Resealed VW headlight

It’s Shop Shots time! I hope that you are all having a great Wednesday. Today is my first day back in the shop. I spent the weekend with my wife and one of our dogs in Asheville, NC. It is really one of my favorite places to visit. If you ever have a chance to get out that way, please do it. You will not regret it.

Alright enough about me, let’s get into some of the pictures for this week.

Leaves on a VW that cause a water leakWhat you are looking at here is a water leak waiting to happen. This is a pile of leaves on the cowl panel of a VW Jetta Sport Wagon. I have posted pictures of this before, but since the leaves are falling, I wanted to remind you about it. This can cause water to no drain properly. If that happens you can have water run into the car instead of away from the car.

Be sure to pop the hood on your car and check for this type of debris build up. A few seconds to check can save on a big repair bill later on. It should come as no surprise that water leaks can get really expensive. I have seen more than one car totaled because of water damage. This is a really easy thing that anyone can check for.

Broken and wrong VW sparg plugI am all about saving money and getting good deals. I am also cool with some parts not being factory VW parts. There are times where you must have the right deal. If you put a non factory pollen filter in your car, worst thing that will happen is it will not fit perfect. No big deal. Spark plugs are one of many parts that must be the right thing.

This is a picture of an Auto-lite plug. This spark plug costs a dollar or two. Compare that to a factory VW spark plug which can be $20 or more. The dollar savings is crystal clear. However Auto-lite spark plugs don’t work in VW engines. They almost always cause the vehicle to misfire. This is the worst Auto-lite(read this an ought-a-light and in it should work but does not 🙂 ) The plug on the left broke when the tech was taking it out. He had to use an extractor to get the threaded part of the plug out of the cylinder head. Luckily he was able to remove it with no damage to the engine.

Resealed VW headlightFirst I have to tell you that I didn’t take this pictures. I got it from a fellow VW technician. I don’t have all the details of the headlight, but it was too awesome to not share. This is a headlight that someone “repaired”. They used expansion foam to make a repair. I am not sure if the clips that held the headlight together broke, or the clips that hold the headlight in place broke. Either way, it is a classic “don’t try this at home”.

Carbon build up in VW engineFinally I this for you all. This is a shot of the back of intake valves on a 2.0t engine. This car came in because it was misfiring when it was cold. We checked the maintenance and it was all up to date. With our scan tool, we can go in and look to see the conditions the car was under when the check engine light came on. Things like

  • Engine temperature
  • RPM
  • Engine load
  • Speed
  • The gear the transmission was in
  • Air temp
  • And many other readings

We could not find any other reason that the car would be misfiring. The mechanic next to me removed the intake manifold and found this. Carbon build up on the back of the intake valves. I don’t want to say that this is a common thing, but it is not the first one I have seen. We were able to clean the valves and get this customer back on the road. It is a messy job, but make a world of difference in power and fuel economy.

That does it for another round of Shop Shots. I hope that you all enjoyed the pictures this week. I know I say it all the time, but I love doing theses posts.

VW Damage from a Rat

At some point in every car’s life, it will break. Whether it is a part failure, a workmanship issue or outside influence, we can all plan to see it at some point. Then there are the strange things we hear about. Things that you don’t really expect to happen.

This a Jetta that got attacked by a rodent of some kind. Okay, I am not 100% sure this was a rodent, but it was a creature that did this damage. Maybe a Bigfoot, or a Chupacabra 😉 I am sure this is something that mechanics in rural areas see more than I will. So when we see damage from animals, it is a big, and usually expensive deal.

VW Damage from a RatI am not really sure what made this critter was doing here. There was about 10 inches of chew marks. This is the heat shield attached to the bottom of the car. My guess is, this didn’t feel to great on his teeth.

VW Damage from a RatThis was the main reason the customer brought the car in. The critter chewed the wiring harness for the rear oxygen sensor. That caused the check engine light to come on. All 4 of the wires for the O2 sensor were chewed. The little bit that you see here was all he left.

The wires were chewed from the sensor to the connector. The only right way to make this repair is to replace the sensor and harness. The wires are molded into the case of the sensor. They technically could be repaired, but it may be an unreliable repair.

VW Damage from a RatHere are some more damaged wires. This a a vacuum pump for the brake system. These wires are not chewed all the way through, but will still need attention. If left alone, the wires will corrode and break. There are a few different ways we can go about repairing these wires.

  1. Cut the chewed sections out, and splice in new wires. That is not a bad way to make a repair. There will be 2 connection per wire if the repair is made this way. If the repair is done properly, it should hold up just fine.
  2. Replace the terminal and wiring. This would be the proper VW wiring repair. The damage is really close to the connector. That gives us the option to replace about 6 inches of wiring including the terminal in the connector. This is the best way to make the repair. It will only have 1 splice in the wire.
  3. Just tape over it. I would not recommend making the type of repair here. That is not a long term type repair. The strands of wire are jagged, and could pierce the tape. The heat level at this location can get really high. That can weaken the tape and cause moisture to get in the harness. Also remember this is outside the car AND on the bottom. When making a repair in this location we need to consider road debris, road temperatures, and water all affecting the repair.

VW Damage from a Rat

This is another shot of the damaged wires above. The damaged section is about 3 inches. Dang that little critter.

What do you guys think? Have any of you seen stuff like this before? If so, please share your story in the comments below. I always like hearing this kind of stuff. I am sure that many of you have seen this type of thing before.

Okay, I have a few other things I need to tell you all about.

  • If any of you have damage from the hurricane, I hope you are okay. I have been obsessively watching the coverage on TV. The damage is crazy, and we have only just begun to see the full scope. Hang in there.
  • If you ever have an idea for a post, please let me know. I want to make sure that we are talking about the things you guys want to know. Some of the best topics come from you. Just contact me, or post your thoughts in the comments of a post.
  • If you are in the Raleigh NC area this weekend, PLEASE come to the DubsForACause. I will be there hanging out. I am also one of the official sponsors 🙂 It is free but please bring some canned goods to donate. I am sure that they will take cash too. Cool cars, great folks all for charity, what is not to love.
  • Somehow I missed that we passed 200 posts! not really sure how I missed it. This is actually number 205. With that I want to thank you all for being so awesome. I really appreciate the help and support you have all given me. It has been a lot of fun. I have also learned so much it is not even funny. I hope that the information here has help you out in some way.
Painting markes on a timing belt
Common Rail TDI Timing Belt

This is a TDI timing belt

When I started this series, this was the service I had in mind. Of all the maintenance that a car needs, this one is vital. In fact, I think I could just have the post of one word. YES! I would not do that to you guys. You need to know why you need a timing belt. Like most of the “Does My Car Really Need This Service” this goes beyond a VW. It will apply to all cars.

What is a timing belt.
A timing belt car be a difficult thing to understand. Like I have said before, you don’t need to be a car expert to understand your car. A timing belt keeps your engine “timed”. It keeps parts in the top end, from hitting parts in the bottom end.

Think of it like gears and a chain on a bike. With out the chain the gears wont move. A combustion engine needs it’s gears connected too. Imagine if your bike’s chain broke, you would not be able to pedal. The timing belt is just as critical.

Some cars have other things that the timing belt does. Most VWs run the water pump off of the timing belt. Some of the TDI engines run a fuel pump with the timing belt. I have seen oil pumps, distributors, fuel pumps, water pumps, balance shafts by the timing belt.

How can the timing belt break?
Before we can talk about what timing belt failure means, we need to talk about how they can fail.

  1. The belt breaks apartvw Timing Belt damage
    This is where the belt separates, like undoing your belt for your pants. I don’t think that I have seen a belt do this, but it’s possible.
  2. The teeth sheer come off the belt.
    The belt is “toothed”. That is how the belt turns the gears. I have seen many many timing belts with teeth missing from the belt. This can be the result of a worn belt, or the next way a belt can fail
  3. Seized, or failed component in the belt circuit.
    There is also parts that keep tension on the belt. If a tension fails, it can cause the belt to be too loose. That can cause the belt to skip and become out of time. If a component seizes, it can rip the teeth from the belt.
  4. Outside influence
    I have seen a few timing belts break due to outside influence. Whether it is damage from a wreck, or a bolt came out of the engine. Outside influence is bad news. Check out the picture above.

What happens if it breaks?
The phrase “Possible catastrophic engine damage” is what I like to say. I have seen a few different things happen when a timing belt breaks or the belt circuit fails in some way(see above).

  • Nothing, but the belt breaks
    This is rare. I have seen timing belts fail, I put a new belt on and the car ran perfect. One of the guys in the shop had a PD TDI that had no teeth on the belt. Somehow there was no engine damage. In cases like this, you need to replace all the parts on the belt circuit.
  • Catastrophic engine damage
    When a belt fails, this is the worst case scenario. This is when parts in the top of the engine, the valves, crash into parts in the bottom of the engine, the pistons. If this happens it can cost a few thousand dollars to get repaired. It’s a lot of labor, parts are expensive, and you still have to put a new timing belt on the car.

How to check a timing belt
This can be a difficult thing. Timing belts are generally covered up to keep debris out. This can also make it hard to check your own belt. If you can get to the belt, you can do a little checking.

  • Look for cracks
    Check the belt for surface cracks.

    Timing Belt with out teeth

    This is a timing belt missing all the teeth

  • Belt deflection
    Basically see if the belt is loose. This can be tricky. Find the section of belt that has the furthest distance between gears, or tensioners. Some belts have a spec, generally it is twisting the belt ~90 degrees.
  • Listen for noises
    When tensioners and rollers go bad, they can make noise. They don’t always make noise. If they do, it is time for replacement.
  • Check for leaks
    Leak, from a belt? Well not exactly. However leaks from a water pump, or an oil leak can damage the timing belt. If you have a belt that is saturated in oil or coolant, it’s time for replacement.

How is a timing belt get replaced
This really depends on what car and engine. On 1999-2005 Passats, the front end comes off. Golf, Beetle, and Jettas are done by removing the engine mount. Some cars like the Touareg and Phaeton is just a matter of taking the fans out to gain access to the belt.

Some engines have special tools to hold the engine in place. Others have various markings that get lined up. I prefer to line the marks up on the engine and paint my own marks on the belt. It just makes for a little insurance when doing a big job like a timing belt.

Painting markes on a timing belt

This is how I paint marks on a timing belt

So, do I really this service.
This is a service that you can’t afford to pass on. If you wait, you are really run the risk of an expensive repair. Yes a timing belt replacement is expensive, but you can do 3 or 4 timing belts before having to pay for a cylinder head repair.

I replaced my belt on my Passat about 20,000 miles before it was technically due. Please check your owners book regarding your timing belt. Then do it 10%-20% before that. Better 20,000 miles early than 1 mile too late. Timing belts are no joke.

Enjoy this post? Go ahead and consider sharing it. All you have to do is click one of the little buttons below. Remember that this applies to almost every car, not just Volkswagens. I really do appreciate it when you share the posts. 😛

I am a pretty big fan of people doing their own maintenance. I think it is important to understand at least the basics of the car they drive. All of that stuff goes out the window when DIY goes wrong.

We have talked before about DIY. There are several things that you need to consider when it comes to DIY verses paying someone to make a repair.

  • Price
  • Time
  • The proper tools
  • Know how

Those are just a few things you need to consider. You can read more about it at “Should you make a repair, or pay a mechanic?”

This is when a customer SHOULD NOT have done their own work. A mk4(1999.5-2005) Jetta was towed into the shop. I was not the one working on this car. I happened to catch one of the other techs pushing  a car in the shop. That is not really such a strange thing, but he was pushing it weird.

When I walked over to see what the heck he was doing, he told me the car had no brakes. I laughed and said “yeah right”. We got the car on the life, and sure enough, the car had no brake pads in the rear. With the wheel off, this is what we found

Failing VW rear brakes Yep, that confirmed it, no brake pads. The story that I got was, the customer tried to do a rear brake job. They took the brakes apart and even resurfaced the rotor. When it came time to reset the piston on the caliper, they realized they didn’t have the right tool.

On many modern cars, the rear caliper needs to be twisted back to reset. VWs are are the same way. There are ways to improvise the special tool. Before I knew anything about cars, I tackled the brakes on my Acura. I used a pair of pliers to twist the caliper back. It was a real pain in the butt, but it did the trick.

This is the back side of the caliper. The round part, piston, is what pushes the brake pad into the rotor. The piston is protected by a rubber boot. It keeps debris from getting into the caliper. As you can see this boot is ripped.

Let’s recap this DIY repair. If the customer would have brought their car to the dealer to have the pads replaced, and the rotors resurfaced, they would have paid about $270(that is just an estimate). Instead the customer paid

  • A bill to have the car towed to the shop
  • The time for us to pull the brakes apart and inspect the damage
  • Parts and labor to rebuild or replace the calipers.
  • Several days with out a car

This is a classic example of DIY not being worth it.

I hope that we can all learn something from this. I learned that trying to stop a car, even when pushing it, is really scary to try and stop.

I posted last week about upgrading the email service I use. That is currently on hold. There were a few things that I didn’t really like about the service I was going to use. I still plan on upgrading, it is just a matter of time. All that being said, make sure you are on the email list. I don’t spam or sell the information. That would be lame!

VR6 Cylinder head damage

Wednesday, to many it is known as “hump day”. For all of us, it is one of the best days of the week. That”s right, it is Shop Shots time. Today we jump behind the scenes to see a side of automotive service you will not see anywhere else. Alright, let’s get this ball rolling.

VR6 Cylinder head damageBefore I tell you all about this picture, I need you to know something. There are many times that I put these pictures into the post and seriously laugh out loud. This is one of them LOL!

This is a picture of a 4valve VR6 cylinder head. You might notice that it looks a little strange. Yep, it is covered in duct tape. You may know it as hurricane tape, riggers tape, or (my favorite) 100-mph tape. So you might be wondering why the bottom of a cylinder head is covered in Duct Tape. Well here is the skinny. I posted a few pictures of a VR6 engine all torn apart. This is the top end of that same engine.

We sent the cylinder head to the machine shop to have it checked for damage. While it was at the machine shop, VW decided that they would pay for a new engine. That left us needing to reassemble the cylinder head. We couldn’t find the right tool to properly install the valve and other cylinder head parts. So what is the solution? Duct tape of course. He was able to tape the valves to help secure them while he reassembled the cylinder head. Don’t worry, this engine will not be installed in a car before a complete rebuild.

I posted this picture on Facebook the other day, but I didn’t explain it completely. You are looking at the back window of a 2006 Beetle convertible. The Beetle convertible is equipped with several safety systems. Because the convertible does not have a hard roof, VW has built extra safety features in to it.

You are looking at the rear headrest in the extended position. When the Beetle is involved in a crash, the rear headrests pop up. This provides added support on the roof. There is a picture that I have seen with a big pickup truck resting on this support. These supports are no joke.

Clogged VW pollen filterThis is a VW pollen filter. This filter is completely clogged up with all kinds of nasty stuff. This filter is actually inside the car. So all the dirt and sticks would be inside the cabin of the car, if not for this filter. I was not the one that replaced this filter, but I bet the car was pretty smelly. Just imagine having to breathe this junk. No thank you.

Custom VW seatRemember the picture at the top? Remember that I said we were replacing the engine? When VW ships an engine, the do a great job packing it with this foam. The shop has been a little on the slow side over the past few weeks, and that is when the shenanigans tend to start.

We decided that making a “custom” seat would be the best use of all this foam. I am not gonna lie, it was very comfy. It did however have a strange smell. I would not recommend sitting on it for that long. We try to be professional, but sometimes you just gotta get some fun time in.

Dubs for a CauseOne last thing. If you are in the Raleigh,NC area please come to this event. Just grab a few canned goods and come out to meet some great Dub folks. I will be there in the early afternoon. You may also notice the logo on the bottom right. Yep, I am one of the official sponsors of the show. So come out, say hi, and support a really good cause.

There you have it, another week of Shop Shots in the books. I hope to see as many of you as possible at the “Dubs For A Cause” in a few weeks.

Humble Mechanic Logo

The last few years of car technology have been pretty impressive. We don’t have the flying cars that The Jetsons promised us, but we have some cool stuff. Consider that my 2005 Passat has a tape player in it. Now we are in the world of Bluetooth streaming audio and hands free, voice activated calling from inside our cars.

With any advancement in technology, there are growing pains. Things that we don’t thing about when seeing a really cool new feature. The one that I am seeing the biggest concern with is Bluetooth.

I think Bluetooth is fantastic! I love to be able to have a phone connect automatically to my car, and continue playing the song it was playing. We also know that laws regarding hands free calling will only increase as we move forward with our cell phones. As wonderful as all of this cool technology is, there are some issues we have now, that we never had before.

Does anyone know how many Bluetooth cell phones and other devices there are? I don’t. Well over 100 I would guess. With that number of devices(Iphones, Ipods, Zune, Droid and so on) issues with compatibility are going to occur. How can a company that designs a radio ensure that it can work with every device now, and few the next few years? I don’t think they can. \

How often does an IPhone get updated? Once a year, 5 times a year? Between the big updates, and the small patches the information changes all the time. Well, when Apple updates a phone, do you think they tell everyone exactly what they change? Nope! Do they test every radio with the new update? I highly highly doubt it. I pick on Apple because they seem to have the most issues that I see. I will say that most of our customers have Iphones, so that makes sense.

Your radio on the other hand may never get updated. VW will put out a radio update from time to time, but it is usually geared at fixing a single issue. Not a broad spectrum update for all things. Whenever a cell company updates a phone, we get a influx of people coming in saying that their BT is not working right. The bad part i, we can’t really do anything about it.

Your new radio is not new
When you buy a brand new car, you think everything in it is new. And that is true, in that the part itself is new. The design is generally not a new thing. It is usually an upgrade from a previous version. One of the first touch screen radios that VW put out was nothing more than an old design radio with a new face on it. The computing power of the radio was very low. That is why it would not stream BT audio. Even though it had the option on the screen. It would never work.

The same goes for all car makers. There are only a few companies that manufacturer radios. They make similar radios with different interfaces. Even if the radio looks very different, the guts are the same or a small upgrade from the last model.

How to handle this new issue
This is the most frustrating part for everyone.

  • Customer
    Customer is with out a feature that they thing should work a certain way.
  • Mechanic
    I find myself chancing my tail with theses issues. Usually it turns out, there is no fix for the concern. Basically everything is working properly, or as properly as possible.
  • Cell companies.
    They often bare the worst of the frustration.

It is really a viscous circle. Customer blames the car, mechanic blames the phone, phone company blames the car. In the end no one is happy.

So what can we do? Well I am generally not an early adopter of new updates. I like to give it time and see how the update is received. Heck, it took me about 9 months to update to the new twitter. I also think that this will be an issue going forward. Phones will be updated all the time, and cars will be left to catch up.

I do think this is a great opportunity for someone to start an awesome business. Developing patch software for radios and phones to work seamlessly together. Like all computers, radios can be hacked. I see huge potential for someone to write a small code to make things work right. If anyone know if this is being done, please please please let me know.

What do you guys think? Is will we be dealing with this from now on? Is there an alternative to “just dealing with it’? Maybe we will see some type of standard set for all radio makers and or cell phones.

Humble Mechanic Logo
What Exactly Is A Master Certified VW Mechanic

You don't have to have 520 hours of training to know things about your car!

The average car driver is not a car expert. In fact, many drivers feel like they don’t know a thing about cars. That is just fine. But just because you are not a car expert, does not mean you don’t know anything about cars.

I have said before, there are a few keys to not getting ripped off, or taken when it comes to car repairs.

  • Asking questions
  • Being confident
  • Follow your owners book

Those are a few tips that will help you avoid getting ripped off. You can read more on How To Tell If Your Mechanic Is Ripping You Off.

The tip of being confident is what I want to talk about today. So you think that you don’t know anything about cars? Well, I would be that you know much more than you think. Let’s think about how much you DO know about cars.

Everyone knows what a filter is. It keeps junk out of stuff. We have them in our homes to filter the air for our heat and A/C. Or in our coffee pots to keep the grounds out of our drinks. Filters to the same thing for our cars.

  • Oil filters keep crude from clogging oil ports, or damaging bearings
  • Engine Air filters keep sand, and dirt from getting into airflow sensors and the air stream of the engine.
  • Cabin filters keep dust and and pollen out of the cabin of our cars.

You don’t have to understand the highly technical manufacturing process of making tires. Or truly understand how different tread patterns affect driving characteristics. All the average driver really needs to understand is the condition of their tires. Proper inflation, tread depth, and wear pattens are the keys to safe tires.

Wiper Blades
Much like other parts of a car, we don’t need to understand the technology or design of wipers. We just need to know that they clear our windshield. I also have some quick wiper blade tips.

  • Keep your windshield clean.
    It will help the blades from streaking or missing spots on the windshield.
  • Keep the blades clean.
    Cleaning the blades themselves can prolong the life of the blades. That being said, you can’t over replace the blades.

Vehicle Lights
As technology advances, the way light bulbs are lit. We went from very basic vehicle electronics to fully module controlled lighting systems. But your average driver does not need to understand all that. We only need to know when the lights are out. Well, the knowledge of how to replace a bulb is good to know too.

When we take things that sound complicated, or highly advanced, down to a basic level it makes them really easy to understand. When we understand the basics, we can have some confidence when dealing with an auto repair shop.

You don’t need to be intimidated when dealing with a service shop. You need to feel empowered, and confident. If you are not sure about a recommended repairs, ask, ask, ask. The more questions that you ask, the more you will know. The more you know, the better you can feel about making choices with your car.

If you are part of the great community on Facebook, I need some help. See Facebook changed the rules on the pages that you like. It makes it so you may not see all the posts that a page does. From time to time I post things to Facebook that does not make it on the blog. It is frustrating for me on the blog’s Facebook page and my personal page(which I don’t use much). If I want the entire audience to see a post, I need to pay for it. At some point, I will be willing to do that. For right now, that is not in the budget for the blog. So here is how to make sure you get all the updates.

To receive ALL of our posts, you must do the following:

1) Go to our page.
2) Hover your mouse over where it says “LIKED” and click on “Add to Interests Lists”

By doing this, you will continue to receive ALL of the posts

Thanks for helping me out with that. It makes me think I need to put more time in on G+. I have the page, I just don’t use it much.