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Happy Monday everyone. I hope that you all had a great weekend. I am not really a fan of the weekend after Thanksgiving. Now that many stores open on Thursday, I guess I need to add Thanksgiving day to that list. I spent years working retail. This time of year was awful. Seeing people fighting over junk. Best wishes to all of you that work retail.

Moving on 😉 Today I want to give you all some advice to avoid some big time frustrations with your car. For me, the 3 days before Thanksgiving are insane. I made more hours Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, than I did 2 weeks ago. The dealer could have had 5 more techs and we still would have not been able to help everyone.

As someone that has been in the car business for a while, it is beyond me why so many people wait until the last minute to get their car serviced. I guess it is because the average driver considers their car an after thought. But waiting until the last minute for service can result in frustrations.

Here is how a conversation goes between a customer and a service advisor

Customer: (Calling on Monday before Thanksgiving) “Hi I need to get my car in for service”
Service writer: “Hi, we are taking appointments for Saturday, or for next week”Customer: ” But I need to get my car serviced tomorrow. We are going out of town”
Service writer: “I would love to help you, but lots of folks are traveling as well”
Customer: “Well I need to get my car serviced. Why don’t you have time to help me”
Service writer: “I would love to help you. I just can not bump other customers appointments”
Customer: “That’s BS. I can’t believe you wont help me.”
Service writer: “We can get you in Saturday”
Customer: “No, it needs to be before Thanksgiving”.

By now you get the point. As the conversation goes on, the customer and service writer both get tense. The customer is mad, the writer is mad, and the dealer doesn’t get the work. As a customer, there is little you can do to force a service dept. to get your car in for service. What can we do as customers? I am glad you asked.

DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE!
Simple right? Call to make an appointment a week before the holiday, or your road trip. That way if your car has an issue, you have time to get it fixed. Last year my wife and I took a road trip to Illinois. It was a trip of about 2000 miles total. While I was getting ready for the trip, I wrote 3 posts about getting your car ready for road trips. We talk about starting to get the car ready 2-3 weeks before the road trip.

BE FLEXIBLE
You are trying to get your car serviced at one of the busiest times of the year. If you do wait, leave some extra time to get your car serviced. Please don’t leave a 20 minute window to get service. If your service department is booked at that time, you are stuck.

You might be thinking that service departments should be doing more to accommodate customers this time of year. I would 100% agree. Service departments should have all hands on deck so to say. But like I said, we can’t do anything to make them do that. So we have to take the initiative.

I hope you all really did have a great holiday weekend. For the first time in the 15 or so years I have known my wife, we both had the weekend off. That was pretty cool. I will have an update about the Cabby tomorrow, and hopefully have some Shop Shots for you on Wednesday. I didn’t realize how long it had been since the last round of Shop Shots.

Here are the 3 posts about prepping your car for a road trip:

Humble Mechanic Logo

Hi everyone. Today I have something a little different for you all. As you know, I have been doing this blog for a little over 2 years. Things have been going really awesome. In that time, we have grown a great community here.  Over the last few weeks I have really been kicking around the idea of switching the format of the blog.

So today I give you the very first episode of the Humble Mechanic Podcast. This podcast will be about the same type of automotive things we talk about now, just in audio format.

As I said in the show, I really want your feedback. Is this something that you guys like? Once I get the hosting and RSS dialed in, I will be submitting the show to Itunes. I wanted to do a few episode just to see how it goes. That is why I am using SoundCloud. That is a temporary format.

Thank you all so much for listening. Again, PLEASE post your feedback in the comments below. Seriously, if you like it, hate it, think I should do a few more and see?

Not Clean VW

Hey everyone, we are back in action with another volume of Shop Shots. This week’s pictures are a little late, thanks to the internet being down at work. But never fear, we are still rolling along. Alright, enough rambling, let’s get to those pictures.

Not Clean VWThe first picture today comes from a fellow VW tech named Matthew in WI. The tech working next to him had to pull the seat up for a repair. This is what he found. It looks like enough hair to make a little critter.

This is a shot of under the drivers seat. You can see the shifter at the top right of the picture. That may also be a nickle at the bottom left. I have seen lots of hair and gross stuff under customer’s seats, but this may be the worst.Thanks for sending this in Matthew.

Volkswagen Transmission FailureI talk a fair about VW transmission issues, and valve body failures. I figured it was time to actually show you guys what a VW valve body looks like. The valve body is what controls the fluid in the transmission. It uses solenoids to hold or release fluid pressure.

I replaced this one for an extremely hard shift from 2nd gear to 3rd gear. The job is pretty easy. The only part I don’t care for is being covered in transmission fluid. The up side is, all the tools I use on the job are really clean when I am done. Most automatic transmission fluid as great detergent packages in it. It is one of the best things for cleaning tools.

VW Flywheel failure

Staying with the VW transmission theme, we move to a manual transmission. This is a close up of a dual mass flywheel. The customer had their car towed in because it would not start. The car had severe damage to the clutch and release bearing. In addition to that, the flywheel shifted. Normally you can see the bolts through the 6 bolt holes. As you can see, there is very little bolt head showing.

I have seen that before, but this was the worst I have dealt with. I was not able to shift the flywheel to gain access to the bolts. I had to take some extra measures and cut the flywheel off. It was not pleasant, but we got it done.

That wraps it up for Shop Shots this week. Don’t forget, if you have any VW or general car questions, use the Contact me form and ask away. I will do my best to help you out. Also, if you have a question odds are others do too. So ask away!

Dirty VW Pollen filter
Dirty VW Pollen filter

This filter needed to be replaced

Happy Monday everyone. Today I want to get back to the series “Does my car REALLY need this service”. Have you ever wondered if the service your mechanic is recommending is really needed? Well if you have then this series is for you. I will post links to all the rest of the posts in this series at the bottom of the page. Today we are talking about pollen or cabin air filters.

What is the Pollen or Cabin Air Filter?
This filter cleans the air that enters your car. It can remove dust and pollen from the air before it enters the cabin of your car. Think of it just like the filter that you have for your home heat and A/C system.

Why is it important?
In the grand scheme of car performance, it is not very important. Many cars don’t even have a pollen filter. So you need to make sure your car has a filter before letting a mechanic replace it. 😉 The pollen filter is more of a comfort filter. Imagine driving through a dust storm with out something to filter the air coming into the car. That dust could just come right on in.Or, if you live in the southern USA imagine all the pollen that would be coming in the car if you did not have a filter.

Like I said, this filter is NOT a critical  system of your car. Having a dirty pollen filter will not leave you stranded. It will not cause your vehicle not to perform properly. It is there specifically to add to your comfort while you drive. And that can be pretty dang important.

How do I know if I need a new cabin or pollen filter?
Inspecting a pollen filter is just like looking at any other filter. It can be really easy to tell if it needs to be replaced. Heck, removing the filter will be the hardest part.

  • Follow the owners book.
    Dirty VW Pollen filter

    A VERY dirty pollen filter

    This will give you a good idea of the average life of a pollen filter. Replacing it every 20,000 miles seems to be a common standard. Check your book and see.

  • Visual inspection
    This is a great way to check your filter. If you can remove it, give it a good look over. Look between the ribs of the filter and check for dirt or other debris. Also make sure it is not wet. You may have bigger issues if your pollen filter is wet.
  • Sniff test
    This reminds me of someone that would say “Hey, smell this, it’s awful” and then you smell it. And it is awful. Giving a filter a sniff test is the last test. Just be careful, you don’t really want a face full of stink.

Do you REALLY need a new filter?
Just like any filter, it really depends. If your owners book says replace it, just replace it. If you inspect the filter and are not sure, just replace it. Pollen filters are not that expensive. If the filter is in bad shape, you can attempt to clean it, but I have not really seen that work. Pollen filters are also a great first DIY. There is very little risk of doing it wrong on most cars.

Well, that wraps up another “Does my car really need this service?”. I hope you are enjoying the series. I really hope that someone has used this as a guide in servicing their car. If you have, PLEASE post in the comments below. I would love to get some feedback.

Check out the other posts in the “Does my car really need this service?” series.

Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Brake Fluid
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Brake Job
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Oil Change
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Engine Air Filter
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Tires
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Serpentine Belt
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Timing Belt

volkswagen scan tool

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that you all had a great holiday, and New Year’s Eve. We did our standard NYE. It consisted of my wife Jenn being sick, and me just hanging out at home. I actually enjoyed it. Let’s get in to those pictures!

Bad replacement exhaust VW PassatThis goes in the “What the heck where they thinking” category. What you are looking at is the exhaust of a 2003 Passat wagon. Someone wanted to change the end pipes and tips. To be fair to the customer, they may have bought it like that. The pipes and tips are riveted on. This is a very poor way to try to attach an exhaust. The little round spots on the exhaust are the rivets, somewhere around 15 of them. Someone took a lot of time to do such a poor job. Please don’t try this at home.

Poor quality tire plug VW tire repairThis is a rare look inside a tire. You are looking at a tire that had a screw in it, and was repaired. I find it odd that part of the screw is still there. That glob of orange and black goo is from the plug. Someone attempted to repair the tire by plugging it. My guess is they plugged it twice, but I am not sure. A tire plug is a good temporary repair, but having it patched or plug/patched is the best way. I wonder if this is the reason they had to replace a tire. 🙂

Bugs in a light VW This is a first for me. You are looking at the overhead light on a Jetta. The customer was complaining that there was bugs in the light. Well, sure enough there are the bugs in the light. I have never seen that happen in a VW before. Maybe she left her sunroof open? The only way they could get in there is through the top.

volkswagen scan toolThis is a picture of a VW scan tool screen. Our scan tools are pretty good, but not even close to perfect. Sometimes a weird code will come up, or a screen that does not make sense. This is a classic example.

Control Module, watchdog timer faulty.

HAHA, what the heck does that mean? Most, if not all, modules have some type of timer in them. Maybe this one was having an issue? Usually faults like this cause no issues, and have no symptoms. I just have to laugh every time I see something like this.

Well, that does it for another volume of Shop Shots. Be sure to tune in next week for more behind the scenes pictures from a VW service department. I also want to just take one minute to thank you all for such an awesome 2012. This community has grown so much over the last year. I can’t thank you all enough for hanging with me. All of your comments, likes, and shares are excellent. Please keep it up. Let’s make 2013 even more better 😉

One last thing. As many of you know we are in the process of moving. It has been a huge pain in the butt. I think it will all work out really great, but the stress level in my house has been sky high. But, right now our current house is mostly packed, and that is a big relief. I will keep you all as up to date as I can with the progress. We, Jenn and I, will be starting a new site about it in a few weeks. The site is up, but I am still in the building stages. Once that is live, I will share it with you guys. It will be about home DIY, gardening, and other cool home related stuff.

Humble Mechanic Logo

Hey everyone, happy Monday! I just want to tell you that I missed you guys last week. We have been full throttle on house work. It is crazy. I am glad to get back to the site, it’s much more fun and painting and power washings.

There are generally two questions that I get from folks.

  1. How do I know I am not getting ripped off.
    We have talk about this one before. Many times.
  2. What are some of the strangest things you have seen as an auto mechanic?

Well, today I want to talk about a few stranger things I have ran into working on cars.

 

The Devil Touareg
When I first started with VW, the Touareg was brand new. It had a fair about of issues early on.On top of that, none of the guys in the shop wanted to work on them. I had heard the horror stories of guys spending days and days trying to fix issues, all to find out nothing was wrong.

A Touareg had been towed to the shop for a dead battery. I replaced the battery, test drove it, checked the car over, then sent it out the door. A few days later it got towed back in for a dead battery. The strange thing was, it started fine when it got to the shop.

As I started to diagnose it, things got weirder and weirder. Some times the alarm would go off for no reason, even while driving. The lights would randomly flash on and off. It got to the point I could not drive the car at all.

I spent the next two weeks working with VW. Replacing modules, swapping modules, and so on. I was starting to think that I would never fix this car. VW finally sent out the regional tech manager to help me out. After 2 days of checks we found the problem. The module that controls the drivers seat had failed. It was bringing down the entire communication bus on the car.

How did we find it? Well, we just unplugged everything until things started working. On a Touareg, that is no easy task. That is about as bad of a butt kicking as I have gotten.

The Mickey Mouse Ball
I am glad that this didn’t happen to me.(make sure you learn from other people’s mistakes too) A customer brought her Beetle in for a noise/vibration concern. The tech working on it drove it to verify her issue. At about 45mph the car would make a crazy noise and shake violently. I rode in the car, it was awful.

After going round and round with the car, the tech replaced the transmission. After replacing the transmission, the tech test drove the car. The car did the exact same thing. A few more days of test drives and hair pulling, we had no answer.

It turns out, the air was hitting the antenna ball just right. This caused the the antenna to pull up on the roof slightly cause air turbulence causing a noise/vibration. Good thing the car was under warranty.

If have a roll your back windows down, and leave your front windows up you can recreate the noise. It is an obnoxious noise.

It Lost Points Cuz It Had A Hot WHeel On It
This is one of my wife’s favorite stories. Also, does anyone know who said that?(hint, it was not she 🙂 ) I was doing maintenance on a customer’s car. It was a 1.8t B5.5 Passat, similar to mine. When I replace the air filter in that car, I like to take the entire air box out and clean it. That gets all the dirt out, plus it’s easier to get the filter back in .

When I took the box out, something strange fell on the ground. I looked down and there was a Hot WHeels toy car on the floor. Yep some how, there was a toy car in the air box of the car.

How the heck does that get there? Was a kid playing under the hood? Did it bounce up off the road? How does that happen?

Well, that wraps it up for today. If you guys dig posts like this, I will try and do more. I need to get a note book and write this stuff down. I am sure there are plenty more stories that I have.

 

Failed Volkswagen water pump

Happy Wednesday everyone! Like always, we have the behind the scenes pictures from a VW dealership. I hope you all know how much I like doing these Wednesday posts. I try to capture all the fun things that happen in a service department. Well, all the stuff that is clean enough to share anyway 😉

Body work on a VWI have talked before about signs of body work on a car. The things that you need to look for before buying any car, new or used. Here is a classic example of what that can look like. The hatch of this Jetta has been hit. I don’t know the story, but I can see the results. From the factory, most car makers paint all the nuts and bolts that hold the body together. Things like fenders, hoods, and doors generally have the the fasteners painted. Checking for the paint missing or broken like these are can give clear evidence of body work.

If a car just had some cosmetic damage, you probably will not see this. There is no reason to remove a fender to fix a scratch. Most body shops will fix that right on the car. Also know that even new cars can have this. They should not be selling them as new, but I know some places will.

TDI VW pump failureThis is a picture of the fuel tank on a new TDI diesel Jetta. The trucking company mis-fueled the tanks. Because of that, the customer filled their car with gasoline. This one was not the customers fault. It was not a HPFP failure, it was clearly a car that had been mis-fueled.

When I removed the in tank fuel pump, I found all this debris. It seemed to be dirt. I am not exactly sure what the heck it was, but it was everywhere. It was stuck in the pump, and all throughout the tank. I was able to clean it all out. That meant I got to bury my face in a gas tank for about 30 minutes. There are 2 lessons we can learn from this

  1. Be careful where you fill up your tank. You might be filling it with the wrong fuel or pumping contaminants into your tank.
  2. Never under estimate how important a fuel filter is. If there was not a filter on the in tank pump, or near the engine, all this would have totally ruined the fuel system.

Very dirty car floor shop shots VWThis is the floor of a VW Jetta. As you can see it is covered in dirt, leaves, and pine needles. Normally I would not care one bit about that. This car had a recall to rewire the airbags in the seats. That means hanging out on the floor board of this car. You can also see the back seat was jam packed full of stuff.

I don’t really care if a customer has a clean car, or a dirty car. I am not really a fan of smelly cars, but that is another story. I do not really care for working on the floor of a car that is covered in nasty. If you are planning to bring your car in, please at least pick it up a little.

Failed Volkswagen water pumpI want to wrap up today with this. What you are looking at is a water pump from a 2001 VW Jetta 2.0l. This is a very common point of failure on that engine. The reason is the impeller is plastic. It is molded onto a metal shaft. Over time the plastic breaks loose and the pump stops pumping. If your mechanic tells says your water pump has failed, this may be what it looks like.

Another round of Shop Shots in the books. Be sure you do not miss next weeks volume. We are doing a best of and that will be super fun! Also, I have a few things I want to giveaway, but you will need to tune in next week to see what they are. I may drop a hint or two on Facebook in the mean time. 😛

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