I see this debate come up a lot. It usually comes about when talking about the VW R32!

In 2004 Volkswagen made a VR6 AWD(all wheel drive) Golf. This car got the wheels moving with a 6sp manual transmission.To be honest, this is one of my favorite VW cars ever build. Then in 2008, Vw built another R32. This time, it was paired with an automatic transmission(DSG to be exact). The newest version of the “R” is now back to a 6sp manual transmission.

When the 2008 R32 came out, most people were complaining that the “needed” a manual transmission, and that it was a “sports car” so there was no place for an auto trans. I now see the opposite complaint. It goes “we want an automatic in the the ‘R’ “. I guess is almost impossible to please everyone. I do enjoy asking the question, Which one would you choose?

Back when I was a kid, people got manual transmissions for 4 reasons.

  1. Performance
  2. Fuel economy
  3. Cost
  4. Its what they prefer

Back then a manual trans would get much better fuel mileage. You could also count on huge savings on the purchase price. I remember about half of the cars we had where manual transmissions.

Today is a new day, the reasons that people use to buy a manual are not the same. The cost savings are almost nothing, and the fuel mileage can actually be worse. So it comes down to preference and performance. There are die hard manual trans fans. I would say that I fall in that category. I learned how to drive on a car with a manual. No one can take away someones love for driving a manual.

Then there is the performance side. For the average driver, a manual trans is just not as fast as an auto. The DSG is an automatic transmission. It shifts gears faster than you can. It is actually in the next gear before it shifts. So it you are driving in third gear, before the trans shifts out of third it has forth gear ready to go. Sorry, but we can’t shift that fast.

The auto trans of today is highly computer controlled. The cars engine computer(ECM) and transmission computer(TCM) work very hard to optimize every part of a shift. This allows the vehicle to get great fuel mileage, and still be performance minded. The newer VWs have a “sport” mode that is pretty fun. The auto trans is definitely a “set it and forget it” way to drive.

My Passat is an automatic. While I prefer a manual, it is great on road trips and in traffic. The other nice thing is my wife and I can trade cars. She does not want to drive a manual. I have taught her how, she just doesn’t want to do it. So having 2 cars with automatics is nice. She lets me drive her truck from time to time. 😉

There are other forms of automatics, the CVT and the DSG. The CVT is just awful and I don’t want to talk about it. It is a gear-less transmission. The idea is it will always be in the right spot for power and fuel economy. I had one in a rental car one time. AWFUL! Audi has it in some cars, I just hope that it stays out of my brand. DSG on the other hand I LOVE! Super fast shifts, great fuel mileage, the option to shift yourself. Ahh love it! It does have some quirks, but I think they are largely due to perception. If you think of the DSG as an automatic trans, you might not be happy with the way it shifts, or the fact that it will roll a little on a hill. If you think of it as a automatically controlled manual trans, you will understand why it acts that way.

So that brings me to the big question of the day. Which do you prefer? Does banging though the gears and playing race car suit you? Or do you like to “shift” to “D” and just ride? I think that buying that Cabby has got my brain on my true love of driving. 2 post in the same week about driving~interesting 😀


Volkswagen Jetta Seat Auto Mechanic

Hey everyone! We got some Shop Shots for ya today! Remember that all of these pictures come to you from behind the scenes of a VW dealer. These are some of the things that an auto mechanic will see from day to day. Some good, some scary, some super gross, but all of them are the real deal Okay, let’s go~

Here is a picture of a catalytic converter on a 2007 GTI. The customer had a performance exhaust installed on his car. At some point, he had an aftermarket catalytic converter welded in. That bright shiny elbow is a cheat. It is a way to trick the cars computer into thinking that the cat is functioning properly. It moves the rear oxygen sensor further away from the flow of exhaust. That reduces the amount of air it sees. This will let someone install a high flow cat, or no cat at all, and the MIL will not come on. I think some stuff like this is really cool. I like when people find a work around. Of course I officially don’t support cheating the system.

20120509-092515.jpgThis was the very first car I worked on the other morning. The customer was saying that the seat back would not adjust. He very cleverly took some bungee cords and secured a couple of pillows. To be honest, it was a pretty cool setup. I would imagine that it would be super comfortable on a road trip. One thing to consider is that an improperly adjusted seat back can be a safety issue.

If you have ever had a VW, you might have noticed that the seat back adjustment is strange. It has that knob on the side that needs to be turned. I have had lots of folks tell me the knob didn’t work. The trick is to lean forward just a little, and the seat back will move just fine. This setup is suppose to be a safer design than the lever that most cars have.

Oh, this car’s seat worked just fine. I lubed his squeaky door and sent him on his way.

20120509-092634.jpgThis is another shot from outside the shop. I was visiting a buddy who is restoring a GTI. We were in his garage having a good craft beer, and chatting about his plans for the car. I looked down and this caught my eye. How cool is it to have a 25+ year old car with that logo on it. AWESOME! Yeah, that was just a little VW nerding out on my part

20120509-092724.jpgThis picture goes along with the video below. This is a CC with about 900 miles on it. The customer slide into a curb and restored the wheel and bent the control arm. That piece should be NOT be bent like that. When you watch the video, you will see what it looks like from the outside of the car. The rumor is the guy was wasted when this happened. I have no way of confirming that!

So, you might have noticed that sweet intro on this video. A good friend of mine built that for me. I can not take any credit for it (I wish I could). This will be on all of the videos going forward. I almost peed my pants when I watched it for the first time. This dude is so damn talented!

Ok, back the video. You can see how close the tire is to the back of the wheel well. The whale noise that you are hearing is the rim scrapping the control arm(the bent part in the pic above). We were really cracking up about the damage.

Well, there you have it, another round of Shop Shots in the books. A quick Cabby update, I drove her home yesterday. She is now safe and sound in my garage. I have to swing by work today and pick up the Passat..

If you think that the intro is totally amazing, mash one of the share buttons! It will help me thank the guy that made it.

Well, it was only a matter of time before we came to Fahrvergnügen. Do you remember the ad campaign from the 90s? You know,

Its what makes a car, a Volkswagen!

I didn’t work for VW during that ad launch, but I remember it pretty well. I know that people were kinda nuts about saying it. Since the weather is getting awesome, I thought that I would take a little step back and share my “Driving Enjoyment” story.

Growing up I was not really a kid that was into cars. I mean, I loved the poster of the Ferrari Testarossa, or the Lamborghini Countach as much as any kid, but that was about it. My first car was a sweet red Jeep Wrangler. It was the super underpowered 5sp 4 cylinder, but none of that mattered. It was so much fun to drive. What could be better than 4wheel drive, AND a convertible? Not much in my mind..

Now me being me, I could not leave the Jeep how it was.(hang with me, I will get back to driving). The first thing that I did was get a CD player installed. Now this was pretty awesome for 1997. Since I ALWAYS had the top off, I needed to add some bigger sound. I got a couple of speaker boxes from Best Buy, and installed them. I had no idea how, but I figured it out. I had an amplifier installed to pump more juice to the speakers. At the time, I didn’t care about going fast, it was all about the ride.

As a teenager, there as nothing better than cruising around on the back roads with the top down, and radio pumping. I thought I was the coolest cat in town. It was those times that made me fall in love with driving. It didn’t matter if I was in a bad mood, a great mood, mad, sad, you name it. That drive seemed to cure what ailed me.

Fast forward a few years, and a couple of lame cars later, I fell back in love with driving. Ironically it was about the time I started working in the car business. When I worked at CarMax, I found the next my next car love. It was a 1997 Acura Integra GSR. The GSR looked cool, sounded awesome, and was FAST. It was far and away the fastest car I had owned, and my love of driving was renewed. Much like the Jeep, it was windows down, radio blaring, just enjoying the ride. Well, I sold that Integra in an adult decision. I needed to ditch the car payment to go to tech school. It was a sad day to see her go. I learned a lot about installing car stereos on that car. It was the first car I really hooked up, the right way.

Since then I have had some cool cars. My Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX was cool. I had an Acura CL Type-S for a while that was nice, but nothing like the GSR and the Jeep. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Passat. I have had it longer than any other car I have ever owned. The Fahrvergnügen is there, but not like it was.

You know its funny, I talk to people that say “I hate driving”. I like of all the really awesome times that I have been behind the wheel. It bums me out that they don’t share that same love of driving that I do. Now don’t get me wrong, I HATE sitting in traffic and I hate driving in snow. Short of that, I am all about the drive. Let me also be clear, NOT the ride. I don’t make a very good passenger. I am sure that my wife would be more than happy to tell you all about it. 😀

Be sure to subscribe to the  Humble Mechanic YouTube channel. The videos will coming more often. The Cabriolet will be coming home on Tuesday(I hope). I can’t wait to start working on it. There will be lots-o-videos to see. Don’t miss them.

If you have ever caught the Fahrvergnügen consider sharing the love, by sharing this post. Share this post by clicking your favorite icon.

I think that it is important to take a step back and cover the basics. I get caught up in a very technical world, with people that know the terms I use. I don’t want anyone to feel like what I am saying is over their head. So today I will give you guys some really common terms your auto mechanic might use. You might not need to understand how these things work, but knowing the terms will can help you make better choices with your car.

Engine block

This is the lower part of the base engine. It houses the pistons, and the crankshaft. It may also have other parts like an oil pump, a water pump, and maybe a balance shaft. Some folks also call this the “Bottom End”. It is generally referred to that way when talking about noises. On older engines, the block may have also contained the cam shaft. I say older, but the 3.8L Routan still has the cam in the block.

Cylinder Head

This is the upper part of the base engine. It can contain the cam shafts, valves, rockers(not the music kind). Most newer model cars have an adjuster in the cylinder head that can change the cam shaft timing. Don’t worry about that just yet, we will get there.

Crank shaft

Located in the engine block, this hunk of metal moves the pistons. It takes a rotating motion and converts it to an up and down motion. At one end, the trans mission bolts the the crank shaft, the other end generally drives the serpentine belt.

Cam Shaft

The cam shaft is also responsible from turning a rotational motion in to an up and down motion. The cam will rotate causing valves to open or close. This is what allows air to enter the engine, and forces air out of the engine.

Timing Belt

This is the belt, or chain, is what connects the CRANK SHAFT to the CAM SHAFT. One of the most important parts of an engine. If the timing belt is not “TIMED” properly, you will get pistons and valves in the wrong place, and the wrong time. Usually resulting in internal engine damage.

Serpentine Belt

This is also called an accessory belt, or belts. This belt is what drives the vehicles accessories. Things like the alternator, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, and (if you are luck) a super charger. If this belt breaks, it most likely wont do internal engine damage, but it can leave you stranded.

Water Pump

Like many things on cars, this does what its name says it does. It pumps water, well actually, coolant. The water pump pushes water through the engine and pulls heat from it. When it hits the radiator, it exchanges the heat with and cools down. Then back to the engine to start over


Going along with the water pump, the thermostat helps regulate engine temperature. It will “hold” coolant from flowing to the radiator. It does this to heat the car up. It would take forever to get your car to operating temperature with out a thermostat.


Located in the very front of your car, the radiator is a big heat exchanger. The hot coolant that flows through it, is cooled by air passing by it. Air is directed through the radiator and pulls the heat away from the coolant.

Heater Core

This is almost the same as a radiator. The only difference is the location. This is located inside the vehicle. Air is blown across the heater core, but instead of flowing into the engine bay, it flows into the cars cabin. The heat pulled from the heater core heats the air and is then directed into the cabin. The heater core is the reason you can stay toasty warm in the winter time.

Brake Booster

We have talked about brakes before, but I don’t think I have talked about the booster. The booster assists the driver in pressing the brake pedal. With out a booster, it would take tons of force applied to the brake to make the car stop. Well maybe not actual tons, but descriptive tons. It works by using engine vacuum to pull a diaphragm. and spring set. This set will provide the assistance you need to help press the brake pedal. You can feel the assist by doing this.

  • Stop your car, then shut it off
  • Press the brake down, you will still feel the assist.
  • Press the brake a few more times, you will notice the pedal getting harder to push.
  • After about 4 times of pressing the pedal, it feel hard as a rock. THAT is what no assist would feel like.

There are so many dang systems on cars that it will take a while to talk about them all. Some parts are easy to explain by writing them. Some just don’t make sense that way. I am trying to build a collection of parts so I can show you guys what the look like. Much like the video I did about a Volkswagen Clock Spring. If you have a car part that you want to know about, post it in the comments. The parts I can’t show you how they work are things like Airbags, ECMs, and other “magical” things. 😉

Also, sign up for the email list. You will get updates about new posts before anyone else! VW is dragging their feet on something, but as soon as they get on the ball, I will have something special for everyone, but the folks on “the list” will get 1st dibs.

If you liked this post, please consider sharing it. It is really easy, just click one of the buttons below.

Auto Mechanic Project Cabriolet

Well, as promised, I shot a video of the Cabby last night. After work last night I spent a few hours replacing the clutch. I will dedicate a post solely to that soon. Lets just say it was toast!

As you can see, I have some BIG TIME work a head of me. That is the fun part about the project right? I will say that the car is in pretty darn good condition.

After I test drove it, I found it would not stay running. A vacuum hose came off on the front side of the engine. I fixed that. Then I found the distributor cap and rotor were worn out. I got those coming along with some new spark plugs.

Well, what do you think? In over my head? I would love to know.;) I hope you all have an awesome weekend. I have some pics of the damaged clutch and some before and afters for everyone. I will post them asap.

If you knew that my first car was red, click one of the buttons below. BTW my first car was red.

Humble Mechanic Logo

Yep! I said it, you should never ever trust a dealership. If I could tally the number of times that I have read that statement, it would easily be in the 300+ range. Then a statement comes along that just makes me nuts. It goes something like this

I dont trust dealers at all. I am not saying they are all bad and I am sure there are good ones with excellent techs. I have my reasons for why I despise them more than anything. Remember this they are in business to make money and the service department and used cars are where they make the most. It is no coincidence that those are the 2 that get the worst reputation.

I am not really picking on the guy that posted it, because he seems to be thoughtful of dealers. There ARE good techs and dealers. I know mine is not perfect, but we do a pretty good job, and have a lot of techs that are TOP notch dudes. But it is this part, that leaves me shaking my head.

Remember this they are in business to make money and the service department and used cars are where they make the most. It is no coincidence that those are the 2 that get the worst reputation.

I have a question for everyone, “What business is NOT in it to make money?” I don’t get up and go to work everyday because I love being at work. I do it because I love ~THE WORK~. Let’s be real though, would you get up and do what you do EXACTLY how you do it if you were not getting paid? Odds are you would not. Now I would totally work on cars if I was not getting paid. I enjoy it. But I would not go to work for someone else, for free.

The argument will never end.Customers say dealers will rip you off. Dealers say, customers don’t take care of their cars. The DIYers say they do it cheaper themselves. Folks, here is a news flash. THEY ARE ALL RIGHT, and THEY ARE ALL WRONG! It totally just depends. There ARE dealers and indy shops that will rob you blind. There are customers that will lie straight to my face. I am actually dealing with that right now. The DIYer will come in and whine about how much I will be ripping him off, before I ever look at the car!(<~That one infuriates me)

I think it is easy to get caught up in thinking you will always get ripped off at the dealer. There are bad techs out there. I am willing to bet that everyone knows someone that has felt ripped off. Heck, I have seen it happen! People forget that we have to buy stuff and pay for services too. You don’t want to get ripped off by me, anymore than I want to be ripped off by a plumber, or a lawyer. So what is the solution, consider this list

  • Ask why! Why do I need this repair? What will happen if I don’t do it? Is there another way?
  • Keep great records. Unless you only take it to 1 place make sure you have all the repair/maintenance records. It will prevent you doing a job twice
  • Ask to see what they are trying to sell you! You might not know what it is, but if you see it and have them explain it, you will be better informed.
  • Be informed. Just because you might not understand how a turbocharger works, doesn’t mean you can’t!
  • Get a second opinion. If you are not sure, have someone else QUALIFIED check it out for you.
  • Don’t be CHEAP! At some point, we all will have to pay for a car repair(yes even me). Understanding that things will break makes it easier to deal with.

You know, this post started out as me poking fun at the whole “you will get screwed by the dealer” mentality. It kinda took a weird turn there at the end. I am not really sure what happened. Meh, its cool, I hope that you guys can use some of the tips listed above. The “Bad day for a Mechanic” car is fixed. It was a bad ECM(engine computer). That is the one I think that I am dealing with a customer that is lying to me.

Cabby update: I will be putting a new clutch in tonight. I will get some video for you guys so you can really see what I am working with. Look for the full update tomorrow.

I triple dog dare you to share this. What are ya, chicken? 😉

Volkswagen Beetle Sticker

Ah Shop Shots, some of my favorite posts are the pictures from the auto shop. Ok, no messing around, lets DO THIS!

VW Jetta TDI PictureIf you look close, you can see that the BACK of the car is covered in bug guts. Yep, this brand new car has been traveling at high speeds in reverse. Well, kinda. It just came off the shipping truck. Someone had to back the car onto the TOP level of a shipping truck. That is NUTS to think that someone backed the car onto the truck. I would have a panic attack trying to do that. Now, this is not really a life changing picture, but I swear I crack up every time I see it. Like EVERY time. 😀

Volkswagen Beetle StickerHAHAHAHA. WTH?? I am laughing about this still! See I take pictures almost every day. I don’t always use the pictures the same week I take them. I found this one again today. Why the heck do people put this on their car? Do they get paid for it? Are just really be fans of “$weep$take$”? You have actually seen the other side of this Beetle before. It is the wrecked Beetle I posted a few weeks ago. If anyone knows why people do this, please post it in the comments.

Tiguan Water LeakI have talked about Volkswagen water leaks in other posts. Here is a Tiguan that had a slight leak. This actually belongs to a buddy of mine. We had been trying to get his car in to be checked. Finally we got the leak fixed. I pulled the carpet up to dry it. I think it came out great. A little shampoo, a little scrubbing, and a lot of fan, the car dried up nicely. If you ever find water on the carpet of your car, understand that the water is probably deeper than you think. The carpet on most VWs sits about 1.5 inches above the body. That means there can be a ton of water standing before it is at the carpet level. If you find you have water, get the carpet pulled and dried. A shop vac will not do the trick.

Pig Volkswagen BeetleI think this goes in the “What the heck were they thinking” file. Then again, I bet my Cabriolet does too. 😉 This was sent to me by Steve in Chicago. Thanks Steve! I can’t really comment on what, of why someone did this. I have be be honest, it looks like they put some time into it.. The detail is pretty good. I am sure that Jim LOVES his little pig. HAHA!

Ok, this video is AWESOME! What you are looking at here is called the Leak Detection Pump(LDP). This pump is part of the Evaporative Emissions system on your car. This system controls fuel vapors from your car. Whether it is when your car is being filled with gas, or that hot summer day, it will control the amount of vapors released in the atmosphere. The pump pressurizes your fuel system to check for leaks. When the system fails, your Check Engine Light comes on.

This car came in with a check engine light on. I did a “smoke test” on the system. Basically I charge the system with nitrogen, and add a chemical that smokes. When I unplugged the electrical connector for the LDP, this is what happened. I have seen it before, and I always like to watch it.

Well, another week of Shop Shots is done. There is one more thing that I want to say to everyone. This post is my 100th post. I want to tell each and every one of you THANK YOU! I truly appreciate the fact that you take time out of your day to visit the blog, read the posts, comment and so on. I just cant say THANK YOU enough. Thank you to all everyone that likes the facebook page, or follow on twitter. I appreciate every “share” every “retweet” especially the one that said, “check out this VW blog, sans skinny jeans”. That one might be the funniest.  I feel really lucky to get to know all of you and I am really looking forward to the next 100,300,500,1000, and beyond! I hope that you enjoy the site,and get a good laugh all while learning some things about cars.. Seriously, THANK YOU ALL!!!!

I don’t need to say it, you know what to do. 😉