Humble Mechanic Tool Box

After Tuesday’s post, I feel like I left a black cloud hanging out there. It is so dang easy to focus on the negative parts of the this industry. We often lose sight of some of the awesome parts. So today, I want to talk about some of the awesome things about being a mechanic. Fair warning, this might be some random thoughts straight from my brain. That usually lets folks see who A.D.D. and scatter brained I can be. Hold on tight 😀

While may of us mechanics get overwhelmed about the amount we need to know, we forget how much we really do know. It does far beyond just engines and transmissions. It it little stuff, like VW moved the side turn signals to the mirror for the 2004 and 2005 Passat. Strange right? Or the password to recode instrument clusters on MK4 cars was 13864. Don’t worry, I am not giving away and top secret info/ 🙂 How about that fact that lug bolts and oil drain plugs are the same size and thread pitch.

Mechanical Mind
Being a mechanic really hones the mechanical mind. Putting a car back together days after you take it apart is REALLY hard. The years of seeing how parts fit, and don’t fit, give mechanics a get eye for fitment. Being able to fit parts together is something that ALL mechanics get good at. It might be as simple as turning the wrench around to access a bolt.

Funny story~ One of the guys in the shop was taking off a fuel sensor. I walked over just to see what he was doing. He looked kinda frustrated. He told me that he could not get the wrench on the sensor. This is a job that he had done before, so it was not a matter of know how. I laughed and said, “Hey man, turn the wrench around”. He looked at me and said “WOW, I am dumb”. He turned the wrench around and took the sensor off. We both had a good laugh at him..

Side Work
One thing that can be both awesome and awful about being a mechanic is side work. We mechanics have lots of tools(more on that in a minute). That means that we can do work outside of the shop. It can be a pretty good gig from some people. Get paid in cash, enjoy a beer while you work, not be really pressed for time. It can be a good way to make a couple of extra bucks.

The bad side is, your non mechanic friends will want you to “hook them up” on getting their car fixed. It can be frustrating at times. I don’t really do side work. For one, I just don’t have time. Also, it is not really worth it for me. The liability is really high. I will help my friends out when they need it, but that is usually a good time. I know a few guys that make tons of money doing side work. Just another perk of the job.

Now we are talking! I LOVE tools. Spending time on the tool truck shopping is my favorite part of Friday. Yeah to some spending $400+ on a set of wrenches, or $250 on 1 ratchet my seem crazy. To me it is great. One of the coolest things is finding a tool that will cut the time of a job in half. That tool will pay for itself in not time! This also means I can work on a project car at home. I just load up my tool bag and bring what I need home.

You need a 5.5mm socket, I got it. 1/4in drive stubby 5mm Allen with a ball end, YEP! A 36in pry bar, Oh YEAH! Part of me really thinks that the love of tools is why guys and gals become mechanics. Can you blame them?

RESPECT, Trust, and Appreciation
Most of the time when you hear “auto mechanic” and “respect” together it is negative. You can make a really good case that people tend to not respect and appreciate this profession. But let me tell you something. ANY and I really mean ANY time someone asks a mechanic for advise, it is because they respect you! When a customer hands their keys over for me to work on their car, they trust me to do the right thing. When someone says “Charles, should I make this repair?” or “Do you think my car is worth fixing” THAT my friends means so much to me.

It means that customer trusts me to help them make a choice. A choice that can affect them for the next 5 years or more. Remember, a car is the 2nd biggest purchase most people make. When someone is asking me for help. I take that to heart.

Your customers, coworkers, and boss will not tell you everyday how much they respect what you do. But trust me kids, they do! Understand that a mechanic is the MOST valuable person in a dealership or repair shop. Think of how much money my dealer has spent on training me and the boys that I work with. The average cost of one training class is around $700. That is for each mechanic, at least once a year. That is no joke, and not an amount to sneeze at. That training is NOT just for the customers. It is NOT just so the dealer can say “We have factory trained technicians”. It is a perk of the job. If a mechanic leaves a dealership, they take all that knowledge with them. Tell me how that is not AWESOME!

See, being a mechanic ain’t all bad. 😉 I know my job isn’t perfect, but it is a heck of a lot better than some jobs. Did I miss any perks of the job? Oh, I did, sometimes customers bring cookies,or the really rare(and my favorite) a nice craft beer or home brew. Ok, now did I miss any perks of the job?

If you think that being a mechanic is awesome, go ahead and share this post. It means a lot to me when you do.

Coolant mixing Shop Shots Auto Mechanic


Hey everyone!

First let me say that I am sorry for Shop Shots being so late today. I got hung up at work longer than I expected. It’s okay because I got some really awesome auto mechanic pictures for you guys today. Enough of my yapping, lets get to it!


GROSS! What you are looking at here is the coolant bottle of a VW Beetle. If this fluid was in good condition, it would be a nice bright pink color. As you can see here it is brown and chunky. I posted this to Facebook the other day. The comments were awesome.

Jennifer~someone poured a frappacino inside their car?
Suzanne~ Stop leak didn’t work
Stefanie~Are you brewing beer or fixing a VDub? I can’t tell!(<~ my favorite)
Jeremy~someone vomited in their coolant reservoir( <~funniest)

Joe, Chris, Alex, and Brandon all got it right! This is the result of a failed transmission cooler. In order to keep automatic transmission fluid cool, they have a cooler. This will circulate engine coolant through something like a little radiator. Normally, the coolant and transmission fluid does not mix. A failed seal in the cooler caused transmission fluid to be pumped into the coolant. I will be repairing this on Friday. I will tell you guys the super high tech secret way to fix this problem next week. HINT: think Dawn 😉


Okay, this one might be a little harder to see. Take note of all the “rust” around the battery. What causes rust class? That’s right WATER! This is the battery of a Mini. The Mini’s battery is located in the trunk where most cars have the spare tire. Due to a water leak, the battery compartment had about 4 inches of water in it. Now, I am not sure who long the battery was under water, but it did make the car not start. If you look just to the right of the big red square you can just barely see a yellow box. The yellow box has some type of fuse assembly inside. The assembly is totally rusted. I am not sure how much of the cables, and fuses will need to be replaced. My guess is this repair will not be cheap. Oh, this was on our used car lot. We don’t service those cars.

Funny story about a Mini. The very first one I worked on was about 6 years ago. It took be 30 minutes to find the hood release. I had to bust out the owners manual. HAHA, what type of mechanic has to read an owners manual to figure out how to open the hood??  Turns out, that Mini’s hood release is on the passenger side! HAHA


Remember a while back when we talked about Cam Shafts? Well, here is a close up of a cam shaft. The 4 lumps you are looking at are called lobes. They basically turn a rotation into an up and down motion. Ultimately, they open the valves and let air into and out of the engine. But for this picture, look at the lobe on the left. Now, check out the lobe all the way on the right. They should be the same. Now look back at the left lobe. See how there is a “U” shape that was cut into the lobe. This made a heck of a noise. Ok, now check out the next picture.


No, you have not traveled back in time. Those are push rods. 😉 This picture goes along with the one of the cam shaft above. The long tubes are push rods. The fat tube with the wheel on the bottom is a lifter. All those little metal rods are part of a bearing set. The lifter somehow got stuck. That is what caused the cam shaft above to be damaged.

I made a little joke about traveling back in time. This type of engine design is REALLY old. VW have not used it in, well I am not really sure. This engine is from a 2009 VW Routan. AKA a Chrysler Town and Country. So does it count as a VW. I guess technically, but to me, it is NO VW! 🙂

Well, that wraps up this weeks auto mechanic pictures. We had some really messed up stuff this week. Hopefully next week I can post some more fun pictures. 🙂

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Humble Mechanic Logo

I had found this little story a while back. I would like you all to read it, and then we can talk about.

I’m a journeyman technician
In an Automotive shop
I’m supposed to know the answers
From the bottom to the top

I should diagnose the problem
With just a single look,
And if I fail to fix it,
You think I’m a crook

When I charge you for my labor
You bitch and scream and moan,
And even call and threaten me
Upon the telephone

But technology in the auto
is advancing every year,
And for the systems I must know
I simply have no peer

I must be more electrician
Than the man who wires your home,
For the wiring system in your car
Outstrips the Astrodome

Then refrigeration systems
That I’m supposed to know
Have more gadgets than your home
To make the damn thing go

Electronics now have made the scene
And more are coming yet
Some models now will far exceed
Your television set

In hydraulics I have more to learn
Than a specialist in pumps
There’s brakes and shock absorbers
to help absorb the bumps

Torque converters and transmissions
With servos, valves and gears,
with models by the hundreds
Introduced in recent years

Fuel systems of a hundred kinds
I must adjust and meter
Each far more complicated
Than your furnace or water heater

The principles of combustion
I must know from A to Z
And gear trains that will far exceed
Most all machinery

I’m in welding, I’m in plumbing
For water, vacuum, oil and fuel
Compared to me, a plumber
Is a kid in grammar school

There’s alignment and there’s balancing
And God alone knows what
If I fix it, thats expected
If I don’t, I’m on the spot

There’s models, makes and systems
Some seven hundred strong
And new ones coming up each year
To help the scheme along

Now compare me to the Doctor
Whose prices make mine meager,
Yet folks revere his expertise
Ever more impressed and eager

The human body hasn’t changed
In twenty thousand years,
And every model works the same
from the ankles to the ears

There’s years of school to learn his field
And almost none in mine
I’ve learned by practicing my trade
And I read what I can find

There’s new equipment and techniques
And medicines for sure
But this is true in my field, too
As much, or even more

There’s lots of books he has to read
His procedures to define,
But for every page in his field
There’s twenty-five in mine

There’s no comebacks and no warranty
You pay for what you get,
And then come back and pay again
If he hasn’t fixed it yet

His mistakes are often buried
While mine come back for free
And he plays golf on Wednesday
While my customers hassle me

We spend millions of tax dollars
Sending kids to medical school,
But if you ask for some in my field
You’re treated like a fool

Everybody has just one body,
But not one has more
But when it comes to autos
You may have three or four

But you’ll go right on complaining
Of the way I run my show
With no appreciation
For the things I have to know

And you’ll take your high school dropout
And you’ll shove them off to us
And expect them to be experts
While you rant and rave and fuss

And when your car cannot be serviced
I’ll not hang my head in shame
So you’d best wake up America
And find out who’s to blame

Author Unknown

I forget where I found this, but I find it very interesting. Some of the lines are spot on. We ARE expected to know everything. Something that is just not possible. Even in a dealership setting, we can’t know every feature of every car. We ARE expected to be 100% right, 100% of the time. While some of us are right a lot we get it wrong too.

The comparison to doctors is one that people in the industry make all the time.While I think the story does paint a good picture, lets face it, doctors are REALLY REALLY important. My job is not with out risk to my customers. If a brake job goes bad, someone can get hurt.

I also think that it points out some of the things we do that most customers don’t know. Like how many systems a car really has, and how they all must work happy together. The tool and equipment required to fix car.

Let’s open the floor for some good conversation about this story. Are mechanics (blue collar workers) really as bad as they are made out to be? Do they think they are more important than they really are?

If you have never shared any of the post, please consider this one. It will make for great discussion.

Removing Sound Dampener VW


I was having some technical issues Friday so this post had to hold off until today.

I got a Cabriolet update for you! My plan is to start with getting the interior all nice and pretty. Then I will move on to brakes, then suspension. After all that is complete, I should have the power plant and paint finalized(hopefully 😉 )

So today I am testing a method to remove the factory sound dampener from the car. I want to make sure there is no rust on the inside before moving forward. The heat method is the best way that I have found so far. I have heard that Dry Ice also works well. I will test that for you and we can all see the proof.

After all the sound dampener is gone, I will treat the floor with a paint treatment that will stop rust. Then I can put down some better quality stuff to help keep road noise and heat down..

Here are a couple of before and after shots.

I will also be ordering carpet this week. The best I have found comes out of the UK. It is a little more expensive, but it is already cut for the seats and the shifter. If I buy the stuff from the US, I will have to cut all the holes. The carpet basically comes as one giant “stamp”. I would have to tailor it to the car. 🙁


Removing Sound Dampener VW

Hey folks!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will not be able to post today’s post until I get home. I shot a video last night about the Cabby and showed a cool trick to remove the sound dampener. Well, the video did not upload to YouTube like it said it did. GRR!

I will be sure to let you all know when the video is live. Sorry about that. It seems that my phone memory is full and it wont do certain things. Looks like my next phone will have to be the 32gb IPhone.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the progress. You will have to watch the video to see how I did it, and final results.

Removing Sound Dampener VW

This is basically what it looked like when I started. This is the front of the drivers side.

Removing Sound Dampener VW

This is ALL the sound dampener broken up from the body of the car.

It is no secret that VW has a huge share of the diesel market for passenger cars. As we push for better and better fuel mileage, I have seen TDIs become much more common. It is not just “those diesel people” anymore. With the expanded range of customers that are now in our TDIs, we see issues that we never seen before.

The TDI that was in the 2002 Jetta was a GREAT engine. We refer to is as the “ALH”. That is the code that VW uses to identify that engine. If a customer were to mis-fuel that engine the repair was simple.

  1. Pump out the gas(it’s a diesel remember)
  2. Change the fuel filter
  3. Add fresh diesel fuel
  4. purge and gas left
  5. Drive home happy

I have only seen 1 “ALH” that was mis-fueled. BTW, if this happens to you, and there is damage, don’t blame me. Just Sayin

Enter the next generation TDIs. Here is where we get more customers buying diesels. Now we have the average driver buying TDIs, not just the TDI folks that usually are INSANE about their cars. I use the word insane in a positive way. 😉

This is when I started to see more and more cars that were filled with GAS, instead of diesel. The Pumpe Duse engine was still mostly forgiving when it came to mis-fuel. The car would just stop running. The repair was very similar to the “ALH”, just something we did more often.

In 2009 we got the “Common Rail”. A highly advanced very complicated TDI setup. The high power, and great fuel mileage were a huge draw. Especially since we had just seen gas prices over $4 for the first time ever. With improved sales came more mis-fuel issues. Unlike the last two generations, this TDI is not forgiving what so ever. When someone puts gas in the Common Rail (CR for short), all that is takes is cranking the engine to do damage.

If the car is started, usually it will be driven until it stops running. What that means is gas is in the entire fuel system. Due to diesel and gas having totally different lubrication properties, this makes the fuel pumps fussy. They start doing bad things like coming apart on the inside, and spraying metal throughout the fuel system. The resulting repair is fuel system replacement. Every part that fuel touches gets replaced, from fuel take to fuel injector! This repair costs about $7800 for parts and labor. OUCH!


Not really a fun time for anyone is it? This is one of the reasons that I am not ALL IN on diesel. I don’t trust myself to properly fill the car. I love the technology, but you MUST be the right person for it.

It does bring up a really good question. Is this the fault of VW, the customer, or the company that made the parts? Yes if you put gas in your car it’s YOUR fault. BUT, shouldn’t the parts be designed with some type of fail safe? Should the fill neck be different so you CAN’T mis-fuel?

~To prevent anyone from ever mis-fueling a car again, just share this post.(ok, that wont happen, but it might be a ‘Humble’ reminder 😉

Line of Volkswagens

I want to theme this weeks Shop Shots. Since I was at training last week, I thought I would post some pictures of the training center, and some cool pictures I shot while I was at mechanic training. Years ago, the training center had a ton of cool cut away parts, but they seem to be long gone.

Volkswagen Mechanic Training Engine RoomIn the back of the training center they have a storage room with all the training aids. Here are some of the engines that VW mechanics use to learn the ropes. That thing in the middle of the picture(blue and grey) is the engine lift table. We use that to remove engines and transmissions for Touaregs and Phaetons. I can’t identify all of the engines, but I spy a few VR6s

Old School VW mechanic equipmentHere is some old school VW diagnostic equipment. The VAG 1551. It was built solely to talk to cars. Nothing fancy or crazy. The good thing about it was how fast it was. The bad thing, you had to remember everything. There was no built in repair information, no tests, just values. I was only able to use one briefly in training. I am sure the guys that have been around a long time really miss this scan tool. Right now, it is obsolete. Looking at it, it looks like that robot from the movie “Short Circuit”. HA

VAS 6150 VW scan toolFast forward to today, here is the newest scan tool. This is a VAS 6150. All of the functions are windows based. This scan tool communicates with the car via a blue tooth. This is a much slower scan tool, but the information that it contains is far superior to the VAG 1551. I will say that the blue tooth communication is really cool. Yeah, until someone leaves the connector in a car.. To give you some prospective, this is about $6000 worth of test equipment.

VW mechanic training center Here is a shot of one half of the training center. There is another room just like it next door. As you can see there is a shop, and a place for lecture. It is usually filled with the newest VWs on the road. I was actually in the class next door. I have spent many many hours training in the room. There is usually a good mix of techs in each class. Some of the classes get only top level guys. They are the ones that I find the best. When you have a class full of mid-level techs, they like to try and out do each other with stories. Each will tell a story about how awesome they are, the next will have to out do it. It is actually pretty funny. I think you have to have a bit of an ego to do this job. 😉

Line of Volkswagens

I know, this is not really a SHOP, but it kinda is. I took this pictures when I got home after training. The crazy looking car at the front is the Cabby. Next in line is my Passat, and last is the VW Tiguan that I drove. I liked the Tiguan more this time than the last. I also averaged 30.2mpg! I think that was pretty awesome considering the traffic I sat in. All in all a good trip!

Well, that wraps up another volume of Shop Shots. Any questions about this week’s pictures? To be sure you never miss an update, be sure to click the subscribe button on the upper left of this page. You will get update before everyone else! Also, I did a little pro quality shoot with a really great photographer last night. As soon as I get the pictures I will post them for everyone(another reason to subscribe to the site, just sayin 😉 )

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