I need guy advice about my mechanic

I am an older woman driving a 1984 VW Vanagon Westfalia. Obviously I spend some time at various mechanics while on the road. I recently decided to switch mechanics here in the Bay Area and found one who had good reviews and is a dedicated VW mechanic, and who told me he was the best. I’ve taken my van to him twice for the same problem (written about here before: stuttering and then dying on the freeway), and he’s fixed many things, confident that he solved the problem. But he didn’t. It still stutters and dies on the freeway. I took the van back to him 4 weeks ago and he has been sitting on it since then, telling me he doesn’t know what the problem is and that he will try a suggestion I found on the GoWesty website.

My friends all say this is outrageous and that I should yell at him or whatever. I don’t want to do that, but don’t know what to do now. Should I just take it back from him? I’ve called him every week to check on the status and been given what seems like a runaround each time.

This guy appears to have a really strong ego and I wonder if he’s avoiding my car because he has to admit he doesn’t know how to fix it (I’m no psychologist).

Do you have any advice for me? I actually printed out and gave him the answers I got here when I posted the original problem, but he didn’t respond as though they were helpful.

Thanks for reading this sad story.

I would say I am sorry you can’t fix it, I have a friend who wants to look at it, thank you for your efforts. Then take it to another shop, What a fun way to travel!


It’s yours. Just tell him you need it back. Yelling at him like your friends suggested won’t help anything. If it’ll drive out of there without stranding you, you could tell him you need it for a local camping trip or you’ve decided not to spend more money on it or something. But I think the best idea is to just bite the bullet and be honest. “No hard feelings, but I’m ready to get my vehicle back. Thanks for trying to fix the problem, but at this point, I just need it back.”

I can’t really understand why he can’t repair it. It’s not a really complex vehicle…

You will get your keys back.

After 4 weeks I think that is what he is hoping for.

Diagnosing odd problems can be time consuming and offer little reward. The cost of living is high in the Bay Area, spending days on an old vehicle is costly for a mechanic. Are you willing to pay $1500 to diagnose and replace a $100 part?

If that’s the case, I think the mechanic should just be upfront with her. “I do not know offhand what the issue is. I’m willing to diagnose and repair it at X dollars an hour. This might get expensive so I can’t really offer a good estimate.” Does no one just say what they mean anymore? Would save some time.


Just call and say I’m coming to pick up my vehicle tomorrow. If it’s drivable, show up, settle any bill, and drive away. If it’s not drivable, arrange for a tow truck to tow it off.

This isn’t hard.


These were not especially low maintenance vehicles, they gad a troublesom first gen fuel injection system. that may be beyond his capabilities. Unless you use the camper a lot, it might be time to upgrade to something newer and more reliable.

PS The best guys in town don’t tell you they are the best, other people do.


Isn’t that what all guys say? :wink:

Get the Vanagon back and find another mechanic. The mechanic you refer to here can’t fix it. Find VW clubs on line in the Bay Area and ask for recommendations for a mechanic that knows old VW’s, especially Vanagons.


I have never found yelling at someone improves communication or understanding. I have also never found that driving an old vehicle and not being able to do your own work is very profitable. You really need a new vehicle rather than a new mechanic.


So this has the ‘wasserboxer’ water-cooled engine with Digijet early electronic (maybe, or maybe mechanical) fuel injection. Not so simple, after all. Like other have said, search for a mechanic with experience in this particular engine.

Lots of Westy info here, including a list of mechanics:
Westfalia.org - A resource for the VW camper-van community since 1996

You didn’t mention the mileage on the engine, it’s repair history, and the overall condition of the vehicle - if the vehicle is generally in good shape it might be worth fixing (after you find a better mechanic) but also would be attractive so someone else, with or without a perfect engine. In general, these engines were problematic and it’s not uncommon to replace them with others that are more reliable. A 4cyl. Subaru engine substitution is popular (and more powerful), and there are other choices. If this seems attractive to you, ask around and check Vanagon specific websites to find mechanics experienced in doing it.

I recently did a routine cooling system service on my 50 year old truck. After connecting all the hoses back up, everything seemed to be working correctly. The next day a leak appeared. I fixed it. The day after that another leak appeared. Which I fixed. A week later, a third leak appeared , fixed again … during that procedure I noticed the carb’s accelerator pump was seeping … lol … … well, you get the idea. Car repair on older vehicles in my experience is unlikely to produce a perfect result the first time. It’s a time consuming iterative process. The mechanic has bills like everybody else, and has to be paid for his/her time. No way to know if your particular mechanic is good at the needed tasks or not, but what you are describing isn’t out of the ordinary for older vehicles. Were I in that situation I’d ask the mechanic to replace all the easily replaceable rubber hoses and accessory belts at the next service. That method has been pretty effective for keeping my older vehicles on the road.

Thanks for your reply, George. He did finally find something: the “hall sender” (something in the distributor) was broken and “flopping around,” which he said could very well be the cause of the problem. I’m now waiting to get the vehicle back from him and find out if that solved the problem. I can’t know this until I’ve driven it a few hours on the freeway (!). I would think, however after keeping it 5 weeks and not working on it for 4, that I could be a little bit miffed. But he says he was busy, and I’m sure those were jobs he could fix, unlike my job.

I expect that is the device the ignition system uses to decide at what time to produce a spark. There’s a shaft inside the distributor that rotates 360 degrees over the course of a firing sequence in which all the spark plugs are fired, one by one. A magnet on the shaft triggers the hall effect sensor, which causes an electrical pulse to be sent to the ignition system. The good thing about a hall effect sensor is it doesn’t require any physical contact between the stationary part and the moving part, so it comes in pretty handy for cars. You can read how a hall effect sensor works by looking that term up in Wikipedia.

Thanks for the explanation, George!

It would seem to me that if the Hall Effect sender was broken and flopping as described the engine would not even start or barely run even if it did.

If the sender actually is broken then I would hope that he would consider the reason why it might have broken; worn distributor shaft bushings which cause the distributor shaft to flop sideways and hit the sender. The clearance between the sender and shaft is very, very close.


I will ask him. Sounds like that might not be the answer to my stuttering problem if as you say the van shouldn’t even be running. At least he is fixing it. Thanks for your reply

@cat00x Now is the time to start looking for a place that can actually repair this vehicle. Contact every VW club you can find on the web near you and see if they have places they use. Many club members also do work as a hobby but don’t advertise .

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