Hey everyone! Today I want to share some tips on preparing your car for a road trip. My wife and I are taking a road trip soon, so this is perfect timing.

What I really want to get into today is, things we should do about 2 weeks before a big road trip. What is a big road trip? Well for us it will be driving a little over 2000 miles in 4 days. That is a lot of time on the road, so I want to be sure that my car is

  • Up to date on all the maintenance
  • Functioning properly
  • Safe
  • Clean


This one is pretty easy. About 2 weeks before your trip, make sure your car is 100% up to date on all the maintenance. That might mean you are a little early for an oil change, but it is better than being 1000 miles past due.

This is a time where taking your car to the dealer is going to be the best choice. Dealer mechanics see all the common issues with your car. They know to look for leaks in certain spots. Spots that a Jiffy Change place might not. For those of you that “hate” taking your car to the dealer. I would really consider it before a long road trip.

Taking your car in a couple of weeks before your trip will give you time to make any repairs your car will need. It will allow plenty of time for your mechanic to order parts. It will also give you a day or so to really consider the repair. You can use the tips listed in “How to tell if a mechanic is ripping you off“. I would really recommend getting the following services done.

  • Oil and filter change
  • Tires rotated and balanced, this will also give a mechanic a chance to look for strange tire wear or nails, screw ect.
  • Not a MUST, but really consider a 4 wheel alignment. That slight pull is not a big deal around town, but imagine 12 hours dealing with it.
  • Cabin air filter, you will be in the car a long time. You don’t want to A/C to be smelly
  • Top off ALL fluids
  • Replace windshield wipers
  • Full inspection of car for leaks, and any other maintenance issues like brakes and belts.

Again, doing these things about 2 weeks before the trip will give you time. If you are a DIYer make sure you do a full inspection too.

Is Everything Working?

Now is the time to make sure everything works. Go ahead and push all the buttons. Make sure things like your windshield washer sprayers work. Do a walk around and inspect your lights. You don’t want to get pulled over in the middle of the night, in another state for having a light out do you?

This is also the time to break out the tool kit that came with the car. Make sure your jack works, and that you have all the items needed to change a tire. DON’T FORGET THE WHEEL LOCK!

If you are planning on using a GPS, a power inverter, a phone charger make sure they work. I would consider getting a backup phone charger in case one stops working. You will be relying on these during your trip make sure they work. Also check and make sure all your 12v outlets work. You can have 100 chargers, but with something to plug them into they are worthless.

Safety Check

This is something you do with out even knowing. This time I want to make sure you are knowingly checking. Look at all the things like your seat belts, air bags, brake system(again) light(again). For me, part of my drive will be through the mountains. I need to make sure my car is 100% safe.

Also when it comes to safety, make sure your first aid kit to good to go. I would take it out of the car, and inventory it. Be sure that nothing is expired, or ruined by heat/cold. Or that something didn’t spill inside the kit. If you don’t have a first aid kit, check out “Building a vehicle first aid kit“.

I would also take the tool kit you built out and make sure everything is cool! If you carry a “bug out bag” or a “get home bag” I would do the same with that bag.

Remember, this is just part 1 of the series on prepping your car for a road trip. We will get into more things you need to do to prep your car in part 2 and maybe part 3.

Is there any rituals you guys have for road trips? Other than hitting the road at 3am I don’t think I do. Well that an obsessing about the trip for weeks. But that is just me!

Don’t forget Shop Shots tomorrow. If you want your car featured in the Reads Rides section, email me a couple of pictures and some detail about your car. Send them to Charles(at)HumbleMechanic(dot)com Put something like READERS RIDES in the subject so It doesn’t get filtered into spam.

Selling a car

This post is for showing the parts that I have for sale. I recently picked up a 1998 Volkswagen Jetta. I bought this car for the engine. The VR6 will be swapped into my Cabby, project Luv A Dub.

The Jetta is pretty much a piece of junk. There are some parts that are in really good shape. I want to sell as much of this Jetta as I can before I scrap the car. Here are some of the parts I have for sale. If you don’t see something you are interested in, please post in the comments what you are looking for. Just remember that I will be using the engine and all the parts needed for the swap.

I do have more parts, please just ask if you have something you need. The part prices will not include shipping and packaging. Feel free to make me an offer on parts!



Mk3 VR6Jetta Auto Mechanic

As you all know, I have been working on a 1988 VW Cabriolet called Project Luv A Dub. When you are working with a car that is 25 years old parts can be tough or expensive to come by. So instead of hunting down things part by part, I was looking for a donor car.

I had planned on changing engines in the Cabby from day one. There are endless possibilities when it comes to swapping engine in that model VW. the only limiting factory is how much I want to pay. If budget were no obstacle, I would be putting the 1.4t fsi that is coming in the new hybrid Jetta. Since I am not rich I need a realistic swap. I figured I would just let the universe decide. When the right car came along, I would just use that engine and transmission.

I finally found the car. A 1998 Jetta with a VR6 engine. The add on Craigslist said it needed a head gasket. That is not something very common on any VW. I called the guy and we worked out a time to meet. He said he had another guy coming to look at it, but he would be willing to meet me too. This is were the story gets strange. So bare with me as you hear the tail of the VR~

The seller and I worked out a deal. I would pay him a few bucks more for him to meet me at a VW dealer. I know the service manager at a VW store one town over. We agreed to meet there. The seller called me around noon on Saturday. He told me the other guy was going to give him $300 more than I was, and he would not have to drive to meet the other guy.

This was an obvious attempt to get some more money out of me. Me being the guy I am, plus having watched Shark Tank the night before, I don’t play games like that. I told him to take the other guy’s offer, but call me if it fell through. Would you believe that the other deal fell through? Big shock right? The seller called me back and said that he wanted to sell me the car. Then he started freaking out telling me that I needed to promise to buy his car. A car a had not seen at this point.

I told him I would not do that. If he wanted to meet me he could, just like we agreed. He insisted on me meeting him at his house. Not being an idiot, I told him no, and that I was not interested in the car anymore.

Thinking that the whole thing was done, I get a call from the guy a few hours later. He tells me he will meet me where ever I want, he needs to sell the car. At this point I am not really interested in driving across town. The seller says the car will make it to my dealer and that he will meet me there. You might be shocked, but the car would not make it almost 50 miles with a bad gasket.

He calls me telling me that he will have to have the car towed. Again, I am not really thrilled with the buying this car, but its a pretty good deal. The seller show up an hour later than he said. First thing I notice, it is an AUTOMATIC! I asked the guy several times if it was a manual. So it seems he didn’t know the difference. We have some back and forth, and I tell him I don’t want the car.

At this point, he is begging me to buy it. What a change of events from trying to get more money from me. I tell him that I am only interested in the car for about $500. Surprisingly, he agrees and we make the deal. After some tax drama, and waiting I finally sign the title and the Jetta is now mine.

What a stressful ordeal over a few hundred dollars. My plan with the car is, take the parts I need for the cabby. Then part out the left over good parts. After that happens I will just send the Jetta to the crusher. I hate to see a VW go to the crusher, but it is a fitting end to a Jetta that has seen better days.

Next up, find a transmission for the car. I think I got that locked down. 🙂

Selling a car

It’s Friday! I hope you all had a great week! Today I wanted to give everyone some pointers for selling a car.

For most of us the day will come when we want a new car. When that day comes we have a few choices for dealing with the old car.

  • Trade it in to the place we buy our new car
  • Sell it to a private party
  • Pass it down to a friend or family member
  • Donate to a charity for a tax right off
  • Give it to Charles for the Humble Mechanic site 😉

I really want to talk about the selling it to a private party. When you trade your car in at a dealer, they are not as concerned about how clean it is. They can look beyond the dirt and evaluate the car. With in reason that is. So let’s get into some ways to get the most money when selling your car.

Up To Date On Common Maintenance
Having the basic maintenance up to date is an easy way to stand out. Things like

  • Oil and filter changed
  • Air filter
  • New wiper blades
  • Tire pressure set properly
  • Battery tested (replaced if needed)
  • All the fluids topped off

Other than the battery, the rest is REALLY cheap. I would also recommend keeping all the receipts for any maintenance and repairs you do. Now, that does not mean I will spend $3,000 getting maintenance done if it would not translate to selling the car for $3,000 more. That is silly!

Push Some Buttons
If you are like me, you might use all the features of your car. I can’t tell you the last time that I locked the doors from the button on the rear door. Or plugged something into the 12v outlet in the back. Take a few minutes to push every switch and button in your car. I am not suggesting that you fix everything, but telling people something is wrong is much easier than stumbling for an answer when they find a problem. Good luck convincing them “you didn’t know”.

Enlist A Friend
You are in your car all the time. Because of that, your car might have issues that you don’t see anymore. It could be a small scratch that has been there for years, or that little chip in the windshield. Grab a friend and have them look at your car as if they were going to buy it.

Make It Not Belong To You
Just like when you are selling your house, you don’t want the buyer feeling like it is your car. You want them to think it is theirs! So take all your stuff out, and get ride of that thingy hanging from your rear view mirror.

Get It Clean
This should be a no brainer! Get your car as clean as it will get. If you are not a fan of washing cars, take it somewhere and get it cleaned. Spending $100 getting your car cleaned by the pros will be worth it. I have shopped for a lot of cars in my day. There is not much worse than looking at a car and it being completely nasty. Even if you are selling a cheap car, run it through the wash!

Other Great Tips
Here are a few other things that you can do to help you sell your car faster and for more money

  • Make sure all your lights work both inside and out
  • Make sure you have a spare tires and the car’s tool kit
  • Be open to having your car inspected by a mechanic
  • Use pricing guides like Kelly Blue Book and Edmond’s to help set a price

I hope that you guys can use things if you ever have to sell a car. Do you guy have any other tips that we can add? I want to put together a checklist type document for folks to download and use! What do ya got.

Do you enjoy this site? Want to make sure you never miss a post? Consider joining up on the email list. You will be notified of posts before anyone else. Also, there are things coming down the road that are awesome. The folks on the email list will be getting first dibs 😉 Don’t worry about spam or anything, you will only be getting updates from me!

Enjoy the weekend everyone, try and stay cool!

Volkswagen Cabriolet Humble Mechanic

There are time when fixing cars, that no matter how hard you try, things just don’t go right. Today I want to tell you all a story about fixing cars, helping a customer, broken parts and trying to make it right. Okay, here we go.

A couple of weeks ago, my service manage called me into his office. He showed me a letter that a customer wrote to our general manager. The customer that wrote the letter explained how she was disappointed in the service that she got from our dealer.

She brought her 2006 Touareg in for us to diagnose her check engine and traction control light. The tech working on the car found that it had an issue with a sensor that monitors the position of the steering wheel. He determined the problem was either the “Clock Spring” or the steering electrics module. He could not prove which one was bad, at least not 100%. He rolled the dice and picked the clock spring. I can totally justify his choice. Most times when you have a moving part and a non moving part, you pick the moving part. It is way more likely to fail.

It turns out that the 1st clock spring didn’t fix the car. Thinking it was the part was bad, he ordered another clock spring. When that didn’t fix the car, the tech replaced the steering module. Bahzing~ the car was fixed.

Now I know what you are thinking, that customer didn’t really need to replace the clock spring. You would be right in thinking that. Since we can not return used electrical parts to VW, the dealer had to make it right. We charged the customer what it would have cost to repair the car, and we paid for the rest.

That is enough for the customer to be upset, but there was more to the story. The customer was upset because of all the back and forth. They live over an hour away, so it was a big deal for them to bring the car back. We did give them a loaner car, but that had some issues too. It did take several weeks and several trips to finally get their car fixed.

A short time after they got the Touareg fixed, the steering wheel started to squeak. I think that was the final straw and the reason for the letter. The service manager and I talked about possible reasons for the noise, and how to go about getting it fixed. I figured that the trim was not installed properly, and it was rubbing the steering wheel. That can make one heck of a noise.

We got the customer back in to repair the noise. This is when I got the Touareg. I pulled the trim off only to find that the clock spring was the problem. Try as i might, I could not get the noise to go away. We didn’t have one in stock, but the Audi store up the road had one. I ran up to Audi and picked up the new part.  The install is pretty quick because I had the car taken apart. I installed the new clock spring and put the car back together.

Thinking that I had the Touareg all fixed, I started to pull the car out. Well, as (bad)luck would have it, the traction control light was on. I went round and round trying to get the light to go out. Several attempts of relearning the sensor, all to find that it would not set.

By now the customer had spent about 3 hours at the dealership waiting for me to fix her car. We decided to give her a car to drive and send her on her way. I stuck around a few minutes late to see if I could find the issue. I wound up putting the old part back in. Again Bahzing~ the car was fixed, well it still made noise, but the light was out.

So far we had 2 bad clock springs right out of the box. I ordered another new clock spring and got the car all fixed up, or so I thought. When the customer came to pick up the car, the Airbag light was on. My service manager called and asked me if I was suspicions of anything with the Airbag. I said no, because the light was off when I pulled the car out. The Airbag light will stay on if there is any issue, plus it is hard to miss that light being on.

Since I was off that day, one of the other techs checked it out and found that the connector for the driver airbag as loose. He popped it back and she was good to go.

So what is the moral of the story? Sometimes things just go wrong. We did everything we could to make it up to the customer. I spend a while chatting with her while she was waiting, keeping her posted on the progress. When you get bad parts, there is not much else to do but try and make it right. Plus I am mad at myself for not plugging in that dang airbag. I promise you that will not happen again!

I know that this was a long post, I just needed to tell you all the story.

Auto mechanic Shop pictures new VW wheels

It’s time again for Shop Shots! The behind the scenes look at automotive service. As an auto mechanic, I see some crazy things from time to time. This is your chance to see the crazy things too. Okay, let’s get down to business.

Auto mechanic Shop pictures broken VW oil panYou are looking at the bottom of an oil pan on a VW Beetle. The customer came in for an oil change. They had mentioned that there “might” be an oil leak. When I got the car up in the air, I found this. Yep, there was an oil leak, not doubt about it. It was pretty obvious that someone had attempted to fix the leak. There was some type of sealer on the pan. It looked like a rock popped up and hit the pan. This is actually a really common thing on MK4 cars. This is one reason that VW went to a steel oil pan. Luckily we had the pan in stock, and I was able to get the customer taken care of that day!

Auto mechanic Shop pictures new VW wheelsOne thing that I try really hard NOT to do, is judge what people do to their cars. It can be really hard sometimes because I see some dumb stuff. 😛 All that being said, I have not been a huge fan of wheels on the newer GTIs. That was until this wheel came out. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this wheel. It has a slight gunmetal finish. It is an 18″ wheel with 225/40/18 tires, or Tyres since we are talking about a VW. If you want to learn more about tires, check out, Understanding Your Vehicle’s Tires.

Auto mechanic Shop pictures car out of gasHAHA, sometimes things happen that make me shake my head. This customer came in for a service on their car. When I get in the car and start it, the “Low Fuel” warning started dinging. I looked down and found that the range was “0 miles”. That means you probably have about 10 actual driving miles. (don’t blame me if you run out of gas because of that) I also noticed that the gauge didn’t even move.

The good thing is, I didn’t have to take the car on a long test drive. So free tech tip, make sure you bring your car in for service with some gas in it. If you have a good service department, you wont have to worry about them driving your car all over town.


Auto mechanic Shop pictures Readers Rides Last week we talked about adding a “Readers Rides” section. Well, the first person to submit was Joe. This is Joe’s 2004 Audi S4. Here is what Joe says about his car.

2004 B6 S4 imola yellow (ly1c paint code) I’m a loser. 4.2 liter chain driven v8 (350 hp) 6 speed trans couple to Audi’s Quattro system. All leather Recaro seats. Love the non flashiness (beside the color of course) of the s4 platform. The sheer “get up and go” of a v8 keeps me smiling every time I drive it. Having a car that I’ve always drooled and dreamed over in my driveway is like a lil gear heads dream come true. Being that it’s a very intricate design maintenance is very very important. The right oil and the right parts (Oem) are very critical to me and most importantly the car!!! Plans include a nice free flow exhaust from Labree and cat-less down pipes from JHM, some altitude adjustment is needed for those that have seen my previous vehicles. 😉

I have to tell you all that I LOVE this car. I also want to point out that Joe and his wife have a Cabby, a GTI, and a Rabbit. Total VW Love in that house 😉 Thanks for submitting Joe.

If you would like to submit your car just shoot me an email Charles(AT)humblemechanic(DOT)com. Send me some pics, and some information about your car. Also, don’t forget you can follow the site on so many of the cool places like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. All you have to do is click one of the pictures to the right. 🙂

Humble Mechanic Logo

So you just bought a brand new VW, or any car really. You are excited to get in set the mirrors and the seat and put the rubber to the road. You get to press all those really cool new buttons all while enjoying that new car smell. There is not many things like it. But there is a lot that goes into getting that car showroom floor ready. Today, we are talking about the PDI!

There are tons of steps in getting a car ready for it’s owner. From the time it comes off the truck to the time you drive it home, dealers should be doing everything they car to make sure your car is perfect. That is what a PDI is, a Perfect Deliver Inspection.

So what actually happens to your car before it’s your? Here are the main things a dealer tech will do to make your VW PERFECT!

  • Check and top off all the fluids.
  • Test the vehicle battery
  • Install the real wiperblades~ Some come with little transport blades they are awful
  • Install wheel locks.
  • Remove the suspension blocks. Some VW models have blocks in the suspension. They limit travel.
  • Take the car out of transport mode. The car comes with most of the “features” disabled. We have to turn everything on.
  • Touch every button to make sure it works.
  • Check all the lights both inside and out.
  • Set the tires to the proper pressure.~Very crucial to the ride of the car.
  • Set the the navigation system, if needed.
  • Set the clock
  • Set the radio presets. I actually disagree with the techs setting up the clock and radio. I think that sales people should show our customers how to do this stuff. I can’t tell you how many cars I get in with the wrong time. Especially when the time switches.
  • A proper test drive
  • check the heat and a/c system
  • Set the auto up and down on the windows
  • Any about 40 other little things that all go into the PERFECT delivery

As you can see, it is no small checklist. A proper PDI is vital to a customer being happy with their new car..

But doing a PDI is more than just checking off a check list. It is the first chance for a tech to show a customer how much they care. Now, most customers will not be thinking about an auto mechanic when they are buying a new car. But no matter what type of car someone buys, some type of PDI was done

Well, I know that we didn’t get deep into car repairs or anything like that today. I had a question come in a few days ago from Brandon he said

When your dealership receives new cars from the factory, what kinds of things do you have to do to the car as dealer prep?

Just like with any question, if one person asks, more folks want to know. 😉