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VW coolant leaks and competence

For several years, my husband and I both took our VWs to a really nice guy that attends my church and has had a garage for something like thirty years. I figure if he has to look me in the face every Sunday, he’s not gonna rip me off (plus he is a really good guy, and probably would never do that anyway). Once, after an oil change, the bottom of my car came unhinged and started dragging the ground at 60mph. I forgave the mistake (they did not bolt it back on properly?) and continued to give him my neighborly custom. I had some minor things done over the years and eventually had some less minor repair to be done, which involved a new part. After two days of waiting for the car to be done, it finally became apparent that the delay was caused by his trying to make a Jetta part fit my Passat…because for some reason he had decided I had a Jetta, despite the word “Passat” being on the back of my car. I decided then to find myself a new mechanic, and it’s one recommended in the MechanX Files. He’s more expensive, but thorough and competent.

In the meantime, my husband forgot this misadventure and has kept taking his car to the church guy, because he is convenient to the office and gives us a church discount (usually around 10%). Not long ago my husband was seeing signs of a coolant leak and took the car to this guy. A week later (maybe closer to 10 days?), we get the car back, with a few new hoses and clamps. The bill gives us a whopping $300 discount off the labor. That right there makes me think something is awry…either he is being super generous to us or maybe they spent way too much time trying to figure something out.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and there is still G12 fluid leaking from what appears to be three places. The car is going back to this very apologetic guy today, but I almost don’t want him to touch it. I’m starting to think they took the whole front off the car, could not find the leak and then just replaced some inexpensive parts to cover their butt. I also don’t think he should be charging us for this labor if the whole front has to come off again–I mean, he already took it off once and claimed to have fixed the leak. If he has to take it off again because he did not do the job right the first time, it should now be on his dime, don’t you think?

And if he does take off the whole front end again, should we ask him to do the timing belt at the same time, or is that too risky a job to entrust him with!!?? (If a mechanic is taking the whole front end off your 11 year old car, don’t you think he should have suggested changing the timing belt and water pump while he was at it the first time?)

How do we effectively prepare to challenge any billing or repair result from this guy, whom I see every Sunday?

It is impossible to tell whether the (church guy) mechanic is competent or not. What is clear is you have lost all confidence in this church guy and are on the way to not trusting him either. Your husband has not yet moved as far down the lack of confidence and low trust road as you have. How this latest repair redo comes will either rebuild some confidence or shake your husband’s confidence in “church guy”.

Unfortunately attending a particular church, and being a nice guy has little bearing on mechanical competence. To challenge the bill you forget all about the church relationship and document everything that has occured with the car related to this repair. Just get all your receipts and info together and keep them until you either have the problem resolved or decide to challenge the bill. Often to prove incompetence you have to visit another shop who can identify what was done right and what was done wrong.

There’s not enough real information in your post for me to be able to determine if he’s crooked or incompetent.

Being a member of a church and showing up every Sunday also does not guarantee that churchgoer is not a lyiny, shady weasel either; competence excluded from the discussion.

“Being a member of a church and showing up every Sunday also does not guarantee that churchgoer is not a lying, shady weasel.”

I can think of several regular churchgoers who are not nice people, not honest, and not Christian…in a true sense.

I recognize that you could have some difficult moments in church if you don’t continue to patronize this mechanic, but surely competence in repairing your car should take precedence over loyalty to church members who may be…less than competent…less than honest…less than true Christians.

I used to work for a Nissan dealer some years ago. This dealer and his wife, along with his parents, his son and daughter in law, and the sales manager and his wife, were all members of the largest and most monied church here.
He made a sizeable contribution every week and also got himself into the church hiearchy where he made sure that all of the above people got reserved parking spots right near the front door.

So come Sunday morning the entire crew would show up early with the freshly detailed demonstrators (window stickers and all) and the first thing people would see and have to walk right by while entering and leaving church was a row of new Nissans for sale.
The ugly part in my opinion is that they would flat lie and stall customers to no end who were promised a new vehicle on a Fri. or Sat. so as to make sure their demos were spotless for parking in Church Row.

No, he really is a good guy, not a sleaze. His is a very modest family, no fancy anything; they give their time to help the less fortunate; their daughter took a job as a teacher in an underprivileged school; they volunteer for stuff at church; he has longtime employees because he treats them decently, etc. They are genuinely a nice family and I don’t think he has a crooked or hypocritical bone in his body. I think the issue, based on my own experience as mentioned above relating to my own car repairs, is possible lapses in, um, thoroughness in his shop. That’s why I don’t let him do anything now but change my oil (might consider his body work if I ever needed it, because they do a lot of that and it looks good to my eye). He even has good reviews on this very site.

The original repair was to replace an axle and CV boot, and then to correct a coolant leak. The bill says that parts were “1 axle and CV boot, 2 cooling hoses, 1 oil cooler seal, 1 oil cooler hose, 4 clamps, 1 antifreeze and 1 oil”. There were two hours of labor on the CV boot and axle job plus ten hours on “replace leaking hoses, clamps, flush cooling system and replace antifreeze, bleed system, remove and replace front of car to get to cooler hoses, refill oil”.

I will ask my husband what else he was told when the repair was completed. The weird thing is that I recall some sense of hopefulness on their part that the car would be fine and leak cured, as though they were not 100% sure they had found the leaks, or maybe not all of them? Stand by for more when my husband gets home.

So on the final bill, we were only charged for about half the overall labor that had been accounted for. There is also a 90 day parts and labor warranty, so maybe we will just take it back to him and see what happens.

Is it possible they cracked the radiator while they were working on it three weeks ago? Now they say the rad is cracked and want another $500. Even if they did not crack it, they clearly did not fix the leak after all that labor and parts from three weeks ago. I feel like we should be asking our $$ back on the other repair that apparently didn’t even fix the problem and because there is a guarantee on the parts and labor.

I’m sure he’s a wonderful, honest, and truely upstanding human being. But it sounds to me like it might be time for him to retire. My dad ran a retail business for his whole adult ilfe. He was one heck of a businessman for most of it, but when he grew old and began having minor strokes he began to lose his cognitive functions. Eventually he could no longer even carry on a conversation or do simple math. It’s possible that this gentleman is having a similar problem and the huge discounts are his way of apologizing.

You can be a close friend but still take your car elsewhere. If my guess is right, he knows he’s at the end of his career and will welcome your friendship and understanding. He’ll understand you’re going elsewhere.

Now, how to convince hubby…hmmmm…that’s a bigger problem.

Conversation with garage owner: "No, it wasn’t cracked/broken when he saw it first time, “otherwise I would’ve told you.” so …“I did not notice a crack.” HOW CAUSED? Possible ( he said), the first time it overheated a small crack might’ve occurred, that blew out a hose that we then repaired. After other hoses were repaired (he continued) - thus restoring the internal pressure - that pressure could’ve widened the small unseen crack that then worsened the leak, which he thought had been repaired.
COULD You HAVE CAUSED THE CRACK? No, don’t think so, it’s never happened before, we only worked on the back end, take off a few bolts, put it back. . . Don’t see how we could have caused any crack. He said there were no leaks after finishing the repair.

Take the car to another shop for an evaluation of the leak and confirm the “crack” in the radiator. This guy isn’t giving you any “deal” on replacing the radiator so why not take the car elsewhere.

Anytime you take mess around with a radiator you can cause problems, by overtightening clamps and fasteners, or manhandling the taking off and putting on of the hoses. Did that happen here? I don’t know, but I don’t think he would admit a mistake so you won’t get an answer from this guy that you can trust.