Posts

Hey everyone!
I am currently at training for our new VW scan tool software. So of course I have training on the brain. I know we have talked about it before, but I have not talked about this type of class.

This is basically a “new product” launch. Before a new car comes out, the manufacturer needs to get the mechanics up to speed. Some product launches require much more training than others.

The Hybrid Jetta for example is much more important to have mechanics trained on, than say a facelift of the Jetta.

VW has classes that their mechanics have to go to. They are called instructor lead training (ILT). In a prefect world every mechanic could go to the ILT for all product launches. At my dealer, the closest training center is about a 5 hour. That usually limits the number of mechanics that go to the launch training to 1 maybe 2.

I am pretty lucky to be one of 2 or 3 guys that goes to the new product classes. The new stuff is always fun to learn. But that also requires me to make sure I bring back as much info as I can. I will be the one that gets to help everyone else in the shop. I actually enjoy that part of my job. Well, minus the whining from the other guys.

I think the new scan tool software will be a good thing. It’s VERY different, but manageable. I will update you guys with the details soon.

I hope you are all having a great day. P.s. I am writing this post from my phone. The Internet at the hotel is AWFUL. I just didn’t want to be at training without giving you guys a quick update!

I really felt like keeping today’s post fun. I thought I would post some pics and tell you guys the stories behind them. I think this will be cool. Post in the comments what you think. Also, this might be a cool post to share!

This is a picture of a VW thing. I don’t really know what the year is. This is the very first thing I seen when I went to the dealer for my interview. I flew out of Chicago Midway in the dead of winter. I got to the dealer and it was 55 degrees. They had just cleaned up from an ice storm, the reason for the snow on the ground. I remember leaving Chicago, the temp was, -14 degrees AIR TEMP! Talk about shocking.

I flew down for just one day. In that day I had a great lunch/ interview, got the job(DUH) and found an apartment. Needless to say, it was one for the best, most stressful, craziest days of my life. I had to call my wife and tell her, in 2 weeks we are moving to a state she had never been to before. Oh, by the way, this was my first trip to NC as well. Nuts? Maybe, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

This is an EOS. I took this at a training course in Atlanta. It was the first and only time I have ever been to Atlanta. Not much of a fan, but whatever. This is actually the service position for the convertible top. The trunk is fully released, and the top is about half way open. I would bet that any mechanic that has to do this to an EOS, will not be happy!

The one good thing about Atlanta, is that I got to visit a good friend of mine. I had not seen Katie in years, so it was great to catch up. We had some good sushi and craft beer. If you guys didn’t know, I am a HUGE craft beer fan. I actually home brew as well.  🙂

AH, the Bentley. This is by far the most expensive car I have ever worked on. I think this model is a Bentley Continental. The general manager of my(and several other) dealer got married. I guess they took this Bentley to the wedding. The owner of my dealer group has millions of dollars worth of cars. Its actually crazy some of the cars this guy has.

On the way back from the wedding, the Airbag light came on. My boss asked me if I could check it out. I did my normal diagnostic routine, and found that the fault was for the drivers airbag. I started to take the airbag off and found something familiar. It looked just like a VW Phaeton. Turns out, it is a fancied up Phaeton. Even down to the clock spring, it had the same part number and everything. Crazy right! So I was working on a $125,000 car, owned by the owner of the company, driven by the general manager of ~9 of the ~30 dealers in the company. No pressure right?? WRONG! I was tweaking out. I got everything worked out just fine..

 

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

Before I start coming off like I am hating on the A.S.E certification program, I need to tell you that I am an A.S.E certified mechanic. 🙂 That stands for Automotive Service Excellence!

The A.S.E certification program is designed to test mechanics and show they are knowledgeable about fixing cars.  The way it works is, a mechanic has to pass a series of tests, and work in the automotive field for 2 years. Now based on that, its a great program. If nothing else, it shows that a mechanic has the motivation to be a top mechanic. Over the years, I have found that certification programs like that do not tell the whole story.

There are benefits to the program. I think that employers like it because it shows a commitment by the mechanic. If a mechanic is willing to take all 9 tests, which are NOT easy, they should have a high level of dedication to the profession. That coupled with the ability to say your facility has “CERTIFIED MECHANICS” can mean a lot for customers. When I worked at Carmax they displayed each mechanics certifications on a board for everyone to see.

I did a google search on the phrase “how to find a good mechanic”. In that search, almost every site says, “Be sure they are A.S.E. certified. The problem that I have with that is, it means almost nothing. The ability to pass these tests proves nothing about fixing cars. You can not use it to gauge a mechanics integrity. It doesn’t mean you can trust them, or the work that they do.

At the dealership level, the broad knowledge that A.S.E. test on does not apply. It is understood that a dealership mechanic should know the basics about cars. In addition to that they need to know that brand inside and out. That is why people take their car to the dealer in the first place. I think the brand certification carries much more value. There are only 206 or so master certified VW mechanics in the USA. That says a lot about the level of commitment it takes to be a master certified dealer mechanic.

I will say that no level of certification, even specific brand, will tell the whole story. Some guys are better at taking tests than others. Some guys just don’t care about a high level of certification. That doesn’t mean they are not outstanding mechanics. Here are a couple of quick tips to finding your great mechanic!

  • They should have some level of certification
  • Some experience is important, but not everything
  • Talk to the mechanic – Having a conversation with the mechanic will tell a much better story
  • Ask friends that drive your kind of car
  • Bring them cookies – I have said it before, bribery gets you everywhere

These are just some very basic tips. In fact, this is a topic that deserves a dedicated post.

 

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

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!

Charles