Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Vw beetle

Recently had to replace the catalytic converster and oxygen sensor, as well as spark plugs after running into a ditch. Four days later the “check engine light” came on as well as misfiring and hesitation noted. I returned to the same mechanic (AAA car repair service center) and was told that the air flow sensor had to be replaced, which I had done. I picked up the car, drove five blocks and noticed that the temperature light was flashing. I immediately returned to the same AAA center. They checked, and told me that the water pump was broken. I had that replaced. Yesterday I picked up my beetle, drove about half way home when the “check engine light” and temperature light came on again. The temperature light went off but comes on when I initially start the car. Also, when I left the car with them for the water pump replacement, my heater was working without difficulty. NOw the heater isn’t working… the knobs don’t even turn! I am returning the beetle to the same mechanic tomorrow but am hesitant. What could be happening? Is this normal or should I find a new mechanic? The car had been great, trouble free until the initial catalytic converter problem. I’ve now spent almost four thousand dollars in three weeks and am still having issues. The VW is a 99 with 124, 000 miles, never had any mechanical issue til now . Help!

Wow! Sounds like you got soaked. Could you describe the “running into a ditch” incident with a bit more detail? I would’ve thought you would have suspension damage, bent rims or something like that from running into a ditch . . . not a new CAT (well, maybe if you smashed it against the ground) . . . spark plugs? . . . air flow sensor? . . . water pump? . . . heater controls? . . . I can’t see how you could damage these items by running into a ditch. Also . . . was this a reportable accident covered by your car insurance? How bad was the accident? Was the engine under water? Rocketman

Thanks, Rocketman. I’ve been so depressed about all of this! Appreciate the response.
This is what happened: I drove to the park, took a hike, got into my car and followed the new exit sign; posted because of new construction in the parking lot. The new exit path was a huge unpaved area with several ditches/holes. As I tried to avoid one huge hole, I drove into a smaller one and heard the bottom of the car scraping. I backed out and didnt’ notice any damage. Several days later the catalytic converter problem happned. No other damage has been found, no frame damage or bent rims. The mechanic told me the spark plugs burned d/t the converter problem. I’m not sure if the oxygen sensor was related or not. When I returned the second time d/t ck engine light and misfiring noted, I was told that the air flow sensor had to be replaced. I did that, left again and then the water pump issue occurred.
I thought AAA was a well respected organization. I need to return again since the temperature light started flashing before I could return home from replacing the water pump. Any advice? If they find that the temperature flashing light returning is due to their installation of the water pump, I’ll have them fix it. I think, though, that if it is a NEW problem I will leave and find a new mechanic. Or is this a case of really, really bad luck unrelated to the mechanic?
Oh, I didn’t report it to the car insurance as it seemed such a simple event. The car was never in water. I have called the park and reported it, since I can’t be the only person who has driven into one of the ditches. I doubt that they will assume any responsibility but thought it worth a try. Thanks for your advice!

Report it to your insurance company, anyway. It may be covered under “road hazard”,or some such. While the engine is only warm, or cool, you could check the coolant. It it has a radiator cap, remove that and look into the radiator. If low, fill with pre-mixed anti-freeze. This action might turn off that temperature light. Might.
The temperature light should be covered under the water pump replacement, and not cost you any more.
If the timing belt had never been changed, it should be a new one with the replaced water pump. The timing belt drives the water pump. If the timing belt had gone bad, from high mileage wear / deterioration, that would be very bad for the engine. So, this could be a fortuitous confluence of silver lining and cloud.
You can post the details of the repairs, here, and someones will be able to determine if the charges were excess, or “questionably high”.

Thanks for the advice. Here is the breakdown of what I’ve done in the last 3 weeks:

  1. Catalytic converter, wires, sparkplugs O2 sensor totaled $2700
  2. Air flow sensor, oil change, windshield wipers replaced = $500
  3. Water pump replacement = $600
    The timing belt was not replaced with the water pump as I had run out of money after repairs 1 and 2, but I know I need to do that next. Can you approximate a normal charge for this?
    Also, should I change mechanics? Do you think this was simply a random sequence of unlucky incidents, or is something wrong when I have to immediately return to the mechanic shortly after a repair…for a new problem? The guys were very nic and I want to trust them,would hate to think that I’ve so misread them; however I am feeling somewhat uneasy about all that has happened. Thank you for your help!

Not quite on topic, but I had a 2000 Beetle (that never once had a problem in 80,000 miles )then I let a non-VW mechanic flush the radiator and that car was never the same again. Afterwards it had overheating problems etc. I spoke to a guy who was a VW mechanic and he told me that there all all sorts of weird pressure set ups etc that have to be taken into consideration. I believe this because the only people who could fix it was an outfit who called themselves the VW Doctors! Hype? I don’t know but you may want to try to find a specialist!

Water pump replacement: $600. Water pump replacement, plus new timing belt: $640.
Only timing belt at some future time: $600. Timing belt when run too many miles over 100,000 miles, and it fails: $3,000.

Thanks to all of you for the advice. I will go to a VW specialist for the timing belt and answer for the flashing temp light. I’ve been doing google searches for beetle repairs, and wonder if the serpentine belt and the tensioner belt are included with the timing belt? Also, do you recommend anything else for my car? This is a terrific community service, this car talk site.