Auto Repair Excitement: The Final Chapter?

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Patty’s Bug is back in her hands and she’s bravely driving up to Westminster to meet Neenie and the girls for lunch. The car seems, to Patty, to be back to normal.

Next on the agenda for the Bug will be new tires. The old tires have plenty of tread left, but there are cracks in the sidewalls that look suspicious to me. I know that modern tires can’t have “dry rot” like tires in the old days, but it looks rather like that and I don’t want to take any chances.

Auto Repair Excitement, Part Six


The dealer’s tech believes he has found the problem: A pinched wire on the O2 sensor they put in yesterday. They’re going to provide Patty with a free rental car while they run some tests and a couple of long road runs to make sure they are correct this time.

And you thought that the Olympics were exciting, eh?!?!??

Auto Repair Excitement, Part Five

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Most of you are probably familiar with the 250-year-old legend of the Flying Dutchman, the ghost ship doomed to forever sail the seas, never making port; never sought after but still unexpectedly seen.

That’s what my Bug is evidently doomed to be at this VW dealers. Just when he thinks he’s seen the last of it, Kevin, the service manager, will look out of his glass-enclosed office and see the specter of a grey New Beetle with a black rag top, and he’ll know that whatever his staff does to fix it, it will be back with the same problem.

Yep; the car shut off on Patty as she drove it home from work tonight. This time, it didn’t seem to lose power totally when it shut off, so that’s, I suppose, some sort of improvement.

So it’s back to the dealer tomorrow to see what they can divine. Stay tuned!

Auto Repair Excitement, Part Four

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As Sitting Bull once said, “That was over pretty fast.”

Had the Bug towed to the dealer this morning. A big round of applause for AAA’s towing service. Patty and I have paid for AAA for years without ever calling on them, but they did a wonderful job for us twice in three days. Today, the tow truck arrived at my house in nine minutes! Unreal.

At the VW dealer, I explained what I thought the problem was to the service manager. He agreed with me, but wanted to talk to the tech on site who was most skilled concerning electrical systems on New Beetles. His take: It was still the O2 sensor, as that unit is a “warmed” circuit which feeds back to the battery terminal and could cause the exhibited behavior.

So the dealer replaced the O2 sensor and “good-willed” the cost, meaning no charge to me. And, the car fired right up and the service manager and I both wiggled the big red wire repeatedly with no problems. A VW service advisor walked up and told me that the problem and the fix both had him baffled; he’s been working with VWs many years and he’d never heard of such a thing.

It appears as though the repair is complete and the dealer was nice enough to absorb the cost. My out-of-pocket was the $120 initial diagnosis, two AAA towing charges for what was over what’s covered in my basic membership (three miles is covered; over that is $3 per mile) and two tips to the AAA tow-truck drivers. So less than $175 total; time spent at the dealer today: Less than an hour.

I hope this is the end of this unusual auto problem, but only time will tell. Hope you enjoyed reading about it and found it informative!

Auto Repair Excitement, Part Three

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After looking at the Bug’s engine this morning with Patty, here’s what we discovered. Please see the photo below.

See the magic finger pointing at the big red wire coming off the battery? If you barely touch that wire, the power to the car flickers on and off. If the car is running, touching that wire will shut off the engine. The wire doesn’t appear to be loose, nor do any of the other connections there, which usually live under a black plastic shield covering the top of the battery.

This dealer in Silver Spring, Maryland, replaced the Bug’s wiring harness on January 26th of this year, at a cost of $759.46. I think something in the wiring is amiss, don’t you?

I’m taking the Bug back there in the morning, and in a pleasant, non-confrontational way, ask them to look into that condition. That’s why we took the car there Saturday, and Patty and I were clear in what we wanted repaired.

It seems to me that their recommendation (replace the O2 sensor) would not have fixed what we wanted fixed. I’m not saying that the O2 sensor might not need replacing, as this is evidently a known issue with this series of engines.

But I want the car to have an uninterrupted source of power and not be deader than a brick when you want to drive somewhere.

Tune in tomorrow and find out how it goes!!!

Auto Repair Excitement, Part Two


It appears that the dealer’s diagnostic skills are somewhat lacking.

We initially took the Bug to the dealer because it was shutting off occasionally and sometimes wouldn’t have the power to crank the engine. Because the clock was zeroing out whenever this happened, I thought it was a dead battery, but the dealer, as previously stated, said it was the O2 sensor causing the problem. They tested the battery, they said, and it had a good charge.

When Patty tried to drive home after paying the $120 diagnostic fee, the car stopped again and couldn’t be cranked. She called AAA and the very nice fellow who towed it home for us opened the hood, looked at the battery cables, wiggled one he said was loose and the car suddenly had power.

I’ll look at it tomorrow and tighten those battery connections. I wonder if the dealer will be willing to admit they misdiagnosed the issue here. Tune in Monday for a full report!

Auto Repair Excitement, Part One


I don’t mind paying a reasonable fee to an auto repair shop, but I refuse to be gouged.

Our 2006 Volkswagen New Beetle convertible needed an O2 sensor replaced. I had Patty drop it off at the VW dealer next to her office in Silver Spring, Maryland. I don’t want to name the dealer, but their name starts with a D and ends with an ARCARS.

They wanted to charge a $120 diagnostic fee, an hour of labor at $126 and $231 for the sensor, for a total (not including tax) of $477.

I immediately balked at the diagnostic fee, which they immediately agreed to waive. It was very immediate. But that still left an estimate of $357.

I looked that O2 sensor up on the Web and found that a Bosch replacement costs less than $60.

So I’m going to pay the dealer the $120 diagnostic fee and have the car serviced somewhere else.

I’ll continue this saga here on my blog, because it’s mine and I can if I want to, and you’ll be hearing more as it happens!!! This should be interesting.