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

This is a question that I get all the time. Whether a customer asks me, I see it posted, or I just over hear the conversation, it comes up all the time. Remember, I work for VW, I think overall German cars cost more to maintain than American, or Japanese cars.

Since there are so many factors that play into the cost of maintaining your car, lets just take one and really focus on that. The one that I am really thinking about today is the psychology of the statement, “It costs too much”. Just a heads up, I am not belittling the cost to properly maintain a car. I know that it cost a lot to keep your car running great!

When we buy a car, we put lots of time into researching the vehicle. Whether it is looking at which model we want, making sure we get the color we like, and finally making sure the price is fair. One thing most folks do not do, is take maintenance into account. We get caught up in the hype of buying a TDI (diesel), or getting the upgraded wheel and tire package. Not giving a thought that tires will cost more,or a TDI needs more maintenance. Once of my early posts talked about some things to consider when getting a TDI.

So I think that from day 1 of owning a car, most people have no idea what it will cost to own their car. Does that explain why we have a skewed view of proper maintenance costs? Well, not totally. Think about how many Jiffy Change commercials you have seen. They advertise a $29.99 oil change. Or that Pep Boys ad that shows you can buy 4 tires for $100. Whether we actually believe that we can get our cars serviced at that price, doesn’t really matter. It has been embedded into our brains. Think about how long places have been telling people they can “service” cars at that price. I remember being a very little kid and seeing those signs. Of course they probably said $19.99 way back then. 😉

Basically, we have been “marketed” into a false reality of maintenance costs. Sure, someone can pay

$29.95 for an oil change, but does that mean you can pay that much? You know that really tiny print

at the bottom of ads, here is what they are telling you

Is it REALLY possible to get a proper oil change for this price?

  • Not all cars qualify
  • Limit of 5qt of oil
  • Filter might cost extra
  • No trucks
  • Diesels not included
  • Non Synthetic oil
  • lots of other BS restrictions that will wind up costing you

Ok, those ads usually don’t come right out and say that last one, but we know its true!

Lets look at the other side too. How often do you hear that the dealership is a rip off? I hear all the time that “We charge too much”. The truth is, we are cheaper than Jiffy for an oil change. Try convincing customers of that. Even if we were a few dollars more, the valve is unquestionable!

Lets also consider the maintenance needs of our cars have changed. When I was a kid, oil changes were common at 3,000 miles. Now VWs are due for an oil change every 10,000 miles. Does it really matter if an oil change costs double what it did 20 years ago, if you can go 3x longer between oil changes? Sounds like even though the oil itself costs more, the per year service is cheaper.

Non of that really even touches on the actual COST of a service. Crude oil prices are up, that will make EVERYTHING cost more. It adds cost to each leg of the process. When oil prices go up, it costs more to ship and make things. Plus at an est. 73% inflation since 1990, that $19.99 oil change will cost you about $35, just based on inflation. (if you want to be sick, check out Inflation Calculator)

So how can we as customers see through the crap that we are fed? Try these ideas

  • Shop around, you might be able to save a few bucks
  • Be sure to COMPARE apples to apples. Synthetic and Non-synthetic oil are NOT the same
  • Find a mechanic you trust. Even if it cost a couple of bucks more, it will be worth it in the long run
  • Learn to do some of your own maintenance. (I hope I can help you with some of that)

Don’t fall into the $29.99 oil change trap. I unless you drive a 1995 Chevy Cavalier, it will cost you more. Even if you can get the $29.99 oil change, it will cost you more in the long run.

One more thought, be sure to consider how much your car cost when it was new(not USED). Our VW Touareg was a ~$50,000 vehicle when it was new. Now the 2004 are dirt cheap, I mean $12,000 cheap. That doesn’t mean that you are trying to maintain a $12,000 car. The car will still cost what other $50,000 vehicles cost to maintain.

What do you guys think? Have we been “marketed” into believing something SHOULD cost x, but really costs y?

Oh, 1 more thing,again. Be sure to check out the forum. There is still some room left in the “First 50“. Lets try and get there this week. I do need you guys to help me spread the word on that. Also, if you have signed up, and have not been approved, please Contact Me. Some people have weird email addresses that might look like spam. I want to be sure to keep the forum free of crap.

Its only a tab for a valve, but it will get fixed

Yesterday my serivce manager asked me for some help. He said that the Service Express guysIts only a tab for a valve, but it will get fixed needed some practice, and wanted to know if they could use my Passat. I was not really due for an oil change, but my car is a tricky oil change to do the right way. Oh, just so everyone knows, I drive a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon, that my friends named “The Danger Wagon”

I work across the shop from the Service Express lane. Seeing my car on another lift made me very tense. I am the only one that has worked on that car in about 70,000 miles. The last guy that worked on it is one of the team leads in the shop, and the BEST mechanic we have! Now guys that are as rookie as it gets are working on my car.

The whole idea behind S.E. is to be fast. When the program is in full swing, it will take about 20 minutes from start to finish. Since the boys are still learning, it took about an hour and a half. The oil change on a 1.8t Passat is not the easiest oil change. If you don’t do it just right, it makes a HUGE mess.

After they finished the service, I thought it would be a good idea to do a little quality check. Turns out they didn’t do such a great job. The checks they perform(lights, tires) were perfect. The oil change, not so much. There belly pan was covered in oil, a clip was installed wrong, and they broke the air box. The oil and clip were a really easy fix. Just some clean up. The airbox however, will need to be replaced. It was nothing that would effect performance, but I get OCD so I need to fix it.

I don’t want to sound like I am giving these guys a hard time. This was actually a really great teachable moment. I showed them what they did, and how to do it properly for next time. I am pretty sure they got what I was saying, they might have been a little scared ;). It is also a good thing that it was my car(not really for me). I would much rather them be able to make a mistake, and see the result right away. This worked out great because we did not make a customer unhappy.

I will be sure to keep everyone posted about their progress. It will be fun to follow along while they learn the ropes!

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

Just a few warnings before I get in to this post.

  1. This can apply to cars other than Volkswagen
  2. This is MY opinion. Officially, you must follow the owners manual for warranty purposes

This post is in response to a question that was posted on the Facebook fan page.  Rudy asked

I wanted to know if the recommend 10k oil change is a good rule of thumb to go by? I have read on VW blogs about people changing it every 5k to be safe. I have a 2012 VW Sportwagen 2.5L and I was just curious to know what your thoughts are? I want to keep my car in great condition.

That is actually something that I get asked a lot. Since 2006, VW has moved to a 10,000 mile service interval. Starting in 2009 they went to free maintenance. That is such a far cry from what folks are use to.  It was not that long ago that a car needed its oil changed every 3,000 miles or every 3 months. Now a days, there really is no need to service your car that much. Synthetic oils will hold up much better that older oil would. Also, engine oiling systems are much better than they use to be.

My issue with 10,000 mile service has nothing to do with the quality of oil, or filter material. It is more about the overall health of your car. There is a lot more to keeping your car in great (and safe) condition than changing the oil. When a customer goes 10k between services, here are somethings to consider

  • 10k miles between tires being checked
  • 10k miles without having brakes checked
  • 10k miles without anyone checked your light bulbs
  • 10k miles between fluids being checked/ filled

Lets take brakes for a PERFECT example. I check brakes on every car that I work on. If a car comes in and needs brakes, I can replace the pads and resurface the rotors, or replace the pads and replace the rotors. The pads and resurface the rotors costs about $275, replacing the rotors costs $525(those are estimates to showcase the difference in price). The rotors need to be replaced when the pad wears into the rotor. If a car is serviced every 5k miles, I would be able to catch the worn brakes before rotors need to be replaced. 

That is just one example of how waiting can cost more money in the long run. I also see lots of cars with no oil on the dipstick. Most people do not check anything on their car. This can lead to running a car low on oil (or other fluids) causing key components to wear out faster.

I personally change the oil in my Passat every 4000 miles. My car uses oil, about 1qt every 4k miles. I also know that the 1.8t engine likes to sludge if its not properly maintained. For me its worth 1 extra service every year and a half.  For how much a standard oil service costs, its more than worth it to keep your car happy.

One more thing to consider, it just popped into my head so it might be out of order or context. Everyone drives different, and under different conditions. Does someone in Seattle REALLY have the same wear on their car as someone in Phoenix? It is just not possible. I picture car manufaturers making those recommendations based on idea driving conditions, and ideal drivers. In my mind, none of us are in ideal conditions, and NO ONE is an ideal driver!

There you have it, that is pretty much how I feel about 10k service. Post up what you think. Do you follow the owners manual? Go by what the dealer recommends? Follow what Grandpa always told you?

One side note about the feature image on this post. I am currently working on getting a real logo and banner set up. I will be using this until I get a real cool logo!