I am sitting my kitchen doing a little automotive research. I was looking at future car technology. There are some really cool things that we will see in the future. Kinda scary really. Well that got me thinking. For some reason I got to thinking about tire pressure monitor systems. Kinda strange right?

If you own a car newer than 2008, it must be equipped with a system that monitors the tire pressure called TPMS. It is a system that monitors the air pressure in your tires. It came about after the Ford and Firestone disasters in the late 1990s. I worked at Carmax at the time and selling Explorers was tough.

So that got me thinking about other safety and security type things. Take the wheel locks on most cars have. Do they really prevent wheel theft? Or is it just more of a hassle for the customer or the mechanic working on the car? Let’s look at some other things that fall into this category.

  • Radio Codes
    All VWs and many other brands have security lock out codes. You can not turn on the radio with out this secret code. I know that cars get broken into all the time. But do the secret codes prevent the actual theft? If my radio got stolen, I don’t really care what happens after that. Plus the codes are really easy to get. So to me, it is just more hassle for the customers.
  • Wheel locks
    I touched on it a little above. Wheel locks are the one we have the most issues. It’s either “I lost me wheel lock, can’t find my wheel lock, or YOU(meaning me) lost my wheel lock”.If a theft really wants your nice rims, they are going to get them. There are several tools to remove wheel locks with out the proper key. I won’t tell you how to do it, but it can be done. It is often more hassle for the cars owners than any thief. Heck I am sure most good thieves can take wheels off faster than I can.
  • Security bolts
    There are several bolts on a VW that are shear bolts. That means they have no way to loosen them. They must be drilled out cut off, or removed with an extractor.
    The most common components held in with shear bolts are ECMs and ignition switches. Again, I think a good thief can rip an ECM out way faster than I can. I guess when you don’t care about doing damage to a car, you can “tear out” parts faster.

So why do we have these things on our cars? Sometimes I think it is just to make my job harder. 🙂 My guess is that it keeps most of the rookie thieves at bay. Much like the locks on the doors of our cars. A simple brick will get around those locks 😉

What do you guys think? Are these so called “security systems” a good thing, or just more work for the owners?

I want to just take another minute to thank you all for being awesome. I really appriate all the likes, tweets and comments. It means so much to me that you would take a few minutes to interact with me and the rest of the community here. Your support is really one of the main things that keeps this site going!

Volkswagen brake fluid service

I get this question, all the time. If comes in several forms, but all boils down to to this,

Does my car really need this service?

Today I want to talk about Brake Fluid. It can often be over looked. Flushing it will not get your better gas mileage. It wont make your neighbor come over and ask if you just detailed the car. That does not mean that you can just pass on doing it.

Why would it need to be changed?
Like most fluids in your car, brake fluid has a service interval. If you drive a VW, it is every 2 or 3 years. Please consult your owners manual for the proper service interval.

Volkswagen brake fluid service

This is what your fluid should not look like!

The fluid in your brake system is vital to proper brake operation. The fluid in the system moves pistons which push the pad into the brake rotor. When that happens your car stops 🙂

If dirt or other contaminates get into the fluid, it can change the behavior of your cars braking. The biggest enemy to brake fluid is moisture. Brake fluid is hygroscopic. That means it absorbs and holds water. This is a good thing in a brake system. It will all but eliminate brake lines rusting from the inside.

There is another reason that moisture is bad in your brake lines. Water can boil. If the fluid in your brake fluid boils, it can engage the brakes, or change the way they behave. In the right climate that water can freeze too.

Phoenix Systems Brake Fluid Test Strips (100 / Tube) - PHOFASCAR-1-100

Brake fluid test strips

How do I check the fluid
Checking the brake fluid is pretty easy. All you have to do is open the reservoir and look inside. That will give you a basic idea of what the fluid looks like. That may not tell the entire story. You can not see how much moisture is in brake fluid.

Something like these brake test strips work really well. They are pretty expensive for most people. These come in at about $70. Since you can get your brake fluid serviced for ~$100-$120 it seems silly to spend $70 to test, then another $100+ to replace.

When I inspect brake fluid, I really focus on the color. New brake fluid is clear with a yellow tint. As it ages it turns green, then brown. If your brake fluid is brown you are in bad shape. When I checked the fluid in the Cabby, it was really thick and brown. Not a good thing. I have a feeling that it will take a lot of cleaning to get the lines right

How is the fluid replaced?
At work, we have a really great machine to flush brake fluid. The fluid in the reservoir gets vacuumed out. Then we ‘push’ clean brake fluid through the system. Each brake has a bleeder valve that we open and allow the fluid to flow. I let it flow out until the fluid coming out is clean, then just a little longer. You can also check out the post I wrote about Servicing Brake Fluid. It was my 2nd post on the site so it’s not great, but the information is spot on.

So do I really need it?
I would have to say yes on this service. This is one service that really can cause some safety issues, and costly repairs down the road. Check with your owners manual to see when your brake fluid is due for service. If you don’t have your book, call your local dealer and ask them. If you have never had your brake fluid serviced, get it serviced, or DIY.

From time to time, I give you guys some information that is really worth sharing. I think that this post in one. Every car has brake fluid, and all brake fluid needs to be serviced. Make sure that you get yours done when it needs it!

Shop Shots VW Battery Corrosion

Hey everyone, I am back and all fired up. I know that I missed a few days worth of posts, and for that I am sorry.

If you are a new reader let me give you a rundown of what Shop Shots actually is. As you might imagine, auto mechanics see some interesting things. It can be anything from a wrecked car, something that broken in a strange way, or something weird a customer had in their car. I can’t tell you how many times I have found pot in a customer’s car. This series is a way for me to share what I find in the shop. Think of it as a behind the scenes look into a VW service center.

Shop Shots VW Battery CorrosionThis is a close up shot of a VW battery. The “growth” on the terminal is corrosion. It can be caused by a leaking battery. Heat tends to aggravate the situation. This is not a good thing to have built up on your battery. It can cause issues with your vehicle. Modern cars are very very sensitive to low voltage.That means when the battery gets worn out, it will make the car do strange things. The most options a car has, the more important proper battery voltage it.

Be careful around this stuff. It is a product of battery acid. It will burn your skin, and eat holes in your clothes.

Shop Shots broken VW glassThis is a picture I put together with a really cool Iphone app called PicStitch. It lets you frame and combine pictures. This is a picture(s) of a broken rear side glass on a Jetta Sport Wagon. The picture on the lower right shows the impact point. I am not sure what hit it, but no doubt something did.

I tried really hard to get a cool shot. One that showed the entire window, but still close enough so you could see the break. No such luck. The picture on the top right is from the inside out. There is just something so cool looking about broken safety glass. Oh and that is what a $400 piece of glass looks like.

Shop Shots VW Coolant LeakThis is a perfect example of preventative maintenance. This is a picture of the crankshaft gear on a 2006 GTI. The customer was in for his 120,000 mile service. That is a pretty big service. It also happens to be the mileage that the timing belt is due. I recommended the belt to him because it was at the proper mileage.

When I took the lower timing cover off, I noticed a slight pink trail. That is a dead giveaway that the car had a coolant leak. That is a free tech tip. If you see a crusty pink trail on your VW or Audi, just follow it and you will find your coolant leak.

The leak was coming from the coolant pump. With only the intention of replacing this pump as PM(preventative maintenance) I was also able to make a repair. At some point this pump would have needed to be repaired. Glad it was before the customer was stranded with a severe leak.

Shop Shots Humble MechanicOkay today your are getting a bonus Shop Shot. I was working on this Passat yesterday. It was a 2012 and in for it’s first service. When I popped the hood, I noticed something sitting on the cowl right by the wiper blades. Well, it turned out to be a pack of playing cards. How in  the world did a deck of cards get there? The world may never know.

That will wrap up another volume of Shop Shots. I am out of the shop today doing errands and heading out to Sears to exchange some broken tools. I might even get my wife’s truck detailed. Hopefully it will be a surprise. Don’t forget that to swing by and like the Facebook page. I do post a few things over there that don’t make it to the blog. 🙂

Just a quick heads up everyone.

There will not be a post again today. I am hung up at work and couldn’t put the finishing touches on the post.

I know I know, no excuses right. 🙂

I will be back tomorrow with some Shop Shots, and there will be posts the rest of the week.

Humble Mechanic Logo

I really wanted to do something different today. We get into some serious business about cars, car repairs, tools, auto mechanics an so on. So today I want to do something totally fun. Let’s play a little game.

Here is how this works. Oh, its only fun if everyone posts what they think in the comments.

Question 1
So You are designing a new car for James Bond. What defensive equipment would you put on the car? Oil slick, tack deployment, how would you keep Mr. Bond safe?

Question 2
What is best cartoon car? No rules here, as long as it was a cartoon. It can also be a truck or a van.

Question 3
If you could add any feature to your current car, what would you add? It can be something real, like Bluetooth, or something like that espresso machine like Suzuki’s commercial. HA!

Question 4
If you could drive ANY car in the world, real or imaginary, what would it be?

Question 5
What will the “green car” of the future be? Odds are it will not run on puppy kisses, and teddy bear dreams. What will the “green car of tomorrow” be powered by. Side note, I hope it is puppy kisses.

Bonus Question
What is the most embarrassing car you could drive? Again, real or imaginary, you better not say a 1988 Cabriolet that is covered in chalk!!!!

I present you with the questions, now it’s your turn to answer them. Go ahead and reach for the stars. Okay let’s see what y’all got!

Volkswagen Drum Brakes Shop Shots
Happy Shop Shots day everyone! I am back in the shop after having a few days off. It is always tough to get back in the groove. Okay, let’s get this show rolling!
Lightning Strike On a CarThis picture came to me from a buddy. As you might guess, that is a circuit board from a module. This is the central electrics module. It is one of the main computers in the car. The customer was driving the car, and BAM lightning stuck it. It melted part of the car’s roof, and fried 3 module. Thankfully the customer was not harmed. Well, not physically anyway. I know if that was me, I probably would need a few days to recover. I can’t even imagine what that was like
Volkswagen Drum Brakes Shop ShotsWe are going a little old school today. This is the first car I worked on today. What you are looking at is a rear drum brake on a 1997 VW Cabrio. I was replacing the parking brake cable. Check out all the springs and clips that drum brakes have.
I remember when I first started. One of the guys in the shop told me to take my drum brake tools home. He said we never mess with drum brakes. About a week later, I had to rebuild a set of drums on a Golf. HA, glad that I am stubborn. A quick tech tip when it comes to rear drum brakes. Do one side at a time. That way if you get the springs mixed up, you can just compare to the other side.
Shop Shots CarbI thought it would be fun to keep with the old school theme today. 😉 This is not a Volkswagen carburetor. This is the carb from my 4wheeler, and the reason that there was not a post yesterday. I was in the process of selling my 4wheeler. It had a dead battery so I had not ridden it in a few months. I picked up a new battery, to the tune of $80 btw, and popped it in. It fired right up, SUCCESS!
Well that was until I gave it some throttle. It would just shut off. I messed around with it most of the day yesterday. Finally I just gave up and brought the carb to work. completely disassembling it, and cleaning it. I really hope that this fixes it. Another quick tech tip, working on a magnetic tray is perfect for things like this!
Finally today we have a Reader’s Rides submission. Check out Mathew’s Golf! I love love love those seats! If you want to have your car on Readers Rides, just email me some pictures and a description to Charles(at)HumbleMechanic(dot)com!
I come from a family of Volkswagens, my Golf is the 13th consecutive VW purchased in my family. I learned to drive in a B3 Passat and have been in love with hatchbacks/wagons ever sense.
Without further ado, here’s the details:
2000 Golf 2.0L – 151,000+ Miles
  • Unitronic Stage 1+ ECU Software
  • 22lb Flywheel
  • Sachs VR6 Clutch
  • Techtonic Tuning 260/268 Sport Cam
  • ABD CAI with K&N Cone
  • Audi TT Pedals
  • GLI Brushed Aluminum Trim (door handles, pulls, radio cage, & E-Brake)
  • GLI Shift boot with Euro Sport Edition shift knob
  • Custom Rebadged JOM Honeycomb grill
  • 10mm Rear Spacers, 7mm Front Spacer
  • 28mm Rear Sway Bar
  • Bilstien OE Sport Shocks with H&R OE Sport Springs
  • Helix LED Tail lights with rear fog
  • ECS Lower Grill Fog Lights
  • GLI Recaro Seats
  • Custom Pinstripe Headliner
  • Rebuilt Headlights with dual LED blinkers
  • Pioneer AVIC F-900BT Headunit
  • 3-spoke GTI steering wheel
  • 17″ Santa Monica Alloys, wrapped in Falken Ziex 912s (215/45 ZR 17 87W)
  • 12″ Alpine Type-S, 2Ω + 2Ω, SWS-1222D
  • JL Audio JX-500:1 Class-D Mono Amp
Not the best pics, but there they are…
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Snap on Auto Mechanic's wrench

I was out shopping some tool storage things last week. I have also been looking for a basic tool kit I can buy for the house. Now that I have the Cabriolet, I do a fair amount of wrenching at my house. I don’t want to spend a lot of money, but I don’t want to buy junk either

Today I want to give you guys some advise on buying tools in a kit, or building your own set.

Buying A Set

You can make a really good arguments on both sides. Cost, storage, and needs all play into making this choice.


  • The cost per tool is cheaper.
    You will almost always get more tools for the money when you buy a complete set.
  • Its easy
    It is a grab and go solution, gotta like that.
  • Tool storage
    A lot of tool sets come with some type of storage setup. Generally that makes them very organized and portable.
  • They all will match
    This is just something to feed my tool O.C.D. 😉
  • You may get some tools you never thought you would need
    That 1/2in 3/8 drive extension may come in handy. It is something I would not buy separate.
  • They make great gifts (hint hint) 😀


  • You will get tools you might not need
    The first tool set I bought was a Craftsman kit. I don’t remember how many pieces came in the set. I do remember that about 1/4 of the tools were Allen wrenches. I didn’t need 50 Allen wrenches.
  • Most sets are not complete
    I have found that many sets are missing tools. The set I was looking at last week had no 16mm sockets. If you work on VWs that is something you need.
  • There are so many choices
    I get really overwhelmed when shopping for kits. Do I pick the one with 99 pieces, or the one with 104 pieces? This is about the time I give up shopping.
  • The storage might not be what you want
    Just because a tool set comes with storage, doesn’t mean it is a good one. It might not fit the space you have. It may not be the way you want your tools set up.

Build Your Own

Just like buying a complete set, building your own customer set has pros and cons. Consider these when thinking about building your own kit.


  • You can get exactly what you want
    No need to pay for the tools you don’t need
  • You can buy a little at a time
    Kits from the big boy tool companies are REALLY expensive. You can buy them bit by bit instead of shelling out the cash all at once.


  • Most likely you will spend more money
  • You will have to find your own tool storage
    Tool storage can be very expensive
  • It takes time
    Piecing a tool set together yourself will take time. If you are not in a hurry, no big deal.
  • You might get a mismatched set.
    This can be good or bad. Good you can get better tools for a job. For me, I don’t like to have tools not match. Sorry just a little OCD 😉

So what should you do? Well, like all good questions the answer is “It depends”. If I were starting with no tools, a kit would be perfect! Once you have the basics, you can add on from there.