Tom Piippo’s One Eye in the Mirror: It’s OK to Say No

Sometimes it’s just OK to say no. We all have limits, I’ve had enough so, NO I will not even attempt to fix your car. It’s not you, it’s your car.

Car Repair Tom PiippoFor more than 40 years I’ve been proud of the fact that I’ve been able to service ALL of my customer’s cars. If I needed a special tool, I bought it. (I’ll use it again). If it needed hard-to-find parts, I found them. If it needed a special service procedure, I trained myself and my crew on how to do it.

Parts and tools were easy, just reach in your pocket and pull out the credit card. The knowledge part was the tricky one. Service information? Sure, I have plenty! AllData, Mitchell, Identifix, Motologic along with any OE on a short-term subscription, but words alone don’t make you smart enough to fix ALL makes, ALL models. I’ve been able to “poll the audience” or “call a friend” (remember that show?) to get out of a tricky jam, but even then, the answer you get may not be the correct answer. With iATN and now, a technician’s knowledge base can be instantly expanded to more than 1 million years of experience by plying the minds of thousands of experienced technicians.

The customer had been driving his 2010 VW Passat Diesel for more than a month with an ADBLUE warning message on the dash. When the warning changed to “Service now, 70 miles to no-start” I get a call for help. I feel confident I can help. I’ve worked on diesel Passat’s before. I have a VCDS and an Autel scan tools, but when the car arrives on a wrecker, the message now says, ‘starting not possible’. I spend several hours with various scan tools trying to reset the SCR/ ADBLUE system before I ask for help (nothing about this in SI). Those who know are quick to point out that only the dealer tool, ODIS, is able to make this reset.

Another Volkswagen a week later gets towed in for a no-start. A quick scan shows the ECM is off-line as reported by several other modules. I check powers, grounds and CAN lines and determine that the ECM is dead.

Now I have to make a decision. I’ve kept current with most domestics with factory scan tools (IDS, FDRS, GM’s GDS) but to service these VW’s I will need a current J-2534 device (I have several old, outdated ones) VSP/ LSID credentials (I’ve avoided them) and subscriptions to OE programming web sites. Then there is the steep learning curve. I’ll have to think on this a while.

Last week a 2018 Jaguar F-Pace was towed in, will not shift out of Park. The Autel OBD connector for this car includes an ethernet cable, so you know something special is going on. Scan all modules and there is no communication with the Shifter module, Engine module and Transmission module. SI shows these modules share a FlexRay circuit. Now I’ve heard of FlexRay, but never had to deal with it. The OBD connector pin-out shows power at pin 16, ground at pins 1 and 2, CAN on 6 and 14, and 5 pairs of FlexRay lines. Where CAN had been the speedy lines on other cars, it’s the old, slow data bus on this car. A call to the dealer tells me there have been issues with the shifter module. Even if I had the module, I lack the equipment/ credentials to program it.

Then there was the MINI with the bad Footwell module (Footwell module = Body Control Module). Before I even took on the job, I made sure my Autel scanner was able to program this car. All the credentials and scanner menus were in order, so I took the job. I verified the module had failed and replaced it with a new one. I hooked up the scanner and navigated to the programming menu. I selected ‘Footwell Module’ and noticed there was no ‘execute’ button. I called scanner support and was told that because of many programming failures on these modules, Autel had deleted that function with a recent over-the-air update.

Okay, I’ve thought about it. I stay plenty busy enough working on domestic and Asian cars, and I make a good profit. I feel confident on repairs because we do lots of them. However, European cars are different. I can’t tell you exactly how they are different, they still have 4 wheels, ICE, brakes and electronics, but they are different enough that I don’t feel comfortable, nor confident working on them. I am not ‘service ready’ nor will I likely be anytime soon. I will leave those jobs to the Euro Shops. They make a good profit on them because that’s all they do. I don’t know if they find American and Asian cars challenging, but for now, I will stick with what I know. Besides, the volume of Euro cars in my area do not justify the expense of tooling.

So no, I will not work on your car.

I truly feel sorry for the owners of these cars, there are no Euro specialists in this area and the closest VW dealer is 160 miles away. MINI and Jag are even further.

Opinions welcome at