Tag Archive for: brakes

Viewer Auto questions

Today I will be taking your automotive questions. If you have a question about a car, car repair, DIYs on your car, Volkswagen, mechanic’s tools, or anything car related, ask it up. If you have a car question for a show like this, email me Charles(at)Humblemechanic(DOT)com.  Be sure to put the phrase “Question for Charles” in the subject. That is the best way to avoid the spam monster.

Sponsor of the Day

CRP AUTOCRP deals in a ton of OE automotive parts. They also make the factory DSG fluid for VW. Having them as a sponsor will give us access to more information about fluids than I would ever get from VW. I am really excited to have them as a resource of information. To learn more about the great products they have, check out CRPAutomotive.com

Join me as I take your questions on:

  • Buying a used Touareg
  • Reusing intake manifold gaskets
  • Working at a bad dealership
  • Working in unsafe environment
  • Most reliable 2015-2016 Volkswagens
  • Failing VW adblue heaters, and why they are not warranty
  • Dealerships fixing cam chain tensioners
  • Progressing from brake jobs to engine rebuilding as a mechanic
  • and more

Trouble viewing? Watch “Viewer Automotive Questions ~ Podcast Episode 130” on YouTube.

As always I love to hear your thoughts. Please post them in the comments section below. Again, if you have a question for a show like this, email me Charles(at)humblemechanic(dot)com with Question for Charles in the subject. Also if you have an idea for a show you can email me, or use the contact me form!

Don’t forget to follow me at:

Automotive questions

Today on the Humble Mechanic Podcast, I take your automotive questions. If you would like to get a question on a show like this, follow this format. Email me, Charles(AT)Humblemechanic(dot)com and put “question for Charles” in the subject. This is the best way to get your car question answered. If there are topics you want me to talk about on the show, this is a great way to get it done.

Sponsor of the DayCRP AUTO
CRP deals in a ton of OE automotive parts. They also make the factory DSG fluid for VW. Having them as a sponsor will give us access to more information about fluids than I would ever get from VW. I am really excited to have them as a resource of information.You will also be seeing avideocoming out soon with some awesome information about coolant. Check out CRPAutomotive.com

Join me today as I answer your questions on:

  • Most reliable year of VW TDI
  • Buying brake pads and rotors
  • Fuel issues on a 2013 GTI
  • Working in Service Express
  • Doing side work
  • Aftermarket HID lights
  • Mk4 VR6 cooling issues.
  • Eurowise coolant flange 
  • and more

Trouble viewing? Watch “Viewer Automotive Questions Answered ~ Podcast Episode 89” on YouTube.

As always I love to hear your thoughts. Please post them in the comments section below. Again, if you have a question for a show like this, email me Charles(at)humblemechanic(dot)com with Question for Charles in the subject. Also if you have an idea for a show you can email me, or use the contact me form!

Don’t forget to follow me at:

Does my car really need a brake service
Does my car really need a brake service

My wife found this brake pad in the parking lot of her work, someone waited too long.

We are continuing in our car service series. This week I want to talk about the brake job. There are a lot of variables that go into making a choice on replacing brakes. It is not always a cut and dry choice. Let’s first break down the common types of brake jobs. Then I will give you some advice on deciding if you need to perform a brake job your car.

Types of Brake Jobs
Saying “I am replacing the brakes” is a very generic term. There are several ways that we can replace brakes.It all depends on the condition of the brakes. Here are the most common types of brake jobs I do

  • Brake pads only
    This is only replacing the brake pads. This is generally the cheapest way to do a brake job. We call this “pad slapping” the car. I do not prefer this type of brake job. It is not a bad thing. I just think you can do a more thorough job. 
  • Replace the brake pads and rotors
    This brake job is where we replace the brake pads and the rotors(duh?). This is a much better brake job than just replacing the pads. Replacing the rotors will give the pads a fresh surface to seat. It can also help reduce brake noise. The only issue here is, rotors can be expensive.
  • Replace the brake pads, resurface the rotors
    This is the way I prefer to do a brake job. With this type of brake job I replace the brake pads. But instead of replacing the rotors, I resurface them. That is where I put the on a machine called a brake lathe. Then we remove a very small amount of metal from the rotor. It makes for a nice clean surface. This is also called turning, or cutting the rotors. There are times where resurfacing the rotors is not an option.

Like I said, resurfacing the rotors and replacing the pads. It is a better overall brake job, and cheaper than replacing the rotors.

What happens if I don’t replace them?
Like most car repairs, the longer you wait, the more it can cost. If you wait to long, the rivets in the pad will impact the rotor. That may mean resurfacing the rotor is not an option. The rotors will have to be replaced.

In extreme cases more damage can occur. I have seen calipers, the part that pushes the pad in to the rotor, be destroyed. The thinner the pad gets, the further the caliper pushes the pad. At some point the caliper will over extend and fail. This is not only very costly, but VERY dangerous. Remember when dealing with brakes, safety is always a big concern.

How do I know if I need the service?
On many modern cars we have a warning system. There are warning lights to tell us when the pads are getting thin and need to be replaced. Some cars have “squealers”, that is a small strip of metal that will hit the rotor when the pad gets thin. It causes a really loud and obnoxious squeal.

While these warning systems are a good thing, I don’t rely on them. Most cars only have warning lights that monitor the front brakes. That leaves the rear brakes unmonitored. The squealer warning works great. That is until the customer says something like “My brakes have been making a noise for about a year now”. Trust me, that stuff happens.

Does my car really need a brake service

This car would need the wheels removed to check the brakes

The right way to check the brakes is to remove the wheels and do an inspection. Some wheels allow you to see the brakes pretty clearly. Taking the wheels off is the best way to check the system. Here are some of the things you want to check.

  1. Thickness of the pads. Be sure to check the outside and the inside pads. Many cars will wear the inside faster than the outside.
  2. Look at the rotor. Check it for grooves like a record would have. Look at the color, if it is turning blue, you may have an issue. Also look at the edges, if there is a big lip on the outer or inner part of the rotor, you may have to replace them. Turning the rotor too thin will cause a brake vibration.
  3. Make sure there is no leaks.

So, do I really need this service?
You may not actually need this service. VW says that the minimum thickness is 2mm for the brake pads. That is really thin. I would not want to let my brakes get that low. If you do your own brake inspections, you have to use your best judgement. If your mechanic is recommending that you get a brake job, here are the things you need to ask.

  • How much pad is left?
    This will give you an idea of how thin the pads really are. Plus it will give you some confidence that he actually measured them.
  • Will them make it to the next service?
    This is the big one. That question should tell you if you need to do it today, or if it can wait.

One other piece of advice. If you are on the fence, get the brakes done. Please don’t mess around with the system keeping you from crashing in to another car.

When I recommend brakes I use the “will they make it to the next service” rule. Either way, I tell the customer. If I don’t think it will make it, I will let them know.

If you are interested in some of the other “Does my car really need this service” posts, you can check them out here.

If there is a service you want to know more about, post it in the comments, or just contact me.

Volkswagen Drum Brakes Shop Shots
Happy Shop Shots day everyone! I am back in the shop after having a few days off. It is always tough to get back in the groove. Okay, let’s get this show rolling!
Lightning Strike On a CarThis picture came to me from a buddy. As you might guess, that is a circuit board from a module. This is the central electrics module. It is one of the main computers in the car. The customer was driving the car, and BAM lightning stuck it. It melted part of the car’s roof, and fried 3 module. Thankfully the customer was not harmed. Well, not physically anyway. I know if that was me, I probably would need a few days to recover. I can’t even imagine what that was like
Volkswagen Drum Brakes Shop ShotsWe are going a little old school today. This is the first car I worked on today. What you are looking at is a rear drum brake on a 1997 VW Cabrio. I was replacing the parking brake cable. Check out all the springs and clips that drum brakes have.
I remember when I first started. One of the guys in the shop told me to take my drum brake tools home. He said we never mess with drum brakes. About a week later, I had to rebuild a set of drums on a Golf. HA, glad that I am stubborn. A quick tech tip when it comes to rear drum brakes. Do one side at a time. That way if you get the springs mixed up, you can just compare to the other side.
Shop Shots CarbI thought it would be fun to keep with the old school theme today. 😉 This is not a Volkswagen carburetor. This is the carb from my 4wheeler, and the reason that there was not a post yesterday. I was in the process of selling my 4wheeler. It had a dead battery so I had not ridden it in a few months. I picked up a new battery, to the tune of $80 btw, and popped it in. It fired right up, SUCCESS!
Well that was until I gave it some throttle. It would just shut off. I messed around with it most of the day yesterday. Finally I just gave up and brought the carb to work. completely disassembling it, and cleaning it. I really hope that this fixes it. Another quick tech tip, working on a magnetic tray is perfect for things like this!
Finally today we have a Reader’s Rides submission. Check out Mathew’s Golf! I love love love those seats! If you want to have your car on Readers Rides, just email me some pictures and a description to Charles(at)HumbleMechanic(dot)com!
I come from a family of Volkswagens, my Golf is the 13th consecutive VW purchased in my family. I learned to drive in a B3 Passat and have been in love with hatchbacks/wagons ever sense.
Without further ado, here’s the details:
2000 Golf 2.0L – 151,000+ Miles
  • Unitronic Stage 1+ ECU Software
  • 22lb Flywheel
  • Sachs VR6 Clutch
  • Techtonic Tuning 260/268 Sport Cam
  • ABD CAI with K&N Cone
  • Audi TT Pedals
  • GLI Brushed Aluminum Trim (door handles, pulls, radio cage, & E-Brake)
  • GLI Shift boot with Euro Sport Edition shift knob
  • Custom Rebadged JOM Honeycomb grill
  • 10mm Rear Spacers, 7mm Front Spacer
  • 28mm Rear Sway Bar
  • Bilstien OE Sport Shocks with H&R OE Sport Springs
  • Helix LED Tail lights with rear fog
  • ECS Lower Grill Fog Lights
  • GLI Recaro Seats
  • Custom Pinstripe Headliner
  • Rebuilt Headlights with dual LED blinkers
  • Pioneer AVIC F-900BT Headunit
  • 3-spoke GTI steering wheel
  • 17″ Santa Monica Alloys, wrapped in Falken Ziex 912s (215/45 ZR 17 87W)
  • 12″ Alpine Type-S, 2Ω + 2Ω, SWS-1222D
  • JL Audio JX-500:1 Class-D Mono Amp
Not the best pics, but there they are…
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots
Reader's Rides Shop Shots

I think that it is important to take a step back and cover the basics. I get caught up in a very technical world, with people that know the terms I use. I don’t want anyone to feel like what I am saying is over their head. So today I will give you guys some really common terms your auto mechanic might use. You might not need to understand how these things work, but knowing the terms will can help you make better choices with your car.

Engine block

This is the lower part of the base engine. It houses the pistons, and the crankshaft. It may also have other parts like an oil pump, a water pump, and maybe a balance shaft. Some folks also call this the “Bottom End”. It is generally referred to that way when talking about noises. On older engines, the block may have also contained the cam shaft. I say older, but the 3.8L Routan still has the cam in the block.

Cylinder Head

This is the upper part of the base engine. It can contain the cam shafts, valves, rockers(not the music kind). Most newer model cars have an adjuster in the cylinder head that can change the cam shaft timing. Don’t worry about that just yet, we will get there.

Crank shaft

Located in the engine block, this hunk of metal moves the pistons. It takes a rotating motion and converts it to an up and down motion. At one end, the trans mission bolts the the crank shaft, the other end generally drives the serpentine belt.

Cam Shaft

The cam shaft is also responsible from turning a rotational motion in to an up and down motion. The cam will rotate causing valves to open or close. This is what allows air to enter the engine, and forces air out of the engine.

Timing Belt

This is the belt, or chain, is what connects the CRANK SHAFT to the CAM SHAFT. One of the most important parts of an engine. If the timing belt is not “TIMED” properly, you will get pistons and valves in the wrong place, and the wrong time. Usually resulting in internal engine damage.

Serpentine Belt

This is also called an accessory belt, or belts. This belt is what drives the vehicles accessories. Things like the alternator, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, and (if you are luck) a super charger. If this belt breaks, it most likely wont do internal engine damage, but it can leave you stranded.

Water Pump

Like many things on cars, this does what its name says it does. It pumps water, well actually, coolant. The water pump pushes water through the engine and pulls heat from it. When it hits the radiator, it exchanges the heat with and cools down. Then back to the engine to start over


Going along with the water pump, the thermostat helps regulate engine temperature. It will “hold” coolant from flowing to the radiator. It does this to heat the car up. It would take forever to get your car to operating temperature with out a thermostat.


Located in the very front of your car, the radiator is a big heat exchanger. The hot coolant that flows through it, is cooled by air passing by it. Air is directed through the radiator and pulls the heat away from the coolant.

Heater Core

This is almost the same as a radiator. The only difference is the location. This is located inside the vehicle. Air is blown across the heater core, but instead of flowing into the engine bay, it flows into the cars cabin. The heat pulled from the heater core heats the air and is then directed into the cabin. The heater core is the reason you can stay toasty warm in the winter time.

Brake Booster

We have talked about brakes before, but I don’t think I have talked about the booster. The booster assists the driver in pressing the brake pedal. With out a booster, it would take tons of force applied to the brake to make the car stop. Well maybe not actual tons, but descriptive tons. It works by using engine vacuum to pull a diaphragm. and spring set. This set will provide the assistance you need to help press the brake pedal. You can feel the assist by doing this.

  • Stop your car, then shut it off
  • Press the brake down, you will still feel the assist.
  • Press the brake a few more times, you will notice the pedal getting harder to push.
  • After about 4 times of pressing the pedal, it feel hard as a rock. THAT is what no assist would feel like.

There are so many dang systems on cars that it will take a while to talk about them all. Some parts are easy to explain by writing them. Some just don’t make sense that way. I am trying to build a collection of parts so I can show you guys what the look like. Much like the video I did about a Volkswagen Clock Spring. If you have a car part that you want to know about, post it in the comments. The parts I can’t show you how they work are things like Airbags, ECMs, and other “magical” things. 😉

Also, sign up for the email list. You will get updates about new posts before anyone else! VW is dragging their feet on something, but as soon as they get on the ball, I will have something special for everyone, but the folks on “the list” will get 1st dibs.

If you liked this post, please consider sharing it. It is really easy, just click one of the buttons below.

Something that I get asked a lot is, “How can I keep my car running good?”. There is countless things that everyone needs should do to keep their car running be best it can. Proper maintenance, and care is vital to keeping your car running great. There seems to an idea that mileage on a car is a bad thing. Everyone has heard of the little old lady that only drove her car on Sundays to church and back. Well, that might not be such a good thing for any of the systems your car has

Lets start with the engine. Engines are meant to be run, they are not built to sit for extended periods of time. When a car is not driven, it never gets up to temperature. This can cause the fluids inside the engine(engine oil and coolant) to break down faster. Part of the job of these fluids is to carry debris away from the engine. Oil will move debris back to the oil pan, and leave it there until the oil is changed. Coolant does basically the same thing.That debris will deteriorate the metal and plastic of the engine causing premature wear.

Driving like that little old lady can impact the electronics of the car too. When a battery sits, it looses charge. When a car is driven, the alternator charges the battery back up. If a battery does not get properly charged, it will loose the ability to become completely charged. I am not sure if I have stressed how important battery voltage is, but I have seen bad batteries reek havoc on a car and cause it to do crazy things. Basically every system of the car is affected by not driving a car. Tires can get flat spots, brakes can wear funky where the pads touch the rotors. Even wiper blades will become brittle if not used.

What about the other side, “Drive it like you stole it”? I usually don’t say that to customers, I try to say, “Be sure take your car on a SPIRITED drive”. 😉 As far as I am convinced, there are only 2 negatives to this.

  1. Lower fuel economy. Lets face it, you will not be getting great MPG driving this way
  2. Fast wear on tires. You will probably be going through tires faster

You will notice that I did NOT mention brakes wearing out fast. The cool thing about VW brakes is the last longer when used a slightly more aggressive. I would say our average customer gets about 35,000-45,000 miles out of their rear brakes. The rears will wear out faster on a VW. The rear brakes actually engage before the front. Someone that rides the brakes will wear the rear brakes out faster. I got about 75,000 out of my rear brakes. I could have gone another 5,000-7,000 miles if I wanted to push it.

I have seen a lot of cars over the years. Some had high miles, some have so few miles I wonder why the people even needed a car. Everything being equal, the cars with high miles seem to be better cars. We have a customer with 220,xxx miles on her Jetta. The car has had a ton of maintenance, but very few repairs. I think she it just about due for timing belt number 2!

So why is it that we shy away from cars with high miles? My guess is the higher unknown factor. A car with 100,000 miles had a lot of road time compared to a car with 20,000 miles. That is a long time to wonder if the owner took good care of the car. Did they do all the maintenance they should have? The same can be said for the car with 20,000 miles. I would be willing to bet that my 2005 Passat with 92,000 miles is in better condition that most every Passat of that year, regardless of miles. Well, it might not be as clean, but it runs top notch. 😉 Here is my secret, proper oil changes, and every I get on the highway, I put the pedal to the floor. That “blows the junk out”, as my mom would say. It actually keeps carbon from building up on intake valves.

What do you guys think? Drive it like you stole it, or is that little old lady doing it right?

If you have signed up for the forum and have not been approved, throw me an email, or just post your handle in the comments and I will approve you. I am weeded through about 10 spam sign ups a day, so I might have missed someone.

I signed up for Pinterest. Its pretty cool feel free to check it out
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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.