the mechanic, it opens the opportunity to take short cuts that can result in the car not getting fixed. It also can let customers question how much they are paying. A job that takes 3 hours to complete, might cost a customer 6 hours worth of labor cost. ~this can be a post all on its own~. My reply to that is, “Would you want to pay more if it took longer?”. The answer is always no. 😉

That is pretty much the basics. Flat Rate is a love/hate relationship for me. Love the good days, HATE the bad ones. I think that I will dive deeper in this topic. Its one that is debated a lot in the shop.

What do you guys think? Good or bad for customers, mechanics?

 

 

 

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

Happy Friday everyone!

I am writing this “unintensional” post today about customer service. See I actually recorded a podcast about this very topic. After fighting with it for about 3 hours(all while the carpet guys are banging away up stairs) I gave up and thought I would just write a post.  I will most likely record the podcast again and give it another try using something other than GarageBand.

Before I get going, I just want to thank everyone for the support over the past few months. I have been working on building the blog and getting some good content up. As you might know I am working with a buddy to rebuild the site to better fit what I want it to be, and to look cooler too!

When you think about the job of a mechanic, you usually don’t think about it from a customer serivce stand point. Most people think of it as a greasy dirty job, which it can be at times, but they don’t think about how much customer interaction that I have. I say I because I feel like most mechanics do not have as much interaction as the should.

I called this post “A dealership of One” beacuse that is how I work. I treat what I do as if the dealership was called “Charles Volkswagen”. I want to make it so that every customer that lets me work on their car knows who I am. I enjoy taking a few minutes out of my day and chatting with folks about cars, tools, weather, whatever it may be. It is actually a really nice break from wrenching on cars. The idea of running my business as in this way really helps set a customer at ease. For me its abuot building confidence, and trust in a relationship. I want my customers to know that if they need something for their car, wether it is a lightbulb replaced, an oil change, or something major repaired, I got their back. Even if we have to have that dreaded talk about getting a new car!

Its funny how just a little bit more “Give a damn” really make a world of difference. A prefect example is a quick story about a customer of mine named Lauren. I met her when my service advisor paged me up to talk to a customer. After a breif chat, she asked me a question that I would have never expected ANYONE to ask.

Who is the manufacturer of the oil filter you are going to use in my car?

I am sure that the look on my face was priceless. I knew that some of our filters were made by a company called MANN, but I had no idea the answer to her question. There are a few ways that I could have handled the situation.

  1. Tell her I did not know and move on
  2. Find the answer to her question

Here is what I did, I went and checked a couple of oil filter to see where they were made. Unfortunaly for Lauren, they were not the filters she was looking for (read that as a Jed:)). So did I really help her out, NO. Did I really do that much extra for her, NO! Did I use a moment to show a customer how much I really value them, and their car YES! Because I took that 5 minutes to help her out, I feel like I will have a customer for life. In fact, I seen Lauren last week, and after working on her car, I stopped and chatted with her about the next service. She told me that she wanted me to be her mechanic from now on!

Folks THAT is what this business lacks! Its actually what most business lack. I wish that more mechanics would just take the time to really understand things from a customers point of view. It costs a lot of money to buy and maintain a car. You should feel good about having someone that you trust to take care of you and your car!

If you are a mechanic and you DONT work this way, YOU ARE WRONG! I will say it again YOU ARE WRONG! You get paid well for working on cars, and customer deserve your BEST!

If you are a car owner and don’t bring your car to me,(It better be because you do not live near me) find a good mechanic. If a mechanic won’t talk to you, keep looking. There are some great mechanics out there, it just takes some work to find them.

I hope this gave you guys a look into another side of what I do. It is something I have not written about before, but it

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

Next week my dealership will be adding a “Quick Lube” team. The team will actually be called our Service Express team. The idea behind the Service Express team will be to provide another option for customers to get their cars serviced.

The way my dealership works now is, 90% by appointment. Basically, you would call and talk to a service advisor, schedule a time and date to bring your car in for whatever it needs. They do leave some open times for a limited amount of walk-ins, or emergencies.

The Service Express team will be another option. Customers will be able to walk-in and get an oil change, a bulb replaced, or wipers changed. They will be a dedicated team that will ONLY do that type of stuff. The team will have 2 service advisors, and 4 or 5 mechanics(not sure if that is what they will be called but they work on cars, so I am cool with it).  VW has a full training program for this team. They will have a strict routine to follow to be sure every car is done the right way in around 30 minutes.

I think it will be a good thing overall for our customers. It will give a lot more flexibility for customers to get their cars serviced. It will also help us compete with the Jiffy Service type places. Our prices are better, now the service can be more convenient.

The talk around the shop however is on the negative side. When you tell mechanics that the dealer is adding more people, most see only 1 thing. They see work being taken from them and given to someone else. Our pay plan is similar to a commission based plan(post about that coming soon). So more mechanics means the work is spread out between more guys. To be honest, they are right. Even doing an oil change pays more that not doing anything.

My thinking is slightly different. It is not that I breathe the “corporate air” that comes along with programs like this, it is more about the bigger picture. The advisors have a habit of not taking walk-in customers(side note, there is not many things that piss me off more than that). Any work that the Service Express team sells, other than bulbs ect, will be divided out to the shop. More cars in the shop will equal more work for everyone. I also think the advisors will not want to give work up to the Service Express team. They will find a way to help customers that they “could not” find before.

If the quality of their work is as good as ours, I think it will be a great thing. What do you guys think?

  • Does having a “Quick Lube” style option work better for you?
  • Would you feel like the service would not be as good as a certified VW mechanic?
  • Do you think the price should be the same VW mechanic VS non VW mechanic?

Post your thoughts in the comments, I am really curious to see what everyone thinks

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Hey everyone! I wanted to get a post up about some things that will be happening with the blog.

Like I posted on Facebook yesterday, I had a meeting with a buddy of mine regarding the site. We talked about some of the things that I want to be able to do, and the look going forward. Overall it went awesome! Richard is a WordPress wizard an is helping work out the kinks. Be sure to sign up for our email list, you will find out all the cool stuff first.

These are some of the things that I have planned for this year.

I am in the proccess of writing a few ebooks(yikes).

I will be doing some “how to” type videos. Hopefully I can video some cool noises broken cars make.

The interview series will be launched. This is where you can read about some other folks in the industry. I think it will be cool to get a different point of view.

The resource page is coming along nice. This is be a section of the site that you can learn about how systems in your car work! It will start from basics and move into some pretty heavy stuff!

I will be blogging mostly from my phone. (that is where I am writing this post) That should give me much more freedom to post no matter what!

My goal is to write a post 5 days a week. They might not all be ground breaking information, some days might only be a quick “tech tip” or something along those lines.

So that’s is where I am at! After writing that it seems like I have my work cut out for me.

Here is what you guys can do, help spread the word. If you like what I am doing, tell folks! The more people that are part of the community the better it will be!

I am VERY excited about 2012!
Charles

I started with Volkswagen officially in Nov of 2003.  One of my goals early on was to become a Master Certified technician(or mechanic).  I didn’t realize how hard it would be to achieve that goal. I never thought it would take 8 years!

When I started with the VW Academy, I knew that I was making a good choice.  It really jump started my certification. I spent 11 weeks training on nothing but VW cars.  In order to be a Master Tech, I had to complete over 20 instructor led training classes. Each class is 2-4 days.  That only counts the base classes, that doesn’t even include all of the new technology classes. On top of passing all of those classes, there are several web-based training modules that need to be completed. It is not a easy, or a fast thing to do.

After completing all of that training, there are 5 tests that have to be completed. On the surface, 5 tests at 35 questions each, seems easy.  I thought so, until I failed ALL 5 the first time around. It was  a humbling experience. Since I failed the tests, I had a 30 day wait time before I could retake them. VW takes the tests VERY seriously.  A member of corporate has to watch and make sure mechanics are not cheating.  I am not sure that I have ever taking tests as hard as these. How would I know “What is the wait time before working on a airbag system on a 1993 Cabriolet”? That is the style of questions that are on the test! FYI~the wait time is 20 minutes!

Well, as of 12/22/11, I am happy to say that I am a certified Master VW mechanic! Its cool that I am one of about 100 folks that have this level of certification. Now get some sweet business cards!  I also get some cool patches for my work shirts, I probably will never put on.

Thanks to everyone that has helped me out over the years! It has been a long, exciting, journey and I am glad to finally hit a HUGE career goal!

Charles