Volkswagen sunroof water leak

Happy Wednesday everyone. Thanks for tuning in to this weeks Shop Shots. These are some of the behind the scenes pictures from a VW service department. You will see cars torn apart. The crazy way that things break, and the goofy things that customers do to their cars.

Broken Bushings on a 2003 PassatI have been asked what a damaged/worn bushing looks like many times before. I finally got a great picture of what that looks like. This is an upper control arm on a 2003 Passat. If you look right at the tip of the arrow I added, you will see a crack. That crack runs all around the bushing.

This car came in with a suspension noise. The more you turned the wheel, the worse the noise got. Broken bushings can cause a clunk, squeak, or thud. When a bushings breaks like this it puts more strain on the rest of the suspension. That can cause premature wear on the other components. This Passat got new control arms that come with new bushings.

Heater core replacement PassatLet’s keep the Passat theme rolling. This Passat came in for a water leak. After some checking, the mechanic next to me found that the heater core was leaking. The heater core is a small radiator behind the dash of your car. Coolant moves through the heater core. As air moves across the heater core it is heated. Bam, your car has heat.

In order to replace a leaking heater core, the dash must come out of the car. It’s almost like the heater core is installed, then the rest of the interior is installed around it. The job is not that bad. It’s a lot of parts to take off. The only bad thing is these cars are getting old. That means the plastic trim can be brittle, and break very easy. We generally have to tell customers there may be some breakage. Sadly it’s almost unavoidable.

Volkswagen sunfoor water leakHere is a rare shot of a water leak in action. You are looking behind the headliner of a Tiguan. This tube is the drain tube. All VW sunroofs have a channel to catch any water that makes it past the seal. Some times the tube gets clogged, and water backs up in the channel. The water will leak past the drain tube on to the headliner.

The repair for this is to add a sealant to the tube. It’s a pretty easy repair. The worst part about this job is cleaning up the water.

Engine damage from low oil pressureWe don’t see a ton of internal engine damage. When we do, it’s generally pretty cool to see. This is a bearing for the cam shaft. The cam shaft does not ride on the bearing. It actually rides on a very thin film of oil. Many times we don’t know exactly what happened here. When we pulled the oil pan down, there were little ribbons on metal in the oil. It looks like some of that metal got into the bearing.

Because we never found the exact cause of the damage, we have to quote an engine and turbo charger. If we were just to quote the top end of the engine, we might have missed the actual failure.

Well that wraps up another volume of Shop Shots. I try and say it from time to time, but this is totally my favorite posts to do. I have a few other updates for you guys. As some of you know, we put our house up for sale a few weeks ago. We sold our house in about 40 hours. We also found a new place. We will be moving in January. I am sure there will be a new blog coming. I want to catalog all the things that we do to the property.

Happy Tuesday everyone. Can you believe that it is just 1 week until Christmas? If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then you can look forward to having an extra day off of work, Ha. If you still need to get a gift for a tool fan, or need a different last minute gift, check out my Holiday Tool Buying Guide. All right, let’s get into today’s topic. The BEST time to bring your car in for service.

The best time to bring your car in for service is when it is due. I think we can all agree on that. What I want to share with you all today is the best time and date to bring your car to the shop. Before we get rolling, please don’t postpone your service too long. If your due for service bring your car in.

There are several times during the year that shops are slow. At my dealer we are really slow:

  • Most of April
    This is due to tax season.
  • The week between Christmas and New Years
  • Late January
    Folks are waiting to see if they are getting a tax refund
  • The few days following most holidays
  • Any time the weather is bad

If you can plan your service for a snowy day in early April, you are gold.

You might be wondering why you want to have your car serviced when a shop is slow. The answer is simple. Slow times mean better deals for customers. If I have been standing around all day and a customer comes in needing some work. I will me more likely to toss a light bulb in for free so a customer will buy a brake job.

Service advisors and techs are always more flexible when times are slow. You might be able to haggle the price of a bill. Now if you are just in for an oil change, don’t plan on getting a discount. If you are due for a timing belt you have some room to deal. This strategy works. A customer that is willing to brave a snow storm gets the all star treatment.

What about time of day? I don’t know there is a best time of day to bring your car in for service. I can tell you there is a worst. The worst times of the day to bring your car for service are

  • Just before lunch.
    This puts the tech in a hurry to get your car done before their lunch break. A good rule is to never get in between a mechanic and food. Plus you don’t want a mechanic to rush though a service and risk forgetting something.
  • Right at the end of the day.
    The same rules for lunch apply to the end of the day. If it’s something simple, like a light bulb, don’t worry about it. But I would not recommend bringing your car with a strange dash rattle in at 5:45. That is something that needs time to fix.

I think that asking your shop or mechanic when they are slow is the best way to know. All shops are different. Some may be really busy during tax time. This is just another little trick to save some money on repairs.

What do you guys think? Is bringing your car in when a shop is slow worth the effort? Go ahead and chime in the comments and let me know what you think.

bad tire on a Volkswagen

Worn out VW tireNext up in the “Does my car REALLY need this service” we have tires! Today we will talk about

  • When to rotate, and when to NOT rotate
  • Why balancing is important
  • When you should replace your tires

If you want to learn a little more about tires, check out Understanding Your Vehicle’s Tires. That breaks down the parts of tires, how to read the sizes, and tons more great information.

Why are tires important?
Consider that your tires provide 100% contact with the road. That means every bit of acceleration, and braking rely on just a few square inches of contact pattern. All 4000lbs of your car are riding down the road on that little spot. We need to make sure we get the most out of that contact area.

What are the types of tire services?
There is a heck of a lot that goes into making a tire. The good thing is the average driver doesn’t need to worry about that. All we need to worry about is keeping our tires in tip top shape. Here are the basic services your mechanic can perform on tires.

  • Rotation
    This is where you would move the front tires to the back, and the back tires to the front.
  • Rotate and Balance
    Here your wheel and tire assembly is put on a machine and balanced. Weights are added to off set heavy spots in the tire. Generally the tires are rotated here too.
  • New tires
    When your old tires are worn out, it’s time for new ones. After a new tire is mounted on a wheel, it is balanced too
  • Flat repair
    If you get a nail or something in a tire, it may be repairable. I recommend having a tire repaired. The plug kits they sell at stores are okay, but a professional repair is best

Pretty simple right? There is not too much to maintaining tires.

When to rotate, and when to not rotate
This is the most affordable way to prolong the life of your tires. Well, this and keeping the pressures set properly. You really can’t over rotate your tires. Plus when your mechanic takes the tires off, he will generally look at your brakes too. There is no harm in rotating your tires every time you have the oil changed.

There are times when you do not want to rotate your tires. If rotating your tires will put bad tires on the rear,  DO NOT ROTATE. You want to keep your best tires on the back.

Why is balancing so important.
Your riding down the highway. Your steering wheel is shaking back and forth making you crazy. You might just have a tire out of balance. If you have a tire that is vibrating bad enough to feel, you need to get your tires balanced.

There is also a good case for having your tire balance checked. Vibrations can develop slowly. You might have a slight vibration that is now just a normal for your car. There is also the extra wear on the tires. The more a tire is out of balance, the more it can hop, and shimmy. that can cause abnormal tire wear. The only repair for abnormally worn tires is replacement.

When do tires need to be replaced.
So you have properly rotated your tires, and kept them balanced too. At some point all tires wear out. How do you know if they need to be replaced? There are a few hard rules:

  • Any tire at or below 2/32 of tread
  • A tire that is older than 6 years old(this one shocked me too)
  • Any tire with side wall damage.
  • Any tire with cords, or belts showing, or worn into the secondary rubber
  • Severely dry rotted tires
  • If the shoulder of the tire gets punctured. You can’t safely repair that.

Now those are the rules when a tire MUST be replaced. When a tire gets down to about 4/32 of tread, it’s time to get them replaced. Sure you can get a few thousand more miles out of them. But they are not as safe as they were. Is rolling the dice on your safety and the safety of other on the road really worth it?

So do you really need this?
This is one service, or 3 to be exact, that really depend on the condition of your tires. If they don’t fall into the list directly above, you may be able to wait a little while. Just remember that your tires are one of the most important safety features!

  • Rotate
    Go ahead and do it. The service is very cheap ($20 or so) service to prolong your very expensive tires
  • Rotate and Balance
    I like to balance my tires every other oil change. Again it’s a very cheap($40 or so) service. Plus driving a car with a vibration can be maddening.
  • Replacing tires
    follow the rules I posted above. If you are not sure, have your mechanic show you why you need new tires. 4/32 is the measurement that you need to really consider new tires. 2/32 is MUST REPLACE. Just for prospective, most new tires are 11/32

Now you can feel good about getting that tire rotation, balance or replacement. If you have a service you would like added to the series, please post it below in the comments.

If you have a tool fan on your gift list this year, check out my Holiday Tool Buying Guide. There are some great and affordable suggestions for buying tools as gifts. Check it out and pass it along. Also, be sure to sign up for email updates. You wont miss any posts, and I don’t spam. Okay, one more thing.

Auto mechanic tools

With the holiday season in full swing, I though it would be fun to give some advice on buying tools for the tool junkie on your list. Shopping for tools can be overwhelming to say the least. I know a lot about hand tools, and a fair amount about other tools. I still get lost in the sea of wrenches, hammers and drills. I can only imagine how someone with little or no tool knowledge feels.

Who are you buying for?
Before you hit the stores have some basics in mind. You must know who you are buying for. That will get you in to the right aisle of the tool store. Try and break it down in to one of these categories.

  • The Automotive EnthusiastAuto mechanic tools
    This can be the person that loves doing their own maintenance. Or maybe does it to save some money. Hand tools are king when working on cars. Things like ratchets, sockets, wrenches make great gifts
  • The Wood Worker
    If you are buying for someone that works with wood, think saws and chisels.
  • The Electronics Junkie
    This is the person that builds and repairs electronics.
  • The DIY Home Owner
    This is the category that most folks fall into. Head to your local home improvement store, and pick an aisle. DIY tools for the house is just about everything. Drills, saws, ratchets hammers, shovels, the list goes on and on.

How to pick the perfect tool

Now that you know who you are buying for, it’s time to get shopping. There is a saying “buy it nice, or buy it twice”. This applies to to tools as much as anything. Buying good quality tools is a must.

No matter what tool you are buying, there are some brands that really stand out. If power tools are on your list, I prefer Dewalt and Makita. I have an impact driver from Makita that I use more than any other tool in my tool box. I like it so much I got a second one to keep at the house. They may cost a little more, but they are well worth it.

If you are shopping for hand tools, a few names stand out. Craftsman, Stanley, Snap-on, Matco and more. When buying hand tools, make sure the tools have lifetime warranty. Even the best quality tools break. You want to make sure your are buying a tool with some piece of mind.

The key to any tool purchase is you get what you pay for. If you buy that really cheap set from the dollar store, expect to get what you pay for.

Tools to avoid as gifts

I love getting tools as gifts. It shows that someone really knows what I love. There are tools that would not be great to give as gifts. Here are the tools that you might want to avoid

  • As Seen On TV
    This time of year the gimmicky tools are everywhere. If a tool claims it can do 75 things, plus make your breakfast, odds are it can’t do much of anything. I have tried many different things that were “as seen on TV” type tools. Few of them do the job they promise.
  • The big tool set
    Be careful when thinking about a big tool set. A 150 piece tool set may only contain 75 tools that most people would use. Tool kits can be a good buy, just be very cautious. Look at the number of bits and Allen wrenches, that generally dominates the total tool count.
  • Highly specialized tools
    Leave this one to the tool fan. I would not expect my wife to buy me a special VW tool. That is too much pressure on the gift giver. Many times specialty tools are too specific to the user.
  • The novelty tool
    The flashier it is, the worse it generally is. If a company has to put flames or flowers on a tool, they may be adding flair to compensate for poor quality.

The win win tools as gifts

If you can’t pick that perfect tool to buy as a gift, these tools make great gifts.

  • Flashlights
    There is no such thing as too many flashlights. My personal favorite is the Streamlight Stylus Pro. You can pick it up for around $20. I own about 7. It is the light I use in the shop all day. I also keep one in every car, and have a couple of backups at work.
  • Tape measures
    This is another tool that you can’t have enough of. I generally use 2 when I do projects. Even with that I still find myself looking for the tape measure.
  • Locking Pliers
    Most folks call these Vise-Grips. That is a brand, not a tool. Just like making a Xerox. It’s okay though, I call locking pliers Vise-Grips too. There are so many uses for locking pliers. You can use them as pliers or as an extra set of hands. They are also great for removing stripped bolts.
  • Clamps
    Clamps are a lot like vise grips, too many uses to list. Everything from holding a project together while the glue dries, or resetting a brake caliper piston.
  • Multi-Tool
    I know that I said tool sets may not be a great gift. But all-in-one multi-tools make great gifts. There are some awesome brands out there. I prefer Leatherman. I have owned quite a few of them, and they were all fantastic. You also can never go wrong with the original Swiss Army Tool
  • Pocket Knife
    Many tool fans carry pocket knives. Pocket knives are great gifts. You can use them for cutting tape on boxes. In a pinch, they can be used as a screwdriver. I would not recommend doing that as a first choice.
  • Zip Ties
    It’s does not matter what tool fan you are buying for. Zip ties are a must for anyone that drives a car, owns a house, or has a tool box. They might be as versatile as duct tape
  • How To Books
    If you have someone that new to tools or projects, consider a “How-To” book. Whether you want to repair your car, or rewire your house, “How-To” books belong on every bookshelf.

You can also consider anything that can help maintain tools. A knife sharpening kit is a perfect example. You can also never go wrong with batteries. If all else fails a gift card is a sure fire fall back. I hope that you are all able to find the perfect tool for that tool fan on your list.

Humble Mechanic Logo

Happy Monday everyone! I hope that you all had a fantastic weekend. Before we get into talking about the cost of owning a car, I want to fill you in on a few things.

As you all know by now, my wife and I were planning on moving. Prepping our house to put up for sale has consumed all of our time for about a month. That is the reason that posts have not been consistent, and I have not been on Facebook,or Twitter much. After a total of 40 hours on the market, we were under contract. We really didn’t see that coming. Now we are in the process of finding a new home.

What does that mean for you guys? It means that we will have more things to talk about. One of the big things we are looking for is a workshop. Or a place to build a work shop. So I can show you all how to set up a garage. Think about things like finishing the floor, building storage and organization. It will be awesome.

The bad thing is, the Luv A Dub is on hold for a little while. The move it self will be eating up plenty of time. This move will also mean shifting our budgeting a little. So the money set aside for the Cabby will be going towards the move. Don’t worry it is just a setback. We will be back working on her in no time.

Let’s talk about the cost of owning a car. I stumbled on to this infographic yesterday. They break down some of the costs of owning a car. The more important thing they talk about is the rising cost of owning a car.

Source:The Rising Cost of Car Ownership

I don’t think that I would have a hard time convincing anyone that owning a car is expensive. I do think that some things are a little misleading. Take an oil change for example. I remember when I first started driving, an oil change was $19.95. Today we charge about $65 for an oil change. On the surface that seems like like the cost of service tripled. What we don’t think about is we are not changing our oil every 3,000 miles. We are changing the oil every 5,000-10,000 miles.

On the other side, let’s talk about fuel. MPG is up on most all cars. The issue is MPG is not up as much as the rise in fuel price. Sure you get 30% better fuel mileage, but you are paying 300% more for fuel.(those are not exact numbers, just examples)


Beetle in a Volkswagen

Hey everyone, it’s Shop Shots time. Now before you go crazy, it is not Wednesday. Yep, we are running a day late on the pictures this week. As I have mentioned before, we have been working night and day to get our house ready for sale. Well today is the day that we officially went up for sale. The good thing is, all our projects are done. It is just a matter of keeping the house spotless. On a plus note, we are looking for a place with a shop 🙂

Broken VW PassatThis goes in the “glad no one got hurt” category. A truck driver was picking this car up to ship to another dealer. From what I understand(I didn’t see it happen) the car rolled back and caught part of the truck.

The window frame is totally mangled. I was pulling a car around the building and see a guy driving a Passat with a funny looking window. I had to pull over and snap a picture for you guys. This Passat will most likely be getting a new door. Again, glad no one got hurt, other than the drivers feelings.

Bad VW sunroof drainClogging sunroof drains is an issue on many VWs. The A4(or Mk4) platform Jetta, Golf, and Beetle had recalls to clean and remove the tab on the drain. I think that the Passats of that generation had a similar recall. Or that repair was part of a recall.

This is from an old Jetta that came in with a ton of issues. I was clearing the check engine light and noticed this. There is a straw in the drain tube . Why you ask. I have no idea. I guess to keep water flowing out of the car, instead of into the car. This is one of the type of things that you have to call everyone in the shop over to look at. Who knows, maybe they are on to something.

Beetle in a VolkswagenSadly I could not get a picture of this little guy where I found him. I opened the hood of a Jetta. Hanging from the washer fluid line was a horned beetle. I am not sure exactly what type of beetle he is, but I thought he looked cool.

I grabbed my phone and tried to snap a picture of him hanging. Right about that time, he fell into the cowl pan. I had to fish him out so I could show everyone. So here he is, the little beetle chilling on top of my laptop. 🙂

That does it for this week’s Shop Shots. I hope that you guys aren’t too mad at me for missing so many posts lately. If you have every sold a house or moved you know how crazy things get. Like I said before, we are done the the major stuff. That means I will be back full throttle!

Cracking VW serpentine belt

Serpentine belt routing Hey everyone, happy Monday. Before we get rolling I want to thank all of you that entered the contest.  Congratulations are in order for Larry and for Mathew. Larry’s name was picked (at random) from the comments. He won the VW car wash kit. Mathew won the Snap-on gift pack. His name, (actually his twitter handle) was picked at random. Thanks again to everyone that entered. We will have more fun stuff like this soon.

Today I want to keep rolling on our “Does my car really need this service?”. We are talking about Serpentine belts. What it does. Why it’s important, and how do you know if you need to replace yours.

What is a Serpentine belt
This is the belt on your car that drives the accessories. In order to technically be a serpentine belt, it must drive multiple accessories. Things like:

  • Power steering pump
  • Alternator
  • Air conditioning compressor
  • Water pump
  • Super charger 🙂
  • Smog pump(this is an emissions control on older cars.

Those are some of the things that can be driven by a serpentine belt. Well, I guess those are more like necessities by today’s standards.

The serpentine belt can also be called a ribbed belt, Vee-belt, or a multi belt. The are kept tight by a tensioner. It can be be tensioned automatically, or have the tension manually set. They may also use pulleys that simply route the belt properly.

Volkswagen TDI timing belt damage

Strands of a broken serpentine belt stuck in the timing belt

Why is it important?
The serp belt has a pretty serious job. With out it your car will will have a dead battery, and may even over heat. Plus we all love our a/c, at least if you live in the south.

A broken serpentine belt can surely lead to you being stranded. At best your battery will be dead. At worst, you can have issues with engine damage. It it rare for a serpentine belt to break in a way that causes engine damage, but it can happen.

This car had a serp belt that broke. It did not leave the owner stranded, but it did cause an issue with the timing belt. When the belt broke, strands of belt got pushed into the timing belt. That cause the car to be slightly out of time. The customer brought his car in for a “hard to start” concern.

How do you know you need to replace it?

Cracking VW serpentine belt

This belt needed to be replaced due to cracking

Many times a worn serpentine belt can be easily seen. If you can see the belt while it is on the car, you may only see a small section of belt. The good thing is, you see it at the most stressed point, rapped around a pulley. That will allow you to see cracking of the belt easier.

Luckily serpentine belts only fail in a few ways:

  • They break completely. Be careful about only replacing the belt. There may be a pulley that has failed causing the belt to break.
  • Cracking, this is the most common way to know your belt is due for replacement.
  • Noisy,  sometimes a belt that is making noise just needs to be replaced.
  • Contamination. This is from other issues with the car. If a water pump leaks coolant, or there is oil leaking on the belt, it is best to replace it. Contaminates can penetrate the belt and cause failure.

So, do I really need this service?
This one is not an easy YES/NO question. Do you need a properly functioning belt, YES. Do you have to replace it right now, probably not.

This is a part that I highly recommend you ask your mechanic to show you. If it looks like it is full of cracks, or is soaked in oil/coolant, replace it. If the belt looks okay, and your mechanic can not show you the issue, it may be fine to wait.

One quick tip. If you want to replace your own serpentine belt, I say go for it. If I don’t know the car very well, I like to draw the pulleys. Then draw a line simulating the belt. That way you don’t have to remember how the belt is routed.