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2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, so I was pretty much going to file this under "sketchy mechanic trying to snow me", but since this is my first experience with a new(er) VW, I thought I'd throw this out here and see if anyone can corroborate what the mechanic said.

My daughter purchased a 2001 Beetle from a used car lot last spring. About six or eight weeks ago, the check engine light came on. Now, I know just enough about working on cars to be a danger to myself and anyone within a twenty foot radius, but I do have a portable OBD2 scanner (actually, it's an "Ultragauge" - it plugs into your OBD port and gives you real-time info about your car. I bought it hoping to see real-time gas consumption stats on my '01 Nissan Pathfinder, but my Pathy lacks the correct sensors to do it). In any case, the Ultragauge can report engine trouble codes, and the Beetle was throwing P0340. According to engine-codes.com, this code indicates it's a faulty camshaft position sensor. It went on to say that any of the following might be causes:
- Camshaft Position Sensor harness is open or shorted
- Camshaft Position Sensor circuit poor electrical connection
- Faulty starter motor
- Starting system circuit
- Dead (Weak) battery

I replaced the starter myself, and we just bought a battery, leaving the problem seeming to be with the Camshaft Position Sensor.

On Saturday, I was driving her car and it died as I was pulling into a parking lot. Try as I might, I couldn't get the engine to start. I towed it to a local garage (they had excellent reviews on Yelp, FWIW). The first mechanic said he drove a '99 Beetle, and when I told him about the check engine light and the p0340 code, he shared that he had to replace the sensor on his some time back.

Now's where it gets... weird.

The owner of the shop called me later and told me that, while my little OBD2 scanner that I "borrowed from an auto parts store":pinch: might throw a certain code, he had a "$6000 machine that can really get down into German engines," because "German cars don't show all of their codes on regular OBD2 scanners." He went on to tell me that he had to pay $1000 just to get the software for his $6000 machine that could even read German engines.

He offered to do a "deep diagnostic" (which would cost an hour of labor) to root out what the problem really might be, as he wasn't certain replacing the camshaft position sensor would do the trick. I told my daughter to tell him to get stuffed... uh... to not do the diagnostic, just to replace the sensor like her dad's scanner said.

So, today, he tells us that the car still won't run with the new camshaft position sensor, that it's obviously something "deeper." I grudgingly advise my daughter to have him run the "deep diagnostic," and voila! It needs a new timing belt and water pump. I'm not really sure why a reasonably experienced mechanic needed a $6000 rig to see that the belt was off by a couple of cogs, fraying, and the water pump was leaking, but whatever.:dunno:

Now, I was fairly certain it needed a new belt and pump, as it's at 113K on the odo and I know that's a 100K job, and buying it used as we did we didn't have any records, so I figured it was more than likely (given human nature) that the previous owner hadn't done it.

TL;DR: Is there some sort of Teutonic mojo required (or a $6000 machine with a $1000 software license) in order to read special, "hidden" codes on German engines? Or is this dude all wet? :D

15,839 Posts
He is probably referring to a genuine vw scan tool; that can be purchased through vw and supported by them. $5k and software updates, that might cost $1k, to keep current.

Here is a example: OEM Scan Tool Center - National Automotive Service Task Force

As noted above; you can get pretty much the same type of vw specific scanning capability through the Ross Tech VCDS; in the $250-$350 range and have lifetime software upgrades. I have VCDS and would recommend the "VCDS License with HEX-USB+CAN Interface" version.

Ross-Tech Store: VCDS

Keep in mind; if you just want to read vw specific trouble codes, you can pick up a basic vw code reader for less than $50 on amazon.


So, where are you at now and what is he charging you for repairs? While having the factory tool is important; I'm wondering what his repair fees are and if he is justifying the cost of his factory vw scan tools for expensive diagnosis fees? Let us know; where you are at. It sounds like you are at the mercy of this shop; I hope, you are not being taken advantage of. :mad: Finding a competent, honest and affordable shop that repairs Volkswagens, can be a real challenge.

In the future; if you are willing to repair things yourself, get a vw scan tool and post what is going on. With the trouble codes; we will do our best to try to help and save you some money in the process.

3,690 Posts
Such misinformation this drives me crazy.

To the OP, if your engine really needs a timing belt, then there may be bent vavles. A $6000 tool WILL NOT tell you the timing belt is bad or a water pump needs to be replaced. It may tell you there is a cam timing problem, but this would need more investigation.

As for the NEED for VCDS, this is not really a NEEDED tool for most people. If if the SES/CEL/MIL comes on the dash, ANY generic OBDII tool will read the codes that triggered the SES/CEL/MIL. Your UltraGuage is a start, not a bad item, I have one, but OBDII smart phone Apps are really where its happening these days for around $30 or less with the interface.

Get an OBDII smart phone/tablet App and interface, typically $30 or less. These Apps are usually best for drivability issues and they support Emission Readiness Monitor Status, Freeze Frame and Live/Realtime data. They are also great for Logging data for review after the car has been driven and can really help find unusual problems.

Android - Touch Scan for $5.00 and ELM327 OBDII to Bluetooth interface.

iProduct - OBD Fusion for $9.99 and ELM327 OBDII to Wifi interface.

Some people prefer to have an extension cable to keep the interface away from their feet.

Something like these cables are often of interested:

Amazon.com: ASSEM® OBD-II OBD2 16-Pin Male to Female Diagnostic Extension Cable 100cm: Automotive

Amazon.com: OBDII Extension Cable, 5ft (144201): Automotive

I usually suggest getting the OBDII interfaces from Amazon if you are located in the US/North America. Make sure you choose an interface that indicates that the order will be "Fulfilled by Amazon" otherwise you may be waiting for WEEKS for an interface to arrive from Asia. Ebay is another option, but pay attention where the interface will be shipped from, again weeks for an interface from Asia, so if you can wait and want to try to save some money, go for it, but if you need an interface soon, choose wisely.

I could go on for hours on OBDII and the different codes.

Short and sweet, there are 3 versions of codes.

Generic OBDII Codes - THESE CODES WILL LIGHT THE SES/CEL/MIL on the dash. These are the same across all makes and models, these do offer a lot of information and are very helpful if you use your head when you read/interpret the codes. RARELY does a code that lists a sensor in the code mean the sensor is bad, BUT this point rarely gets across to anyone in the industry. Some manufacturers or models may offer more codes than others depending on the engine and powertrain configuration.

Manufacturer Specific Codes - These codes follow the OBDII protocol and THESE CODES WILL LIGHT THE SES/CEL/MIL on the dash. These codes can vary manufacturer to manufacturer, however, there is often some similarities between the the codes across the board. Some manufacturers offer more "Manufacturer Specific Codes" than others depending on a number of different factors.

Manufacturer Specialized or Proprietary Codes THESE CODES WILL NOT, I REPEAT WILL NOT, LIGHT THE SES/CEL/MIL on the dash. These codes use the ODBII protocol, however, they are designed SPECIFICALLY not to trigger the SES/CEL/MIL. Some manufacturers will trigger a different driver warning for some subsystems, but in general there is NO driver warning what so ever. These codes sometimes offer more in depth information than Generic or Manufacturer Specific Codes. They also often cover far more systems in the car than OBDII, but keep in mind OBDII was primarily for Engine/Transmission and things that would cause excessive fuel consumption or emission output. Typically these codes require a specialized software or more advanced "Pro" tool to interrogate and read the codes or Live/Realtime data. Contrary to pop culture, urban myth, Internet Forum Members, these Manufacturer Specialized or Proprietary Codes are not required to repair anything that causes the SES/CEL/MIL to come on. Thousands of vehicles are repaired by independent shops and DIY'ers each day without even being aware of these Manufacturer Specialized or Proprietary Codes. At times they can be helpful and maybe offer more insight, but for State Emissions Testing and general engine fuel management repair, they are NOT NECESSARY. State Emission Inspection stations do not attempt to read these codes they do not care about these.

Getting back to Generic and Manufacturer Specific Codes, these codes can and will clear by themselves IF the offending problem has not been detected after a specified number of run cycles. I do not have all the info at hand, but I recall something along the lines that sometimes between 20-40 run cycles the SES/CEL/MIL can clear if the offending problem has not been detected. There are some variations and exceptions to this. But the other PROBLEM is once the SES/CEL/MIL is lit, without actually reading and monitoring for codes you have NO IDEA if another related or different code may be triggered in the time between when a repair has been completed and the SES/CEL/MIL self clears.

I spend a lot of my time providing feedback on tools that do not provide the correct data so vendors can correct the software/firmware when possible. You would be surprised how many problems get out the door even with the "Pro" tool vendors.

I have more money in OBDII tools both consumer and Pro level than most people have in their cars. I use my smart phone or $50 Launch CReaderVI more than all the other tools and software I have on hand.

2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the quick replies!

I've always believed that folks on informational forums can be some of the most generous and helpful souls around. I've found it on the Nissan Pathfinder boards I post on, and on the one for our pop-up trailer (shout-out to PopUpPortal), and the same is obviously true here. I can't thank you all enough.

It sounds like he (the mechanic) has something similar to the VAG scanner that was spoken of.

As for where I am and what he charged, I'm in southwest Washington State, across from Portland, Oregon. His hourly labor charge is $86 - fairly average for around here.

Between the camshaft position sensor and timing belt kit (including a new water pump), parts ran $400 and labor came in about $550, so with tax we were a little over a grand.

On the cool side, he noted that the thermostat was sticking open after he refilled the coolant, so he replaced it and didn't charge me for it. I know it's a fairly simple job (at least it is on some cars), but it was still a fairly all-right thing for him to do.

I feel better knowing that there is such a thing as the specialized code reader. I appreciate the suggestion to get a bluetooth-connected app and adapter for my phone. After I found my Ultragauge didn't really do what I wanted it to do (because of the limitations of my rig), I considered selling it and getting one of those phone-connected ones. It sounds like something I should do in any case.

Again, thanks to everyone for your information. I truly appreciate it.

3,690 Posts
Keep the UltraGuage. Set it up on the car with Temperature and Voltage alarms to keep your daughter from getting in a bad situation and possibly being stranded and/or overheating the car so bad the head gasket blows.

Thermostat problems are SO COMMON they really need to be replaced during every major engine repair or even when belts or spark plugs are replaced.

See this thread here - http://newbeetle.org/forums/1-8-liter-turbo/58882-coolant-temp-sensor.html

Manufacturer specific software or tools is NOT needed for when the SES/CEL/MIL comes on. They may help see a bit deeper into some problems, but it is not a requirement for most driveability or transmission problems.

For other systems on the car, a more advanced tool could be helpful or required. For ABS or Airbags most smart phone Apps do not support these systmes, but there are many tools that support ABS and Airbags.

I am not saying do not consider VCDS, however, these cars and other get repaired every day without these specialized tools.

Like anything, your brain is the best tool to use for any repair.
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