Happy Thursday everyone! As you probably know, I have been on vacation this week. This is actually the second time I have ever taken a week of vacation time in my working career. It has been a week filled with working in the yard, and hanging out with the family.

I also updated my phone a few days ago, in typical Iphone fashion, the update crashed my phone. I had to restore it from the last backup in February. Since all of the Shop Shots come from my phone, I am missing a lot of pictures. So, Tech Tip of the day, be sure to back your phone up! Ok, lets do this!

This is a picture of a screw I found in the tire of MY Passat. (yep I got screwed) I was leaving the store and noticed it. I did not remove the screw, it was holding air, and I didn’t want to have a flat. The thing about the location of the screw is, it will not be repairable. An object that is in the outer most of a tire tread is not repairable. The flex of the tire at that point to really high. Any repair, plug or patch is not safe. I will most likely be replacing this tire.

When it comes to repairing tires, we have 3 types of repairs, patches, plugs, and patch-plugs.

  • A plug is installed from the outside of the tire. Think of using gum to plug a water leak, Clark Griswold style. It is actually a little better than that, but you get the idea. This repair is fine for a temporary repair, but not the best way to fix a tire.
  • A patch is installed from the inside of the tire. It is a great way to repair a tire. This must be done by a professional, because the tire will need to be removed from the rim.
  • A patch-plug is the BEST way to repair a tire. It combines both methods. Covering the hole from the inside, and filling the hole with a plug. If you have a choice when getting a tire repaired, use this type of repair.

Any mechanic will tell you that we see dumb stuff like this all the time. People run wiring in the door jams is the most common dumb thing we see. The worst is when it is a big power wire from the battery to a radio amplifier. If you notice not only are the wires ran through the door jam, but it is secured with, you guess it, DUCT TAPE! I think that is was a GPS that was wired in this way. PLEASE do no do this.

I literally laughed out loud when I found this picture again. This is a picture of a Jetta airflow meter, and intake hose. I think the customer thought they had an air leak. They sealed it with tape. Then they put tape on the connector. I don’t remember what type of tape it was, it was not duct tape. I remember it came off pretty easy, but I wasn’t happy about messing with it.

This is another pride and joy picture I have. We had an EOS come in to the shop for the semi-common EOS water leak issue. The seats and seat belts were moldy, so I have know idea how long the water was in there. I removed the seats and found these little guys growing. Yep, little tiny mushrooms. Let me say that again, MUSHROOMS growing in an EOS. How awesome is that. I am sure it was really unhealthy for me to be working on that car, but live and learn!

If you have some of your own Shop Shots, come by and post them in the Humble Mechanic Forum. Don’t be stingy with your good pics. The community over at the forum is really cool come by and check it out.

1 more thing, yesterday I was featured on a really cool technology blog. I did an interview with Matt talking all about car technology. He has a great blog with a lot of awesome information. Swing by and check out my interview!

We have all seen the commercials on TV. They show those dummies smashing into the steering wheel, or going through the windshield. I don’t think that anyone can argue the fact the seat belts can save lives.

That however, is only one of many safety features on cars. We can break them down into 2 different categories, Active and Passive. An active safety system covers systems that are used to PREVENT you from getting into a crash. Passive safety systems are what we generally think of when we think vehicle safety, like seat belts.

Active Safety
This can be something as simple as a clean windshield, or as advanced as vehicle Electronic Stability Control. The one system in the group we do think about is our ABS Anit-lock Braking System. Unless you drive something like a Smart car, newer vehicles have some type of ABS. This system does exactly what it’s name says, it prevents the brakes from locking. This can help you control the vehicle better during a reduced traction stop. Other systems like traction control, are active safety systems. Some vehicles have even more, but those are the major players.

Passive Safety
I find it funny that Passive Safety is what I think of when I think of vehicle safety; 😉 This is the good stuff! We all know about seat belts, and airbags but there is so much more to it than just those. Did you know that the buttons on your radio are built with your safety in mind? Or that the dashboard is soft so if you bounce your face off of it, it won’t hurt so bad?

Safety is built into every aspect of your car.

  • The engine mounts are made to brake in a certain way, so the engine drops down instead

    This is a close up of the safety stitching in a seat belt

    of being pushed into the cabin of the car.

  • The fenders(all body panels really) have crumple zones, these zones are meant to control the rate the collapse, that will absorb much of the impact
  • Knobs and buttons are meant to break away, nothing worse than the radio button being jammed into your knee.
  • The angle of the head rest is made to prevent your head from snapping back
  • Not only are seat belts stitched in a way that allows them to stretch, but they also have an explosive charge to retract them. Heck seat belts are a post on their own.
  • If you drive a convertible, you have some type of roll over protection. Please do not roll over in your convertible.
  • Electrical cut off, all cars have a way to terminate the vehicles electrical connections. Otherwise the fuel pump can continue to run after a crash.

Pretty much everything about your car is designed to perform a specific way in the event of a crash. They are made to extend the time of a crash, usually measured in milliseconds.The longer a crash takes, the less impact is felt by occupants. Basically we want our car to absorb the impact not us.

Some manufacturers are much better at this design than others. Its not just because I work for VW, but I truly believe VWs are some of the safest cars on the road. There have been many times that if I was driving another car, I would have gotten in an accident. Thank goodness for the top quality brakes in my Passat.

I was also, unfortunately, able to experience a couple of safety features first hand a few years ago. My wife and I were in our 2000 Civic. To save the boring parts, I rear ended a Chevy Tahoe. Needless to say our Civic didn’t fair so well. Both airbags deployed. Due to Honda’s lack of being awesome, We got stuck in the car. The way that I hit the guy, the battery was smashed. The power locks did not work. It was dark, and the air in the car was full of airbag dust. I could not find the manual lock release. It felt like forever before we were able to get out of the car.

I had not realized how important some simple safety features would be. See in a Volkswagen, when you pull the inner door handle twice, the door will open, not on a Honda. When you get in a crash in a VW, the doors automatically unlock, and the hazard lights come on, not on a Honda. Its the little things right!

When you get in your car today, look around at some of the things in your car. Now picture that they have your safety in mind. Unless you drive a Honda 😉 I am totally kidding about the Honda. I am thankful that we were able to walk away from a totaled vehicle. Oh, and the Tahoe, had about $900 damage. The estimate for our Civic was about $11,000.

Here is a picture of the front of our Civic.

Hey guys, I wanted to give you a slightly different perspective today. My good friend Kristin is medical professional. I was able to sweet talk her into writing a post for us. We get to hear from her about building a small med kit for your car. PLEASE post any questions you have for Kristin in the comments below. AND thank her for the great information that she has given us!

Hello, my name is Kristin. Charles asked if I would write a blog post for him about a simple first aid kit to put in your car in case you come across an emergency and want to help out before the EMT’s get there.  I have been a CMA, Certified Medical Assistant, for the past six years and I have always carried a first aid kit in my vehicle and unfortunately I have had to use it on several occasions. I will include pictures of my kit so you can see how easy and simple it can be to put together.

First and foremost you should take a first aid and CPR class through a local organization like the Red Cross, they are cheap and could save someone’s life and if you are going to help in an emergency it is good to know what to do.  A charged cell phone is also a vital item to have so that you can call for help and get the professionals to the scene.

The kit does not have to be anything fancy or expensive the professionals will have all the good equipment to help the person, you are just trying to keep them stable until someone can arrive.  I have my kit in a small tool box that I purchased on sale for about ten dollars, there are also a few larger items that won’t fit in the box but are easily stored in your trunk.

  • Gloves are very important and should be worn at all times when touching someone else especially if they are bleeding.
  • Alcohol pads, preferably individually wrapped ones, are good to have to clean up any blood or to get debris out of wounds.
  • A bottle of aspirin is a cheap thing that could literally save someone’s life; again a first aid course so you know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack is helpful.
  • I keep some Band-Aids in my kit just for small cuts, the ones I have are latex free but I don’t know if this is really necessary, I just don’t want to do more harm to someone if they have an allergy.
  • I also keep some cheap dollar store feminine pads in my kit, this may seem strange but they are good for wrapping larger wounds and are absorbent and cheaper than getting a bunch of large gauze.
  • I have some tape, wrap and some old t-shirts in my kit to use for wrapping splints or to attach the absorbent material to the person.
  • A flashlight can be an important part of the kit if you are stopping at night or need to check someone’s eyes.  You should already have a flashlight in your kit that the Humble Mechanic showed you in the post “Building an Affordable Tool Kit for Your Car”.
  • The parts of the kit that will probably not fit in your kit are a couple of towels or blankets and some large wooden sticks that they use to stir five gallon paint buckets with at Lowes or Home Depot.

You may have some of these items already and most of these items can be bought at a Dollar Store for very cheap or obtained for free.  The most expensive part of my kit is a CPR mask, this is not necessary really unless you are planning to do mouth to mouth , I have never had to do mouth to mouth on anyone and they now have a hands only version of CPR that would work well until an ambulance can arrive.

I hope this is has been helpful so you can put together a cheap kit that could make you feel more comfortable stopping at a scene and helping.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments section and I will try and answer them. ~Kristin Donadeo, CMA

Thanks Kristin~ This is not the last you guys will hear about this topic. 😉 I will be building 2(one for each car) and show you guys how easy and affordable this car be!

Here is the complete kit!

As everyone knows, I work for Volkswagen. While VW has a die hard loyal following, no one can argue that they have earned some negative press over the last 10-12 years. From window regulator issues, ignition coil disasters, and the entire launch of the 2004 Touareg, I don’t blame people for having a negative opinion.

A question came to me from Brandon on the FB page. He asked me to give him my “ABSOLUTE HONEST OPINION” about VW and their car. Here is some of our conversation regarding the issue. You can see the whole conversation here.

Brandon Byron

i want to hear your ABSOLUTE HONEST OPINION, working as a vw mechanic for so many years i have to ask the big question. No matter where you go online almost EVERYONE says they are unreliable, they break after 100K, they are junk, etc. You cant escape the VW hate online. So i am wondering from your perspective as having to fix them, does vw really mass produce cars that are holding together by thread and duct tape or am i just seeing all of the people with a negative experience talking about the cars? I really want to know as im looking to buy a new vw for my first car and I want to make sure i made the right choice. Thanks! 🙂

Humble Mechanic‎Brandon, you have a great question and some pretty legit concerns. I want to give you a better answer than I can at at midnight. I will put something together for you tomorrow. Thanks for liking the page, and I will answer all you questions tomorrow.

Humble Mechanic

Ok Brandon~ Here is my reply
It’s true, VW has earned a bum rap. From the window regulator issues, and the ignition coil disasters to the launch of the 2004 Touareg, there is no shortage of things VW has dropped the ball on.Then you go and read things in forums like VWvortex, and TDIclub. The cars get slayed, the dealers get slayed, the mechanics get slayed. The info is out there, and I have read enough to make me sick.
The truth is,YES VWs break. I have had to fix cars with <10 miles on them. I have had customers get there cars bought back because of issue after issue after issue. Also remember that I see the worst of the worst.Then there is the flip side. The reason that VWvortex, and TDIclub exist is because people LOVE there VWs. If the product was that bad, it would have a hard time earning the following that it has.
Remember, the loudest voices are the people looking to complain. People now have a platform that allows them to tell their story, be it good or bad. Visiting the VW facebook page is a perfect example of that. Here is what they will not tell you. Did they maintain their car? Did they do all of the things that are required on EVERY vehicle to keep it running properly? What are they comparing it to? Is a VW even right for them?
You are looking to buy a DRIVERS car, not a toaster(Toyota). If you want to have a car that runs properly at 100,000 miles, you need to do your part. Proper maintenance is key. Plus everyone needs to understand that things will break. You will need to replace belts, batteries, tires, and brakes. The odds of the check engine light coming on is VERY high!
That is not just VW.If you owned a 1995 Honda Civic, and never had an issue, do not expect your 2012 VW to be the same. not only is it a totally different car, but emissions standards, and government regulations are vastly different. These cars are held to a much higher standard than they were 15-20 years ago.

I think I gave him the answer that he was looking for. I did want to expand a little about his concerns. Like I told Brandon, the loudest voices are the ones that are complaining. All of the social sites have given people a voice that they have not had since small town America.I think its amazing that we have this at our disposal. This does however allow people to complain about any and everything.

There is also the FACT that people are not looking to read about problem free Volkswagens. There were NO searches for any phrase I could think of that basically said VWs were great cars. I must have entered 20 phrases trying to find one. On the other hand ~74,000 people searched for “Volkswagen problems”. What does that mean? Well, before we buy something, we want to research the problems. Or, we have a problem and want to see what issues others are having. Misery loves company right 😉 It pretty much boils down to we want to read about problems, the numbers don’t lie!

Well, I hope that I have answered the question for Brandon and anyone else that might be concerned about cars and the negative thinks we read. What do you guys think? I think Brandon is dead on with his concerns, but just like anything else we need to take the information given and make our own choices.

Oh, don’t miss tomorrow’s post, we will be talking vehicle first aid kits!!! A good friend of mine is a nurse, and she is helping us(me included) build a first aid kit for our car! You can subscribe o the email list so you don’t miss anything!

Hey folks!

I am actually taking a few days off of work next week. As you guys probably know, I work a 4 day work week. The schedule is a 3 week rotation. So every 3 weeks I have 5 days off in a row. Well, this is my weekend off. On top of that, I took the rest of next week off. Hello 10 days off!

Out initial plan was to drive to Illinois to visit some friends, family, and go on some brew tours. That kind of fell through. Our back up plan was to visit Asheville,NC. A place that I really really love. That fell through as well. My wife and I decided to stay here and work around the house, painting, cleaning and so on. In fact I spent the day doing yard work!

My vacation will not interrupt the flow of blog posts. In fact I will have more time to give you some good stuff.

What I would like for you guys to do, is post up some topics you want to know about. I want to be sure that we are hitting the subjects YOU guys want! Those seem to make for the best posts. You can post them in the comments on the post, use the Contact me form, or head over to the forum and post them there.

I hope you all have a really awesome weekend. As always, I will be in the forum, on twitter, and Facebook. You can use the links on the right side of this post to connect with me. I always have my phone on me. Because of that Twitter or the Contact me form are the best ways to get up with me.

One more thing, if you have not checked out Pinterest, you really should. Its a pretty cool site to bookmark and share cool stuff you find. Let me know if you need an invite, I will send you one.

The best way to connect with me is to use the links on the right. 🙂


David Hillier or what my fellow techs like to call me, Gravy Davey

How long have you been in the Industry?

I picked up my first wrench professionally in 1993. I worked for a small independent import shop called R.C. Motor King in Rexdale, Ontario, Canada. It was my only way into the industry. In Canada we have to get licensed to be working as a technician professionally and to do this you needed a shop with a journeyman to sign you up as an apprentice so you can start collecting hours so you can go to trade school. Where I lived in Etobicoke (Ontario) my wife and I would always drive by a Volkswagen dealership on the lakeshore called Mississauga Volkswagen. I was a bartender at the time but I have always wanted to get my start in the Automotive industry there. Don’t ask me why but that building had always caught my eye every time I drove by. I tried sending my resume in but I never got a response. I also plugged my resume elsewhere just to see if I could get any jobs. Finally I got a job at R.C. Motor King (a small independent import shop) and got signed up as an apprentice. I worked there for about a year. I was working on everything but what I wanted to work on which was VW. We only had one customer with a two year old (1991) Passat automatic 2.0l 16v that would come in for oil changes. I loved working on that car! Anyways, still wanting to work at Mississauga VW I would pump my resume in by fax, mail and I would drop off a copy to the reception desk once a week for about three months until one day I got a call. It was the service manager from Mississauga VW and he wanted to see me! I was super exited! The day I was to see him I stopped off and got coffee for both of us before I got there. When I got there I pulled up in my 1984 GTi and proceeded in. I finally met the service manager and offered him the coffee. he said “I don’t drink coffee” Thinking I got off on the wrong foot we proceeded into an office and sat down. First thing he said was “You know why I called you in today?” I said “For a job?” He said “You are the most persistent bastard I have had the pleasure to meet and if I didn’t call you I suspect I would be getting your resume sent to me until the day I quit or die. So I’m going to have to hire you.” That was one of the best days of my life besides meeting my wife and the birth of my children. I worked there under two journeymen and finally got my interprovincial licence. I have since worked at two other VW dealerships and currently work at an Audi dealership.

What is your current job title?

Automotive service technician

What were you doing for your first automotive job?

The usual apprentice duties, driving the shuttle, cleaning the shop and doing all the crappy jobs apprentices have to do to earn their keep.

Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?

I work at an Audi dealership. I would say the dealership is better. I have only worked at an aftermarket shop for a year before I got my first dealership job with VW. I have other friends that work at independents and it’s hard for them to keep up with the latest technology.

Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.

Open my toolbox, have a coffee, get the first job, finish that one, get the next job… You know the drill. It’s always fun that’s why I keep working on cars day after day. You never know what your going to be fixing next until you get the work order.

When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?

I’m a computer geek in my spare time. I have successfully installed Mac OS X on both of my Dell laptops at home. I also like to (when time permits) work on my 1973 Type 2 Campmobile.

What kind of car do you drive?

A 2000 VW Golf 2.0l manual. It just turned 340,000KM!

What was your first car?

A 1979 Plymouth Horizon. It had a VW Rabbit engine from factory!

What made you want to work on cars?

My Horizon used to break down and I would ask my dad for help (he was a tech back in the day) and he said “Here is the manual, try to fix it yourself” That was some tough love but it only made me the tech I am today, not relying on other people to diagnose and fix vehicles.

What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?

That is a good question.. We used to get strippers cars in so you could imagine the things we used to find.

Do you have much customer interaction?

I used to as a foreman but not so much now. I miss that aspect of my career.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love figuring out electrical issues. At Audi there are not as many as I had at VW. Which is weird because they are almost the same electrically.

If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?

Engine and transmission jobs. My body has been pounded by the trade. Bad knees and the occasional sore back. That’s grunt work in my opinion and the apprentices should be doing it with supervision from a journeyman.

The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?

I have been lucky in that aspect, the clients I have always had have been stellar!  We have always shown the clients what they need and stuff they can put off. I absolutely hate scam artists in our trade. Honesty is the best policy.

Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?


How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?

Very important IMHO. The one thing I stress to clients is that you have to OWN your car. One problem I found at Audi is that there is a valet mode button in the glove compartment of the new A7 and when its depressed the trunk will not open from the door switch, the fob or the tailgate button. it’s covered in the owners manual and you won’t believe how many clients come in stating their trunk won’t open. It wastes not only the clients time but our time. READ YOUR MANUALS PEOPLE!!!

Have you read the owners manual to your car?

Nope. Hahahaha! But I know my car inside and out.

What tool in your tool box do you use the most?

At Audi it would be my oil filter cup, 18mm and 19mm wrenches. Not too much goes wrong with the Audis besides some injector issues.

Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?

MAC FTW! They are reasonably priced and durable as any tool on the market.

If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?

The VAS6150A, my Snap-on Vantage and a L.E.D test light. Why? Because I could surf www.techniciandatabase.com and slay ANY electrical issue thrown at me. 😀

If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?

A cloaking device. The poor SOB’s wouldn’t see me coming!

You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?

A manual transmission MK4 Golf or Jetta. Totally bulletproof in my opinion.

What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?

It’s sometimes thankless work and brutal on the body. It would be great if clients would take a second to thank their technician for a job well done. I know I would appreciate it! But I love talking to my customers. 😀

GREAT interview David! What is it with guys named Dave? The Dave at my shop is Gravy Dave too. HA. Thanks again man, Hey guy follow David on Twitter, and his Campmobile page on Facebook!

If you want to be featured in a Behind The Wrench interview, please contact me!

Hey guys, Its Thursday so you know what that means, SHOP SHOTS! I got some good ones for you this week! Also, we started a thread on the Automotive Forum for you to post your own Shots! Swing by, register and you can post your Shots. Remember, to keep spam out, you will need to be approved. I hate that I have to do that, but I need to keep the spam out!

You can probably guess that this is not a normal way for a tire to look. This customer actually drove in on this tire. If you look at the top of the picture, you can see that there is a lot of tread on the tire. This is what happens when a belt inside a tire breaks. A tire is more that just black and round. It is layer with steel belts, fiber layers, rubber, and so on. When a steel belt breaks, it leaves a soft spot in the tire. It makes that spot really soft. I could push my finger about 1/2″ into the tire. I don’t really know how the tire made it that long. The bad part is, the customer did not buy the tires. I think that she replaced some suspension bushings. That was totally the wrong choice. I am not sure if she was just crazy, or maybe the importance of this issue was not stressed. This is blow out territory for sure!

This picture comes from one of my best most favorite customer. Quick side story, I met her because her last Beetle Convertible was always broken. She also does dog rescue. My wife and I adopted our dog “Fugazi”, or “Foo Dog” as we call her. Peyton is an amazing person and does so much good for homeless animals. I will never be able to thank her enough. P, if you read this THANK YOU!~ Ok, back to the picture. This is a tail light out of a 2006 Beetle Conv. I am not really sure how this happened, but it sees that the bulb came in contact with the plastic housing. This caused the housing to melt, and the bulb to fall into the bumper. I have seen it happen a few times before, but it’s that that common.

HAHA, Stoners paradise. This was the first car I pulled in the other day. The second that I opened the car door, I could smell pot. I mean, it was like a smack in the face. I looked down and found that Febreze sitting on the passenger seat(right). I pulled the car in and did the oil change. To be totally honest, my curiosity got the better of me. I opened the glove box and found the perfect pothead glove box. You have, a blunt, some rolling papers, a baggie, and some Visine.You need Visine so people will not know your baked.(yeah right) I had to call everyone over to check it out. I am pretty sure that I got a contact high from his car. When the guy picked it up, I just smiled at him. I am pretty sure that he was stoned out of his mind. Oh, he had to still be in high school!

That does it for this week! What do you guys think? Post your thoughts in the comment section below. Also, be sure to sign up for email updates, with the new logo, I am working on some site redesign. If you are on the email list, you will be the first to find out cool stuff, plus I will be doing a give away when the new site launches. PLUS, don’t forget about the First Fifty on the forum. You really want to be part of the first 50 😉

One last thing, tomorrows Behind The Wrench is AWESOME! don’t miss it!