"Difficult to get out of 'Park' " (2002 MB S430 80k mi)
The shift lock is made of plastic which cracks. Once the two halves separate, the shifter is forever locked in Park. The replacement, though beautiful, is difficult to install. The dealer would replace the entire shift mechanism (for $1,500).


"Check Engine Light" (2006 VW GTI, 70k mi.)
Modern Direct Fuel Injection requires a hi pressure fuel pump. VW wisely chose an old design using a lever driven by a cam lobe. This is the cam lobe after only 70k miles. Rather than bolt on a new fuel pump, one must now disassemble the engine and replace the cam shaft. Clever.


"Whine at speed" (2004 Mini 132k mi)
This is the transmission plug covered with grindings. The transmission was leaking oil and may have run low on fluid causing excessive wear.


"Won't Start" (1982 MB 380 SL)
Car arrived with starter on the passenger's seat, transmission dipstick draped across engine, spark plug wires disconnected, fuel distributor seized. Various vertebrate poopules found in engine bay and on driver's seat.


'Radiator Leaking' (2007 Volvo XC 70, 83k mi.)
Save a dollar per car. Sell a million cars. Make a million dollars. Radiators used to be metal. Plastic saves money and gets brittle and expands at a different rate than aluminum. A Rx for failure. Save in the short run, pay in the long run.


"Engine lost power" (06 Mini Cooper, 123k mi)
Finding: Poor compression. Cause: Wrong spark plugs disintegrated, damaging valves. Solution: A new head cost more than a 40k engine. Hence a swap.


'Running Rough' (2002 BMW X5 186k mi.)
"Fuel Trim" code. Investigation begins in the air box. Where the mice store stuff. Is it Ken L Ration or Purina?


"Engine running rough" (06 Mini, 122,914 mi)
Right plug, wrong plugs.


"A/C not working" (1986 MB 560 SL 136k miles)
Rodents in the dash. The AC control unit was shorted, apparently by mouse pee.


"Heavy Vibration at Idle" 1984 MB 300 D 123k miles
Crushed engine mounts. New on the Left.


"Ticking Noise" (2006 Cayman S 96k mi.)
Metal chips in the oil filter. Porsche says, "You need a new engine." But so many M96/97 engines failed that Porsche has no more spares. Probably the IMS bearing. If it cannot be rebuilt, you are SOL. The engines were defective through 2008.


A/C vents not working (1999 Ferrari F 355)
The black plastic link between the actuator motor and the vent door flap broke in half. The part is available from Ferrari only in an $8,000.00 assembly. We crafted a new adapter for a savings of $7,975.00.


Ad Hoc Repair of the Month
Parking Brake dash light was stuck 'ON'. To pass inspection, instead of fixing it, some genius installed a console light actuated by this switch. Note the elegant justaposition of PVC and Epoxy. Our judges are considering whether this ad hoc repair will surpass our previous favorite which included fishing line, duct tape and coathanger wire.


"Engine quit on Interstate" (1976 MB 300D)
Back in the day, you could replace the brushes in the alternator. Newer cars require a new alternator. Clever.


"Cranks, won't start" (1989 MB 560 SL 112k mi.)
No fuel pressure. Fuel pump relay. Common problem. Note burned pin. Note date on relay; they don't last, which is why the failure is common.


"Engine smoking" (2001 Volvo V40, 130k mi.)
Cam and crank seals were leaking oil onto the hot engine. Found the cam housing to be packed with sludge. Dirty oil will accelerate wear of all moving parts. This problem and its future complications are completely avoidable with frequent oil changes.


"Engine overheating" (1999 BMW 328 133k mi.)
We know BMW radiators crack and leak past 100k miles. The correct response is to replace the radiator. In this case, someone poured 'Stop Leak' into the radiator clogging the cooling system. "Stop Leak, Stop Cooling"


"Won't start" 1977 Datsun 280Z
No compression in cylinder 3. Rocker arm has disengaged from valve stem, dislodging shim. Probably valve float due to over rev.


"I think I need a new differential" ('95 MB E 320)
Someone replaced the locking lug bolts with studs welded onto nuts. They were too long and caught the emergency brake shoes, causing the noise in the rear end. The correct MB lug bolt is in the center.


"Sounds like a diesel" (Audi A4, 157k mi.)
Plastic bits from the timing chain tensioner in the oil pan. As RPMs increase, the bits are sucked onto the oil pump intake screen and starve the bearings of oil. Plastic parts again.


'Check Engine Light' (2001 BMW 330, 168k mi.)
This is an 'Intake Runner Valve' which switches between the long and short intake depending upon engine load. Another brilliantly designed plastic part that gets brittle and breaks.


"No she don't leak a bit of oil, the driveway is dry."
We found this under the lower engine shroud. We intend to market this brilliant invention as the "Engine Diaper." Tag line: "Go ahead, Pamper your car."


"Explosion, engine quit." (2003 BMW 330, 120k mi.)
This is the bottom of the engine where the oil pump exited the oil pan, leaving the timing chain in disarray. A twisted connecting rod, not clearly visible, indicates (pending further investigation) a failed connecting rod bearing due to oil starvation.


Timing Belt, 1994 Volvo 960 120k miles
Showing that you cannot judge the health of a belt just from the outside (no significant cracking in this case). Several teeth are loose or missing and the belt actually broke in service, ruining the valves. This belt was 50k and 10 years past its 'replace by' date. Actually pretty good service.


Engine Quit (1994 Volvo 960 120k mi.)
Timing belt broke. Piston struck the valves, bending the stems. Note all four valves locked in open position, and showing strike marks from the piston. The belt should have been changed at 70k or 7 yrs.


"Won't Start" (1978 240D, 312k mi.)
Non OEM glow plugs draw too much current and repeatedly blew the control module fuse. Someone's fix was to replace the fuse with a jumper wire! So now the circuit board is burned out. Saving $40.00 on glow plugs cost $300.00 for a new control module.


"Grinding noise in front end" (2001 MB E 350 4Matic, 180k mi.)
Someone installed a used front differential and forgot to add lubricant. It got so hot that the transfer case seized up as well.


"Exhaust smoking" 2008 Cayman, 19k mi.
We thought the smoke was coolant from a blown head gasket. Wrong. It was coolant from a cracked cylinder/block. Click the photo. Porsche accepts a 2% failure rate in this engine. Low mileage? Out of warranty? Too bad. Good job, VW.


Can I get more Power from my Cayenne?
The Cayenne has four cats so it will pass the strict emissions regs in Antarctica. For the rest of us, the rear two can be replaced by nice chrome pipes from Fabspeed. Increases HP and mileage. We are certain.


See Below
The Foreign Object. Stripped Oil Pan drain threads had been repaired with a Helicoil (Left). The ear used for insertion is designed to be removed (note notch in final coil turn). The ear (Right) somehow got into the oil pan, was picked up by and damaged the oil pump, and was found in the oil filter. It matches the marks on the oil pump impeller (below) perfectly.


"Bearing Noise" (1985 BMW 535i)
The bearings were ruined by oil starvation because the oil pump was damaged by a foreign object. This is the oil pump impeller.


"Engine making expensive noise" (1985 BMW 535, 171k mi.)
Cam sprocket came loose from the camshaft. 3 bolts retrieved from the sump. Another shop just replaced the head gasket and forgot to tighten the cam sprocket bolts.


A/C blows COLD from dash, HOT from console (2005 MB E 500, 106k mi.)
This is the proportioning valve that distributes hot coolant to the two separate heater cores (for front and rear zones). It gets Alzheimers. Overly complex engineering is job security for repair technicians.


"Screechy noise" 2000 Jetta TDI (145,800 mi.)
Dealer replaced the timing belt and tensioner at 120k. To save a few dollars, he did not replace the idlers. (at 2 and 7 o'clock in photo). The worn idlers were screeching. So now, 25,000 miles later, the job must be done over at great expense.


1987 Mercedes 260
I'll just change my own head gasket. Cam timing? What's that. I'll just turn it over with the starter. What is that clanging noise? Won't start. Wonder why.


"Coolant Leak" (1969 MB 280 SL 41k mi.)
While replacing the leaky water pump, we replaced the thermostat, always a good idea. It was the original, 43 year old part! It is now retired to our Hall of Honor.


"Won't start" ('97 BMW 318 148k mi.)
Epoxy and FENCE WIRE. Yet another first. Inspired creativity if you were stuck in the desert during World War III.


"Belt Squealing..." ('99 Saab 110k mi.)
...so I put some belt dressing on it." When the noisy idler pulley bearing finally seized, the belt rubbed across it until the belt melted and broke.


"Engine noise" ('99 MB E 320, 130k mi.)
We can only guess: Valve stuck open, piston hit it repeatedly. Piston and valve were in chunks in the sump. The bare connecting rod knocked a hole in the block. Click the photo to get the full impact.


"Ticking Noise" ('02 Audi A4 3.0 117k mi.)
Improperly hardened hydraulic lifter was deformed and perforated by the cam. Normal contour on the Right. Luckily no other damage occurred because the owner brought it in before smithereens could destroy the other moving parts.


'No power over 3000 RPM' ('04 VW Jetta Diesel, 152k mi.)
The cam (left) has worn down a full millimeter, reducing valve lift. Notice absence of the shoulder compared to the new cam (Right). Premature wear is due to improper hardening of the cam, a common problem in these cars. Good job VW!


'Ticking Noise' ('06 BMW Z4 M, 50k mi.)
The VANOS variable valve timing mechanism is a known failure point in the S54 engine: these bolts back out of the cam gear and shear. Luckily in this case only the VANOS was destroyed, not the entire engine. This is a >$5,000.00 repair nonetheless. BMW has not been righteous about this flaw. We have the special knowledge and equipment to fix these problems.


'Dash lights came on, then the car quit.' ('06 MB S 500, 44k miles)
When the alternator quits, the car runs on the battery. As voltage drops, warning lights come on, then when the battery dies, so does the car. When the new alternator would not charge, we discovered the main 150 Amp fuse blew when the old alternator shorted out. Another fire averted. Life is crazy that way.


'I Smell smoke' (2001 MB SLK, 80k mi.)
The central locking module sits in a trunk well where a water leak immersed it. It corroded, overheated, and was smoking when we exposed it. Catastrophic fire was narrowly averted.


"Running Rough" ('03 BMW 325, 86k mi.)
Customer followed BMW's recommended oil service interval of 15,000 miles. Note solidified oil in the head. BMW should be ashamed, but they are not. Are you 'gellin?


"Brake Pad Light" ('07 BMW 328)
The sensor has been exposed, setting the light. Note that fully half the brake pad remains. That would be to...er.... ah.... maximize.. the..um... heat dissipation. Yeah, that's the ticket.


"Underhood Noise, worse in turns" ('97 MB E320 177k mi.)
The steering column boot tears, letting noises into the cabin, especially P/S pump noise. Replacing the $300.00 P/S pump of course does not solve the problem. Replacing the $4.00 boot does. Common in E320s.


'Need a Tuneup' (1987 Porsche 944, 80k mi)
Original 23 year old Fuel filter. Factory Cosmoline still visible.


'Loud Exhaust' ('04 Jetta, 73k mi.)
The exhaust pipe broke at the weld just north of the catalytic converter... because the engine was shaking...because it was running on three cylinders...because the customer drove it like that for 3 months rather than replace a defective coil. A coil is about $100.00. Replacing the Cat cost $775.00


"Clacking Noise" '98 Jetta Turbo, (170k mi.)
This plug had become loose. Escaping exhaust gas burned and deformed the plug. The noise was the electrode in the cylinder.


'Coolant Leak' (1985 BMW 325, 250k mi.)
We've seen Duct Tape, Coathangers, Socks, Fishing Line, Hose Clamps. This is the first drywall screw. Well Done. Ineffective, but well done.


Won't Start ('98 BMW 328, 188k mi.)
The Engine Control Unit has been submerged in water entering the computer bay due to a clogged cowl drain. Common problem in the E36. This was in fact at least the second unit for this car.


'Airbag light' ('09 Cayenne)
Porsche, Audi, and VW have had this problem since 2000. The dumb little connector in the seat airbag circuit is too flimsy. The fix is replacing it with a proper connector. You'd think someone would have had the sense to implement a redesign.


"Lost Power" ('06 Passat 2.0T 65k mi.)
The high pressure fuel injection pump is lever driven by the intake cam. A primitive design. The cam follower wears and breaks. Smithereens in the oil destroyed the camshaft and delicate variable valve timing mechanism, then chunks caught in the timing chain. And VW just bought Porsche. OY!


"I've been hearing a screech. Today, Blam." ('00 Jetta, 150k mi.)
Accessory belt tensioner. When the bearing finally seized, the pulley cooked and dilapidated.


"Running rough" ('02 911 Turbo, 46k mi.)
Heat radiated by the nearby turbos, cooks the coil packs and they crack. Coils and Plugs? About $1,000.00 (labor intensive).


"Something went BLAM" ('98 BMW 740, 120k mi.)
Another BMW engineering triumph. The radiator fan explodes. Shrapnel destroyed the radiator, hoses, shroud, expansion tank, and.....the hood. The thermocouple fails closed(!), locking the clutch, and the fan disintegrates at high rpm. Great idea.


'Gear Noise' ('04 BMW 325xi, 102,000 mi.)
BMW continues to recommend against fluid changes, claiming their fluids are 'Lifetime Fill'. We believe this is a dishonest policy which ultimately cheats their customers. This Transfer Case fluid (upper) is, of course, way past the end of its life. BMW has fallen to 26th (out of 33 brands) in reliability. No wonder. Once our favorite, BMW continues to astound us with its disdain for logic.


Noisy Blower ('97 Lexus, 169k mi.)
A nest with a stash of walnut shells.


"Oil Leak" ('06 749R)
Leaking? Torque that Sucker Down. Never mind using new copper sealing washers.


"No Defrost" ('98 Saab 9-3, 120k mi.)
Air flow is distributed by a plastic box with various doors. Heat causes plastic to become brittle and break. It would be a simple repair, but it takes 6 hours to disassemble the dash and another 6 to put it back together.


"Engine ticking since it overheated" ('08 Mini, 74k mi.)
The overheated head expanded, allowing the valve seat to slip. The valve does seat, but the rocker arm does not contact the dropped valve stem. The excessive clearance causes the rocker to tap before inadequately opening the valve. Not fatal now, but not good in the long term.


"Died, Won't start" ('98 Z3 1.9 138k mi.)
After going through the entire 'no start' algorithm we were stumped. Until Perry had a brainstorm. "What if...?" Sure enough, the crank sensor (reluctor) ring is missing a whole section of teeth. So the crank sensor gets an incorrect signal. See:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crank_sensor


Something stinks
When our 5HP electric air compressor tripped its breaker, we went to check and smelled burned wiring. Inside the starter box we found this capacitor. The overload was due to a failed check valve, causing the compressor to start against a load.


'My brakes goin' a bumpty bump" ('88 MB 300 SEL)
We installed new rotors. This one immediately failed due to a manufacturing defect.


'Noise in the front end' ('86 Jag XJ-6, 90k miles)
Front wheel bearing. This stuff never ceases to amaze us.


"Losing antifreeze" ('01 Saab 9-5 4Turbo)
The photo is of the oil cooler. Some genius designer put the oil cooler into the engine coolant, so that when the cooler leaks, the two fluids mix. The cooler is needlessly difficult to replace, and one must then flush the cooling system and replace the radiator hoses, and thermostat. Inelegant design.


"Using oil" ('02 BMW 330 160k mi.)
The 'Oil Separator' (formerly known as a PCV valve) is clogged with gunk due to a vacuum leak. Increased crankcase pressure causes the engine to leak, burn oil, and smoke.


How do I replace my battery? ('06 Pontiac Solstice)
We put a turbocharger on this cute 4 cylinder roadster. Note that the battery is under the power steering reservoir and inaccessible. One must remove the fender to get to it. Clever. We will refrain from smart aleck remarks about GM.


Incidental finding ('03 Passat 1.8 Turbo, 80k)
While servicing the engine we noted the A/C belt looked too narrow. The bottom radiator bracket had bent against the belt cleanly shearing off 25% of it. (Right in photo)


"Engine Rattles" ('01 Jetta 1.8 turbo, 100k mi.)
The noise and metal pieces in the oil indicate bearing failure. Inadequate lubrication was due to the oil pickup screen being clogged with sludge. This is why regular oil changes are money well spent.


"Blam" ('06 Boxster, 30k mi.)
This is the water pump shaft, which broke cleanly when the water pump seized. The water pump seized because Porsche installs a bushing, rather than a bearing. Ask any customer who has been stranded what they think of that policy. Note to Dr. Wiedeking: The Bronze Age ended 3000 yrs ago.


"Smoke on startup" '99 BMW 323 295k
Smoke was due to a failed oil separator. Inspection revealed a serpentine belt with 80k on it. We caught it just in time. The belt only had seven miles to go before failing.


"Intermittent Oil Pressure Light" ('05 Mini 51k Mi.)
A mis-routed wire has rubbed against a sharp heat shield edge. Under acceleration the wire would ground, giving the false reading. The repair involved protecting and rerouting the wire. The Dealer wanted $500.00 to do this job.


"Clunking noises, Clunky shifting." ('00 MB E430 160k)
Oil filled engine mounts have leaked and deflated, allowing engine to hit against frame, and causing misalignment with transmission. New mount is on Right. Dealer diagnosed a worn torque converter.


"No Service Lights" (1999 Audi A4 247k)
Service lights do not come on during start up, suggesting blown bulbs. Upon investigation we found duct tape over the fault bulbs. It was done to conceal the fact that both the ABS and SRS computers are faulty. This is a far more sophisticated scam than putting black electrical tape on the dash glass.


"Pulls to right when I accelerate." (2001 Vovlo XC 70 122k)
The front end's Right Rear Control Arm Bushing is worn out. Under acceleration the wheel toes out pulling the car to that side.


"Dead Battery" ('02 BWW 330xi @ 240k)
Alternator not charging. Many shops would simply replace the $500.00 alternator. If you are lucky, a $50.00 Voltage Regulator will fix the problem.


"Engine is missing" ('79 Volvo 264 DL)
I'd say so! And someone replaced it with a 400 cu in Chevy small block.


"Engine went BLAM." ('03 Volvo S 80)
This is what is left of a connecting rod bearing after overheating has welded it to the connecting rod journal. The rest of the smithereens are in the oil pan. See 'Blam' below.


"Left Tail Light is Intermittent" ('03 BMW 330xi)
This is the tail light connector. One connection has overheated and burned through. This is a common problem and always occurs on the Left light assembly. We have even seen them ignite.


Fuel Gauge is Erratic ('98 BMW Z3 128k mi.)
These are the contacts for the fuel level sender. They are notorious for collecting deposits from sulfur/ethanol in our fuel and sending erratic readings. BMW fuel additive sometimes helps clean the contacts. Otherwise the pump/sensor unit, which is inside the fuel tank, must be replaced. Sensors produced after 5/04 have gold contacts which usually solves the problem. We recommend Shell V-Power fuel.


"Engine went BLAM" ('03 Volvo S80 2.9)
Engine lost all its oil. Connecting rod 3 seized, broke loose, and knocked a hole in the side of the block.


"Water leaking..." ('00 Saab 9-3 75k mi.)
...for so long that green stalagmites have formed under the pump. Of interest is the engine layout which requires five hours to replace the pump. (The thermostat is, in contrast, completely inaccessible.) Pumps and thermostats, being relatively short lived, are usually positioned so they can be replaced easily. Everyone raise your right hand. Now, scratch your head in bewilderment.


"Engine sounds funny... ('03 Mini Cooper)
...and the oil pressure and check engine lights are on." And there was oil residue all over the back of the car. Oil was changed at the dealer three weeks ago. This is the oil filter housing showing where the oil leaked past the O-ring which was damaged during installation of the new filter. We predict the engine's main bearings will fail within ten thousand miles. What should the dealer do?


"Noisy drivetrain" ('03 MB ML 350)
The engine mount has come apart allowing the engine to vibrate under load. Failed mounts in other makes may allow the engine to rattle against the frame, or cause the fan to hit its shroud.


"Clunking noise in the trunk" ('99 BMW M3)
The rear shock mounts are torn. Original BMW rear shock mounts degrade with age. Eventually the shock can rip completely through the mount, and crash into the underside of the fender, an expensive repair. We caught these before the shocks repositioned themselves into the trunk of the car.


"Oil in the Coolant" ('90 BMW 325 M20 Engine)
Logically a blown head gasket. Until disassembling the head for milling revealed the cam is incredibly worn, indicating faulty camshaft and/or inadequate lubrication. Note the lip and chip on the cam lobe. Suggests a possible leak within the head.


"No power" ('03 Jetta TDI 91k mi.)
And no wonder. The base of the throttle body (and the intake manifold too) almost completely clogged with diesel residue. We did this same car 3 yrs ago. Stupid design.


'Engine not running right' ('87 MB 450 166k mi)
The timing is askew because the hydraulic chain tensioner reached the end of its travel as the chain stretched with age. The chain has also abraded the guides (photo) until one end broke. Luckily, the broken end did not dislodge the chain. a potential disaster.


'Severe Oil Leak' ('84 MB 380 SL)
Someone replaced the valve cover gaskets, probably because of leaking oil. When the cover was bolted onto the head, a piece of plastic was caught under the gasket. Notice the imprint on the recent gasket and a corresponding mark on the scrap. The leak was prodigious. Click on the Photo.


"What's up with this?" ('96 MB E 320)
Dr Doofus' protege did not have the right water pump, so he put in the wrong one. Outlet on the wrong side? No problem. Snake some heater hose around. Obviously the cooling capacity is compromised. Stoopid.


'I hear a whistle. Hubby says I'm crazy' ('01 BMW 323)
Deterioration of the Intake boot. The air leak is a common cause of whistling and often driveability problems. This part of the boot is not readily visible, so you must know to look for the leak.


'Clunks when I step on the brake' ('88 MB 300SE 156k mi.)
The 'Brake Force Bushing' stabilizes the front control arm during braking. It should be tight with no play. The old one was ready to pull apart the next time he backed up and applied the brakes. This car had passed inspection.


'Oil Leak' ('99 Saab 100k mi.)
The Axle Seal was leaking. Inspection shows that someone had clumsily reassembled the axle to the transmission, denting the seal. Then tried to cover his tracks by slopping silicone sealant around the outside. We know who you are.


"Oil Leak" ('88 MB 300SE 155k mi.)
The oil was pink (contaminated with ATF) and leaking from the front of the transmission. Removal and dis-assembly of the transmission revealed age hardened O-rings. The photo is the primary hydraulic pump showing the brittle O-ring which was leaking. (the secondary pump, driven off the output shaft, is to protect the transmission bearings when the car is towed with the rear wheels on the ground.)


'Running erratically' '72 MB 280 (47,000 original miles)
A layer of rusty sludge coated the bottom of the fuel tank, and had entered and clogged the fuel filter. The photo shows the tank end of the fuel line. The car had been sitting for 25 years.


"Rough Idle" ('83 MB 300 TD)
The Turbo Diesels have a special idle screw. At 369,000 miles the obvious wear has caused improper fuel flow. Click the Photo.


"Oil Leak" ('02 Volvo XC 70 90k miles)
The camshaft oil seal was leaking. The sludge is a bonus, revealing infrequent oil changes. If any.


"This morning my car vibrates horribly"
Drove over a freshly tarred and graveled road last night. These stones are solidly glued to the suspension and the wheels. The wheels were out of balance until the debris was removed.


"Vibration at Idle" ('01 Volvo C70)
Upper engine mount. The 'Torque Arm Bushing' has lost its capacity to bush.


"I drive through water all the time and it never caused a problem before." (2007 MB C280)
Water must have gotten into the engine. Water will not compress, so when the intake valves closed, the piston hit the water and stopped. But the connecting rod kept going, bent, and broke. The other end of the connecting rod thrashed the block and piston almost to smithereens. Click the photo. (Since you asked, $18,000.00)


"Cletus fixed my seat; but it didn't last." ('88 BMW 735)
The four basics of Ad Hoc repair: Duct Tape, Hose Clamps, Wire Scraps, and Clothes Hanger. These are rarely seen together.


"Wont start" ('79 MB V8)
This is the underside of the mechanical 'Fuel Distributor.' The central pin, essentially the throttle, is stuck in the 'in' or full throttle position. The car sat in storage for decades, and the whole mechanism is clogged with gummy bears.


"What You Need" ('95 MB SL 500)
Strut mount rubber has aged, is cracked, and should be replaced. (The large metal clamp keeps the strut from puncturing the hood when the mount fails completely.) 'What You Need' is the title of Episode 12 of 'The Twilight Zone' aired Dec 25, 1959.


"My new wheels vibrate even after Balancing" ('97 BMW)
Most BMWs use 'Hub-centric' wheels, meaning the wheel is centered by the hub, not by the lug nuts. Custom wheels have a large center hole to accommodate different cars, so they require 'centering rings' (green thing) to fit snugly on the hub. If they are lost, the minutely off center wheel, however well balanced, will shake. (We use anti seize compound to prevent the wheel from corroding to the hub.)


"Oil Leak" ('98 Audi A4Q 178k mi.)
The front crankshaft seal has been leaking a while. Aside from the mess, the gunk is compromising air flow to the alternator, doubtless shortening its life.


"I hear/feel a clunk over bumps"
Steering Tie Rod (top) and Sway Bar Link (bottom) contain ball joints filled with grease. When the rubber boot wears or tears, the grease leaks out and the joint clunks (think of an arthritic knee). Decades ago these joints had grease fittings requiring a shot of lube every thousand miles. This is a dramatic improvement, but they do wear out.


"Whirring sound in front" ('98 MB E320 165k mi.)
This is a wheel bearing. It was mirror smooth when new. When the rollers turn inside this race it feels like a grinder. Click the photo to see the wear.


"Engine quit, turns over, won't start" ('91 MB 190 2.3)
Dr. Doofus said 'No compression, the engine is blown' Closer inspection shows that the cam sprocket is so worn that the timing chain jumped off. Unusual wear at only 140,000 miles suggests dirty oil. Compare the worn sprocket to the new one by clicking the photo.


"Whistling sound under the hood" ('00 BMW 525)
"The stupid dealer told me its the alternator and I don't believe him." The Alternator's cooling duct is obstructed by leaves. It overheated, burned the bearings and began to squeal like a banshee.


"Clunks when I brake; Front tires wearing on the inside" ('00 MB C class)
The 'caster bearing' is torn, allowing the wheels to toe out on braking. A common failure on the MB 200 Chassis. Accurate alignment is impossible until these bushings are replaced.


"Overheating" ('86 MB)
Textbook blown head gasket. Hot cylinder gas escapes into the coolant, which does not cool the cylinder as well as liquid. The engine, while hot, was not damaged.


"Big puddle under my car" ('01 BMW 325iT)
The coolant reservoir is cracked wide open, having failed from age and brittleness. The owner was smart not to try driving in without coolant. Towing is way less expensive than a new engine.


'No acceleration' ('01 MB SLK)
In modern cars, the gas pedal is no longer connected to the engine. A wire plugs into the sensor in the white edged box. When the sensor failed, the engine received no GO signal. The new assembly is entirely plastic. "Engineered like no other." Indeed.


96 Volvo 850 Belt
"Serpentine" (accessory) belt is no longer groovy, but well earned, since his age is 229,000. Click to enlarge the picture.


"Check Engine light" ('02 Audi A4)
Diagnostic computer says "Cam Sensor" (see 'Check Engine Light' below) The old sensor (on right) conveniently turns brown when it fails.


"Engine Just Quit" (96 Mitsu 3000GT)
Crank position sensor was struck by the crank pulley's rotor (the bent flange). This was a rebuilt engine, improperly assembled. It lasted three weeks.


"I smell gasoline" ('87 BMW 325)
Aged high pressure fuel line was leaking, but did not catch fire


"Check Engine Light" ('96 BMW)
Our computer reports "Faulty Cam Sensor." It is the black cylinder in the center of the photo. It monitors the position of the gray rotor attached to the intake camshaft. Knowing cam position, the computer can vary valve timing to maximizes power and mileage while minimizing emissions. (Photo illustrates location. Sensor is replaced easily without this extent of disassembly)


"Engine is making a rattling sound" ('96 3000 GT)
Bearings should be mirror smooth. These mains lasted only 77k miles, about one third the expected life. Ruined bearings make a characteristic knocking sound. Adequate oil level would have prevented this expensive repair.


"Left front is lower than the right" ('05 MB ML 500)
Germans, you gotta love 'em: A sauerkraut machine mounted on a neutron flux capacitor with the (optional) outboard thrusters! This car is two years old, 54,000 miles. Mercedes would not return the customer's calls. An $1,800.00 repair. Whatever happened to Springs and Shocks.


"ABS light" (Flood damaged 02 BMW 325)
This is the valve body that apportions brake pressure to the four wheels. When ABS fails, it is usually the delicate electonic control module, not the robust valving. But having been submerged, this entire unit must be replaced. $2,400.00


"Wipers have a mind of their own." ('04 Audi A4)
A damaged gasket around the access panel to the electronics bay has allowed rainwater to soak the 'Light Module' which includes wiper controls.


'00 Boxster losing oil after repairs
Leaking valve covers were sealed down with too much Silicone, blocking the oil pressure relief outlet. High pressure in the oil system blew out the 'cam plug' (green thing). Porsche dealer #1 did the valve cover. Porsche dealer #2 replaced the cam plug without asking 'Why did this happen?' We got it after the second blowout, 900 miles from customer's home.


'Clunk in the Front End' ('02 Volvo)
The last six inches of the spring coil corroded and broke off. The spring should be centered over and riding in the circular cup. This is becoming more prevalent as all manufacturers attempt to economize. Premium cars are not exempt. (What... did you say BMW?)


'My feet are cold' ('04 XC90)
Ice Storm. Cowl drain froze shut, then rain overflowed into passenger compartment and froze. When your car ices over, de ice and warm it up immediately.


'Car will not go' ('91 Volvo 960)
Engine Coolant has leaked into the transmission through the Radiator/Transmission inter cooler. This awful brew looks like, but does not taste like, chocolate milk; and it does not work well as transmission fluid. Luckily, the Transmission is not ruined. Yet.


'But the kids at Jiff-Quick are so nice...'
Wrong Oil Filter, improperly installed, is not filtering. (Mini Cooper)


'Airbag light is on' '97 BMW 328
The airbag circuit wants to know if the belt is buckled. Note the explosive 'pre tensioner' in the gray housing which will tighten the belt 2.5 inches in a crash only if it is buckled. The old style electric connectors would corrode, fail and turn on the Airbag light. The new connectors are gold plated and will not corrode.


"Oil Leak" ('00 Volvo XC)
There is a small crack in the Turbo Cooling line where it joins the fitting. Click the photo. This line usually leaks from the fitting itself. This crack was hard to see. This thing is called a 'Banjo' fitting. Of course.


"I have a drip" ('99 Volvo S80)
Seepage near the accelerator pedal is from the heater core. Penicillin will not help this drip. Better to get new Heater Core.


"Starter makes a grinding sound" ('59 Alfa Romeo)
The starter is not reliably engaging the flywheel because of worn teeth. These teeth are not replaceable, and there is not another such flywheel in our galaxy. So these teeth must be rebuilt by welding them up and grinding them down.


Oops...my fault
We replaced a blown head gasket in a '91 MB 300. There are 8 different 6 Cylinder configurations that year, each with a different bore diameter. We received the wrong head gasket, slightly small in diameter. Note where the pistons struck the rim of the gasket. The engine ran, but sounded like marbles in a trash can.


"Could you change my timing belt?" ('99 VW Jetta TDI)
Only if I can get the crank pulley off. Someone rounded the mounting bolts by using too small an allen head (probably on an air wrench). The right hand bolt is normal. The left one was only removed with a chisel and some luck. Click the photo.


'Dr. Doofus told me I need a head gasket' ('94 BMW 525)
Zero compression in this cylinder and steam from the exhaust suggested a blown head gasket. Upon closer inspection the head has a crack from the water passage to near the Exhaust valve. Another consequence of allowing the engine to overheat Click on the photo.


'AC is blowing sweet smelling steam out the vents' (03 Mini Cooper, 30k mi)
The AC blows air through this 'heater core' which carries hot engine coolant (with antifreeze) so the cabin air can be warmed. When the core leaks, antifreeze vapor is carried into the passenger compartment. Note the Mini Cooper warranty is only 2yrs 24,000 miles. Why is that?


'Slime is dripping on the garage floor' ('93 BMW 740)
This power steering hose was installed incorrectly. The leak is from the loop, which is designed to curve around the brake booster rod, specifically so this will not happen.


'Engine Quit' ('99 Audi A4)
Apparently Prof. Wristpin AND Dr. Doofus disassembled the engine. We could tell because one of the bearing cap screws was incorrect. During reassembly, care was not taken to torque the bearings exactly as specified. The engine had 2 overhead camshafts. Now it has three.


'I hear a whistle when I step on the gas' ('99 Z3)
Cracked boot between the air filter and air mass sensor. The quarter is for illustration. It came out of the passenger seat track.


My new alternator quit after 60 miles
'New Alternator' in this case means 'Used, rebuilt, lame junk' This one came from the corner 'Twilight Zone' store having been rebuilt by a troll under some bridge. In our experience, these alternators often are defective. Had it worked when installed, it still would have failed eventually because it is the wrong alternator. (In this case it was the battery which lasted 60 miles)


'Engine stumbles at 40 mph ('84 MB 300SD)
Strainer in the gas tank is gagged up with 355,000 miles of diesel sludge. Only 40 mph worth of gas can get through. Not bad.


'I can't steer' ('89 Volvo)
The left front wheel was turned 90 degrees to the direction of travel because the ball joint came apart. A good ball is smooth, packed in grease, and sealed inside a rubber cap. With age, the cap cracks, the grease goes away, the ball grinds itself up and finally pops out. They make noise to warn you before they come apart. The owner declined to have the other side replaced. A gambler.


"Engine has a misfire" ('99 BMW 325)
Modern engines have a coil over each spark plug. This one overheated and became erratic. Click (or clack) to see how it began to melt.


"Losing Power" ('99 BMW 528, 100k miles)
Another 'Bulletproof' engine. With a burned valve. Never been to Canada.


"Engine is missing..."
...missing an exhaust valve! The Volvo 2.4L 5 Cylinder engine is generally bulletproof. The only plausible explanation for this burned valve is crapppy gas. The family took an extended trip to Canada where octane is low and price is high. They bought the cheapest gas they could find. Blame Canada.


'My ball bearings won't race.' (99 MB 600SL)
This idler pulley must have been screeching for a while. The ball bearings which roll between the shaft and the hub of the idler wheel have evaporated.


My engine is running rough ('99 BMW 528)
Some genius installed Autolite plugs. BMW's super high voltage coils (one for each plug) require the right plug- Bosch. If you have a nice car, you should treat it right. It was Jif Quick.


My ignition key turns, but nothing happens ('85 MB 190)
The key cylinder behind this shaft unlocks the steering wheel and connects to the ignition wiring at this end. The lock works, the steering lock works, the ignition works. But they no longer connect and all must be replaced.


The Thousand Dollar Flat Tire ('02 MB SLK)
A nice gentleman had a flat on the busy interstate. He put on the temp spare. The car went 5 feet and stopped dead. Because the dinky spare requires short lug bolts. He used the long ones, which penetrated the hub and snagged the emergency brake mechanism. The resulting torque deformed the wheel bearing. $1,100.00 repair. Mercedes, known for over-engineering, dropped the ball here.


"My A/C operates erratically" ('95 Volvo 850)
The A/C compressor ON/OFF switch is this tiny mechanical device whose points were sticking. A drop of dielectric solved the problem and saved the customer $400.00 for a new control unit. Such controls are now electronic, many even digital. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE


'My engine quit on the way to the Dentist' ('89 Volvo 740)
This is the accessory belt pulley, which came loose from the crankshaft. The crank wore the shoulder visible beside the screwdriver as it spun inside the pulley. The belt stopped turning, the alternator quit charging and the battery went dead.


'When I lower the sunvisor, the steering wheel moves up' ('98 BMW 528)
Who would think of the ignition switch? BMW had a problem with ignition switches (picture). Some would turn, the starter would crank, but with no power to the ignition, refuse to start. Others would misbehave bizzarely. We've seen the radio or A/C go on and off randomly, as well as the sunvisor trick.


'My brakes are weak'
The lower rotor was actually on the car! The worst we have ever seen. For comparison, the Left rotor is new and the Right one is normal wear (note the lip on the edge).


'My engine quit on the way to the market' (99 VW Golf TDI)
The vacuum pot on the throttle body broke. VW will not sell you a five dollar pot, you must buy the $157.00 Throttle Body. Note that the pot is actually designed to be replaced.


'Engine Quit' (Porsche 928)
This screw was sucked from the crankcase and lodged in the Oil Pump. The oil pump seized and threw the timing belt. Click to enlarge. Note thread marks on the impeller vane.


'Engine is Running Rough' (Volvo 240)
Wrong Distributor Rotor. Carved its way around the distributor cap, ultimately missing contacts. Jif-Auto did not have the right part, but this was close.


'No power'
This is the Air Mass Sensor which tells the computer how much fuel to inject. It measures by sensing the change in electrical resistance caused by the movement of cold air. When it becomes inaccurate, the engine can't manage itself properly.


'A/C blower won't run' (BMW 525)
This resistor dissipates heat from the current the blower motor doesn't use when it changes speed. When it fails, the blower won't run. The problem: it is expensive and usually hard to get to.


'A screecing noise under the hood'
This is an idler which keeps tension on the flat side of the accessory belt. A worn bearing can sound like a dying water pump or a Banshee. (or Whitney Houston)


'The Heater won't turn OFF' ('93 Miele)
This is the famous Miele relay which fails CLOSED resulting in the heater remaining on, producing so much heat that the rollers melt. Photo added in 2005. No one has yet asked how many cylinders a '93 Miele had. Do you know?


'My seat won't move'
Coins are usually the problem, but it can be wood, pens or almost anything. Once lodged in the seat track, the seat may need to be removed. Who ever heard of a Needy Seat.


'Doktor Doofus says I need a new engine'
Engine will not turn over because flywheel is jammed by a foreign object. The rear engine seal bolt had backed out and was ground up by the flywheel until a piece caught just right. 89 Volvo 740 with 178,419 miles. Click the photo.


'No heat'
This is behind the radio console. Every duct and cranny is packed with last summer's groceries. Mice. Click Image to see what the owner likes to eat.


'Water pump is leaking' (Audi)
Audi proves that plastic impellers can work. Too bad the seal doesn't.


'Kind of a clackety nosie' ('01 BMW 330)
Since plastic impellers don't work, lets try a metal impeller (and a plastic bearing?). This bearing is so worn you can shake it and listen to it rattle. We kept it; come in and try it.


'It is making a Thunky Noise'
Plastic again. Soaking in very hot water. Breaks.


'No power'
One cause: Aged, spongy, split vacuum line. People have asked how the quarter got inside the hose. It is holding the hose open so you can see the deterioration inside.


'Engine won't start' (Volvo)
One cause: Plugs are way past their expected life time. Remember Aretha Franklin's big hit: N*E*G*L*E*C*T ?


'Engine is running rough'
One cause: While modern computer controlled cars no longer need points, they do need plugs. These are about three times past their design life. BMW in this case. Many Manufacturers now use 100,000 mile plugs. We recommend you change plugs after 60,000 miles.


'There's a Clunk in the front' (Range Rover)
Clunks are common and can have many causes. In this case the shock absorber sheared its shaft and was rattling around loose. This is the top mount.


'Temp won't stay at 72'
Cabin Temperature is measured by cabin air being drawn over a thermistor (the wire) by a fan (visible inside barrel) which mechanics call the 'whiz wheel'. When the unit fails, the Climate control reverts to Manual mode.


'I thought the engine was going to fall out'
This is the notorious BMW water pump with the hand-carved oak impeller. The customer stopped at a red light and thought the pickup in front of him was going to come apart. Until it pulled away and the noise stayed. Stupid design.


'My engine stumbles'
Age ('97) and heat have deteriorated a vacuum line. The hose actually is gooey.


'My ABS light is on'
The hydraulic pump and valving (right) are ok. The Control box (left) contains the solenoids which move the hydraulic valve stems and is the culprit in this case (Volvo). Dealers of course replace the whole unit. Including the expensive pump.


'My alternator light is on'
One cause: Voltage regulator (nowdays within the alternator) brushes are worn away. Note the dull one is not making contact with the 'commentator' (commutator). Dealers will not replace or rebuild this unit, but replace the entire alternator. Newer alternators MUST be replaced. Clever.


'There's a rattle under the car when I accelerate'
One cause: 'Flex disk' connecting driveshaft to transmission...wears out. These are from BMW 3 (top) and 5. The disk is referred to as a 'Guibo' Could someone tell me why?


'Something exploded under the hood'
Plastic (what genius thought of that) accessory belt pulley becomes brittle from age and heat and....explodes.


'Overheating' ('99 BMW 325)
One Cause: Plastic Thermostat housing broke, causing Thermostat to fail closed. Water cannot reach radiator; engine overheats.


'I feel a rattling under the car when I step on the gas' (BMW 528)
One cause:The driveshaft's 'center bearing' has torn free of its rubber mounting, allowing it to rattle under power.


'My window makes noise/won't roll up' (All Makes and Models)
Most window mechanisms are fragile and complex, (Save a dollar, a million cars, a million dollars) providing job security for the mechanic. Click to enlarge. Stupid design.


'No power' ('86 Volvo)
Engine Overheated, Blew head gasket (brown discoloration) and Burned the (smaller) exhaust valve. Click for closeup.


'No Power' ('93 BMW 740)
Doktor Doofus was unable to diagnose loss of power, assumed (incorrectly) it was a blocked catalytic converter. He illegally (and unnecessarily) reamed out the Guts of cat which then went and clogged muffler. NOW it's the cat. This cat is $1300.00. And there are TWO.


'Engine Quit...' ('86 Volvo)
...because it overheated and perforated. Most engines don't operate well with a hole in the piston. Maybe a small hole. When your engine overheats, STOP and call a tow truck.


'Juice is running out the transmission' ('98 BMW 540)
Leaking valley gasket. Coolant in Valley runs out the back, over the transmission. Doktor Doofus takes out the transmission.


'Check engine light is on'
Diagnostic Computer fingers the Oxygen sensor. We check: New sensor connected to old plug-in. (Doktor Doofus again) Computer senses incorrect resistance, sends fault warning. New $150.00 Sensor thus ruined, must be replaced.


'Check engine light'
Diagnostic Computer identifies faulty Oxygen sensor. Sensor had been Installed incorrectly (Doktor D.) with cable contacting driveshaft. It lasted 3 days.


'Engine just quit out on the Interstate' ('98 BMW 528)
On the phone when the car warned her of overheating, she did not see the warning light. When your engine overheats, you should: (a.) STOP (b.) Check your Bank account and keep going.


'Clutch stopped working' ('96 Audi)
When confronted with the evidence, the driver admitted to riding the clutch to hold the car at a stop light on a hill. Click the picture if you can't see what happened.


'Wont move in reverse' ('98 BMW 540)
She thought the car would stop faster if she put the gear lever into 'R'. We are not sexist.You know who you are. These teeth were in the transmission sump


'I think the water pump is smoking' (99 Audi)
Water pump bearing seized, cooking the belt (which smoked), and the idlers. Note pump shaft is cockeyed. The owner saved the engine, because he stopped the car when it overheated.


'No A/C at idle...I need some freon" (BMW X5)
The condenser's electric fan is controlled not by a simple switch but by a computer capable of landing on the moon. Can you spell "Over engineeerd" Enlarge the picture to view blowout at 12 o'clock.


'Transmission won't shift' ('98 BMW 328)
Faulty Transmission defaults to limp (disabled) mode. Dealer wanted $3500.00 to replace transmission. We replaced defective pressure regulator. The new valve cost $350.00


'Transmission won't shift' ('99 BMW 328)
Dealer wanted $3500.00 for a new transmission. We replaced a defective control unit ($400.00) Click photo to see blowout at lower left of board.


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