A fan asked me if he could do his own brake fluid service.  I responded to him with ” sure it’s really easy”.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is actually a lot to servicing brake fluid.  There are lots of tools out there that can help you with this.  At the shop I use a pressure bleeder.  It pushes fluid through and works great.  That machine is about $1000, so not something you want to run out and buy.

As I have said before, brakes are a VERY important safety system.  I can’t be responsible for anything getting messed up. I don’t want anyone getting hurt, so please take this seriously.

Ok, brake fluid, this is the main connection from your foot, to the brakes at the wheels.    When the brake pedal is pressed, it forces fluid to the brakes. This moves the piston and pushes the brake pad into the rotor or brake drum.

We need to keep this fluid clean for a couple of reasons:
1)   Dirt in the lines can cause damage to seals in the system
2)   Brake fluid absorbs mositure(hygroscopic). Excess mositure will boil when the brakes get hot or freeze when they get cold. Either way this can result in expensive brake system repairs

Let’s get the fluid changed.  Remember,  this must be done correctly, or your brakes will be very sad.
There are several ways to do this I will talk about the 2 easiest ways to do it, and all you will need is a helper and wrenches to open the bleeders.  I personally like to take the wheels off to flush brakes.  Brake fluid on nice wheels can ruin the finish.

Gravity Flush
This takes a long time, but is the easiest way, and has the lowest chance of air getting in the system.

First, open the brake fluid  reservoir, and fill it to the top.

Next start by opening the bleeder fitting on the brake that is furthest from the brake fluid reservoir. This will usually be the right rear brake.

Open the bleeder screw enough to let fluid come out.  Keep a close eye on the fluid reservoir, it MUST NOT empty all of the fluid out.  While keeping the fluid full up front, let gravity do the work.  When the fluid is clean, close the bleeder, clean with brake clean, and move to the other rear wheel.  Do the exact same time on the 3 other wheels.

This takes a really long time, just don’t touch the brake pedal, and everything will be good.

Manual Flush

Well, this way is much faster, but you will need a helper, and run a higher risk of air getting into the system.  This way uses the pressure created by pushing the brake pedal to force the fluid out of the bleeder.

Like with Gravity Flush, make sure the fluid reservoir  is full, and DO NOT PUMP IT EMPTY!

Start at the futherest wheel from the fluid reservoir.  This time, have your helper pump the brake several times. Have them hold the pedal to the floor.  Open the bleeder and let fluid out.  Now close the bleeder, and have your helper pump the brake again.

This will need to be done a few times at each wheel.  Again until the fluid is clean.   Please be really careful. When the bleeder is open, DO NOT let the brake pedal come off the floor.  This will suck air in to the system, thats what happened to me the very first time I did it this way.

I have several times in this post to be carful. If you happen to get air in the lines, it will feel like your pushing down on a sponge.  This feeling gets worse as the brakes get hot.  PLEASE don’t do this if you are not 100% sure!!!  I can not be responsable if you damage your brakes.

 

So something happened in the shop this week that is, short of hurting someone, every mechanics biggest fear.

A customer brought their 2010 Passat in for its first service.  With only 10,000 miles the car got an oil change, tire rotation and some other minor checks.  The mechanic that performed the service is one of the top guys in the shop.  He was my mentor when I first started, and is one of the smartest people I have met in my life.  He is not a “do it quick” type of guy.  I just want you to understand that something like this can happen to any of us, it just so happen that this was his time.

After performing the very basic service, the car ran in the shop of about 5 minutes.  Then, he pulled the car around, customer got in and left.  About an hour later the car got towed back in with the customer saying that it died.

Before the car got pushed into the shop, we got the full story from the customer.  They said that they were driving on the highway, and the oil light came on and was beeping and flashing.  The customer continued to drive the car another 7 miles and then the engine shut off.

We check and find that there is NO oil in the car.  The mechanic added oil and tried to start the car, but no luck, engine would not even turn.  The car gets pushed in the shop, which is not fun by the way.  The mechanic checks and finds that the oil filter was loose.  He pulls the filter off to find that the filter as 2 gaskets. It turns out that when he removed the original filter, the gasket stuck to the car, not the filter.  When he put the new filter on, it crushed the gasket enough to properly seal.  The customer driving the car on the highway caused the oil pressure to push the gasket off and pump ALL of the oil out of the car.

In the end, the Passat will need a new engine and a new turbo charger.  The cost of all of the parts will come in around $5000.  The mechanic that made the mistake will have to do about 2.5 days worth of work to replace the engine.  He will be working with out pay to get the job complete.  Also, that engine is on back order for about 3 weeks.

Here are the lessons that we can all learn from what happened

  1. Even the best can make mistakes.  This mechanic takes a ton of pride in his work.  He will be beating himself up about this for a long time.  Good mechanics hate making mistakes, and noting anyone can say will make him feel any better.  I completely understand how he feels.  I don’t wish that feeling on anyone!
  2. The customer will be taken care of.  I am not sure to what extent, but the dealership will make it as right as they can.  I personally feel really bad for the customer, and what happened to their brand new ca
  3. If you have a light flashing, or a warning beeping at you, please stop driving the car.  This is NOT the customers fault, but the damage may not have been catastrophic if they had pulled over right away.

I will try to get some pictures of the internal engine damage when he takes it out.

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Hi everyone,

I wanted to talk about checking brakes.  This is something everyone can do, with almost no tools.  The only thing you might need is a flashlight.

Before you get started I need to tell you a few things.  This is a basic visual inspection,  just a check.  If you have an issue with braking, then further inspection will be needed.   DO NOT DO THIS AFTER YOU JUST DROVE THE CAR.  The brakes get really hot and it burns like hell if you touch hot brakes(trust me).  If you have any question about what you are looking at, post it in the comments and I will help you out.

I also want you to know what you are looking at.  I am going to have you check 4 main parts. Brake discs(or rotors), Brake pads, Brake lines, and Brake fluid.

Lets start with fluid.

Open the hood.  Ususally the brake fluid resivoius is at the back of the engine bay, inline with where the brake pedal is.  If you don’t see it, check the owners book, it will tell you what the cap looks like.  Open the cap and shine you flashlight in.  You want to check the level.  Be sure its at the full mark.  Look at the color.  When new the fluid is yellow.  It turns greenish after time.  If its Black, get the fluid flushed .  Be sure to use the correct fluid. VW uses DOT 4+ fluid.

Ok, the fluid is good. Lets move to the wheels.

Start in the front, you’ll see why soon.   Look through the rim.  You will see a silver disc, that is the brake rotor.  It should be a nice silver color.  Look for any rust build up on the outer edge, some is normal, but  you don’t want your pads trying to clamp down on rust.  If you see a blueish tint, your brakes are getting too hot and need further inspection.  I like to run my fingernail up and down the rotor, like the hands of a clock @ 12:00, to check for any scoring or grooves that are forming.

If your rotor is good, now lets move to the pads.

Pads are the friction matieral that clamp down on the rotor to stop the car.  The brake pads are the part that will wear the quickest.  The pads are housed in the brake caliper and might be tricky to see.  The caliper is usually at the 9 o’clock or 3 o’clock positions.  This part is kinda tricky.  Follow the rotor around until you come to the pad.  The pad will look like its sitting on the rotor. Its actually barely riding the rotor to keep water off of it.  If the part that rides on the rotor is narrower than a quarter, replace them, NOW!

If you can see any of the lines, just check and make sure they are not wet with fluid.

Most cars will have a wear indicator of some kind for the front brakes.  Volkswagens have an electric sensor built into the pad.  Other cars like Honda have “squealers”. They will make a heck of a noise when its time to get replaced.  Please do not rely on these systems to keep you safe.

Well, time to move to the rear wheels.

One of 2 things will happen here.  If the rear brakes looks like the front, just use the same method as the front.  If you don’t see a rotor or brake pads, there is nothing to check.  Your brakes are drum style brakes, and the drum needs to be removed.

Well, you did it.  A quick and easy inspection.  How did it go?  How long did it take?  Please post in the comments how it went for you.

 

*Remember, If you are not 100% sure, get your brakes checked by a professional.  I am not responsible for any misdiagnosis, or errors that are made*

I wanted to start a blog.

I really struggled in the beginning. Trying to figure out what the hell I would write about.  I was basically looking for an angle.

After doing some research and listening to some people that really inspired me to start this in the first place, It hit me that’s the opposite of what I am about.

An angle is complete bullshit.  I don’t have an angle or a scheme at work, why would I try and pass that off online.

So what it has come down to is that I really want to connect with people. In the early stages, I want to start with my current customers.

I want them to be able to see what goes on in the shop.  What happens when I work on their car.

I want to create the same type of experience online as they get when they are at the shop.

I like talking to customers.   I have met some awesome people over the years. Many of which I no longer call customers. I consider them friends.