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

Next week my dealership will be adding a “Quick Lube” team. The team will actually be called our Service Express team. The idea behind the Service Express team will be to provide another option for customers to get their cars serviced.

The way my dealership works now is, 90% by appointment. Basically, you would call and talk to a service advisor, schedule a time and date to bring your car in for whatever it needs. They do leave some open times for a limited amount of walk-ins, or emergencies.

The Service Express team will be another option. Customers will be able to walk-in and get an oil change, a bulb replaced, or wipers changed. They will be a dedicated team that will ONLY do that type of stuff. The team will have 2 service advisors, and 4 or 5 mechanics(not sure if that is what they will be called but they work on cars, so I am cool with it).  VW has a full training program for this team. They will have a strict routine to follow to be sure every car is done the right way in around 30 minutes.

I think it will be a good thing overall for our customers. It will give a lot more flexibility for customers to get their cars serviced. It will also help us compete with the Jiffy Service type places. Our prices are better, now the service can be more convenient.

The talk around the shop however is on the negative side. When you tell mechanics that the dealer is adding more people, most see only 1 thing. They see work being taken from them and given to someone else. Our pay plan is similar to a commission based plan(post about that coming soon). So more mechanics means the work is spread out between more guys. To be honest, they are right. Even doing an oil change pays more that not doing anything.

My thinking is slightly different. It is not that I breathe the “corporate air” that comes along with programs like this, it is more about the bigger picture. The advisors have a habit of not taking walk-in customers(side note, there is not many things that piss me off more than that). Any work that the Service Express team sells, other than bulbs ect, will be divided out to the shop. More cars in the shop will equal more work for everyone. I also think the advisors will not want to give work up to the Service Express team. They will find a way to help customers that they “could not” find before.

If the quality of their work is as good as ours, I think it will be a great thing. What do you guys think?

  • Does having a “Quick Lube” style option work better for you?
  • Would you feel like the service would not be as good as a certified VW mechanic?
  • Do you think the price should be the same VW mechanic VS non VW mechanic?

Post your thoughts in the comments, I am really curious to see what everyone thinks

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

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!

Charles

[slideshow]

 

 

Metal chucks in a vw transmission problems

So I really wanted to write a nice blog about cars tonight. My head, however is just not into it. Its been a really challenging week.  Here is what went down.

The very first car of the week belongs to a good customer that has since become a great friend.  He called me and told me that he thought his clutch had went out in his 2003 Jetta.  I test drive the car and its making a crazy noise from the transmission.  I check it on the lift and confirm something in the transmission is not happy.  I drain the fluid and find chunks of metal. I quote up the rebuild parts, only to find its way cheaper to replace the whole thing.  I totally feel for the guy.  I think that started me bumming this week.

2 cars later, one of my sweetest customers came in with with her ABS (antilock brake system)  light on.  She drives a 99 Beetle.  This lady reminds me of my grandmother.  I pull her car in the shop, scan the codes, and find some bad news.  After some checking and testing some wires, it find that she needs a new ABS module to the tune of $2300.  I cant even explain how it makes me feel telling anyone that, but especially her..

Yesterday I spent about 4 hours dealing with a radio that would not work correctly.  A VERY long story short is that VW had updated the radio to one that looked like a radio from 2006, but the internal parts were new.  I found this out after 5 calls to VW, and of course the complete run around.   I am currently waiting to see if the 4th radio I get will work correctly.  This guy has a 2009 Jetta and cant use his Ipod.

Then today, I am pulling a car out of the shop right after lunch.  In the lot, a customer comes up to me and says

“Hi, are you the diesel guy?”.

I say “we don’t really have a diesel guy, we all kinda work on everything”.

“Oh, we talked a while back about me buying a TDI Touareg.”

I of course don’t remember right a way, but after chatting with him, we get on the same page.  He tells me whats going on with his 05 Beetle.  Based on what he tells me, I was pretty sure it needed a cam shaft.  I spend some time checking his car out, test driving it, running some computer diagnostics, and looking at scan tool data.  While I was still not 100% sure, I was about 85% sure that the car had some internal engine damage.  I bring him out to the shop and have another talk.  We decide that pulling the valve cover and looking inside the engine would be the next step.  I take the valve cover off, and find that the cam shaft has flat spots in it.  That’s a VERY bad thing.  He asks me what I think it will cost.  I tell him that I would bet its about $2200.  He tells me I am crazy, and that it couldn’t be more than $1200.  He was totally nice to me, I think he was floored that I thought it would be that much.  As luck would have it, I was off by $1200.  The estimate came to $3400 for a cam shaft and related parts and labor.  He is currently calling Volkswagen to see if they can offer him any help.

Oh, I also forgot that another really good customer turned friend was coming in.  I was paged up front, and there she was.  We chatted for a minute, and she could tell I had no idea why she was there.  I thought she just came by to hang out or something. (that does happen from time to time.  It usually makes my day so feel free).  It finally dawned on me that we had talked about her getting a state inspection done.

I know this post is full of bad news and me complaining, so for that I am sorry.  It just really bothers me when I tell people their car needs so much work.  It REALLY hits home when they come in and ask for me to be their guy.  It feels like I let them down somehow.

Thanks for reading, and I guess before you bring your car to me, see how the first car of the week went.  It could be a sign!

 

A fan asked me if he could do his own brake fluid service.  I responded to him with ” sure it’s really easy”.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is actually a lot to servicing brake fluid.  There are lots of tools out there that can help you with this.  At the shop I use a pressure bleeder.  It pushes fluid through and works great.  That machine is about $1000, so not something you want to run out and buy.

As I have said before, brakes are a VERY important safety system.  I can’t be responsible for anything getting messed up. I don’t want anyone getting hurt, so please take this seriously.

Ok, brake fluid, this is the main connection from your foot, to the brakes at the wheels.    When the brake pedal is pressed, it forces fluid to the brakes. This moves the piston and pushes the brake pad into the rotor or brake drum.

We need to keep this fluid clean for a couple of reasons:
1)   Dirt in the lines can cause damage to seals in the system
2)   Brake fluid absorbs mositure(hygroscopic). Excess mositure will boil when the brakes get hot or freeze when they get cold. Either way this can result in expensive brake system repairs

Let’s get the fluid changed.  Remember,  this must be done correctly, or your brakes will be very sad.
There are several ways to do this I will talk about the 2 easiest ways to do it, and all you will need is a helper and wrenches to open the bleeders.  I personally like to take the wheels off to flush brakes.  Brake fluid on nice wheels can ruin the finish.

Gravity Flush
This takes a long time, but is the easiest way, and has the lowest chance of air getting in the system.

First, open the brake fluid  reservoir, and fill it to the top.

Next start by opening the bleeder fitting on the brake that is furthest from the brake fluid reservoir. This will usually be the right rear brake.

Open the bleeder screw enough to let fluid come out.  Keep a close eye on the fluid reservoir, it MUST NOT empty all of the fluid out.  While keeping the fluid full up front, let gravity do the work.  When the fluid is clean, close the bleeder, clean with brake clean, and move to the other rear wheel.  Do the exact same time on the 3 other wheels.

This takes a really long time, just don’t touch the brake pedal, and everything will be good.

Manual Flush

Well, this way is much faster, but you will need a helper, and run a higher risk of air getting into the system.  This way uses the pressure created by pushing the brake pedal to force the fluid out of the bleeder.

Like with Gravity Flush, make sure the fluid reservoir  is full, and DO NOT PUMP IT EMPTY!

Start at the futherest wheel from the fluid reservoir.  This time, have your helper pump the brake several times. Have them hold the pedal to the floor.  Open the bleeder and let fluid out.  Now close the bleeder, and have your helper pump the brake again.

This will need to be done a few times at each wheel.  Again until the fluid is clean.   Please be really careful. When the bleeder is open, DO NOT let the brake pedal come off the floor.  This will suck air in to the system, thats what happened to me the very first time I did it this way.

I have several times in this post to be carful. If you happen to get air in the lines, it will feel like your pushing down on a sponge.  This feeling gets worse as the brakes get hot.  PLEASE don’t do this if you are not 100% sure!!!  I can not be responsable if you damage your brakes.

 

Hi everyone,

I wanted to talk about checking brakes.  This is something everyone can do, with almost no tools.  The only thing you might need is a flashlight.

Before you get started I need to tell you a few things.  This is a basic visual inspection,  just a check.  If you have an issue with braking, then further inspection will be needed.   DO NOT DO THIS AFTER YOU JUST DROVE THE CAR.  The brakes get really hot and it burns like hell if you touch hot brakes(trust me).  If you have any question about what you are looking at, post it in the comments and I will help you out.

I also want you to know what you are looking at.  I am going to have you check 4 main parts. Brake discs(or rotors), Brake pads, Brake lines, and Brake fluid.

Lets start with fluid.

Open the hood.  Ususally the brake fluid resivoius is at the back of the engine bay, inline with where the brake pedal is.  If you don’t see it, check the owners book, it will tell you what the cap looks like.  Open the cap and shine you flashlight in.  You want to check the level.  Be sure its at the full mark.  Look at the color.  When new the fluid is yellow.  It turns greenish after time.  If its Black, get the fluid flushed .  Be sure to use the correct fluid. VW uses DOT 4+ fluid.

Ok, the fluid is good. Lets move to the wheels.

Start in the front, you’ll see why soon.   Look through the rim.  You will see a silver disc, that is the brake rotor.  It should be a nice silver color.  Look for any rust build up on the outer edge, some is normal, but  you don’t want your pads trying to clamp down on rust.  If you see a blueish tint, your brakes are getting too hot and need further inspection.  I like to run my fingernail up and down the rotor, like the hands of a clock @ 12:00, to check for any scoring or grooves that are forming.

If your rotor is good, now lets move to the pads.

Pads are the friction matieral that clamp down on the rotor to stop the car.  The brake pads are the part that will wear the quickest.  The pads are housed in the brake caliper and might be tricky to see.  The caliper is usually at the 9 o’clock or 3 o’clock positions.  This part is kinda tricky.  Follow the rotor around until you come to the pad.  The pad will look like its sitting on the rotor. Its actually barely riding the rotor to keep water off of it.  If the part that rides on the rotor is narrower than a quarter, replace them, NOW!

If you can see any of the lines, just check and make sure they are not wet with fluid.

Most cars will have a wear indicator of some kind for the front brakes.  Volkswagens have an electric sensor built into the pad.  Other cars like Honda have “squealers”. They will make a heck of a noise when its time to get replaced.  Please do not rely on these systems to keep you safe.

Well, time to move to the rear wheels.

One of 2 things will happen here.  If the rear brakes looks like the front, just use the same method as the front.  If you don’t see a rotor or brake pads, there is nothing to check.  Your brakes are drum style brakes, and the drum needs to be removed.

Well, you did it.  A quick and easy inspection.  How did it go?  How long did it take?  Please post in the comments how it went for you.

 

*Remember, If you are not 100% sure, get your brakes checked by a professional.  I am not responsible for any misdiagnosis, or errors that are made*