Snap on Giveaway

Well, it is finally here Volume 40! What I want to do today is recap some of the best shots we have had this year. For those of you that are new to the community, let me explain. Shop Shots is your behind the scenes look at what a mechanic sees. Strange things happen to cars. Plus people do strange things to in their cars. I want everyone to see some of these crazy things. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom. I got something really fun for everyone(hint giveaway 😉 )Mold growing in a VW

This is a picture from a few years back. A customer brought their EOS in for a service, and they said there was mold on the seat belt. When I moved the seat to replace the sea belt this is what a found. A little mushroom set growing under the seat. The EOS had a water leak at some point. That made it damp enough to sprout some mushrooms.

This is a shot of the airbag on a Bently. This is still the most expensive car that I have ever worked on. It belonged to one of the owners of the dealer group that I work for. My general manager was driving it to his wedding.

On the way back from the wedding, the Airbag light came on. My boss asked me if I could check it out. I did my normal diagnostic routine, and found that the fault was for the drivers airbag. I started to take the airbag off and found something familiar. It looked just like a VW Phaeton. Turns out, it is a fancied up Phaeton. Even down to the clock spring, it had the same part number and everything. Crazy right! So I was working on a $125,000 car, owned by the owner of the company, driven by the general manager of ~9 of the ~30 dealers in the company. No pressure right?? WRONG! I was tweaking out. I got everything worked out just fine.

While I love that mushroom picture, this is one of my all time favorites. It also confirms that all mechanics make mistakes no matter how good you are. The best mechanic in our shop was doing an alignment on this Beetle. In my shop, the alignment rack is right at the window where customers can look into the shop.

I don’t know exactly how this happened. From what I can gather, the mechanic was doing the alignment measurements. On our machine we have to move the wheels back and forth. When he turned the wheel it caught the edge of the rack and rolled off.

Of course the customer was standing at the window watching. No one was hurt. We sent the car to the body shop and had it fix for the customer. All in all the customer was cool about it. Everyone was really happy that no one got hurt. It could have been a very serious situation.

Volkswagen Jetta Seat Auto MechanicThis is one of the funniest things that I have seen. A customer brought his car in because his seat back would not adjust. As you can see he rigged up a bungee and pillow system to help him sit up right.

I drove the car into the shop and took a look at the seat. One of the first steps of the diagnostic process is to “verify the concern”. I turned the knob and the seat moved perfectly. I was able to move the seat back all the way forward and back. The car was operating properly.

There is a trick to adjusting the seat back on VWs. You have to lean forward off the seat back, then adjust the seat. The twist style knob is a little tricky to use. VW designed it that way because they say that it is safer.

Volkswagen car wash kit

Win this for finding the missing Shop Shot

I think that video pretty much speaks for itself.

Alright, I promised that I would do something special today. I want to do 2 giveaways. Here is how to play. You can enter both giveaways, but you can’t win both!

  1. Find the missing Shop Shots
    There is a missing volume number in the the series. Go through and find the volume number that I missed. Post the number that you think I missed in the comments. I will pick a random winner from those comments with the correct number. I will ONLY be counting posts here on the blog for this giveaway

    Snap on Giveaway

    Win this for sharing

  2. Share, tweet, Pin, Instagram
    Just like we did last time. Share this post on Facebook, or Tweet the post out. Keeping track of the tweets is easy. The best way to share on Facebook is to share the post I make on Facebook. If you share it from the site(one of the icons below or just with the link) please let me know. I don’t want to leave anyone out. If you Pin it it Pintrest, let me know.If you want to do Instagram, post one of these pictures, and give me a shoutout.

To  make sure that everyone has a chance to play, I will end this on Friday at 8pm eastern time. Okay, good luck and share it up!!!

Mechanic Scratched a Wheel

Happy Tuesday everyone. I hope that your wallets are recovering from the weekend of shopping. I didn’t partake in any Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. It is just not my thing. Today I want to talk a little about being an auto mechanic. This actually goes far beyond just fixing cars. It applies to almost any job, in any field.

Mechanic Scratched a Wheel

Here is the wheel I damaged

Yesterday I was pulling a car into the shop. It was a 2011 Jetta Sport Wagon with about 20,000 miles on it. As I pulled into my bay, I nicked the rim on the edge of my lift. As I am sitting in the car I kept thinking, “It will be fine, it will be fine, it will be fine”. I got out and checked the rim. It was not fine. I gouged the crap out of it. The feeling of messing up a customer’s car is not a good one.

I called the service manager over to check it out. He looked at the wheel, looked and me then said “I am guessing that just happened? Well, you know what you need to do”. I got with my service advisor and let her know what I did. She gave the customer another car to drive so that we could fix his wheel. Thankfully the customer was pretty cool about it. I don’t think he was thrilled, but he understood.

Why did I just tell you all this story? I told you this for a few reasons.

  • We ALL make mistakes
    It does not matter if you are the best or the worst at your job. Everyone makes mistakes, messes up, and does things wrong. You are not perfect, none of us are. The best of the best have off games.
  • Accountability mean everything
    I could have easily sent that car out the door with the rim scratched. Maybe the customer would have never seen it. But think of how mad he would be when he noticed it. It’s like when you were a kid. Your parents asked you a question that they knew the answer to, and you lied to them. Then they ask you if you are SURE, that was the truth. I would rather just admit to the mistake. It may hurt, but at least that customer know I would not lie to them.
  • I want that to be normal
    I want there to be no question on what is right. I am not a hero or anything because I fessed up to a mistake. That is just the right thing to do. I want the guys that I work with to have the same attitude. Mechanics(and everyone else) need to take accountability for themselves, and the work they do. If we all did that, there would be much less negative stereotyping in every industry

I hope that we can all learn something from this. I learned that I need to pull my head out of my butt and pay closer attention to things. Luckily that is easy to do. I hope that you all take to heart what I have said today. Don’t make excuses about why a mistake is not your fault. Own it, then do what you need to do, and make it right!

One last thing. There will be a special volume of Shop Shots tomorrow. It will be volume 40. For that I will be doing some fun stuff. Be sure to stay tuned. The best way to do that is to subscribe for email updates. It is the best way to be sure you never miss out on what is going on here!

Humble Mechanic Logo

Hey everyone, happy Monday! I just want to tell you that I missed you guys last week. We have been full throttle on house work. It is crazy. I am glad to get back to the site, it’s much more fun and painting and power washings.

There are generally two questions that I get from folks.

  1. How do I know I am not getting ripped off.
    We have talk about this one before. Many times.
  2. What are some of the strangest things you have seen as an auto mechanic?

Well, today I want to talk about a few stranger things I have ran into working on cars.


The Devil Touareg
When I first started with VW, the Touareg was brand new. It had a fair about of issues early on.On top of that, none of the guys in the shop wanted to work on them. I had heard the horror stories of guys spending days and days trying to fix issues, all to find out nothing was wrong.

A Touareg had been towed to the shop for a dead battery. I replaced the battery, test drove it, checked the car over, then sent it out the door. A few days later it got towed back in for a dead battery. The strange thing was, it started fine when it got to the shop.

As I started to diagnose it, things got weirder and weirder. Some times the alarm would go off for no reason, even while driving. The lights would randomly flash on and off. It got to the point I could not drive the car at all.

I spent the next two weeks working with VW. Replacing modules, swapping modules, and so on. I was starting to think that I would never fix this car. VW finally sent out the regional tech manager to help me out. After 2 days of checks we found the problem. The module that controls the drivers seat had failed. It was bringing down the entire communication bus on the car.

How did we find it? Well, we just unplugged everything until things started working. On a Touareg, that is no easy task. That is about as bad of a butt kicking as I have gotten.

The Mickey Mouse Ball
I am glad that this didn’t happen to me.(make sure you learn from other people’s mistakes too) A customer brought her Beetle in for a noise/vibration concern. The tech working on it drove it to verify her issue. At about 45mph the car would make a crazy noise and shake violently. I rode in the car, it was awful.

After going round and round with the car, the tech replaced the transmission. After replacing the transmission, the tech test drove the car. The car did the exact same thing. A few more days of test drives and hair pulling, we had no answer.

It turns out, the air was hitting the antenna ball just right. This caused the the antenna to pull up on the roof slightly cause air turbulence causing a noise/vibration. Good thing the car was under warranty.

If have a roll your back windows down, and leave your front windows up you can recreate the noise. It is an obnoxious noise.

It Lost Points Cuz It Had A Hot WHeel On It
This is one of my wife’s favorite stories. Also, does anyone know who said that?(hint, it was not she 🙂 ) I was doing maintenance on a customer’s car. It was a 1.8t B5.5 Passat, similar to mine. When I replace the air filter in that car, I like to take the entire air box out and clean it. That gets all the dirt out, plus it’s easier to get the filter back in .

When I took the box out, something strange fell on the ground. I looked down and there was a Hot WHeels toy car on the floor. Yep some how, there was a toy car in the air box of the car.

How the heck does that get there? Was a kid playing under the hood? Did it bounce up off the road? How does that happen?

Well, that wraps it up for today. If you guys dig posts like this, I will try and do more. I need to get a note book and write this stuff down. I am sure there are plenty more stories that I have.


Happy Monday everyone. I hope that you all had a great weekend. This year more than most, Thanksgiving really snuck up on me. I could not figure out why every commercial on the radio was talking about holiday week. Then it hit me that Thanksgiving is THURSDAY! Where the heck did that come from?

I wanted to let you guys know that there will be no posted this week. I appreciate the heck out of all of you. I feel like I need to tell you all when I take some time off. This week my time will be filled with getting our house ready to put on the market. One of my least favorite things.

All the work, cleaning, little projects and tasks make me crazy. Plus I am not a fan of strangers romping through my house. The huge plus is we are looking for a smaller house, with more land. That means a bigger shop for me 🙂 🙂

I will still be around on Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. You can also comment on any post, or just contact me. I will be back in action next week with some great stuff. We will have a special volume of Shop Shots, on Wednesday. Plus since I will be taking some time off, I think it’s only fair to give some stuff away. 😉

How honest mechanics get paid

Hey everyone. Today I want to tell you a story, then ask the question “If you were a mechanic, how would you handle it”. Like so many things, there is somewhat of a grey area when recommending services to customers. Here is the story

A customer came in for a 50,000 mile service. It is a pretty basic service. We normally change the engine oil, and filter. We perform a wheel balance and rotation, and do a full visual inspection.

When the service advisor checks a car in, the also check the tread depth on the tires. These tires are right at the wear bars. That means they need to be replaced.

Balancing the tires will do nothing for the car. It will not prolong the life of the tires or improve the ride quality. The tires are just plain worn out. The customer does not want to buy new tires at this time.

As a service department, we have a few different options that we can do with this car. We can

  1. Perform the service as the customer needed, or was told he needed
  2. Say we performed the service, but do not rotate and balance the tires.
  3. Off the customer a (very) slight discount to perform the service minus the rotate and balance
  4. Tell the customer to just do and oil change. We do a 27 point inspection on all the cars we look at.

Now that you know the story, and have the options listed out, I will ask the question “What would you want your mechanic to do?”. I personally would prefer the customer perform an oil change only. In my mind there is no point in paying for an unneeded service. That includes the rotate and balance of those tires.

Please let me know what you would do. Am I nuts for un-selling work? Remember that most mechanics get paid on Flat rate. If you are not sure how flat rate works see “How Auto Mechanics get paid“. I really want to know what you guys think.

Failed Volkswagen water pump

Happy Wednesday everyone! Like always, we have the behind the scenes pictures from a VW dealership. I hope you all know how much I like doing these Wednesday posts. I try to capture all the fun things that happen in a service department. Well, all the stuff that is clean enough to share anyway 😉

Body work on a VWI have talked before about signs of body work on a car. The things that you need to look for before buying any car, new or used. Here is a classic example of what that can look like. The hatch of this Jetta has been hit. I don’t know the story, but I can see the results. From the factory, most car makers paint all the nuts and bolts that hold the body together. Things like fenders, hoods, and doors generally have the the fasteners painted. Checking for the paint missing or broken like these are can give clear evidence of body work.

If a car just had some cosmetic damage, you probably will not see this. There is no reason to remove a fender to fix a scratch. Most body shops will fix that right on the car. Also know that even new cars can have this. They should not be selling them as new, but I know some places will.

TDI VW pump failureThis is a picture of the fuel tank on a new TDI diesel Jetta. The trucking company mis-fueled the tanks. Because of that, the customer filled their car with gasoline. This one was not the customers fault. It was not a HPFP failure, it was clearly a car that had been mis-fueled.

When I removed the in tank fuel pump, I found all this debris. It seemed to be dirt. I am not exactly sure what the heck it was, but it was everywhere. It was stuck in the pump, and all throughout the tank. I was able to clean it all out. That meant I got to bury my face in a gas tank for about 30 minutes. There are 2 lessons we can learn from this

  1. Be careful where you fill up your tank. You might be filling it with the wrong fuel or pumping contaminants into your tank.
  2. Never under estimate how important a fuel filter is. If there was not a filter on the in tank pump, or near the engine, all this would have totally ruined the fuel system.

Very dirty car floor shop shots VWThis is the floor of a VW Jetta. As you can see it is covered in dirt, leaves, and pine needles. Normally I would not care one bit about that. This car had a recall to rewire the airbags in the seats. That means hanging out on the floor board of this car. You can also see the back seat was jam packed full of stuff.

I don’t really care if a customer has a clean car, or a dirty car. I am not really a fan of smelly cars, but that is another story. I do not really care for working on the floor of a car that is covered in nasty. If you are planning to bring your car in, please at least pick it up a little.

Failed Volkswagen water pumpI want to wrap up today with this. What you are looking at is a water pump from a 2001 VW Jetta 2.0l. This is a very common point of failure on that engine. The reason is the impeller is plastic. It is molded onto a metal shaft. Over time the plastic breaks loose and the pump stops pumping. If your mechanic tells says your water pump has failed, this may be what it looks like.

Another round of Shop Shots in the books. Be sure you do not miss next weeks volume. We are doing a best of and that will be super fun! Also, I have a few things I want to giveaway, but you will need to tune in next week to see what they are. I may drop a hint or two on Facebook in the mean time. 😛

Do you enjoy Shop Shots? If so, I would really appreciate you sharing with your friends and family. That is the best way to spread the word about the site, and help folks with their cars. Just click on the little buttons below. EASY!

Volkswagen Cabriolet VR6 engine

Hi folks, I hope that you all had a great weekend. I was doing some digging though the site and realized that I have not updated the Luv-A-Dub project in almost 2 months. I see the car and the parts everyday, so it is always on my mind. I hate that I haven’t updated in so long.

Volkswagen Cabriolet Luv A Dub MK1

This is what the Cabby looked like "pre art"

A quick recap
For those of you that are new to the site, I am redoing a 1988 Volkswagen Cabriolet. I almost want to call it restoring, but it sounds weird to me. I picked up the car from my work. They donated it to a local charity. The charity did an “art” project to the car. As you can see it is a unique looking car.

I started with the interior, trying to strip the decorations on it. All while trying to plan out the build. I needed a break from the interior work. Shockingly, hours of peeling stickers can drive you insane. I decided to focus on the power plant.

I wanted to do a 1.8t swap initially. That would be a 4cyl turbo charged 1988 Cabriolet, pretty sweet in my mind. I stumbled into a 1998 Jetta with a VR6 for really cheap. $460 for the entire car. Unfortunately, the guy I bought it from didn’t know the difference between a manual transmission, and an automatic transmission. I was able to find a better engine and a manual transmission for $400. Now I have plenty of extra parts for the engine. I like having back ups.

Where we are now
As of right now, the car is basically in storage. I have not done much of anything with the car. My main focus has been on the engine. Last week I sent the cylinder head off the the machine shop. It got a good cleaning, the valve seals, and guides replaced, and the mating surface refinished. All that cost me $350. They did a really good job on it.

VR6 timing chain kit

I also just placed a big order from They had some of the best pricing I could find. Here is a list of the parts that I just bought.

  • Head gasket kit.
    This will be all the gaskets I need to put the cylinder head back on the engine. I opted for the better metal head gasket instead of the fiber(read paper) one that came on the car.
  • Head bolt set
    The bolts that hold the cylinder head to the block are torque to yield. That means they stretch when you torque them. Due to that, they must be replaced every time.
  • Engine block gasket set
    This is all the gaskets for the lower part of the engine. The oil pan, oil cooler, oil filter housing and rear main seal.
  • Timing chain kit
    The VR6 is a chain, not belt, driven engine. Not replacing the timing chains is about the dumbest thing that I could have done. This is really a no brainer
  • Thermostat housing kit
    This is the most common failing point of the VR6. I got the entire kit. There will be no coolant leaks on this VR

Don’t worry if you are not sure what some of these parts are. I will be doing posts and videos about all of them. I also ordered some brake parts and some suspension bushings. I am not going to lie, I am super excited about getting these parts.

Where we go from here
The engine rebuild will go fast. At some point this fall/winter, I will make the trip out to Charlotte, NC and visit the guys at Eurowise. They are the company that makes the kit to install the VR6 into the Cabby. Plus I can hit some great NC craft breweries.

We still have a lot of work left to do. The install process will take some time for sure. Also making the wiring harness will be a project in itself. I am really looking forward to that part.

If you have any questions about the car, the progress or the parts I am using, please ask. I have nothing to hide with this build. I want you all to see how much time, effort and money it takes to build a car like this. Also, if you have any parts you want to donate, I am totally open to that 😀

Like this post? Please consider sharing it with other car fans. Remember, you don’t have to be a VW nut. Much of what we talk about is universal to all cars. If you want to share, just click one of the buttons below, it’s that easy.