MK1 Vr6 Volkswagen kit

Hi everybody!
It has been almost 3 months since I last did an update on the Cabby. There are a few reasons for that. The main one is, I have not touched the car in that long.

When we last left our hero
I was driving her home from my work on Thanksgiving. I was almost home when a fuel line broke and started pouring fuel. While it is a very simple and cheap fix, I just have not gotten to it. And to be honest, I am not a fan of working on the cold garage floor.

It is a strange thing for me. I am either all in or all out on projects. I spent so many hours last year getting the cabby built. I think I needed a break. Plus driving a convertible in winter is not nearly as fun as in the summer. I am starting to get he bug again.

MK1 Vr6 Volkswagen kit

Until I get the fuel line fixed, this is how she sits. Luckily I am not too concerned about the “paint” 😉 And yeah, I know my Passat needs a bath.

I know that today was a short update. I wanted to fill you all in on what is happening with the cabby. I guess I should have said what is not happening. In the last Cabby update I go into more detail about this years plans.

Call in show
I set up a call in line on Tuesday. Now I have a way for you to call in your questions. I would love to hear from you guys with your questions. I really want to get this segment rocking, but I need your help.

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Hey folks,

Last week I asked you guys if you would be interested in me adding a “call in” feature to the site. A place where you can call and ask a question. Once I had a few questions to answer, I would shoot a video or record a podcast and answer them.

I set up a widget on the right side bar. Just click the link and you can call and leave a voice mail. How freaking cool is the internet. There are a wide variety of topics we can cover. Below is a list of topics off the top of my head:

  • Volkswagens
  • General Car repair
  • What does XYZ car part do
  • Should I DIY a specific repair
  • A shop said my car needs ABC-123 repairs, what do you think?\
  • Tools <~ This one excites me 🙂
  • Questions to ask a mechanic
  • What to look for in buying a car, new or used
  • Anything about being a mechanic
  • How Flat rate works

I am sure there are a million other things that people want to know about. I have spent 2 and a half years talking about it. Now you have a chance to drive the ship!

I would really love to make this a weekly thing. But I need your help to make this a success. How can you help? Well, start by calling in. Then share the site. If you are on a forum or Facebook, let folks know.

Oh, one last thing, don’t think that you HAVE to call in a question. You can still contact me or email me, Charles(at)Humblemechanic(dot)com. I wanted to give you another way to get my advice. Your question may also help someone else too.

knight rider

Today I wanted to shift gears a little *side note, that pun always cracks me up* We talk about some serious stuff around here. I tought it would be fun to switch it up.

I mentioned on the Facebook Page yesterday that Netflix now has Knight Rider on streaming. Not the one from 2008, the original one from 1982. I remember watching this show as a kid. I was pretty little when it was on TV. But who could forget that theme song, or that awesome red light on the front. It was so cool to hear a car talk, and it had turbo boost!

Now I watch the show as an adult(subjective) and a car pro, I see all the 80’s “cheese” the show had. Tons of plot holes, amazing acting, cornball special effects, you name it, Knight Rider has it. But around all that cheese was a car that is extremely futuristic for the time. I want to look at a few features that KITT had, and how they car common in today’s cars.

  • Silent Mode
    Made for quiet movement, makes me think of E-Mode in hybrids.
  • Com-link
    This allowed Micheal to contact home base. We can look at this like OnStar, or a pairing with a smart phone.
  • Deflatable Tires
    The tires in the show where slightly different. Today we have tires built to run with little air pressure.
  • Mircoscanners
    This is is just one part of an overall “awareness” system that KITT has. KITT is equipped with sensors throughout the entire car. They are used to visually track anything. This along with the Anamorphic Equalizer(the cool red light in the front) are responcable for KITT’s location awareness. Think about today’s adaptive cruise and lane change assist.
  • Auto CruiseWe have the technology for this right now. Cars that can drive themselves. While this has not hit the mainstream, it was big at the Chicago Auto Show.
  • In-dash entertainment.
    KITT could play video, music and even video games on his video screen in the dash.
  • Alpha Circuit
    This is said to be KITT’s main control system, and is the reason it can drive itself. The Alpha circuit could be viewed as a body module today. The computer that is the center hub for all car functions.

I am sure we could spend all day talking about cool “future” cars. So saying that, what was YOUR favorite “future” car? Post it up in the comment section! And now, you will have the theme song stuck in your head all day 😉


VW Wheel Damage

Happy Wednesday everyone. If you like are like me, you are about over winter. I am ready to get home from work and still have some daylight. Plus I am ready for top down weather in the Cabby. If you are new to the community, be sure to check out the Luv-a-Dub tab. You can see the build and restore of my 1988 VW Cabriolet with a VR6 engine swap. She is in winter mode right now. I can’t wait to get her back on the road.

Today we have Shop Shots. Let’s get right to it!

VW suspension curb damageLast week’s snow storm reeked havoc on so many cars. We have had 15+ cars come in with bent suspension parts over the last week. This VW is one of the worst I have seen. The solid steel arm of the lower suspension bent. It is bent at a crazy angle. The impact it takes to bend this lower control arm is severe. Replacing the control arm was just the beginning. We also had to replace the axle, wheel bearing, ball joint, and tie rod. All of these are vital parts of the suspension.

Vw Transmission problemsI feel like I post a lot of transmission pictures. There is something so cool about the guts of a transmission. This is the gears of a Passat manual transmission. The customer was concerned about a grinding going into 3rd gear. That is generally an issue with the synchro. This transmission had a good amount of metal in the fluid.

When we have an internal engine or transmission issue, we have to decide whether to repair, or replace. It involves us adding up the parts we think we need to replace, and comparing that to the cost of a new unit.  It generally works out that we replace the unit. That is something that almost always makes the customer happy.

VW Wheel Damage

Like I said in the top picture, winter has been crazy! This is the back side of a wheel. The customer drove in on their spare tire(yay for them knowing how to change a tire). Our tire guy took the wheel out of the trunk and immediately called me over. Not only was their a good size bend in the lip of the wheel, the entire wheel was split. The front face was split away from the barrel of the wheel. I have seen a ton of damaged wheels, but I have never personally seen a wheel split in two. Can you imagine the sound that made. Yikes!

Well that wraps up another week of behind the scenes pictures. I hope that you are all careful and look out for potholes. They hang around long after the snow does. My wife was just telling me about having to dodge potholes. She said she felt like a drunk guy 😉

One last thing, if you enjoy the things we talk about here, please consider sharing this blog. There are share buttons on the top and bottom of every post. As the community grow, it gives me more bargaining power to do cool things like giveaways. At some point this year, I will start looking for some sponsors for the blog. More on that another time.


If you have been following the blog for any amount of time you know I live cars. I fix cars during the day, and talk about cars and the auto industry at night. I even drive a car in between 😉  So I thought I would talk about something a little different today, some cool British Cars. When I think of British cars, my mind goes immediately to James Bond. Q always modified the Bond cars with some really awesome gadgets.

Lotus Esprit Lotus
Race car style and handling Lotus builds some sick cars.

“Adding power makes you faster on the straights, subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.” *Lotus Philosophy

Lotus builds cars with an uncompromising quest for excellence. They build lightweight cars with top notch handling. Seems like a perfect platform for a Bond car. Lotus Esprit appeared in 2 Bond movies.

Bentley R-Type
Even though they are British cars, they are part of the VW family. I had the pleasure of working on one a few years back. It was a car that belonged to a friend of my dealers GM. I am not going to lie, it was pretty intimidating working on a car that cost more than my house. As I was working on it, I realized it was very much a highlight VW. It even shares part numbers with the Touareg. Too bad the one I worked on was not equipped with anti-pursuit systems. The R-Type appeared in only 1 Bond movie.

Aston Martin DB5
THIS is what I think of when I think of British cars. There is much debate about what the best James Bond car is. but when I think of Bond, I think of Aston Martin. James Bond drove Aston Martins in 9 movies. Most popular model was the DB5. Sadly Aston Martin does not add all the cool Bond gadgets to the cars at the factory. The DB5 can be found in 5 Bond movies.

Some say Jag-wire, some say Jag-u-ar, others just call Jaguarthem Jags. This car company was actually started by a company that originally made side cars for motorcycles. While there are some folks that may not love the Jag styling, you can not argue that the Mark 2 from the 1950, and the F-Type of today are amazing vehicles. Jaguar only made it in to 2 Bond movies.

There are tons of really cool British cars. Some like Rolls-Royce are so far out of my price range its crazy. I might be able to swing some used British cars, but I may also be dreaming. Plus I need to keep some extra funds for anti-pursuit systems. 😉 Do you have a favorite Bond car? How about a British car in general? Post it up in the comments below.

Cars stuck in Snow Storm

Cars stuck in Snow StormOn February 12, 2014, a big snow storm hit the east coast. The storm brought snow almost all day, followed up by ice at night. It was a traffic nightmare. People were stuck in their cars, for 6+ hours. Some even had to abandon their cars and walk home in the snow. Lucky for me, I was off work that day. My wife and I stayed home all day, and watched the new reports. Today I want to talk about some things folks could have done to put themselves in a better position if something went wrong.

Snow in the south is different than snow in the north!
Before we move into the main topic, I need to talk about this. I lived in the suburbs of Chicago until I was 24. I remember driving in snow all the time. Here in the south it is very different. It is not just that we do not have the equipment to maintain the roads. We also see more ice than snow. We also have the people that “grew up in the north” and think they can drive on ice. I admit I was that guy when we first moved here. Now I LOVE the fact that the town shuts down. Now we can move on and get to things that can help anyone in this situation.

Avoid the situation
The easiest way keep yourself out of trouble is to avoid it all together. That means when it snows you stay home. For most of us, this is not an option. My dealers policy is “we are open, get here if you feel safe”. I have only called in a few times. Like I said yesterday, I am an old school type dude. So this is not my first thought. I always try to make it in. But if you do not have to go out, don’t go out.

Keep your vehicle ready
This time I am not talking about maintenance. I am talking about having things you store in your car to be ready for a situation like this. You don’t need to have a giant SUV to keep a few extra things in your car.

Cars stuck in Snow Storm

Photo c/o News&Observer

  • first aid kit
  • safety triangle
  • flashlight
  • water
  • snacks
  • boots
  • cellphone charger
  • get home bag
  • full tank of gas
  • weather appropriate gear, coats gloves, hats, socks, socks, socks
  • A reflective jacket.
    This advice comes from my buddy Lucas at It is something I never even thought about.

Everything on this list, other than the get home bag, will fit in a small bag in the trunk of your car. Having a get home bag might make you seem like a crazy person. I can’t tell you how many people I seen get interviewed say they walked 2 miles, 5 miles or more. That is a long, cold, wet walk if you are not somewhat prepared.

I am sure that some of those “walkers” did not have to abandon their cars. But it is not always about YOU and YOUR can. It might be the 10 cars in front of you, and 40 cars behind you that are stuck. I think back to something my mom always said to me. “It’s not you that I don’t trust, it’s all the other crazies”.

I hope that you all will take 15 minutes tonight and evaluate your car kits. If you got stuck in the snow, would you be able to make it home 3 miles? What if you stayed in your car? Would you be freezing, hungry, and with out cell phone communication?

I used this event to evaluate my own 3 cars. Here is the results:

  • CabbyCars stuck in Snow Storm
    Well, the Cabby is not running right now. So I have nothing in it. More updates on the Cabby later this week.
  • Passat
    The Passat is pretty well stocked. I have everything on the list, other than a reflective jacket. I will be adding that ASAP. I do need to restock my water and snacks
  • Frontier
    The truck is about 50/50. We have first aid kits, flashlights, chargers, and water. But we need a get home bag. This will be done this weekend.

I really do want you all to take some time and evaluate your car. Most of what you need can be found around the house. What you have to buy, think about hitting the Dollar Store. It is a great place to get things you will keep in your car. I would recommend buying a good quality flashlight.

Did I forget anything? What do you keep in your car to keep you out of a jam? Post it up in the comments. It can help all of us safe.

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10 years of fixing broken volkswagensYesterday was my 10 year anniversary of starting at my dealer. So much has changed in the decadethat I have been working for VW. Yet the industry largely stays the same. I am sitting on my couch drinking my coffee and reflecting on the past 10 years of being an auto mechanic.
I would like to share some thoughts with you all today.

I started in the industry in 2004. I was totally the “new guy”. While I had just spent over a year in tech school and training with VW, I didn’t really get how the dealership worked. I was very fortunate to have an excellent mentor named Robert. Rob and I shared much of the same ideals about working on cars. He really helped me hone my skills. It was a good mix of helping me out, and letting me get my butt kicked. Something that seems to be lost on techs these days.

While I took to the job pretty quick, it took me about a year to really get my feet under me and feel comfortable in the job. That was around the time where I felt I could be pretty good at fixing Volkswagens. I realized there was not really a problem I couldn’t walk through. That didn’t mean I was going to win every time, but I know I would get through it.

Change in technology
The change in automotive technology has been pretty big over the last 10 years. As a mechanic, it can be tough to adapt and keep up with with the changes. I look at the old guys that have been wrenching for 30 years. I can’t even imagine how they have lasted so long. Makes me wonder if I will be doing this in 20 years. Here are some of the more notable changes from my point of view

  • Tire pressure monitors
    They were on cars in 2004, but now they are required on all new cars. We can thank the folks at Ford and Bridgestone for that 😉
  • LED and Xenon lighting
    This is one of my favorites.There are lots benefits to LEDs. From brighter light output, and lower current requirements to selectable colors, we have just scratched the surface of LED use in cars. Plus they look cool!
  • Built in GPS and touch screen
    I think VW is woefully behind on the radio front. But even they have come a long way since 2004. Back then the highline radio was a Double Din radio with a CD and Tape player. The same radio my Passat has. LOL
  • Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity This goes hand in hand with GPS. With the lightning fast advancement in smartphone usage and function, we have seen Bluetooth become much more standard. It is for more than just looking ultra cool with an ear piece.
  • Faster communication with less wires
    While C.A.N. communication inside a car is not new, the rate of comm has really improved. Also the number of modules that talk and share information is expanding rapidly.

There have been more advancements over the years. But much of what we see is an improvement on an existing technology. Controlling car outputs using pulse with modulation is not new. We can just do it faster new. Pulse with Modulation or PWM is simply controlling an electric output by turning it on and off really fast. It is a different world to light a car light bulb today.

The Industry
As much as the industry has changed, it has also stayed the same. We seem to be stuck in the classic way things are done. There is no change in the flat rate pay plan for mechanics. I do think that we may be moving to something more consistent. We actually lost 2 techs last year to Tesla. One of the big attractions was being paid by the hour. I understand why companies think flat rate is a great way to pay tech. But part of me thinks that it is an outdated way to pay techs. At least the top level techs. That may be just wishful thinking. It might be time to dive into the pros and cons of flat rate again.

Social Media
While I said that the industry has not changed very much, we have also changed in the advertizing world. The introduction of “social media” has been interesting. I think that overall car companies have been missing a huge opportunity. They seem to be scared of what someone like me might say. I have even got in trouble for things I have posted on forums. In my mind, I would think that companies would want to embrace someone like me. How better to humanize your brand than to have someone that lives beat the drum for you?

A personal journey
The last 10 years have also been an amazing personal journey. I went from the new guy, to a mid level tech, to a team leader very fast. I spent a lot of time as a team lead being hating. Most of the techs I worked with didn’t like my attitude. I am an old school dude. I am not at work to be a warm and fuzzy dude. I expect techs to come to work, bust their butt, and go home. That does not seem to be the normal today. Even my boss tells me I am an old school guy. I consider it to a compliment.

The last few years I have been really working on bringing my game up. Trying to move away from the guy that everyone hates, to a true leader in the shop. It really involved me paying closer attention to individuals and finding ways to motivate other techs. It is tough for me. I am not the type of person that needs to be “motivated”. I do my job the best I can, because that is who I am. It took a lot for me to understand that everyone is not me. Different things motivate different people. One of my new goals is learning how to interact with coworkers in a different way.

It sure has been an interesting 10 years. Plenty of ups and downs. I have had days that made me love my job. I have also had days that I wanted to lock my toolbox and just leave. But the truth is, I have been at the same dealer for 10 years. This is an industry that has an average turn around of 2 years. It says a lot about the company I work for, and the management my dealer has. It also means the world to me to be able to work with the customers I have. It really is an honor to have met and worked with so many amazing customers. They are truly one of the best parts of my job. I have several friends now that started out as customers. The fact that so many people have 100% trust in me is an amazing feeling.

I want to finish up with a huge thank you. I really have a hard time expressing in words how thankful I am to all the people that have helped me in my career. From mentors to customers and followers of this blog. You are all the reason that I can keep going, and doing what I do. I give you all my sincerest thanks. I appreciate all of you so so much.