Tag Archive for: diesel

Hey everyone. A ton of you have been asking me to bring back an old series from the blog, Shop Shots. For those of you that are new, Shop Shots was started VERY early in the blog. I would post pictures of some weird things in the shop, and write a little about each one. I was a really fun way for the reader to get an inside look at what I do. When I moved to a video platform, that dropped off. Since it is Friday, I thought it would be fun to bring it back!

TDI Fuel System FailureTDI Fuel System Failure
First up we have another exploded TDI HPFP. This is on a car with just over 100,000 miles. The customer said they use high quality fuel, and there was no trace of gas in the tank. There are a lot of times that you can blame a failure on poor maintenance habits. That is not the case here. This customer is a perfect customer. They have done every service at the dealer. They even did their oil changes every 5k instead of every 10k.

The “junk” you are seeing is metal in diesel fuel. Part of the HPFP comes apart and shoots metal shrapnel through the entire fuel system. The repair is not an easy one. All parts of the fuel system get replaced, or cleaned. We clean the tank and the lines from the tank to the engine. Any other part that has fuel in it gets replaced. The total bill if a customer has to pay is about $7000. At this point we are waiting to see if VW will be offering the customer any help

Air Filter Failure

Air Filter Failure
This is not technically a “Shop Shot” I guess. It was something that caught my eye on my way back from lunch. This folks is an engine air filter. It looks really dang dirty. I am not sure why anyone would feel the need to remove their engine air filter at a stop light. Then just leave it on the ground. There was no evidence of an accident. There was no broken down car either.

So what do you think happened? Did a car start running poorly, and the driver remove the filter for better performance? Did someone leave the old filter under the hood and it just fell out? Post in the comments YOUR best guess.

Bent Wheels

Bent Wheels
This is a very common issue we find at the dealer. We seem to have a customer come in with a bent wheel daily. The odd thing is, most folks do not complain about a vibration. Some customer mention it, but most do not. We generally find the issue while balancing the tires. It is also strange to me that people do not remember hitting anything. Well they say they don’t remember. I have a slightly bent wheel on my Passat. I clearly remember hitting a huge pothole that caused the damage. This wheel was bent too much to even repair.

Failing Exhaust

Failing Exhaust and Bad Repair
We don’t see this type of “work” that much these days. This is a welding repair on a MKIV Jetta. The flex section of the catalytic converter came apart. The customer chose to have an exhaust shop fix the issue. I would normally say that is a good move. But in this case, it clearly was not. In addition to doing a bad job repairing the pipe, the repair caused more issues. The heat shield and O2 sensor fell on to the exhaust pipe. This cause the wires of the O2 to melt to each other. We found it due to a MIL with a lot of fault codes. The issue was causing a fuse to blow.

We are still waiting to see if there is more damage. Sadly I think there may be damage to the ECM due to this issue.

Well that wraps up an other volume of Shop Shots. As always, if you have any questions or comments, post them below. You can also this contact me form, or email me Charles(at)humblemechanic(dot)com

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Tdi Diesel fuel system High Pressure Fuel Pump Failure

Happy Tuesday everyone. As you read this, my area is getting ready for a big snow storm. For the southern USA, this has been a crazy cold winter. We even seen temps as low as 8F. I know that some of you folks are cracking up right now. But for me that is record cold. With such cold weather, we have seen a huge run of issues with VW diesels. So today is a little about diesels and a mini Shop Shots, all in one. I have always had mixed thoughts on VW diesels.

Tdi Diesel fuel system High Pressure Fuel Pump FailureLike I said you are getting a mini Shop Shots today. This is a picture of the inside of the high pressure fuel pump HPFP on a TDI Jetta. While this is not a cold weather problem, we have had a run of them at my dealer. For those that think this is due to gas, I assure you none of the last 5 or 6 had gas. The metal bits in the fuel are from the gut of the pump. We have even seen a Passat TDI and a Touareg TDI with fuel system failures. These repairs run from $4000,-$8000. VW has been covering most of them so that is good for customers  **DISCLAIMER** I am not saying that VW is, or will cover this repair for you, or anyone you now.

VW TDI Cold weather kitMoving on to real cold issues with the Common Rail TDI. I posted this on Facebook last week. This is an updated charge cooler, intake pipe and some tubing. The issue is moisture freezing inside the cooler. This can prevent the TDI from starting. It can also go as far as causing major engine damage. We a Jetta at the shop now that we suspect having a bent connecting rod. It seems a small bit of ice can get up to the engine and cause the damage. Based on conversations, this is not the first one out there. I will be sure to post a picture of the damage when the engine is a part

There is one more issue I have seen that seems to plague the TDI in cold weather. That is turbo charger failure on the Common Rail TDI Passat. We had a car towed in with a glow plug light, check engine light, and no power. The faults were something related the car not having any power. (duh, it had no power) I did some checking and everything electrical checked out. Finally I removed the intake pipe and found that the compressor wheel was completely seized. It should turn freely, heck when spinning at top speed, some turbos can spin up to 100,000RPM. I do not have any pictures of that yet. I should be making the repair on Thursday.

After reading this, you must think I hate the VW TDI. That is just not true. I think the diesels are great. They have good MPG, tons of power, and are super clean. But there is no denying they are having some serious issues. The one good thing I can say is, VW has been great in taking care of TDI owners.

Bad diesel fuel in a VW TDI

After a crazy long delay, we are BACK in action. It has been a long time, but still shorter than the hockey lock out. We are jumping right in today with Shop Shots! The pictures that show some of the crazy things mechanics see. If you want to see more automotive pictures, just click Shop Shots in the light blue bar at the top of the page. That will take you back to all the previous pictures.

Leaking Seal on a VW TDIThere are times that I have to make repairs based on a gut feeling. Being right on a gut feeling is awesome. Then everyone once in a while, that gut feeling can be 100% confirmed. It’s a perfect world. You are looking at an air pipe on a TDI Jetta. The customer was complaining about an oil leak.

Finding oil leaks can be a pretty tricky. Many times it involves fixing things you know are leaking, cleaning the area, and rechecking for leaks. This leak was tricky too. It was leaking oil from an air pipe. I removed the pipe and found this pinched seal.

Wrong brakes on a VWAll mechanics make mistakes. Sometimes we make mistakes that are just plain stupid(and hilarious). Mistakes happen for a number of reasons. This mistake is due to rushing, then not doing a quality check after a repair.

The tech replaced the rear brakes on the VW. When he replaced the pads, he didn’t install the shim properly. It was installed on the outside of the of the caliper. As the wheel turned, the shim hit the wheel. Lucky for us this was an internal car. We were able to fix the issue before a customer drove it.

Bad diesel fuel in a VW TDII post pictures of TDI fuel issues from time to time. I don’t want you all to think we have nothing but issues with the TDI. We have very few issues with them. The issues that we do have tend to be expensive. This time the failure was not due to a bad HPFP(high pressure fuel pump). This was due to bad fuel. Generally water in diesel fuel makes for a bad day. It causes rust to build up in the fuel system. It can also lead to other organics to grow in the fuel.

That raps up another round of Shop Shots! I am glad to be back and posting stuff for you guys. Thanks for sticking with us. There will probably be a few more interruptions, but that will be minimal.

Quick house update
I posted a picture of the new garage on Facebook yesterday. I will give you guys the full update on the house. We did all the normal home inspections on Monday. Everything came back good. There are a few things that need to be repaired. Nothing major(like poisoned water) but a few minor repairs. I also found the spot where my toolbox will be going. 🙂

I do plan on doing some improvements asap.

  • Some type of floor treatment. Not sure if I want to epoxy or tiles. What do you guys think?
  • The lower part of the wall with corrugated steal sheets. Think wainscoting
  • A shelf around the entire garage at about chair rail height. You know, for beverages.
  • Drywall the rest of the way up the walls. If things get really fun, I would LOVE to do wood on the top half of the walls.

Auto Mechanic's garageWhat do you guys think? Throw me some suggestions on the garage. I will take all I can get.

Last week The World Health Organization labeled diesel exhaust a ” carcinogenic to humans (Group 1)” Basically the WHO is saying that diesel exhaust is as bad for you as arsenic. ARSENIC, really? The WHO is telling people that diesel exhaust is more harmful than second hand smoke.

The way the story has been presented is very misleading. I am pretty sure that no one thinks huffing diesel(or any exhaust) is healthy, but is diesel exhaust really that bad? Well, it all depends. If we are talking the new VW TDIs then diesel exhaust is not bad at all. If you are talking about old industrial equipment, that might be a different story.

So what does this mean for the future of VW, and the TDI? In the immediate future it does not mean anything. It will take years for any type of new restrictions to come of that report. I am sure there will be pressure on all makers of diesel engines to clean up the tail pipe emissions. Here is what VW had to say about it.

Newer technologies ranging from improved combustion, to after-treatment exhaust fluid systems to (specifically) particulate filters have, “contributed significantly to minimize particulate emissions,” says VW.

The diesel engine has been a core product in Volkswagen’s powertrain offerings since the 1970s and will continue to be so into the future. “The diesel engine is highly efficient and remains an essential building block in Volkswagen’s drive to reduce CO2 emissions.”

The TDI will be a power house for VW for many years to come. The engines will get better, faster, more MPG, and produce less pollutants.

Just so no one gets too worried about diesel exhaust, here is what WHO did NOT tell you

  • “The main studies that led to this conclusion were in highly exposed workers”
  • WHO did not give an exposure level of any kind
  • They didn’t say it, but this is less of an issue in countries with higher quality diesel.

So what is my overall conclusion to the WHO. NO KIDDING! Does anyone really think that sitting in a room full of any type of smoke is a good idea? NOPE. Why would diesel be any different. I say, don’t worry too much about it. Just don’t stick your face in the exhaust pipe! Diesel fuel, the big culprit according to WHO, is getting better and better.

I wonder if there is influence by the people that think Hybrid is the answer. Anyone have thoughts? Is diesel going to kill us all? Does the higher MPH off set the slightly higher “risk”? Are hybrids really the answer?

Here are some resources if you want to read more

It is no secret that VW has a huge share of the diesel market for passenger cars. As we push for better and better fuel mileage, I have seen TDIs become much more common. It is not just “those diesel people” anymore. With the expanded range of customers that are now in our TDIs, we see issues that we never seen before.

The TDI that was in the 2002 Jetta was a GREAT engine. We refer to is as the “ALH”. That is the code that VW uses to identify that engine. If a customer were to mis-fuel that engine the repair was simple.

  1. Pump out the gas(it’s a diesel remember)
  2. Change the fuel filter
  3. Add fresh diesel fuel
  4. purge and gas left
  5. Drive home happy

I have only seen 1 “ALH” that was mis-fueled. BTW, if this happens to you, and there is damage, don’t blame me. Just Sayin

Enter the next generation TDIs. Here is where we get more customers buying diesels. Now we have the average driver buying TDIs, not just the TDI folks that usually are INSANE about their cars. I use the word insane in a positive way. 😉

This is when I started to see more and more cars that were filled with GAS, instead of diesel. The Pumpe Duse engine was still mostly forgiving when it came to mis-fuel. The car would just stop running. The repair was very similar to the “ALH”, just something we did more often.

In 2009 we got the “Common Rail”. A highly advanced very complicated TDI setup. The high power, and great fuel mileage were a huge draw. Especially since we had just seen gas prices over $4 for the first time ever. With improved sales came more mis-fuel issues. Unlike the last two generations, this TDI is not forgiving what so ever. When someone puts gas in the Common Rail (CR for short), all that is takes is cranking the engine to do damage.

If the car is started, usually it will be driven until it stops running. What that means is gas is in the entire fuel system. Due to diesel and gas having totally different lubrication properties, this makes the fuel pumps fussy. They start doing bad things like coming apart on the inside, and spraying metal throughout the fuel system. The resulting repair is fuel system replacement. Every part that fuel touches gets replaced, from fuel take to fuel injector! This repair costs about $7800 for parts and labor. OUCH!


Not really a fun time for anyone is it? This is one of the reasons that I am not ALL IN on diesel. I don’t trust myself to properly fill the car. I love the technology, but you MUST be the right person for it.

It does bring up a really good question. Is this the fault of VW, the customer, or the company that made the parts? Yes if you put gas in your car it’s YOUR fault. BUT, shouldn’t the parts be designed with some type of fail safe? Should the fill neck be different so you CAN’T mis-fuel?

~To prevent anyone from ever mis-fueling a car again, just share this post.(ok, that wont happen, but it might be a ‘Humble’ reminder 😉

Volkswagen TDI timing belt damage

Hey folks! It is that time of the week again. I got a few good picturs for you guys today. By the time you are reading this, I will be on my way to VW technician training. ~enjoy

Damaged rim Volkswagen CCIf you check out last weeks “Shop Shots” you will see a video of a CC with a messed up suspension. Listen hard and you will hear a noise that sounds like a whale. What you are hearing is the lower part of the front suspension hitting the rim. Here is the damage to the rim. The mechanic working on the car fixed the initial damage, estimate of ~$2400. Then found that there was more damage. The steering rack and more of the right side suspension needs to be replaced. The estimate is now just shy of $5000. Sad to see that type of damage on a car with only 950 miles. DANG!


Removing engine on VW Touareg

Thankfully this is not me in the picture. It came from our sister store across town. Here is what happens when an engine repair needs to be performed on a VW Touareg. The engine and transmission are unbolted from the car. The table that it is sitting on is acutally a lift table. You can see the pins on the table holding the engine up. They are strategically placed to fit the engine carrier. The picture doesn’t really capture the scale of the engine and transmission. The table is about 8ft long, and about 3ft wide. The brakes hang over just over a foot on each side. As scary as it looks, doing engine repairs a table like this is really easy. It’s just a lot of work to get to this point.

Volkswagen TDI timing belt damageWhat you are looking at here is a timing belt on a VW TDI. In the middle of the picture you can see a bunch of strands of fiber. That is part of the serpentine belt. The customer brought his car in saying that he was having a hard time starting the car. He told me that the serpentine belt broke. He said that he was worried about the timing belt. I told him not to worry, I had seen lots of broken serpentine belts break, but only 1 damage a timing belt.

Well after about an hour of checking, the car would not start at all. I was getting a faults in the engine computer saying the car was not timed properly. I checked and found that the camshaft and the crankshaft were not lined up properly. It turns out that the wad of serpentine belt shifted the tension of the timing belt. That caused the engine to be out of time. I installed a new belt, retimed the engine, and BAM, it fired right up. There was no permanent damage done to the car. The customer was almost due for his second timing belt replacement, so it was money that he would have paid either way. I was mad that I was wrong, but the car is running and the customer was really happy. It all worked out in the end.

Volkswagen Showroom Remodel I may have mentioned that my dealer is doing a remodel. We are adding on 2 new sections to the showroom. They are also changing to a new setup. Everyone is calling the “White Box”. I have seen pictures of other dealers. It has a similar feel to an Apple Store. I snuck up stairs and took a picture for you guys. Right now, it is just a lot of banging as they remove all the tile. I will keep the updates coming. I am really excited for the remodel. The building has looked the same for about 9 years. It was time for a facelift.

Well, that about raps it up. As I said I will be in training the rest of the week. Do you guys have anything you want me to ask while I am there? Something about the future of VW? I will do my best to find out. Ok, time to hit the road. I95 here I come.

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Humble Mechanic Logo

Hey folks, I am back in action today. Got some good stories about automotive logic, and throwing it right out the window. Sorry about missing Friday, but this week will make up for it!!!

There is no doubt that the diagnosis part of this job is one of the toughest. Racking your brain over problems that make no sense, all while trying to relate them to a component failure. It can be enough to make a mechanic lose their mind. Early on in my training, I was taught to always follow a logical repair process. That is a 100% true statement. I would not start diagnosing a tire going flat, by checking the oil. This process is reinforced in our yearly training as well. Of course in a training class, nothing ever goes wrong does it. 😉

There are some basic strategies to diagnosing cars, or anything really. Doing things like “working easy to hard”, “Keeping it simple(stupid), and making sure you are diagnosing the problem not just the concern. if a mechanic follows these simple steps, they will be able to diagnose most issues. This is a lesson that i try to ingrain in all of the young mechanics that come through the shop.

There are times for every mechanic that they get their butts kicked by a car. One of the great things about being at a dealer is we have several layers of assistance to help when a mechanic cant fix a car. Then there are the times that all the assistance in the world doesn’t help, and you have to throw all the logic out the window. The following stories are real. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. There are really no names in the story btw 😉

Beetle Transmission Problems

A customer bring their car in because it was making a horrible noise at about 45mph. The mechanic test drove the car, and did some checking. The thing about transmissions is, failure is rarely absolute. Meaning that being 100% sure of the diagnosis is rare. Usually it takes repairing the concern before you know if it repaired it.

Well, after several test drives, and checks, he decided to replace the transmission. Now, replacing a transmission is not a hard job, but it takes time, is a lot of work, and does not pay really well. It is not something mechanics do for fun! After getting the work done, the mechanic test drives the beetle again. Guess what, noise is still there. Well more checks, and diagnosis follow. The problem turned out to be an 30 second fix. The customer had a Disney ball on their antenna. For some reason, at 45 mph, the ball would catch the wind just right, this would cause a vibration in the antenna, that traveled down into the roof.

TDI Transmission issues

Very similar to the story above. A customer brings their Passat TDI in for a shifting issue. The mechanic drives the car, and verifies the problem. Now this particular TDI engine had just come out, so the information was pretty limited. The mechanic followed the steps he should, and again, decided to replace the transmission.

With a fresh transmission, the mechanic test drove the car. Would you believe that the car drove great, at first! The mechanic let the car sit for a while and test drove it again. Sadly, it was doing the same thing as before replacing the trans. It turns out that the car had a very slightly clogged fuel filter. That small amount of difference in fuel quantity cause the engine to “stall out” when shifting. The only thing felt by the customer and the mechanic was the poor shift. After a new fuel filter, the car was 100% right.

TDI Engine Locked Up

This time, the customer had his TDI towed in, because it would not start. At first it sounded like the battery was dead. The mechanic tried to jump start it, but that was a no go. We towed the car into the shop for further diagnosis. A full starting system test did not reveal anything. The mechanic noted that it smelled like the clutch had burned up. So he removed the starter to check for damage. Didn’t find any.

He attempted to crank the engine over by hand, and was not able to. Even an almost 3ft wrench would not move it. The mechanic removed the valve cover, and oil pan to inspect for internal engine damage. Well, he didn’t find any. We all got to talking, trying to brainstorm and get ideas of what to do next. Just about the time he was going to recommend removing the cylinder head, I suggested that he take the serpentine belt off. That is the belt that runs the alternator, a/c compressor, and power steering pump. When he removed the belt, the engine would turn over normally.

It turns out that the pulley on the alternator locked up. As powerful as a starter is, it was not able to overcome the small pulley. I could not believe that the belt would not just slip over the pulley and let the engine start. I had seen this happen 1 other time, I just wish I would have remembered it before he took the other parts off. As soon as he finishes it, I will update on what happened.

I know there are many more stories just like this out there. If you have one, contact me with the story, and I will share it with everyone. All the repair logic in the world would not have helped in some of these situations. Mechanics need a repair process, but they also need to know when to ditch it and try something random!

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