VW oil problem

Happy Wednesday everyone. As I am writing this, I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Christmas is next week. That means this will most likely be the last volume of Shop Shots of the year. I know that you are probably weeping. Don’t worry Shop Shots is not going anywhere. In fact next year should be the biggest year yet for all of us. Let’s get to it.

VW oil problemThe story behind this picture is one of those “you have to be kidding me” moments. A customer stopped by the dealer. He was driving through and the check engine light came on in his 2012 Passat. We worked him in because he was just passing through. When I pulled the car in the shop, it sounded a little funny. I started scanning the car for faults. While the scan tool was doing it’s thing, I popped the hook to have a look.

With the hood up, I found the reason the check engine light was on. It turns out the customer had his car serviced before his road trip. He made it 900 some miles before the check engine light came on. The place that serviced his car did not put the oil cap back on. Luckily it was just sitting by the wipers. The car’s ECM had faults stored for an air leak. Leaving the oil cap off creates a pretty good sized air leak. 🙂 I am just shocked he made it so far before the check engine light came on.

Clogged VW cooling systemNext up is a common issue that is taken to a level I have never seen. This is a shot of a coolant bottle on a 2003 Passat. I have seen quite a few 1998-2005 Passats have issues with cooling systems getting clogged up. It usually comes in with a “My heat does not work” complaint. Over time coolant breaks down and starts to block up the system. This prevents coolant from properly flowing in the system.

In this picture you can see just how clogged up the system got. This is a shot down into the coolant reservoir. I am pretty sure I have not seen a system this clogged. The customer declined making an repairs. I think it was a good choice on her part.

VW seat wiring problemLast up we have a VW wiring problem. This one was a good one. The customer complained about the seat moving while driving. He said that sometimes the seat would move forward or back all by itself. It car has power seats. The car had been in 2 other times for the same issue. We were never able to duplicate the issue. But the car had a fault stored in the computer that controls the seat. We had replaced the seat memory buttons, and the module. I pulled the seat out to inspect the wiring. Hidden in the seat rail was a wire that had a been grounding against the frame. Basically the car was seeing the button being pushed. Kind of funny really. I guess this is one of the electrical demons everyone talks about.

Well, that wraps it up for the final Shop Shots of 2013. I really do love posting Shop Shots. It is the most fun for me. If you like Shop Shot, please sign up for email updates. It is the best way to be sure you get all the blog updates.

Tool Lodge Storage

Hey everyone. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it is December 6th already. This year has been sort of a blur. For the blog it has been an AWESOME year. I may not say it enough, but I really do appreciate each and every one of you. You guys seriously rock.

Today I want to chat a little about tool storage and Tool Lodge Storageorganization. This is a very personal thing for a lot of people. Things get even crazier when you bring it to a professional level. Every one organizes things different. At work, I stage things in a way to get to them fast. At home, I like things nice and pretty. To be honest, my tools at home are a mess. 🙂

The folks at Tool Lodge were nice enough to send me a sample of their tool drawer organizer. They asked me to check it out, and give them my thoughts. I did that, and I figured I would share them with all of you as well. One quick thing, Tool lodge did send this to me at no charge. But as you all know, I give my honest opinion no matter what. That is how I roll.

Overall I think the product is well built. It is a foam wrapped in a felt type material. The backing is plastic and seem to be pretty supportive. You can even add magnets to the bottom. That would be good if the holder will not cover the entire drawer. Here are a few pictures of the process.

Orginize The ToolsHere is a shot of some tools set out. The most important thing seems to be laying out your tools properly. If you look to the bottom left of the picture, you can see that I punched a ratchet into the foam.

Tool box storgage Tool Lodge

This is a close up of the ratchet I pressed into the foam. Pressing a tool seemed very easy to do. I was able to apply pressure by hand and set the tool so it would not move. Then I tapped the tool down into the foam. Tool Lodge recommends using a soft (rubber or plastic) mallet. I used a regular hammer and a block of wood. It worked great!

Tool box storgage Tool Lodge

This is the imprint of the ratchet in the foam. You can see it does a good job of forming to the tool. You can even see the lines of the handle. If you look at the middle of the imprint, you can see an section pressed in that does not fit the ratchet shape. This is from the supplied grip tool. It lets you dent a spot to be able to grab the tool. This is one of my favorite parts about this system.

Tool box storgage Tool Lodge

I also wanted to see how a box wrench would set in the system. Here you can see the tool and the indent in the foam. It does a pretty good job of setting an imprint that matches the tool.

Like I said before, I think this is a nice tool storage system. Here is my overall breakdown of the Tool Lodge.


  • Tools look VERY cool. Hey, that matters

    tool box organization

    This is what an unorganized tool drawer looks like

  • Tools will always have a set place.
  • It is easy to see if something is missing.
  • Things can not roll around in the draw
  • Tools are easy to set in the foam
  • This is a GREAT system when people share tools
  • The felt will not mar tools
  • Product is well built
  • Custom sizes to most tool box drawers
  • The grip tool is great to get tools out fast.
  • No cutting of foam.
  • It’s way better than the foam that you pluck the squares out of


  • Once the tools are set, there is no changing or adding tools
  • I am slightly concerned about long term use, the tools may not fit as tight down the road
  • I worry about what happens if you drop a tool on the foam. Light tools would be fine, but something with some weight might dent the foam.
  • The felt seems to hold some dust. This is not a big deal, just a minor.
  • I wonder about oil saturation on the foam. My tools are not always spotless when I put them away. This is a Charles thing. It probably does not apply to some folks.
  • The drawer you use it in needs to be 2 or more inches deep.
  • It is a bit pricey to outfit an entire tool box

Well that about wraps it up. I think Tool Lodge did a good job building this product. For the person looking for this type of organization, I think you will dig this! If you have any questions about Tool Lodge, please post them in the comments. I will also be setting a few more tools just to see how they form.

Cover up car damage with stickers

Hey folks. Today we are back in action with Shop Shots! For Those of you that are new to the blog, let me tell you a little about Shop Shots. It started early in the blog about 2 years ago. I posted a few pictures of some fun things I seen at the shop. With some input from the early readers(love you guys) we decided to make it a weekly thing. One of the earliest readers of the blog came up with the name. Thanks for that Brett! Here we are 64 volumes later, and rocking along. Let’s do it to this.

 Cover up car damage with stickersFirst up is not the craziest thing I have ever seen. But since I am a hockey fan, I got a good laugh from it. This is the front bumper from a new Golf. I didn’t want to peel off the sticker to see what the damage looked like. Gotta love cool sticker placement, and DIY car repairs. 😉

Wood blocks on the gas pedal

This is one of the funniest things I have seen in my working career. You are looking at the pedals from a 2002 VW Cabrio. They look a little funny because they have wood blocks strapped to them. Yep, wood blocks! I remember hearing the joke about little old ladies needed to sit on phone books, or put blocks on the pedals. Never in my life did I think I would actually see it. If there is ever a “Best of Shop Shots” This picture should be on it. Big thanks to a fellow VW tech Howie for letting my use this picture.

dirty smelly carThis picture is one I took last week. You are looking at the passenger side floor of a Jetta Sportwagen. Let me point out a few things you can see in the picture.

  • pistachio shells
  • several straw wrappers
  • leaves
  • a Starbucks coffee topper
  • Lots of weird white hair
  • a Wendy’s wrapper
  • console trim that is falling off
  • And the icing on the cake A BOTTLE OF AIR SANITIZER!

As luck would have it, I had the pleasure of replacing the pollen filter in this car. The filter lives just behind the glove box. The bigger issue I have is that someone would keep their car like this, and just buy some spray to cover it up. I can tell you all that the spray didn’t help. This is one of those times I put a cover down to keep me clean.

Well, that wraps up this weeks Shop Shots! Now that the Cabby is in a good place, I can get back to a more regular posting schedule. I can also get back to the PODCAST!

MK1 VR6 Engine swap

wpid-IMG_20131119_132559.jpgHappy Tuesday everyone. Today I wanted to update you guys on the progress of the Cabby. There are a ton of you that have been following the progress of this build from day one. I really appreciate that. It has been a long journey over the last year and a half. If you are a newer reader, you travel back and check out the cabby before we started the build.

Where the project is now.
The Cabby is sitting in the garage as I type this. The car ran and drove great. That is until the last time I drove it. I picked the car up from work on Thanksgiving. She made it almost all the way home. I hit the throttle, and started to smell raw fuel. I pulled over to find that the car was pouring fuel on the ground. It looks like a fuel line swelled and started leaking. It should be a simple repair. I am hoping to get that fixed this weekend.

What is left to finish?
The Vr6 is in and runs really well. It is always stressful rebuilding an engine, then having it sit for 6 months before starting it. So I am happy she runs. There are still a ton of things that need to be finished.

  • Interior
    The interior is coming along, just a little slow. If you remember, I picked up a 1984 Cabby a few months ago. I used most that that interior in the chalk cabby. I still have to install the rear seats, door panels, and small parts of the dash. It is about a days worth of work.
  • Exterior
    I don’t even know where to start. For now, I think she is going to stay the way she is. What do you guys think? Post up any ideas in the comments.
  • Electrical
    So far, everything seems to work well. I have some lights to hook up. I also plan to control the headlights with relays. This will help to brighten up the lights. I have also considered making the inner lights on the front driving lights instead of high beams.
  • Engine
    While the engine runs great, there is still a number of things that need to be finished. Some of the wiring harness needs to be trimmed up and wrapped. I also need to have an Oxygen sensor port welded in the exhaust. I also want to change the radiator. I used a 1991 Passat 16v rad. I think I am going to swap it for a VR6 rad. It seems like it will fit better. I am sure there are other things that need to be cleaned up. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

MK1 VR6 Engine swap

Plans for the future
To be honest, I have not given a ton of thought here. For me, I need to focus on the next hurdle. It is easy to get overwhelmed looking too far ahead. Once the car is back together, that is where things get interesting. Reliability is my main focus. I want to be able to take a 4 hour road trip and not worry about getting there. I hope by spring it will get there. There are also a few random things I am thinking about. What do you guys think about this?

  • Having the car wrapped. It would be cheaper and easier than paint
  • Removing the top and a Roadster style ride
  • Add some support to stiffen the car up

Well, that is pretty much where she sits. I am also working on a guide to some of the things I did with the engine swap, that might be a little different. If you are working on this swap, let me know. I will be  more than happy to help if I can.

There have been several folks that have helped me during this build. They have supplied parts, advice, and other cool stuff. This is in no particular order
EURO-WISE ~ VR6 install kit, exhaust, front brace(just ordered that) Everyone there is awesome!
German Auto Parts ~  maintenance parts, I HIGHLY recommend these guys. Tel Justin I sent ya
Black Forest Ind. ~ JOM coil overs.
Anything Auto ~ K&N air filter
42 Draft Design ~ Intake
T-Hoff ~ They did the machine work on the engine
Nothing Leaves Stock

One more thing. I shared this on the Facebook page, but I wanted to post it here. Most of you know that I am a big craft beer fan. There is a new brewery that is opening up in Rural NC. They started a Kickstarter to get the final funding to open the doors. Haw Rives Ales Kickstarter. If you can help them out, that would be awesome. If you do, let me know. I got something extra for you. Just contact me.


Humble Mechanic Logo

Happy Monday everyone. I hope that you all had a great weekend. I am not really a fan of the weekend after Thanksgiving. Now that many stores open on Thursday, I guess I need to add Thanksgiving day to that list. I spent years working retail. This time of year was awful. Seeing people fighting over junk. Best wishes to all of you that work retail.

Moving on 😉 Today I want to give you all some advice to avoid some big time frustrations with your car. For me, the 3 days before Thanksgiving are insane. I made more hours Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, than I did 2 weeks ago. The dealer could have had 5 more techs and we still would have not been able to help everyone.

As someone that has been in the car business for a while, it is beyond me why so many people wait until the last minute to get their car serviced. I guess it is because the average driver considers their car an after thought. But waiting until the last minute for service can result in frustrations.

Here is how a conversation goes between a customer and a service advisor

Customer: (Calling on Monday before Thanksgiving) “Hi I need to get my car in for service”
Service writer: “Hi, we are taking appointments for Saturday, or for next week”Customer: ” But I need to get my car serviced tomorrow. We are going out of town”
Service writer: “I would love to help you, but lots of folks are traveling as well”
Customer: “Well I need to get my car serviced. Why don’t you have time to help me”
Service writer: “I would love to help you. I just can not bump other customers appointments”
Customer: “That’s BS. I can’t believe you wont help me.”
Service writer: “We can get you in Saturday”
Customer: “No, it needs to be before Thanksgiving”.

By now you get the point. As the conversation goes on, the customer and service writer both get tense. The customer is mad, the writer is mad, and the dealer doesn’t get the work. As a customer, there is little you can do to force a service dept. to get your car in for service. What can we do as customers? I am glad you asked.

Simple right? Call to make an appointment a week before the holiday, or your road trip. That way if your car has an issue, you have time to get it fixed. Last year my wife and I took a road trip to Illinois. It was a trip of about 2000 miles total. While I was getting ready for the trip, I wrote 3 posts about getting your car ready for road trips. We talk about starting to get the car ready 2-3 weeks before the road trip.

You are trying to get your car serviced at one of the busiest times of the year. If you do wait, leave some extra time to get your car serviced. Please don’t leave a 20 minute window to get service. If your service department is booked at that time, you are stuck.

You might be thinking that service departments should be doing more to accommodate customers this time of year. I would 100% agree. Service departments should have all hands on deck so to say. But like I said, we can’t do anything to make them do that. So we have to take the initiative.

I hope you all really did have a great holiday weekend. For the first time in the 15 or so years I have known my wife, we both had the weekend off. That was pretty cool. I will have an update about the Cabby tomorrow, and hopefully have some Shop Shots for you on Wednesday. I didn’t realize how long it had been since the last round of Shop Shots.

Here are the 3 posts about prepping your car for a road trip: