Tag Archive for: mechanic

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!





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!

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Volkswagen water damage

We all know that drinking and driving is bad.  More important than anything, its dangerous.  The number of anti drinking and driving ads should tell the story.

Your probably wondering why a mechanic would be writing a blog post about drinking and driving.  I do not work in a body shop. I am not a paramedic, police officer, or any type of first responder.  I can’t say anything about that side of DUIs.

The side that I see is purely related to vehicle electrics. One of the “punishments” of a DUI is having a starter lockout device installed. Most of us call this a breathalyzer. Basically, it prevents the starter from turning until someone blows into it.

The person that gets the DUI has to pay for this device to be installed, they have to pay monitoring costs, and they have to pay to have it removed. Check out some of the cost of DUIs.Here is where I come in.  It seems that the guys, or gals, that install these devises, do not know much about modern cars.  I have ran into 2 that they have messed up.

The first time I encountered a breathalyzer issue was on a GTI. The girl had the thing installed, then the check engine light came on, and the car would not run. After some initial diagnosis, I found an injector wire that was soldered. Now the actucal WIRE repair was fine, but soldering on modern cars is a big time NO-NO.  It turned out that they fried the engine computer.  This type of repair runs about $1500.  Thankfully for her, the company that installed it, paid for the repair.  Plus note, she is now a great customer of mine!

The latest fun with a breathalyzer is actually still going on.  I am not sure how long this guy has had the breathalyzer in his Touareg, but my guess is about a year. His Touareg has had a number of issues over the years.  I mean, the 2004 Touareg had its problems all on its own. This time the car got towed in because it would not start. I spent some time with it and found that the ECM(engine control module) was not being controlled properly. I jumped the power relay (which controls power and ground ironically enough) and drove the car in the shop.

I must have spent about another hour testing different systems. I narrowed it down to the ECM. We told the customer that we would start with replacing the ECM,and go from there. He purchased an ECM from a junk yard. Thats not really something I want to install, but its what the customer wanted so I used it.

After installing the ECM, the car started right up. “GREAT, I fixed it”, thats probably what I said, and I probably said it out loud, because I tend to do that. I put the covers back on with the car running and cleaning the car up. When I shut the car off, the cooling fans stayed on. If I had the Touareg running for an hour, that would not have been a problem. I only had it running for a few minutes. Not knowing if the issue was the used ECM, or something else, I was basically back to square one.

I spend about 2 more hours searching wiring diagrams, and tracing circuits. It turns out the relay that I had an issue with initially, was still the problem. Now the problem was the relay would not release(before it would not activate). So after banging my head against the wall, I decided to pull up the relay plate and just “take a look”. As any tech with a few years under their belt will tell you, “sometimes you just got to dive in and take a look”.

What I found was SEVERAL main power wires that were under water. Even if you are not a car person, you know that electricity and water do not mix. I have repaired tons of wiring harnesses due to water damage. This one is the first Touareg that I have seen it happen to.  I guess when the company installed the breathalyzer device, they did not secure the cover properly. The box is right under the windshield wipers, so water was bound to get in.

The scary part about these harnesses, is VW is not really that clear on where they go. It could just be the connectors under the hood, it could be ALL the wires from the headlights to the taillights.  The only way to know for sure is to order one and see. Most of the body harnesses cost $2000-$4500 for the part, and probably about the same for labor.

The crazy thing is, the car is just in a holding pattern. The customer is fighting with the company that installed the breathalyzer to make them pay for the damage. They say they are not responsible for ANYTHING. To the customer point, they are the one that messed his car up. On the company’s side, if he would have never got a DUI, it would have never been a problem.

I am not really sure what will happen with this repair. I will write a new post as soon as I get an update.  Be sure to subscribe for all the updates!

So, last week I was in Maryland at VW training. I have been going up there for the better part of 7 years for training courses that are lead by VW instructors. These type of classes required at least once every year to maintain Factory Trained status.  That means every year I go through some pretty intense training.

There is a strange thing that seems to happen almost every time I am at training, a complete wipeout of my confidence.  Now I am not the best VW mechanic in the world, but I feel like I do a pretty good job. I have my own way of diagnosing car, and it has served me well over the years.

Confidence is such a huge part of my job. I would say that it can influence the way just about any job goes. I have watched some really good mechanics “second guess” themselves in to spending hours diagnosing a car, that should be an easy fix. Heck, I have done it myself.

When I travel for training, it is usually a 2-4 day class.  Time is split between lecture and on-car training.  The instrutors seem to have a way to make me feel like I have been “doing it wrong” all this time. Making mechanics feel like they are “doing it wrong”, is not their intension, but they are REALLY good at it. I understand that instructors are trying to show us mechanics that there are “better” ways to do things.

The problem is, it makes you question every step in your diagnostic process. Second guessing is a one way ticket to letting a car kick your butt.  Mechanics need to have that, “trust your gut” mentalitly ALL the time.  I spend hours looking at the way cars behave. Looking at readings that show what the engine computer is seeing, and how it is responding.  After 7 and a half years of doing this, a good mechanic develops an internal baseline of what these numbers should be.  Spending 2 days of training basically reboots everything back to my first day.

Without getting overly technical (aka kinda boring), the class was about vehicle inputs and outputs. A vehicle input would be like the switch for the headlights.  The output side would of course be the headlights.  Years ago, this was a basic operation.  One that in a few minutes everyone would understand. Today everything is controlled by modules. The switch is not a switch, its a module.  In an effort to reduce vehicle wiring(the most expensive overall part of the car) things are controlled by modules.  A switch would have 1 or 2 wires for every function.  An old Cabrio window switch would have 20 or so wires.  Now that same switch will have 9, and 3 are for the lights in the switch.  This class was methods to diagnose theses types of systems.  The way I was doing it was similar to listening to a walkman.  Now I would be listening to music on an IPhone 4gs(which I want REALLY bad).

The class overall was really good.  I was able to learn some things, and it was a great refresher of some others. I will take me a week or so to get my confidence back and get in full swing of things.  This method of diagnosis will just be another “tool” in my tool box.

I hope this was a little insight into what training mechanics go through.  Does everyone have the same feeling when you go to training?  Post up in the comments and let me know how training is for you!



WARNING!-There is a fair chance that this post will offend someone. It is not directed at anyone in particular, it is just my opinion. I do not mean to sound arrogant or better than anyone, so if I come across that way, well it is what it is!

I fan on the facebook page sent me this today:

“I was at a yard sale, and found an old high school auto shop text book, written in 1969. I took it home for one dollar. I was looking at the chapter on tune ups, and there was this: “Good work habits are important. The top mechanic arrives at work ON TIME and is absent only for GOOD REASONS. If he MUST be absent, he will notify his employer so that customer commitments and work loads may be adjusted. He is invariably a hard worker and during any periods in which he may not have a work assignment, he will busy himself in some way- cleaning tools, helping a fellow mechanic, etc. He takes pride in his work and pride in the business. He knows that by helping the business to prosper, he too will prosper. He gladly shares his knowledge with apprentice mechanics, and conducts himself, at all times, in a way that brings credit to the trade.” OK, that’s the longest post I’ve made yet on FB, but I thought it worthwile.”~~~~Thanks so much for sending this to me John!

What a brillent statement.  I read through it once, and thought, “That really decribes how I work”. I do much of what the article describes.

After reading through it a second time, I started to think how sad it is that this is NOT the norm. The fact is a worker the article talks about it now an “OLD SCHOOL” type worker.

In my last performance evaluation, my boss said to me, “You really have an old school work ethic”. On the surface, that could seem like a good or bad thing.  Knowing my boss really well, and knowing what he meant, I took it as a good thing. It does however have a negative connotation as well.

When I hear the term “Old School Work ethic”, I consider it a compliment. I think of people from my grandparents generation that worked hard, and made great lives for themselves and their kids.  The DID understand that (in general) what was good for the company is good for them. If the boss asked them to do something (with in reason) it got done, and they took pride in the work they did.  Back then, EARNING a paycheck was what it was all about. That generation earned what they had and were proud of it!

Today things are quite  different. The norm is not work hard and earn your pay check.  Now it seems that most people want to know what the company is going to do for them. If your boss asks you to do something, and you do it, you are a kiss ass.  It never ceases to amaze me that doing what you are paid to do now makes you a “company man or woman”.  They say that like it is a bad thing.  I am a company man. When my company makes money, I make money.  Its really that simple.

I do not want to belittle the average worker.  I have learned over the years that everyone works different. I use to get very frustrated because coworkers were not like me. I try to take it in stride, but it can be really difficult when your hard work is, basically, shunned by your peers.

I have no plans to change the way I work.  There are mechanics in my shop that are far better mechanically, that know more than me, that remember more than me, and can work at a faster pace.  The advantage I have is, I will out work most all of them. This work ethic has served me well in  my career, and I will NOT change.  I can learn new skills, adapt to changes in the industry, but I will NEVER let my work ethic slip!!