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Due to the launch of the Forum yesterday, and some other things going on, I feel like I left you guys with out a really good post yesterday! So to make it up, I am doubling up on the “Shop Shots” today!

This is a picture of a V6 Passat axle. The axle is what connects the transmission to the wheels. Without axles, the car will not go. The picture is an inner joint. Somehow, it came apart. It’s acutally not something that happens all that much. I think that I have seen just a couple over the years.

While we are on the drivetrain, this is a close up picture of a tire that I took. I was standing under the car, which makes this the left rear tire.?. Tires are much more than just round and black. The technology is pretty amazing. Before I start going on and on about speed ratings, temp ratings, performance(sorry, I started) 😉 well lets just say they are rubber compounds, with steal imbedded in it. When the tire wear down far enough, you can actually see the metal cords. The line in the picture is where the tread(parts that makes contact with the road) meets the sidewall (where the words are written) I know that I left out so much info on tires, or tyres if its a VW, but I will save that for another post!


This little guys was sitting on the dash of a 2012 Golf. When I got in the car, I totally didn’t see him. I pulled the car around to the back door of the shop. When I seen him, I screamed. I mean, like I screamed out loud. Then I started cracking up because I just screamed at a tiny little snake on the dash of a car. So I took a picture of him. In the back round, you can see my tool box. 🙂

Here is a side by side shot of a VERY common issue on our 2.0T FSI, engine. These are called cam followers. The one on the right is the new and updated part. The one on the left, well, it shouldn’t have a hole in it. The follower is an internal engine part. It rides on the cam shaft and operates the mechanical fuel pump. I guess the issue is too soft of metal. It wears the cam shaft, and the follower. I have also seen these metal chunks clog up oil passages and ruin engines. BTW, replacing engines is not fun!

HAHA,(yes I just laughed when the picture came up), This Jetta came in the other day. The service advisor came back and asked my how much it would cost to replace a customers fuse. He said it “Cracked in half”. What had actually happened is the fuse blew. A fuse blows when too much current goes through it. This is the fuse panel on top of the battery. It is the main power junction of the car. The wire that looks weird is the one to the alternator. The fuse blew, and someone just taped a wire to it, instead of ACTUALLY fixing the car. I am not sure who did the job, but holy crap, its kind of a hazard. The customer declined the repair, they said they would “wait and see”?

Ok, I have been saving this one for a while. I think it happened a few years ago. I was off work the day this happened. I got a text from one of the boys at work saying a car fell off a lift. I of course asked for a picture! I guess what happened was the guy doing the alignment was moving the wheel back and forth. That is called doing a “sweep”. When we do a sweep, the machine measures the suspension angles. When he did the sweep, the wheel cought the edge and rolled off the rack. He was ok, mad at himself, but ok. To make things even better, the customer was standing right at the window to the shop. That is about 20 feet from the rack. Everyone was ok, the dealer paid to have the customers car fixed, and gave him a car to drive while his was getting repaired. 😀

Well, that pretty much sums it up. I am sorry I missed a good post yesterday! The forum is LIVE and doing awesome. Please come by, sign up and post in the First 50. When we hit 50, I will lock the post and do a drawing for something. Not quite sure what it will be yet, kinda depends on how fast we hit 50 😉

 

Today is finally the day. I am launching TechnicianDatabase.com

From pretty much day one of starting this site, I knew that I wanted a better place for people to connect. I wanted to build a place for people to connect with mechanics and learn the truth about our jobs, the industry, car repairs, and so on. What I didn’t expect to find was great relationships with other mechanics. Where it is highly experienced mechanics, guys in or going to tech school, or just hobbyists, the connection has been outstanding.

The site went live today. I also started a few threads just to get things rolling. Here is the VERY important part about the forum, It is for you guys! This is just a continuation of our community. With that, make sure you are all cool to each other, and we all need to work to keep out spam!

One other thing, I started a “First 50” thread in the “Meet and Greet” section. What that will be is, the first 50 people to make a post will be forever locked as the “First 50” founders of the site. It be fair, I borrowed this idea from The Road to 100k. Its a great forum about building websites and blogs. If you guys ever plan on starting a blog, go to the forum and check it out. Everyone there is awesome and TONS of help. I am Humblemechanic on that forum(go figure). Oh, back to the 1st 50. When the first 50 have been locked in, I will give something cool away to someone in the 1st 50. I opened the forum to the folks on my email list this morning. I wanted to give them 1st shot at signing up. That is just one benefit of being on the email list. 😉

One more thing, as far as the logo I talked about yesterday, she didn’t have it ready. That is one problem with working with such an amazingly talented artist. She is actually a tattoo artist. On average, she books 6+ months out for an appointment. I am kinda bummed that she didn’t have it, but for real, this chick is crazy busy, and more importantly, it will be amazing.

Every once in a while a car comes around that is sent straight from hell. The crazy problems that keep me awake at night. Things that, if you were a professional writer, you could not even make up. When this happens, having a game plan to crucial!

There are times when we(mechanics) just can’t figure out whats wrong with a car. When this happens we have to take things to the next level. Thankfully this is not something that happens a lot, but when it does, it can make for a bad day!

STEP 1 ~ Ask another mechanic
This is usually the first think that a mechanic does when they can’t figure out a problem. The guys working next to me are a HUGE resource of knowledge. The odds of them running having ran into a similar issue is pretty good.

The other good thing about asking the guy in the next bay is a totally different perspective. They come in with a fresh set of eyes. There comes a point when frustration starts to set in. Getting a fresh pair of eyes, and a fresh mind is always a good choice.

Step 2 ~ Take a break
You would think that this would be step 1, but it usually falls to number 2. If you have asked someone working next to you for help, and could not come to a conclusion, you are starting down an unhappy path. Much like asking someone else, taking a break will gives a chance to clear your head.

Walking away for a couple of minutes is a perfect way to think about the issue while not buried under it. If I smoked, this would be the perfect opportunity to burn one, then come back and reevaluate the problem

Step 3 ~ Computer Research
If you have not fixed a car by now, its time to break out the old repair manual. Depending on what the problem is, VW has several different resources available.

  1. Standard repair manual. ~ This is the (online) book that has information to fix our cars. It contains some information, tests to run on components, wiring diagrams, and some VERY basic how to’s
  2. Scan tools ~ Our scan tools does more than just tell us the faults stored in all the vehicle computers. They have software built in that adds different tests based on the faults. The tests are not the end all of solutions, but it can give some ideas on where to go next.
  3. Technical Service Bulletins(TSB) ~ This is a repair update that is issued by a manufacturer. It can be anything from a tip to fix a rattle, to tips on diagnosing transmissions. They are NOT recalls. Customers will not be notified about them. This is something a mechanic can use to help fix/diagnose a problem. This information is available to anyone that wants it.
  4. Tech Tips ~ This is something that VW issues to us mechanics. It is either the precursor to a TSB, or just a quick tip. Usually a very short blurb about a issue with a car.
  5. Google ~ If 1-4 do not work, Google can be a life saver. There are lots of really sharp people that have put great info on the web. I am not too proud to do a Google search 😉
Step 4 ~ Call in reinforcements
Now that you know your getting your butt kicked, its time to call in the big guns. VW has a program set up to help mechanics when they are stuck on a problem. Its called VW tech line. What we do is, send an email to our VW tech help line folks. We attach diagnostic logs, photos, videos(I have never attached a video), and answer several questions about the issue with the car.
After sending the email, we have to call the guys at tech line and talk to them. They usually ask the very simple stuff like “did you check the battery, did you check this, check that, is the car on fire?”. After the basics are covered, its time to get to business. They have access to all of the cases from VW. They can tell how many times someone has called tech line about this issue, and what they did to fix the problem. It usually takes a few calls to get an issue resolved.
Step 5 ~ Dispatch the top dog 
When all of the above fail, the top dog comes to the dealer. We have a regional guy that travels to dealers to help fix the REALLY broken cars. There is warranty criteria that requires him being dispatched. I am pretty sure I can’t talk about what that is. This is the guy that has all the connections to the really important people in the company.
The guy we have now is pretty awesome. He worked as a VW tech line guy for years. I acutally worked with him years ago, when he was a tech line guy.  This is basically the last line of repair. I have not ran into a car that between the regional guy and myself, couldn’t be fixed.
Step 6 ~ T.M.I.
If it comes to this, its time to T.M.I. or Trade Me In! I heard that saying on CarTalk, btw. I think the more appropriate thing to say is buy back. There is lots of legal mumbo jumbo about buy backs that I really don’t care to talk about. I am mostly just joking around about trading cars in.
More often folks will trade because the repair is too costly, not because I can’t fix it.

NAME:

Kevin

How long have you been in the Industry?

Since 2000 so about 12 years

What is your current job title?

Service advisor

What were you doing for your first automotive job?

oil change boy

Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?

Dealership

Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.

I fix more people than cars.  Pretty much meet and greet, dispatch work into the shop, make status calls and advise on what repairs are needed.  create the final bill and then see the customers on there way.  I’m also a therapist for the techs, and customers 😉

When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?

I spend time with my girls and play pool and golf

What kind of car do you drive?

2001 VW passat It is a pretty sweet 01 Passat too! **HM**

What was your first car? It was a awesome

1994 mercury villager mini van.  And I still got girlfriends

What made you want to work on cars?

I actually couldn’t afford to get my car fixed so I figured I would teach myself so I didn’t have to pay anyone.  After some trial and lots of error’s the rest is history, never looked back

What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?

 I was doing a recall on heated seats and found a GIANT bag of weed and a gun. He forgot to mention that it was his car! LOL kidding Kev **HM**

Do you have much customer interaction?

I have more interaction with customers then I do with my family or anyone else that I know

What is your favorite part of your job?

Getting to know and make relationships with a melting pot of different people.  Also making a difference.  If I can be someones hero or save there day it makes all the bad times worth it.  I agree 100% with that **HM**

If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?

Have a negative attitude.  Keeping a good attitude would have saved me so many  headaches in the past

The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?

Well I treat everyone’s car like my moms.  Give me 1 opportunity to earn your trust and fix your car the right way, you wont be disappointed.

Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?

CHANGE YOUR OIL ON TIME!!!!  Don’t be lazy and neglect your car.  Its a huge investment and needs some lovin every so often just like everything else.  You be good to your car and it will be good to you

How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?

Depends on if you have trouble sleeping!  Honestly….. I bet %50 of people would save money or time if they looked in the manual first before coming in for service.  There car will also last longer if they follow the maint schedule for there vehicle.

Have you read the owners manual to your car?

Thats a negative.  But I’ve worked with VW since 2003, There’s not much about my car I don’t know

What tool in your tool box do you use the most?

My mind……all day

Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?

Snap on

If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?

  1. Snap On pocket screw driver (if you work on cars you know what I mean) And they are free! **HM**
  2. Adjustable wrench
  3. Scan tool.  I can pretty much disassemble and fix most cars with those 3

If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?

A sweet tea maker

You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?

2.0 jetta, prob one of the best/reliable cars ever made

What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?
We really are here to help, not rip you off, I promise if your nice and give me the chance I will work my ass off for you.
I actually had the privilege to work with Kevin for about 4 years. We worked next to each other as mechanics for quite a while. That was so much fun. Then he moved up to be a service advisor. When that happened, I think Kevin really found his calling. He was a pretty good mechanic, but he was a phenomenal service advisor.
I am pretty sure that we can all expect great things from Kevin in the future. Thanks so much Kev for giving us a look into the service advisor world!
If you guys have any questions for Kevin, or want to know more about being a service advisor, post it up in the comments.

So last weeks “Shop Shops” was a pretty big hit! Thanks Brett for the great name. I think this will be a Thursday post from now on.

This picture could fall under the “Tech Tip of the Day” post. This is a transmission seal on a 2002(or so) VW passat. One of the mechanics in the shop replaced this seal because it was leaking. This is actually a pretty common repair. Well, a couple of days later the customer comes back in saying his car is leaking worse than before.

The mechanic that had replaced it was off that day. One of the other guys had to remove the axle and the flange to gain access to the seal. He called me over to show me what he found. It turns out that this seal is installed BACKWARDS! We fixed the car no problem. The guy that installed the seal, got the time taken back for his mistake.

This is actually a mess that I made. I had to replace the engine on this 2004 VW Passat. The engine locked up and broke the timing belt. I think it was due to lack of oil changes, but could not prove that. The engine on the right is the new one. This type of job usually takes about 2 days to complete.

I think I took this mid day. No way I would have left this mess overnight. This is not really my favorite job. There is a lot of “How does this go together” on a job like this.

This is a picture of a buddy’s Passat. I have turned a few wrenches on this car. In fact, I think we rebuilt the entire front suspension, among other things. He bought this car with 187,xxx miles on it. He actually knew the original owner of this Passat. Not only that, but he worked on the car starting at 30,xxx miles.

With 284,xxx miles, he sold it to buy a newer Passat. It couldn’t have been 3 weeks after he sold it, it got totaled. It was really sad to see a car that was so well maintained, with such high miles go to the car grave yard. Don’t worry, everyone was ok. It just stinks.

Be sure to subscribe for email updates. I don’t want you to miss fun posts like this one!

Thanks for reading
Charles

Since it was 8 years ago today, I thought I would tell the story about packing up and moving to work for Volkswagen.

In 2003 I started with the Volkswagen academy. This was a full time, 11 week training program for mechanics. Before I started, I was told I would have a 50% chance of staying in the area I lived in. I figured that I would take those odds, there are tons of dealers around the area. The worst I figured I would have to move across town. The Chicagoland area is huge, it shouldn’t be a problem right?

Well, the very first day, the very first thing the instructor says is, “If you plan on working in the area, there is the door. You have NO chance of working in this area”. Not much of a 50% chance is it? I decided to stick with it(obviously). I had lived in the same area for my entire life, so this was a huge thing for me.

I think it was about a week before the training was over, when I landed my very first interview. I actually called all 3 dealers in the area I wanted to move. The 1st guy told me to come down when I was done training. The 2nd call I made, the service manager and I hit it off and told me he would make arrangements come down and interview. I also made another call to the 3rd dealer in the area. This jerk wouldn’t even talk to me.

The service manager flew me down on a Friday morning. I remember it pretty well because it was like -14 air temp. My Mitsubishi hated being driven in the cold. I got off the plane to a beautiful 60 degree day in the south! Looking back, I might have moved anyway. 😉 I met up withe the service manager and shop foreman. We went back to the shop, checked the place out and then grabbed some lunch. The interview was pretty casual. It was more of a “lets make sure he is not a total jackass” meeting.

I was offered the job that day. Next up was the phone call I had to make to my wife. Her and I both had lived in IL our whole lives. I had to call her and tell her that next week we were packing up and moving 5 states away. Lucky for me, she was 100% on board. I think the change of scenery was a good thing for both of us.

While I had some time before my flight, the shuttle driver took me to a few places to find an apartment. With the apartment secured, I hopped scooted back to the airport and flew home. All and all is was a super awesome, busy, stressful day.

The next week was full of training for me. My wife quite a job that she had for over 10 years. We had so many loose ends to tie up, I don’t really remember much. I do remember that we had to rent a moving truck and trailer. The day before we left, it was a Saturday, we started to load up our little apartment in IL.  I also remember taking my grandma’s car to Carmax to sell it. Some friends took us out to dinner to say some very heartfelt goodbyes. To this day, I miss every single one of them.

Sunday morning some of our family came over to help us pack and load up the truck. Our plans were to leave around 5pm, drive straight through and roll in around noon. WELLLLL, it turns out, a fully loaded moving truck with a trailer will only go about 65mph. Plus driving through IN with snow and the wind blowing makes for an awful drive. I think that we all stopped in Kentucky for a few hours of sleep. My first drive though the Appalachian Mountains was AWEFUL! Little sleep, big moving truck with a trailer, in a place I had never been.

We rolled into town about 11pm Monday night. It was too late to get the keys to the apartment. Now we had to find a hotel to stay the night in. This was in 2004, well before everyone had a smart phone or a GPS in their car. We got the room and totally crashed out. The next morning, I had to take my buddy, who is awesome and helped so much, back to the airport. I was really sad to see him fly back to IL.

I went back, picked up the wife and headed to the apartment. We got the keys and we were home! Well, the apartment had not been cleaned, so it was super nasty. Never the less, we busted butt and got the whole truck unloaded in just a few hours. By the time we were done, all I wanted to do was take a nice hot shower, plug the TV in and chill. As (my) luck would have it, NO HOT WATER!!! It took a few more hours to get them to come and fix the water.

I didn’t have to report to work for another week. That gave me time to go to Sears and pick up my new tool box. We spent the next few days cleaning that nasty apartment. I still don’t think I ever touched that floor with my bare feet. It was really that gross. Boy was I glad for the day we moved out of that apartment.

Well, I know that we didn’t really talk cars today. But this time of year is really a time where I think back about how my life has changed over the past 8 years. 10 years ago, I would never have thought I would be working on cars, living in NC, and even crazier, writing about it. I hope you guys enjoyed this post. Tomorrow we will be back to talking about cars, I promise. 😉

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.