Shop Shots Volume 18 Insider Pictures of Automotive Service

Published on June 6, 2012 under Shop Shots

It’s Wednesday so you know what that mean, “Shop Shots”! Remember that these are all pictures from behind the scenes in automotive service. I like doing these posts because it can really show some of the weird stuff that auto mechanics see.


What you are looking at here is a gas tank. This came out of a 2008 VW Touareg. The customer’s concern was the car would not take a full tank of gas. This was actually the second time she had the same concern. This time we had to replace the gas tank, lines, and all the evaporative emission parts. My guess is that a valve got stuck on the tank.

There are 2 fuel pumps in this tank. If you notice all the lines that run on the top of the tank. Picture about the same about of lines running inside the tank. The worst part of the whole job is running the lines.



Talk about an unsafe tire. This tire belongs to a newer Jetta. The car was in for its 30,000 mile service. If you look really close inside the crack, you can see the threads inside the tire. There must have been a defect with this tire. I could not find any rim damage, or other outside influence.

The sad part is, the customer declined replacing the tire. He didn’t even want me to put the spare on. He side “I like the rims to match. I don’t want the steel wheel on my car”. The customer then said that he didn’t want to replace the tire and that he would replace it himself. CRAZY?


I posted this on instagram the other day, and got some flack for it. Let me explain what is going on in this picture. This is an oil pan on a 2000 (or so) Jetta 1.8t. The drain plug is covered in duct tape. Yes, I was the one that did that. Here is the FULL story!

The customer brought it in for an oil change. When I drove it into the shop, the oil warning light came on. That tells me the car has low oil pressure. I checked the level, and found no oil on the dipstick. That is a BAD thing for any engine, but even worse for a turbocharged engine.

When I put a wrench on the drain plug, I noticed that it was loose. Before removing it, I tried to torque it. If the plug torqued, then someone left it loose. If it didn’t torque, I know I have a problem with the oil pan. I am sure by now you have guessed that it did NOT torque down. The plug would just turn and turn.

At this point it is time to tell the customer that they have a damaged oil pan. The quote for a new pan was $600 something dollars. She, understandably, declined the repair. The car is old, and she didn’t want to put the money into fixing it just yet. She asked, “Can it get me to the airport?. I tell her it might be okay, but no guarantees. The customer was pretty cool about the whole situation. So I tell her, “Don’t worry, I will just put some duct tape on it for you”. I think that she thought I was kidding. As you can see from the picture, I was not!

I duct taped the plug. I figured that even if it leaked some, the plug would not come all the way out. This was not an attempt to repair the car. It was only a bandaid to get her where she needed to go. The proper way to repair this issue, is replacing the oil pan. The newer pans are steel where the drain plug goes. This pan is all aluminum. When a plug is over tightened, it will ruin the threads inside the pan. There are some aftermarket fixes that work really good, and some that are awful.

Just remember any repair that I make must have a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty. So we don’t do many non-factory repairs. Again, this was a bandaid, not a repair. Personally, I think it came out pretty nice


Further down the transmission hole! There will be a full post about this transmission at some point, but let’s just talk about this picture. You are looking down the opening of a transmission. The transmission is about 1/3 of the way taken apart. The gear you can see at the top is the differential gear. It lets your wheels turn at different speeds. All the small holes are transmission fluid passages. I think I will leave the transmission talk at that. πŸ˜‰

I am really curios what everyone thinks about the duct taped oil pan. Was it the wrong thing to do? Would love to know your thoughts. That wraps up this volume of Shop Shots. Can you believe we are almost at 20? I how awesome is that?

One more thing. I posted something on Facebook yesterday about Facebook charging for businesses to get into a personal new feed. It may not have been true, or it might be some form of the truth. Here is the deal, if you like to see Humble Mechanic updates on Facebook, just like interact with me there. “Like” a post, comment on a post, or share a post. That will make sure you keep getting the updates on FB. Or, just move to Twitter or instagram πŸ˜‰

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  1. Brett Donadeo

    I wouldn’t say you were wrong for duct taping the drain plug, but I don’t think I would have driven it like that if I was the customer. Since she declined the repair, I’m guessing the dealer wouldn’t have offered to have someone drive her to the airport?

    1. Charles

      We didn’t offer to drive her to the airport. She said she wanted to go there and rent a car. We offered to call and have them come get her at the dealer. We also offered her a car to drive(for free) until her car was fixed.

  2. Jeremy (in pgh)

    I’ll now comment on the blog as “Jeremy (in pgh)” so as not to be confused with the other frequent commenter from Canadia…

    I’ve been the victim of the VW aluminum oil pan more than twice now… the first time, I’d have given anything to have a tech like you do that for me. background: I got a steal of deal by way of a holiday coupon book for a monroe muffler shop near my college β€” 5 oil changes (including my more-expensive vw filter inserts instead of the cheaper plug n play cans) for only $60. I still paid the extra $4 each time to make sure they put my preferred oil in it. my jetta was only 20 months old when they torqued my plug and stripped it out. I took the car to the dealer for my inspection and said to change the oil as it’d been right about due then. they put the car up and began to prep for the oil change and discovered the stripped pan. it’d been like that for 3-4 months (since the last change) but they wouldn’t let me leave the lot with it like that. they’d only let me have it towed off their property (I understand why, but it screwed me in the long run). I got in touch with the manager of the offending shop, explained the situation and he referred me to their corporate customer care folks. they would not cover the labor since they felt that they should be given the opp to fix it themselves. I get this, but I also explained that if the person didn’t know how to tighten a plug, why would I let them work on a new pan as well. they covered my parts costs, but not labor (which I thought was way high, maybe $300?). knowing what I know now after having another pan replaced after a crack from a pothole slam, I cannot believe it took a trained tech more than 4 hours (their rate was only $65 hourly back then) when he had equipment and lift and everything else in hand. I might be a bit tough on them, but I cannot imagine, outside the waiting for the sealant to set, that it would take more than 1-1.5 hours to do a pan replacement. I’ve since had an aftermarket pan put on to the one I cracked, and the same day I got it done, I put a small stress crack in it. 3 years later, the JB-Weld patch over the entire crack leaves a single drop of oil about once a week.

    in regards to the “non-repair” … I think you did just fine. she refused a repair and you let her have her car back. you didn’t fix it, but you made it safer by not allowing it to fall out on the road and dump all her oil and cause it to sieze or anything. it would have been way worse to let her go without the duct tape. if that plug fell out (which we know it probably wouldn’t do as the threads were stripped behind the last of the plug threads, not in front), you would have been the last to touch her car before it happened. right or wrong, she’d have seen you as wrong, even with the refused repair just because it worked fine when she brought it in unaware of the damage.

    1. Charles

      “I’ll now comment on the blog as β€œJeremy (in pgh)” so as not to be confused with the other frequent commenter from Canadia…”

      That statement made my day, THANK YOU!

      Man, you sure had a run a bad oil pan luck!

  3. Garrett Craven

    I say as long as you made it clear that duct tape fix was an “un-official” band aid an you were just tryin to be nice then hell yea why not! Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do…and it usually involves duct tape, wd-40 and a hammer πŸ™‚

  4. Jeremy

    I don’t think you are wrong for doing the repair but I would have to disagree with the customer. I love MK4s, be it a Golf or Jetta. She shouldn’t let a 1.8T just die! lol. Of course I’m kidding. I’m just in the process of looking for a 1.8T haha. When a car is 12 years old repairs just keep piling up and up. I would consider an oil pan as a thing that should be fixed. But for $600, I would understand if she doesn’t plan on keeping the car.

  5. Kristin

    I think the duct tape thing was a nice thing for you to do and I always like when a mechanic is willing to work with you if you just don’t have the money, we have all been there. I had a mechanic help me out in sort of a similar way one time with my moms old 86 Buick when the air conditioner stopped working, they just found a shorter belt that would bypass the ac pulley so that I would not have to pay to get the pulley replaced on a 18 year old car that my mom was not planning on keeping and did not care if the ac worked. So you did the right thing and you know what they say: “If you can’t duck, then …. it” πŸ™‚

  6. Jeremy (in pgh)

    oh, and thanks again for posting the drain plug issue simply because I’ve been meaning to get these: for over a year now and keep forgetting to do so. I was planning to change my jetta’s oil tonight and my wife’s outback break pads. now, pads yes, oil no. I’ll wait for the valve to come in and only do it one time.

    btw, do you guys ever come across these kinds of things during your work? I would imagine most who have them are the types that are always planning on doing stuff like this themselves, but that doesn’t mean you don’t see them doing other work or during inspections or “checklist” runs. just curious. and while I’m at it, would additional nylon washers (between the rubber and the valve body, not the pan) be the best idea if I was needing to add a millimeter or two to make sure the valve pointed down when the threads were torqued properly? I think you mentioned 25 pounds once before, but I just always snug it by hand and check it a few days later. after losing a pan to over-tightening before, I’m sensitive about that stuff.

  7. Garrett Craven

    @ jeremy. Your looking at it all wrong lol your not “adding up repairs” after 12 years, your subtracting things off your “restoration list”. πŸ™‚ my jetta is 16 years old very close to 200,000 miles and i dont see it as repairs, im just slowly rebuilding and restoring it the way i want it πŸ˜‰

    1. Jeremy

      I agree with you but most people don’t see it that way. I love my 04 Golf. It may be a 2.0 but it’s my little baby. Some people are scared of repairs. I should have taken more time to write my first comment out lol. I did it on my iPhone while I was killing time at school.

  8. Joseph Frederick

    Regarding the oil pan. I have to give GM credit on their aluminum oil pans, they install thread inserts in the drain hole when they manufacture the pan. I’ve never had or seen a problem with them.

  9. Jeremy (in pgh)

    btw, my quikvalves came in the mail yesterday. I’m hoping to at least be able to comment about the install (can’t be any harder that putting a plug in) and how securely they seal and all that eventually as I’m waiting to change oil and not drain it twice just to install them. I’ll likely do my jetta this weekend but wait until the first week of august to change the outback’s since it’ll hit 3k finally when we return from canadia. it doesn’t pack on the mileage, so I do right around 3k or six months, whereas I used to do 5k on my jetta when I drove enough to make it worth it. now I’m gonna do 3k or six months on it as well, since it only gets 5 miles round trip each workday and the runs to clients and out-of-office meetings. either way, the little lever and hose option I went for should make pouring directly into a bottle instead of a pan and re-draining and all that a breeze with zero to no mess…

    charles, they come with what appears to be a cardboard (or something similar) washer. obviously they tested out different materials and went with this for whatever reason. any thoughts on whether I should change the washer every so many months/years or just leave it should it not leak at all. I’d hope that I’ll never need to remove the valve and therefore if it doesn’t leak now, it shouldn’t in the future…

    1. Charles

      NICE, I am curious to see how you like that setup. I would say leave the gasket alone. I would only worry about it if it started leaking. It might be worth checking once a month just to be sure it is good.

      1. Jeremy (in pgh)

        sounds like a plan.

        the more I think about them, the more I think I’d get them for people as gifts too… I figure, the less someone else has to play with your plug, the less likely one of them is to over-tighten and strip or otherwise damage the pan. surely the person working on the car isn’t going to gripe about not getting oil on their gloves too! I have heard some car models end up with a couple ounces of oil stuck in the pan due to the angle of the plug hole and whatnot, but I’ll just add a couple inches to the jack to increase the angle for the jetta, and I believe the outback has a high angle they way it’s set into the pan. I might do the first change or two where I let it drain until it stops, then pull the valve and see if more comes out. if not, then no worries forever… maybe I’ll send to quikvalve and see if I can’t buy a couple extra washers from them for those first couple. once I know it’s good, it won’t matter.

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