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Ok, before I get into this story, everyone needs to know a few things

  1. I am not blaming the tech working on the car
  2. I am not blaming the customer completely
  3. I am not commenting on DIY vs Paying someone
  4. I am only telling the story of what happened.

A few weeks ago, a customer brings in their 1999 VW Cabrio. They had a long list of concerns with the car. As you would expect with a car 13 years old.

  • Issues with the door locks
  • Noise while driving
  • vibration when braking
  • Car will not start, like the battery is dead
  • Air conditioning is not working

The tech working on the car is a pretty good tech. I know he is not a fan of the Cabrio, but he still knows what he is doing. He diagnosed the customers concerns, and ordered some parts. The initial repair was about $2800. The a/c compressor was bad, the pump for the door locks was bad, it needed brakes, a wheel bearing, and a battery.  The customer made all the repairs, but decided that they could get a battery cheaper so they declined replacing it.

The car sat for a few days before the customer came to get it. When they did, we had to jump start the car so they could leave. As far as we knew, everything was good. Two days later, the Cabrio got towed into the dealer. The customer concern was the car would not start. The customer said they replaced the battery, but the car would not start. We found it odd that the car started, but it just required a jump.

We did some basic tests and found that we could power the starter and get the car to run. This left us pretty confused about the whole situation. Having a bad feeling, I had the advisor call the customer to ask them if they had any issues installing the battery. My gut feeling was they had hooked it up backwards. Sure enough that is EXACTLY what happened.

The customer hooked the battery up backwards and attempted to start the car. You don’t need to be an expert to know that is a bad thing. We are still working on finding all the things wrong with the car. So far we know that

  1. The generator is fried
  2. the alarm module is bad
  3. the instrument cluster is bad
  4. Several fuses were blown

With knowing all those things are wrong, the car still does not start. I think it has to do with a part number change in the module that controls the alarm. We are waiting on VW parts line to verify. Dealing in a car that is 13 years old can be tricky when it comes to modules.

It put the story into a simple perspective

  • Customer paid $2800 for repairs
  • Customer declined replacing battery at the dealer
  • Customer installed battery wrong
  • Car was towed in
  • Car needs $1800 more work to replace damaged parts.
  • The customer saved ~$50 by replacing the battery themselves
  • Car is worth $3500 at best

Now the customer is over $5000 in on a car that is worth much less. I am not really blaming the customer, but I think that they made a really poor choice. Trying to save $50 will cost them over $2000. Plus all the time not having the car. I will be sure to keep everyone posted when we find all the rest of the issues.

I really hate having to tell stories like this. It is lose lose. The customer is losing for obvious reasons. The dealer is losing because it looks bad for us. The tech is also losing big time. So far all the extra checking and work have been free. He got paid to replace the generator, but that is about is. I would guess he had about 6 hours more in the car, that he is not getting paid for. Bad news no matter how you slice it.

Tomorrow I will try and get a full “Luv a Dub” update. Things have been slow going on it. I have been super busy, so that leaves little time for the project..

What Exactly Is A Master Certified VW Mechanic

Hi folks! I hope you all had an awesome weekend. Summer is here in full swing. Glad that I work in a shop that has A/C. 🙂

Today I want to talk a little more about what it takes to be a VW Master Certified Auto Mechanic. I was having a conversation with a good buddy of mine. He was asking me about being a certified mechanic, and what that really meant. I went on and on about how mechanics get to that level. He said “dang man, that is a lot of training, you should talk more about it.” So that is what we are going to do!

It takes over 520 hours of advanced classroom training to become a Volkswagen Master Technician

That is over 65 training days. I can tell you that it takes so much more. I started with VW by attending a training program. It 11 weeks of highly specialized VW training. I spent all day learning the “unique” way that VW cars are build, maintained, and repaired. It was a pretty tough program, 8 hours a day in class and 2-3 each night of homework. I think we only had about 14 guys finish the training. That gave me the basic level of certification, in addition to “Electrical Specialist”. That was all before a stepped foot into my current dealer job.

VW Master TechnicianEach one of these courses is instructor lead. So for each class, I would have to make a 360mile road trip. Like I said, coming out of VW academy I had all the core classes, all electrical classes, and a few of the other ones. Well, all but Routan, there was no Routan back then.

As you can see, getting all of those classes done is no small task. After the classes come the Master Technician Assessments. They consist of 50(i think) multiple guess questions. Closed book no cheating, either you know it, or you don’t. They are probably the hardest test I have ever done. I still don’t know how the heck I passed them. The first time, I failed all 5. After some hardcore studying, I passed all 5!

That just covers the “scholastic” part. The real world part is where a Master Tech is made. Years and years of getting my butt kicked by cars. Having to “just know” so many things that are not in any book, or manual.

For the folks that think that being a mechanic is an easy job. Take a look at the chart, you tell me if that looks easy 😉

One more thing, I posted this to Facebook, but here it is all official. Saturday marked the 1 year anniversary of Humble Mechanic. I am so excited to see what the future holds for this site. It is not always easy, but it IS always worth it! So thank you to everyone that has visited the site, posted a comment, like a post, retweeted something, emailed me, and so on. I really appreciate each and every one of you.

2.0t VW cylinder head removed due to oil consumption

Ah Wednesday, I can’t think of a better day to post some really cool auto mechanic pictures! Let me also say that I am really sorry about missing yesterday’s post. I don’t like leaving you guys with out some content. Should that happen, you can always go back in the archives and see some of my early “work”. Some of it is just awful. It might be worth a read just for that. 😉  Okay, enough of that lets get into some Shop Shots!

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First up is a picture that make me sick! This is the guts of a Routan transmission. I posted a picture of the inside of the case last week. Here you are looking at the stack of clutch packs, snap rings, seals, and plates. The parts all disassembled belong to the input clutch assembly. That one of many parts that make the engine power transfer to the transmission. I spent so much time trying to put the trans back together it is not even funny. Long story short, 1 guy took out the trans, 1 guy disassembled the trans, and I got to put it back together. This is round 2 of trying to put it back together. The whole story is kinda interesting. I think it deserves it own post. Maybe tomorrow..

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It is crazy what a car looks like with a bumper isn’t it? Here you are looking at a newer, 09 I think, Jetta TDI. The car came in for an A/C problem. The mechanic working on it found that the compressor was bad. As part of the repair, he replaced the compressor, replaced the condenser, the drier, and the expansion valve. The key part of this repair is cleaning the lines of the system. If debris stays in the lines, it can cause failure of any A/C parts down the road. This is another reason that have only qualified people work on your car’s A/C system!

 

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As bad as the transmission is, this is not much better. One of the guys a few bays down from me is doing some internal engine work. You are looking at the top end of a 2.0t from a GTI. The customers concern was it was burning oil. The mechanic verified and now it is time to find out why. He removed the cylinder head in order to remove the pistons and check the rings. This is a whole lot of parts just to inspect a few rings.

We have seen this issue on a few of the early 2.0t engines. It is not as big of an epidemic as you might read about, but we have repaired a few. Just a reminder to check your oil!

Failed VW tireThis picture didn’t come out as good as I thought it did. What you are looking at here another failed tire. The “cut” you see in the tire is actually a defect in the tire. If you look close, you can see the cords of the tire coming out.

When I took the tire off, I snagged my glove on the sharp metal cord. At first, I could not tell if there was just something in the tire. A little tug with some pliers and I found the cords were pulling. It was ripping the sidewall of the tire open. I could not find any damage to the tire or the rim. So outside influence was not an option. This is just a simple manufacturer defect in the tire. I see a lot of issues with tires, but I can say, this is among the strangest.

I think that will wrap up this weeks Shop Shots! What do you guys think might be worse to take apart and put back together, ENGINES or TRANSMISSION? Post it up 😀

If you dig the Shop Shots, consider sharing them. It is really easy, just click one of the buttons below. Or you can just “Pin It” to Pintrest.

VW Routan Transmission Problem

It’s Wednesday so you know what that mean, “Shop Shots”! Remember that these are all pictures from behind the scenes in automotive service. I like doing these posts because it can really show some of the weird stuff that auto mechanics see.

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What you are looking at here is a gas tank. This came out of a 2008 VW Touareg. The customer’s concern was the car would not take a full tank of gas. This was actually the second time she had the same concern. This time we had to replace the gas tank, lines, and all the evaporative emission parts. My guess is that a valve got stuck on the tank.

There are 2 fuel pumps in this tank. If you notice all the lines that run on the top of the tank. Picture about the same about of lines running inside the tank. The worst part of the whole job is running the lines.

 

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Talk about an unsafe tire. This tire belongs to a newer Jetta. The car was in for its 30,000 mile service. If you look really close inside the crack, you can see the threads inside the tire. There must have been a defect with this tire. I could not find any rim damage, or other outside influence.

The sad part is, the customer declined replacing the tire. He didn’t even want me to put the spare on. He side “I like the rims to match. I don’t want the steel wheel on my car”. The customer then said that he didn’t want to replace the tire and that he would replace it himself. CRAZY?

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I posted this on instagram the other day, and got some flack for it. Let me explain what is going on in this picture. This is an oil pan on a 2000 (or so) Jetta 1.8t. The drain plug is covered in duct tape. Yes, I was the one that did that. Here is the FULL story!

The customer brought it in for an oil change. When I drove it into the shop, the oil warning light came on. That tells me the car has low oil pressure. I checked the level, and found no oil on the dipstick. That is a BAD thing for any engine, but even worse for a turbocharged engine.

When I put a wrench on the drain plug, I noticed that it was loose. Before removing it, I tried to torque it. If the plug torqued, then someone left it loose. If it didn’t torque, I know I have a problem with the oil pan. I am sure by now you have guessed that it did NOT torque down. The plug would just turn and turn.

At this point it is time to tell the customer that they have a damaged oil pan. The quote for a new pan was $600 something dollars. She, understandably, declined the repair. The car is old, and she didn’t want to put the money into fixing it just yet. She asked, “Can it get me to the airport?. I tell her it might be okay, but no guarantees. The customer was pretty cool about the whole situation. So I tell her, “Don’t worry, I will just put some duct tape on it for you”. I think that she thought I was kidding. As you can see from the picture, I was not!

I duct taped the plug. I figured that even if it leaked some, the plug would not come all the way out. This was not an attempt to repair the car. It was only a bandaid to get her where she needed to go. The proper way to repair this issue, is replacing the oil pan. The newer pans are steel where the drain plug goes. This pan is all aluminum. When a plug is over tightened, it will ruin the threads inside the pan. There are some aftermarket fixes that work really good, and some that are awful.

Just remember any repair that I make must have a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty. So we don’t do many non-factory repairs. Again, this was a bandaid, not a repair. Personally, I think it came out pretty nice

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Further down the transmission hole! There will be a full post about this transmission at some point, but let’s just talk about this picture. You are looking down the opening of a transmission. The transmission is about 1/3 of the way taken apart. The gear you can see at the top is the differential gear. It lets your wheels turn at different speeds. All the small holes are transmission fluid passages. I think I will leave the transmission talk at that. 😉

I am really curios what everyone thinks about the duct taped oil pan. Was it the wrong thing to do? Would love to know your thoughts. That wraps up this volume of Shop Shots. Can you believe we are almost at 20? I how awesome is that?

One more thing. I posted something on Facebook yesterday about Facebook charging for businesses to get into a personal new feed. It may not have been true, or it might be some form of the truth. Here is the deal, if you like to see Humble Mechanic updates on Facebook, just like interact with me there. “Like” a post, comment on a post, or share a post. That will make sure you keep getting the updates on FB. Or, just move to Twitter or instagram 😉

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Yep! I said it, you should never ever trust a dealership. If I could tally the number of times that I have read that statement, it would easily be in the 300+ range. Then a statement comes along that just makes me nuts. It goes something like this

I dont trust dealers at all. I am not saying they are all bad and I am sure there are good ones with excellent techs. I have my reasons for why I despise them more than anything. Remember this they are in business to make money and the service department and used cars are where they make the most. It is no coincidence that those are the 2 that get the worst reputation.

I am not really picking on the guy that posted it, because he seems to be thoughtful of dealers. There ARE good techs and dealers. I know mine is not perfect, but we do a pretty good job, and have a lot of techs that are TOP notch dudes. But it is this part, that leaves me shaking my head.

Remember this they are in business to make money and the service department and used cars are where they make the most. It is no coincidence that those are the 2 that get the worst reputation.

I have a question for everyone, “What business is NOT in it to make money?” I don’t get up and go to work everyday because I love being at work. I do it because I love ~THE WORK~. Let’s be real though, would you get up and do what you do EXACTLY how you do it if you were not getting paid? Odds are you would not. Now I would totally work on cars if I was not getting paid. I enjoy it. But I would not go to work for someone else, for free.

The argument will never end.Customers say dealers will rip you off. Dealers say, customers don’t take care of their cars. The DIYers say they do it cheaper themselves. Folks, here is a news flash. THEY ARE ALL RIGHT, and THEY ARE ALL WRONG! It totally just depends. There ARE dealers and indy shops that will rob you blind. There are customers that will lie straight to my face. I am actually dealing with that right now. The DIYer will come in and whine about how much I will be ripping him off, before I ever look at the car!(<~That one infuriates me)

I think it is easy to get caught up in thinking you will always get ripped off at the dealer. There are bad techs out there. I am willing to bet that everyone knows someone that has felt ripped off. Heck, I have seen it happen! People forget that we have to buy stuff and pay for services too. You don’t want to get ripped off by me, anymore than I want to be ripped off by a plumber, or a lawyer. So what is the solution, consider this list

  • Ask why! Why do I need this repair? What will happen if I don’t do it? Is there another way?
  • Keep great records. Unless you only take it to 1 place make sure you have all the repair/maintenance records. It will prevent you doing a job twice
  • Ask to see what they are trying to sell you! You might not know what it is, but if you see it and have them explain it, you will be better informed.
  • Be informed. Just because you might not understand how a turbocharger works, doesn’t mean you can’t!
  • Get a second opinion. If you are not sure, have someone else QUALIFIED check it out for you.
  • Don’t be CHEAP! At some point, we all will have to pay for a car repair(yes even me). Understanding that things will break makes it easier to deal with.

You know, this post started out as me poking fun at the whole “you will get screwed by the dealer” mentality. It kinda took a weird turn there at the end. I am not really sure what happened. Meh, its cool, I hope that you guys can use some of the tips listed above. The “Bad day for a Mechanic” car is fixed. It was a bad ECM(engine computer). That is the one I think that I am dealing with a customer that is lying to me.

Cabby update: I will be putting a new clutch in tonight. I will get some video for you guys so you can really see what I am working with. Look for the full update tomorrow.

I triple dog dare you to share this. What are ya, chicken? 😉

I don’t think that anyone can argue the fact that it costs money to bring your car to a mechanic. We all can agree that the auto industry is full of stereotypes, everyone from sales to mechanics, no one is safe. 😉 So what can the customers to do get the most from their service folks? I put together a list of things that will make life a little easier, and save some money along the way. Most of these tips are better used when your car is having an issue, not for just standard maintenance.

Call Ahead

  • If you are bringing your car in for an issue, not just maintenance, call and make an appointment. Walking in for an oil change is no big deal, but I don’t recommend it when dealing with diagnosis. Give your mechanic and service advisor a heads up that you have a problem

Drop Your Car Off

  • I talked about waiting vs dropping your car off before. I highly recommend dropping your car off when dealing with issues beyond maintenance. It gives your mechanic time to fully dive into the problems. The longer most customers wait, the more pressure there is to fix a car. I don’t like rushing through diagnosis. It can lead to missing something, or misdiagnosing problems.

Make a List

  • If your car has more than one thing going on, write down what they are. People tend to get in a rush, so write down what you need to tell your mechanic. This can also save another trip back to the dealer.

Document EVERYTHING

  • This just might be the most important thing on the whole list. The what, where, when, how, and how often of an issue are so important. If the check engine light is on, that is not a big deal, I will find the problem. Paying close attention to when a problem occurs is vital information for a mechanic. Be as specific as possible, too much info is way better than not enough.

Have a “Guy”

  • I of course mean have a mechanic. I do not mean that as a man either. 😉 Try and find a mechanic that will be yours! Always take your car to them. Doing that will build a relationship between you, your car, and your mechanic. Your mechanic will not have to question if maintenance has been done or not, they will already know.

Here is a situation where the list is not followed. This customer has a rattle in their car. Here is what NOT to do.

Customer just shows up to a shop they have never been before. The customer tells the advisor, “I have a rattle”. When the advisor asks follow up questions, the customer does not have any answer.

The mechanic drives the car, and does not hear anything out of the ordinary. Customer gets the car back, they are mad because the mechanic could not find anything. On the drive home, the car starts rattling again. The customer never goes back because they feel like they got ripped off.

These are the things that customers should do to make getting their car fixed easier, and hopefully cheaper. Let me give you a situation on how this list can work for you.

Customer calls and makes an appointment with their mechanic.(for the story we will call him Charles). The customer says, “Charles, I need to bring my car in. It is making a funny sound”. I would say, “Ok, write down when it happens, and what you do to make it happen. Also write down the time of day, and how long you have been driving”

The customer then drops their car off with a list of things that are wrong, in addition to that list, they have documented all the information I need to duplicate the rattle. I spend the time to find the rattle, and fix it. Customer and mechanic are happy!

See the difference? Getting the best possible service is about 90% the job of your service department. But as customers, we have to play a part too! Having good information can be the difference between happy everyone, or sad everyone. I would love to hear what you guys think! When you post a comment, be sure to click the box that says “notify comments via email” that way you will know when someone makes a comment. Also, consider signing up for email updates for the site. I wont spam you I promise!

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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.