Local mechanic vs Trusted mechanic vs Myself

csteve

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 19, 2006
Location
Worcester, MA
TDI
2002 Jetta Sedan 5-Speed
(My CEL is back on and limp mode has returned).

If I don't know what I am doing, can I really do it better myself than a mechanic without TDI experience?

Here is my dilemma. There is a local mechanic that sells tires and does all types of repairs. They are competent, fair, fast, etc. (Martin Tire in Worcester, MA)

I have given him a fair amount of work on the Jetta since I left the stealership. Shocks and struts, bushings, tires, and he installed my full metal jacket skid plate. Oh, I also let him do my last two oil changes, since he put on the skid plate, if there was any issue, it would be his work. I provided the oil and filter.

All in all, prices have been good, work good, etc. But, these are all basic mechanical issues. Nothing really tdi-specific at all. At $70 an hour and no markup on parts, I have gotten out pretty cheap. Install the skid plate, bushings, lower ball joint (he supplied) and an alignment were less than $400, for example. I think a trusted TDI mechanic was almost that much just for the bushings work.

Martin Tire doesn't seem to work on diesels much. I wanted him to change the fuel filter last time, and he had no diesel to fill it with.

I have been thinking about getting a new turbo and letting him install it. So, presumably he won't have a vag-com. He will just unbolt it and put on the new one. Use a mightyvac to adjust the actuator and send me on my way. Is that any different than what I would do?

I guess I am wondering how a 'trusted' mechanic differs from a noob like me doing it myself, compared to a guy who has lots more general experience.

If he does something wrong, he is 5 miles away. A "trusted TDI" mechanic is a hike, and if I have to go back because something wasn't done right, etc., that it becomes a major ordeal. Chances are, they won't let me supply parts, either.

Is there a compelling reason to not let the local guy swap out the turbo?

I am thinking about trying the limp mode kit from ID parts first, which I think I can do myself. http://www.idparts.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=1609 but maybe not with the actuator, since that comes with the turbo.

Thoughts on local vs known TDI mechanic vs myself screwing things up?
 

eb2143

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Dec 26, 2005
Location
Rhode Island
TDI
None
I would not let even a good local Tire Shop generalist guy install a new turbocharger for several reasons unless he had some unusual background (Scott Wallace at Merrimack Meineke comes to mind). Suspension, tires, body work, filters, definitely. But I would draw the line with CEL troubleshooting and turbo replacement. You don't necessarily need a TDIClub.com trusted mechanic either--Shortly after I moved to Bangor, ME, I found an awesome Volkswagen guy that wasn't on the list by asking the local car enthusiast club (by posting on their Facebook page).

It doesn't sound like you were that happy with your previous TDIClub.com trusted mechanic. Maybe you should try another or keep looking. It definitely is not a rule of thumb that the trusted mechanics are more expensive; they are all over the place and generally less expensive because a greater percentage have limited overhead and do this on the side. I have used at least 5 from the Club list as I've moved around over the last ten years, and some were duds, some were knowledgeable but overpriced IMO, several were on the cocky side, and one was just right (Rich Tremblay; I believe he's still back maintaining locomotives for the railroad and not servicing TDIs).

Some reasons not to use the Tire Shop:
1. The installation procedure is more than just "unbolt and reinstall." If you don't follow start-up procedures you'll starve the turbocharger of oil
2. Sloppy work here with oil feed/drain lines would be a similar outcome
3. Using a Mityvac to adjust the actuator is not sufficient IMO--that just gets you in the neighborhood. You need to do logs and track requested v. actual boost.
4. Someone with more experience in TDIs could command $90/hr but troubleshoot the CEL in half the time of the generalist with no TDI volume. The newbie chases codes, the experienced TDI technician will form a "differential diagnosis" ordered from most likely to least likely etiology based on his experience with the the ALH engine. Time saver that often saves money in the end.

As for doing it yourself, I do most things myself. Did a timing belt, replaced actuator on turbo, t-stat, alternator, suspension, etc. But I don't have any interest in turbo removal. 14 year old exhaust stud nuts? No thanks. DIYers are also more likely to get stuck when something goes wrong. I've had to have my car towed to a mechanic when a bolt broke off to the tranny mount flush & would not extract. Acetylene torch did the trick, which of course I didn't have. Another factor is the upfront cost of buying any necessary tools; trying to service a TDI without the correct tools; also been there, never letting that happen again. I think I spent two hours trying to use big bulky pliers to reattach my turbo inlet pipe to the turbocharger. 10 second job once I purchased the cable operated hose clamp pliers. So yeah, I wouldn't recommend you start off your TDI DIY career with a turbo replacement.

That's my 2 cents.
 
Last edited:

dogdots

Vendor
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Location
Kansas City
TDI
None
Most shops will not warranty any work when using customer supplied parts. Marking up parts and charging labor is how the mechanic stays in business.

I do all of my own work, of course. I also work for a small independent trusted TDI shop part time so I have access to not only all of my own tools, but the lifts and specialty shop owned tools.

I don't pay anyone to do any repairs for me on anything, other than gutter replacement or roofing. I handle my own HVAC, plumbing, carpentry, etc.

It sounds like you have a good thing going with the tire shop. If you have them do any higher level stuff, and it goes sideways, at least you have saved all the parts markup and payed really low labor rates ;)
 

UhOh

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Dec 24, 2014
Location
PNW
TDI
2000 & 2003 Golf GLS
Man up! Take on the responsibility of screwing it up yourself!:D

Not sure why you're looking to swap out the turbo. If it's got to do with trying to snuff out that CEL then why take the most expensive parts-throwing route?

Your local good guy ain't going to achieve the necessary results w/o something like VCDS. Either you get it yourself and start doing diagnostics, OR, you purchase it for your local guy?

While it's not a bad idea to replace the various vacuum lines and such, it's still the wrong approach unless you're certain that it's needed.

One of the downfalls of doing things yourself is that if any failure is due to the parts it's a bit tough to prove replacement was done properly; AND, you're looking at doing the job again! (which is why one ought to stay away from cheap parts)
 

S2000_guy

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2013
Location
ohio
TDI
2014 Sportwagen TDI
In 30+ years of maintaining my cars myself, I've personally never had to do a job over because the new parts were defective. YMMV. But it is a risk you take.

I cannot mount and balance tires, and I don't do my own wheel alignments. Everything else, I figure it out. I know that the job is done to my standards, and I save a couple of bucks in the bargain.

I bought my '14 JSW in September of 2014; I felt like I was living "the life of Reilly" when I took it in for its first two oil changes. Now everything falls on me again.
 

csteve

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 19, 2006
Location
Worcester, MA
TDI
2002 Jetta Sedan 5-Speed
clean intake and erg $300
Turbo pull off install & adjust $300
Used EGR $85

That was done last year, along with a new timing belt.
It fixed the problem, but didn't last.
Cost of a new turbo, $800
plus the limp mode kit parts $200.
A new EGR valve is $170.00

Seems to me that new parts is a better deal than trying to recondition old parts. It's all wasted labor in removing and reinstalling.

The funny thing is that at the time I was having trouble with my wipers, and he said he wouldn't replace the linkage with a used part. Kind of contradictory in retrospect. (Turned out the problem wasn't the linkage motor, it was the relay.).
 

eb2143

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Dec 26, 2005
Location
Rhode Island
TDI
None
clean intake and erg $300
Turbo pull off install & adjust $300
Used EGR $85

.
I think you need to find a new TDI mechanic. Installing a used EGR valve is not something I would recommend and I hope you made the choice to go used rather than him

Removing the turbo is necessary to replace it or take it apart and de-carbon it. I'm not sure what "adjust" means. The actuator can be replaced and adjusted with the turbo installed.

$300 for intake clean sounds a bit steep; how many hours was that billed for? Most TDI mechanics have clean ones on hand to swap in. I think it only takes me about three hours and I'm surely slower than someone who does it for a living. $100/hr is above the going rate in this nearby city.
 

Abacus

That helpful B4 guy
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Location
Nobleboro, Maine
TDI
See signature for TDI's
I've never seen that before either. I like the people at IDParts, but how is this any different than a stealership just tossing parts at it.

csteve: have you tried member 94x on the forums here? He's on the Trusted Mechanics list and has done some work for me in the past. I doubt you'll find a nicer more honest guy and he knows what he's doing on the TDI's. He's also pretty local to you.

Despite all that, I have always said there is no better mechanic than the owner of the car. There may be more efficient ones, but no mechanic I know will take the time to chase threads, use lube (or Loctite) so the bolts won't fight later, of do one of the 100 other little things that take time but make a big difference. Sure, other people have more knowledge and equipment, so for special jobs definitely farm it out to the experts, but do what you can yourself. If you can follow a recipe and bake a cake, you can work on a car.
 

AndyBees

Top Post Dawg
Joined
May 27, 2003
Location
Southeast Kentucky
TDI
Silver 2003 Jetta TDI, Silver 2000 Jetta TDI (sold), '84 Vanagon with '02 ALH engine
Abacus you took the words out of my thoughts ............... "throwing parts" at it! As I read this Thread, that is what I see!

There has been loads of "good" used parts removed and trash canned because either the owner or his mechanic, as well as dealerships, either didn't have a clue or just never applied professionalism! Even as simple as a fuel filter with less than 10k miles on it ........... from when I first found this web site to this day, I've read Thread after Thread where a "no start" issue is addressed by throwing a new fuel filter at it! I know the change interval, but, I've driven them beyond 40k miles and I've seen lots of them driven beyond 50k miles with no problems. And, solidly documented, I know of one that was OE with 171k miles on it with no issues. I changed one on a car last week that had 68k miles on it.

Point is, throwing parts can become very expensive and end up causing additional problems. (Example: new fuel filter and the engine will still not start.... then, the question becomes, "did I botch the fuel filter change!"

Although the supply of good low mileage VNT 15s has dwindled considerably, I use to purchase those take-offs and give them a good cleaning and re-sell! No complaints!

Considering everyone reading this Thread is driving a car that is composed of 100% used parts, in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with using them. However, granted, you need to know some history of the used part in question. Example: an EGR assembly showing no signs of weeping oil off a known wreck!

To the OP, if you plan to keep your TDI, purchase VCDS from Ross-Tech. Or, find a a TDI guru!
 

csteve

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 19, 2006
Location
Worcester, MA
TDI
2002 Jetta Sedan 5-Speed
I get the 'throwing parts at it' observation, but it is not unreasonable to fix known issues (that I can handle) on old cars. If it works, great. If it doesn't, then the new turbo will have new playmates and all should hum along happily for many years.

I guess the nut of the issue is that the turbo cannot be replaced without a vag-com, regardless of who does the repair. Is that correct?

Or, would I still need a vag-com now when replacing the MAF sensor and converter valve?

For the record, I would like to do everything myself. I think it is fun to explore new things, conquer your fears, learn, etc. "Throwing parts at it" is part of my learning curve, but yea, it makes sense to fix what is actually the problem. There is less satisfaction is the CEL stays on.

The trusted mechanic got everything running much better a year ago. I can't fault him. Doing it cheaply was certainly my desire. It turns out that wasn't the case, since I am back where I began. I am actually trying to avoid throwing new replacement parts after the previously reconditioned parts. I am assuming what he did still works, and the problem is elsewhere (MAF sensor, vacuum line, etc).

In an ideal world, it is better and cheaper to pay for parts and do it myself. When the tools cost as much as having someone else do the repair, and they have more knowledge, it become a tough choice. That's been biggest problem with buying a vag-com. It won't make me a good mechanic, just reduce the guessing. At this point, the 'guessing' has a lot of empirical history. New parts are needed somewhere.

BTW, I got 51 mpg on a trip to Rochester NY after an oil change, two new tires and an alignment. This car still rocks! The limp mode is not as bad as it was before, but is definitely getting progressively worse.

I am trying to avoid replacing the turbo, but my thinking was that since the actuator comes with the turbo (the actuator is part of the limp mode kit), that I would get the other parts without the actuator, and only then replace the turbo/actuator. Of course, if the actuator is the real problem, then I replaced everything but the troubled part and replaced it last! Hmm....
 

Fix_Until_Broke

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Aug 8, 2004
Location
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, USA
TDI
03 Jetta, 03 TT TDI
clean intake and erg $300
Turbo pull off install & adjust $300
Used EGR $85

That was done last year, along with a new timing belt.
It fixed the problem, but didn't last.
Cost of a new turbo, $800
plus the limp mode kit parts $200.
A new EGR valve is $170.00
Seems to me that new parts is a better deal than trying to recondition old parts. It's all wasted labor in removing and reinstalling.
The funny thing is that at the time I was having trouble with my wipers, and he said he wouldn't replace the linkage with a used part. Kind of contradictory in retrospect. (Turned out the problem wasn't the linkage motor, it was the relay.).
Specifically regarding the question of turbo replacement - you've already had this mechanic do that so I wouldn't have much concern with having them do it again.

Set the two actuators to start movement at the same value and put it back in. It's not a timing belt where you need to really know some TDI specific stuff to do it right.

Generally though, I'm an "all in" do it yourself-er. I've almost always found it better for me to buy the tools, educate myself ahead of time and take it on than pay someone else to screw it up just as well as I could. Notice I said better, not necessarily cheaper (though it usually is or is break even) and I'm willing to invest the time. The more you do the better you get and future jobs get easier.

It's a personal decision for everyone - I know a lot of people who are much better off to pay someone to do it for them because they have no business holding a wrench, not to mention turning one. Others have the ability, but don't have the time or inclination to do it.
 

UhOh

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Dec 24, 2014
Location
PNW
TDI
2000 & 2003 Golf GLS
You need more sophistication in your evaluation of the "problem." VCDS is THE diagnostic tool of choice, as well as the tool to tune these things.

VCDS can definitely give the eyes and ears on your problems. With logs you, in conjunction with folks here, can pretty much pinpoint problems. ANY professional worth his/her salt is going to have he necessary tools for the vehicle that they're working on. Unless someone has MANY years working on these cars they're not going to be able to diagnose problems w/o VCDS (and those who do a lot of work on these cars DO have VCDS).

Purchase VCDS and a vacuum tester and let's get this CEL resolved!

NOTE: I am in a position where it's a bit less costly for me to toss parts at a problem. I have TWO identical cars, if the part doesn't resolve a problem then I've got it on the shelf for the other car. This, however, is no way to go about FIXING the problem at hand! (it's just that I have more room to error)
 

eb2143

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Dec 26, 2005
Location
Rhode Island
TDI
None
Specifically regarding the question of turbo replacement - you've already had this mechanic do that so I wouldn't have much concern with having them do it again..
I am pretty certain we are talking two different mechanics. Mechanic who charged $300 to "pull and adjust" the VNT-15 is not the local Tire Shop generalist is how I read this.

My advice to the OP is to troubleshoot the CEL on his/her own and go "all-in" to becoming a DIYer, or find a different mechanic with TDI experience to troubleshoot it. I just don't think it's wise money to buy a turbocharger when it could be a vacuum line!
 

waltzconmigo

Veteran Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2010
Location
chicagoland
TDI
none
Most tools are not one time use except when you break them, as you know, eventually you will get to the point where only specialty tools are needed. Tools can also be sold when no longer needed. Check out what this guy got recently for his vag-com.

http://forums.tdiclub.com/showthread.php?t=439779

The first job or two that you take on yourself may seem expensive but as time goes by you only need to buy parts or rent/borrow/purchase the necessary tools for each job and you will be ready for the next time you have the same problem. My only suggestion is to plan ahead and give yourself enough of time to complete the job if you do not have alternative transportation. good luck whatever your decision.
 

94x

TDIClub Enthusiast, Vendor
Joined
Nov 16, 2006
Location
Westfield, Massachusetts
TDI
2002 CTD w/12 valve, 2003 GTI w/ALH
4. Someone with more experience in TDIs could command $90/hr but troubleshoot the CEL in half the time of the generalist with no TDI volume. The newbie chases codes, the experienced TDI technician will form a "differential diagnosis" ordered from most likely to least likely etiology based on his experience with the the ALH engine. Time saver that often saves money in the end.
What you receive from a trusted tdi mechanic is experience. Just about anyone with a set of tools, time, and youtube can replace a turbo, actuator, or ??. But are these parts being replaced for the right reason. Countless tdis have showed up at my shop with the turbo and/or injector pump replaced to have the same problem as before $$$$ has been spent. Sometimes the cars run even worse than before...

Experience knows that cleaning the n75 and replacing vacuum lines is necessary when replacing a rusted out actuator, or a similar limp mode will continue.

Replacing turbo? Replacing limp mode kit? And you are trying to save money doing it yourself? Have the car diagnosed first. Replace what is necessary. Likely the limp mode is because of sticking or misadjusted actuator, low vacuum, etc. After a diagnosis I always give the customer the option whether they want me to finish the repair or take the diagnosis and fix for themselves.
 
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