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Just wanna help
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Mechanic’s Tale: VW, Heal Thyself
Volkswagen needs to be the people's car, not the mechanic's friend.
by Douglas Flint (2005-08-15)

ORIGINAL ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND .HERE

What's in a name? Sometimes nothing. I couldn't tell you what Buick means. Perhaps the founder was named Stanley Buick. Saturn was probably chosen as a name because the 750 million miles or so between the planets Saturn and Earth represented the distance necessary to escape the lethal radiation of General Motors Corporate Headquarters. (They didn't make it.)

But there is no doubt what Volkswagen means and set out to be: "the people's car," a simple utilitarian car for the masses, affordable and easy to maintain. Now I don't believe Volkswagen can ever return to the simple air-cooled Beetle, which predates World War II. But they had better do something because the reputation of their cars is becoming toxic.

Europeans have always had a fundamental problem with the understanding of electricity and electrical things. Perhaps because old Ben Franklin discovered it and Thomas Edison figured out what to do with it, they outright rejected it as a nouveau riche affectation from the new world. When the world jumped from electrical to electronic, the German manufacturer's problems became even worse. The first thing I noticed is the AM radio function in most Volkswagens never works. This is a dangerous warning sign as the AM radio is almost as old as the telegraph, and every American male growing up in the past century learned how to build one using a coat hanger and a copper penny as a tuner, yet this is somehow beyond the reach of Germany's finest minds. And if you can't master the AM radio thing, what will happen with modern computer controls?



Open source programming?

If you know anything about auto maintenance, you know we mechanics often have to connect diagnostic scan tools to the cars to retrieve information necessary for repairs. Since 1996, all cars have the same standardized connectors and all manufacturers provide data in the same format. Very simple, very good, nothing to go wrong or mess up - except Volkswagen! Any time you connect to or begin testing a Volkswagen you can easily and quite accidentally change the delicate, carefully calculated operating parameters of the car. The computer is wide open. There is no other manufacturer's car where you could do this if you wanted to. This is not a good thing.

A fellow called me some weeks ago crying how he had taken his car back to the dealer for routine service, and his transmission shifting - which had been beautifully timed and crisp - was now whacked out and no one could get it right. I know what happened. Someone scanning the computer changed something.

Look, I love the people in this business, but this is above our pay grade. We're not software engineers. We are guys who turn nuts and bolts and learned some electronics because we had to. Yesterday I was working on a Jetta with an intermittent no start. I had some pretty good ideas about what might be wrong but I was bugged out because I could get no data when I connected my scanner. I called my tech hotline, an excellent service called Identifix, and spoke to a VW tech. When I mentioned the problem with no scan data he asked, "Does the car have an aftermarket radio?" (non-factory equipment). Sure enough it did. He told me the computer system interfaces with the radio and often you can't get data if the radio has been changed.

Once again, that's just crazy and completely unnecessary. I assure you that Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota , Honda, Mazda, Nissan, even Hyundai and Kia vehicles come in the shop with hacked-in radios, and the computer diagnostics still work. And since we know from paragraph two that VW radios don't work all that well, it's an invitation to disaster.

When doing electrical repairs on these cars you can never get good, accurate, simple diagrams. I used to think this was because they didn't want non-VW people having them, but after finally getting a good look at some factory information I have concluded that they don't provide diagrams because no one actually knows where the electricity goes once it leaves the battery.


The metallic clang

I had occasion to work on a 2001 VW Passat with the turbo four-cylinder engine. With less than 65,000 miles on it, the engine had developed a nasty metallic noise that comes from the timing chain on the back of the engine. As we began to disassemble and inspect it, it became apparent that there was a tremendous amount of wasted motion and unnecessary complexity in this engine. In spite of the fact that this car was well maintained (synthetic oil changes every 3000 miles), it had developed sludging in the oil pickup, which starved the timing chain tensioner. Two thousand dollars and some change later it seems to be okay. I won't sleep well for another year.

Once again, as I worked through this I called my tech service and discovered that this was common. The tech even laughed and told me how amusing it was when the engine, starved for oil, was accelerated - say, to pass another car - it often locked the camshafts, resulting in pieces flying everywhere. Yeah, real funny for the middle-class person who shelled out $28,000 for a fine driving machine. As I understand it, the old "secret warranty" is in effect, and if you say the magic words, cry, or know a good attorney, you might get warranty help.


A true Volkswagen story

My buddy Joe gets a lot of VWs in the upper-class neighborhood his shop is in. In the year 2000, a customer came in to show him the great deal she got on a leftover (brand-new) '99 VW Passat. I guess he couldn't hide the look of disappointment on his face because she said, "What's wrong, you don't like it?" To date, Joe can verify $12,000 in repairs and maintenance to that same vehicle, and there are sure to be some dealer bills he hasn't seen. At 20,000 miles it required complete four-wheel brake replacement. At 40,000 miles the water pump impeller broke, causing an overheat. (Before hearing the story I would have said that water pump impellers never break.) The power windows failed one by one all the way around. The heater core leaked.

These are just the highlights. Sooner or later the customer will meet a Toyota owner and discover this is not normal. You can only count on those old Sixties kids buying VWs for so much longer.


Repent, ye

I have more people say to me that they will never buy a Volkswagen again and never go to the dealer for service than any other model. The problem is that bad cars breed a callously indifferent service department that loses all sympathy for the customer because they themselves are under such pressure. VW is not a basket case. They have many redeeming features. They have great road feel, great turning and brakes, and when running well are pretty fun to drive. And my wife said to be sure to add that they look good, too. The upper middle class likes them because it's entry-level European for the kids who wouldn't want to be caught dead driving a Ford Focus to high school.

Volkswagen, hire some Japanese teenagers to do all your electrical systems. Review and simplify all your components and procedures. I figure you can eliminate at least 150 moving parts in your engine alone. If it takes more than one paragraph in the manual to check the auto trans fluid (currently 14 pages and climbing), you're doing something wrong. Make your radios easy to remove and throw away. That's what people are going to do with them anyway. Stop squeezing your supplier so hard they have to make your water pumps from metal that could have been recycled beer cans and your ignition coils from copper wire that could have been stolen from the Mexican telephone system.

And when you have a problem, look at how Toyota handled the head gasket failures on its V-6 truck engines in the early Nineties. They issued a recall, made complete repairs and offered compensation to people who had already paid for repairs for up to ten years or 100,000 miles. No secret warranties, magic words, or threats. It's a long climb back, but this might be a good time to stop digging the hole.
 

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I can attest to this article...I traded in my 2001.5 V6 4 motion Passat problem child for a nissan. I had to many issues with the VW stealerships and the stupidity of their corporate office....good rittens to VW and the the crap they call "german engineering."

Japanese engineers celebrate after design of an automobile.
German engineers celebrate before design of an automobile.

just my $.02
 

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Mr. 3 K, 3/3/5. 5K,10/5/7
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You are scaring me. :eek:
 

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SHIFT_FASTER
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Not to mention the use of a timing belt on the interference engines in the earlier Passats (and possibly others). Nothing like an engine that has pistons that smash the valves when the timing belt breaks.
 

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I read Doug Flint's articles all the time - very entertaining. Really gives you an idea of what it takes to run an independent shop.
 

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I wonder if these problems are just as widespread on other VW owned brands (Audi, Porsche)? I had a 1993 Audi 90S, and it was a nightmare! Had most of the problems listed in this article. I owned it for less than a year, and swore never to own another again.
 

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I once had a 20 year old VW and it wasn't a bad car. Sure none of the electronics worked - the power windows failed one by one, the radio was demon-possessed, and it would mysteriously not start one try, then start the next try. Oh, and it leaked coolant INTO THE PASSENGER CABIN (bad heater core), water pump failed every other year, and the alternator died a couple times. But then it was an early 80's VW, what do you expect?

The power locks never failed though. Still a great car, since it was my first car and taught me to appreciate a running car (even if most of the accessories on it did not run).

Finally donated the car when it began to leak brake fluid from one of the rear lines.
 

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not VW related but...

had a worker once that begged me to help him with his escort...

Once we got the water pump off I was horrified to see that the timing belt was driving the water pump, and, the water pump was aluminum. The shaft of the water pump (on the pulley end of course) had worn down enough to let the water pump impellor blades make contact with the pump, which of course stopped up the radiator just before it seized and snapped the timing belt.
Can you say duh?

Same for the dang serpentine belt tensioner in the Mo, I looked at my wife's Hyundai and there sat the spring tensioner like all chevys have had since 78. Put a 3/8 breaker bar on it, pull, drop old belt. Restring new one, pull, put belt over tensioner pulley, release. Any idiot could do it. I replaced the belts on my wife's old Sentra, what a freakin nightmare. You have to unscrew the dam pulley to unscrew the adjusting bolt, to take off a belt, FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE ENGINE!

Hondas had a way of bending their valves when the timing belt broke as well.
 

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Grip! How's that Really, Really Expensive VW of Yours?

Say, Gripper, that really expensive VW you've got...how's that working for ya? ; )

Seriously, if our MOs weren't engineered so good from the start, the poor service would kill us too. So...if you have to pick an evil...I'd pick poor service...poor design is too expensive.

Regards,

Big
 

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I own an 1998 Passat 1.8t with tiptronic.

I have replaced under warranty:
The radio 3 times.
The sensor that drives the tachometer.
Various oil leaks fixed with new gaskets.

I had to fix the following myself:
The front suspension upper control arms and tie rod ends ( $800).

The ABS electronic module ( $500 part new but I had it
repaired for $250 ).

The ignition control module ( $400 part ) .

The timing belt, a maintenance item, was replaced at 100000
miles.

The radio was finally replaced with an Alpine radio which is far superior to the original VW radio. The tach speed sensor is acting up again.

The Passat is a nice car in many ways but the front suspension control arms and the various electronic modules shouldn't be failing. I probably should consider selling the car soon.

The mechanic, who worked on my car lately, said the problems I have had are pretty common with this car.


.
 

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Mr. 3 K, 3/3/5. 5K,10/5/7
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Re: Grip! How's that Really, Really Expensive VW of Yours?

big_daddy_mpd said:
Say, Gripper, that really expensive VW you've got...how's that working for ya? ; )

Seriously, if our MOs weren't engineered so good from the start, the poor service would kill us too. So...if you have to pick an evil...I'd pick poor service...poor design is too expensive.

Regards,

Big
So far Perfect ! Even the AM radio works fine. Maybe they figured it out. The components seem good Siemens, etc. and the build quality is perfection. However the Phaeton forum does report some minor electrical problems on the 2004's Nothing after that. Keeping my finger crossed as I will not ever replace it until someone gets the diesel hybrid perfected and I think that will take about 6 more years. :1: We had the worst freeze down here in 17 years, actually the first one in 17 years. The whol town went from Green to Brown in one night. :(
 

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It's that pesky global warming I've been hearing about....

:12:
 

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I am in Texas and it has been dipping down to a high of 20-30's in the past 2 weeks unlikely for this part of the country. I also concur it is the greenhouse effect. Heck I would not even be surprised if I see some green rain soon.... :eek:
 

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Global Warming Causes Temperature Drops

Folks...sorry, but I just gotta say this...if global warming causes temperature drops, what do they call it if the temperatures rise?

Being a student of natural history...I just have to say that global climatic shifts have occurred many times...both when humans were here (it's call the ice age), and when they were not here (the mass extinction of the dinosaurs comes to mind). In both cases, the shift was attributable to:

Massive volcanic eruptions
Massive meteor strikes
Massive release of greenhouse cases, like frozen methane (beneath the ocean's floor).

At no time in the history of mankind, have WE done anything, so catastrophic as these things. And what was the "catastrophic" change in global temperatures?

a 3-5 degree shift, up, or down, in the global climate. Evidently, one of these mysterious forces is offsetting the greenhouse gases we're releasing into the atmosphere.

Well, off to praise band practice at church...maybe if I floor it, I'll release enough greenhouse gases to warm you folks up down there in Texas...keep me posted! ;)

Regards,

Big
 

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HuskyFan said:
I own an 1998 Passat 1.8t with tiptronic.

I have replaced under warranty:
The radio 3 times.
The sensor that drives the tachometer.
Various oil leaks fixed with new gaskets.

I had to fix the following myself:
The front suspension upper control arms and tie rod ends ( $800).

The ABS electronic module ( $500 part new but I had it
repaired for $250 ).

The ignition control module ( $400 part ) .

The timing belt, a maintenance item, was replaced at 100000
miles.

The radio was finally replaced with an Alpine radio which is far superior to the original VW radio. The tach speed sensor is acting up again.

The Passat is a nice car in many ways but the front suspension control arms and the various electronic modules shouldn't be failing. I probably should consider selling the car soon.

The mechanic, who worked on my car lately, said the problems I have had are pretty common with this car.


.
Your problems almost exactly mirror our experiences with the wife's '99 Passat (traded for the Mo):

- Upper control arms & tie rod ends
- Ignition Control Module
- Turbocharger (crack in housing)
- Complete valve train replacement
- Diverter valve
- Coolant temp. sensor (x 2)
- Convenience control module

After replacing all of the parts, the car still looked and felt new, but both the wife and I were ready to get back to a little reliability (we were owners of a '93 Maxima that needed nothing but scheduled service for 130k miles).

The car was great to drive, but there is no way that the front end (control arms/tie rod ends) should need replacing at 50k miles.

Good luck with your Passat!
 

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My Degree from "Common Sense College" with a minor in Environmental Science tells me that......it sounds like big_daddy_mpd got more greenhouse gas BS than his vehicle's emission problem. Which is probably contributing to 90% of the climactic change in weather we are enduring in the south and northeast. I guess for some people there are more gas coming out one end than the other....how Ironic
Well I am off to another moral bashing....:4:

Lets not jump off the topic of those fascinating and remarkable VW POS...I love the VW bashing it brings a certain calmness knowing I was not the only one.....washing away all the ill VW memories.
 

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Blatant bashing of members is not only rude and crude, it is strictly prohibited.

We need a MO Mom here to say, "if you can't say anything nice about or to another member, don't say anything at all".
 

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Off the record here but I'm not sure how anyone can dispute that global warming has in fact, and is still, occuring. The sum effects will not be witnessed for some time, probably not even in our lifetimes, but thats not a reason to say it hasn't happened. Its like saying the air we breathe does not exist because its invisible.

A 3-5 degree increase in global temperatures is pretty major considering it is the largest increase in a short period (over the past 200 years I think) the planet has ever experienced. Imagine if *your* body temperature suddenly went up 3-5 degrees F. You'd be sick in bed all day. Same goes for the Earth's ecosystem.

Now I don't want to argue with anyone here. Just wanted to chime in with what scientific evidence has suggested.

How does this relate to VWs? VW's cause global warming. So does my Murano. And yours. Nothing wrong with driving a car, but don't knock those who think cutting back on greenhouse gases is a good idea - people can do whatever they want.

Ok back to our regularly scheduled program.
 

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Global Warming NOT a MO Issue

I'm not the only one in "denial" here. For those of you who think that your MO won't be lumped by hysterical liberals, into EVIL SUV status...well, you've just ignored 50 years of political history. Now, even though its probably the best mileage for a 2 ton SUV/Crossover of many vehicles, people will tell you, soon, if we don't debunk the global warming hysteria, that your MO is a civil evil, that needs to be eradicated. Along with your personal gun collection, your freedom to be a Christian (other religions are OK...its only the Christians that are EVIL to liberals), and many other of your freedoms. I merely react, as a conservative, to any reference to "tree hugging" logic...because, frankly, I see it as a threat to my being able to drive my family of 5, safely, in NE Ohio (hey, we have lake effect snow going on right now...with AWD, and the good street clearing/salting approaches here...I take them safely where we all need to go, here in NE Ohio). If you don't want me talking about the "myth" of global warming in the grand scheme of things...don't bring it up on this forum, in ANY post. If you do, expect me to post an opposing opinion. Global climate change existed long before humans, internal combustion engines, or human generated greenhouse gasses. Do deny THAT, is to give liberal global warming tree-hugging hysterics an irrational red-herring to eventually take our MOs away from us.

And that's all I have to say.

Regards,

Michael
 
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