Humble Mechanic Tool Box


Happy Monday everyone! As you know, today is my first day back in action. I had a great few days off, but it feels nice to be working on cars again. Anyway, I was thinking of something a little different today. I am doing a “Rapid Fire” question and answer post. These are mostly questions that have come in from Humble Mechanic Facebook page.And GO~

James~ Why do some car models stay in production forever (911, Beetle, Accord) while others only last for a few years before a similar but slightly different one replaces it?

Good question. I think it largely depends on sales. If a model sells really well, there is no need to update right away. There cold also be an issue with manufacturing parts to keep up demand for another year. Also changes in D.O.T. regulations and auto industry standards can force a design change. The switch from OBD I to OBD II is the reason there was no Jeep Wrangler in 1996, and the 1997 was totally redesigned

Craig ~ When is that Audi r8 tdi coming?

Soon I hope. The more TDIs we have on the road, the more R&D will go in to improving the technology. That will drive prices down so normal folks like us can afford it.

Benjamin ~what does a Chevy volt run in the quarter? 😉

Probably pretty quick. Electric motors have high torque and it is available instantly. You just might not make it much further than 1/4 mile. Especially if you have the heat on. Right Nissan??

Glenn ~1. In today’s car world, what can the “average” person actually maintain on their car? Years ago I was able to do a lot , now I’m lost under the hood.
2. Who do you trust to maintain your car, OTHER then yourself ?

1)The “average” can do a lot, but chooses not to. I usually recommend everyone know how to,
Change a tire
Change their wiper blades
Check all the fluid in the car(if that is applicable)
Check tire pressure
Beyond that, knowing how to change engine air and pollen filter is really good. Also knowing how to replace all the bulbs in your car is an awesome skill.
2) I am not a fan of letting anyone else work on my car. It really stresses me out. If I had to, i would interview the mechanic working on my car.

Brandon~ i was just wondering what your thoughts are on the upcoming Jetta Hybrid

I think the technology is really cool. VW tested the design with the Hybrid Touareg. I am a little concerned with reliability, but that comes with any design change. The one good point, there are some die hard hybrid fans, so that might open up a new and different customer base for VW.

Jeff~ What is your honest opinion about 2012 VW Passat made in U.S. and do you think VW will be reliable as a Honda? Thanks 🙂

So far the Passat has been great. The majority of the technology in the Passat has been in other VWs for a few years. The only system that is really new is the Urea injection for the TDI. We will have to see how that performs long term. As far as compared to the Honda,time will tell. All German cars are DRIVERS cars, that usually comes with more maintenance, and more service, but we shale see.

Jeremy~I’ve heard all VW dealer shops do is check the computer (previous blog posts noted that it’s NOT just that) and determine whether or not THEY will install a NEW tranny or send you elsewhere for a rebuild or used or whatever… what’s your take on it?

I would love to say that every mechanic goes through all the steps every time, but that is just not true. Transmission, especially automatic, can be really tough. You basically break it down into 3 categories, Electric, hydraulic, and mechanical. From there, you just plug away until you get close to an answer.
The fact is, most techs just check faults, and replace the trans. We don’t do much rebuild at the dealer level, its just as much to rebuild as it is to replace.

Steven ~ Just got a flat on my new 2012 Touareg…is a new tire covered?

Odds are that tire would not be covered under VW warranty. VW does not warranty tires. Any warranty on a tire would come from the tire manufacturer, like Michelin. The only way a flat would be covered is if the rim or the valve stem had a manufacturer defect. They will not cover outside influence, or damage. I have seen very few tires/flats covered under warranty. I have seen the dealer pay for repairs for brand new cars, or for really great customers, but it doesn’t happen that often.

Well, that pretty much round out the questions that I have. What do you guys think of this format? Is this something you would like me to do again? Feel free to post in the comment section and tell me what you think. If you have a question you want me to answer, you can Contact Me, or email me at Charles (at)

Also, you might have noticed that the header is different. Does it blend with the back round too much, or is it good? One last thing, I added an archive section on the right side of the page. You can go back and check out some of my earlier posts. Some are really bad, so its funny to read.


Your inside look into the world of car repair and Volkswagen Dealer service

This is a question that I get all the time. Whether a customer asks me, I see it posted, or I just over hear the conversation, it comes up all the time. Remember, I work for VW, I think overall German cars cost more to maintain than American, or Japanese cars.

Since there are so many factors that play into the cost of maintaining your car, lets just take one and really focus on that. The one that I am really thinking about today is the psychology of the statement, “It costs too much”. Just a heads up, I am not belittling the cost to properly maintain a car. I know that it cost a lot to keep your car running great!

When we buy a car, we put lots of time into researching the vehicle. Whether it is looking at which model we want, making sure we get the color we like, and finally making sure the price is fair. One thing most folks do not do, is take maintenance into account. We get caught up in the hype of buying a TDI (diesel), or getting the upgraded wheel and tire package. Not giving a thought that tires will cost more,or a TDI needs more maintenance. Once of my early posts talked about some things to consider when getting a TDI.

So I think that from day 1 of owning a car, most people have no idea what it will cost to own their car. Does that explain why we have a skewed view of proper maintenance costs? Well, not totally. Think about how many Jiffy Change commercials you have seen. They advertise a $29.99 oil change. Or that Pep Boys ad that shows you can buy 4 tires for $100. Whether we actually believe that we can get our cars serviced at that price, doesn’t really matter. It has been embedded into our brains. Think about how long places have been telling people they can “service” cars at that price. I remember being a very little kid and seeing those signs. Of course they probably said $19.99 way back then. 😉

Basically, we have been “marketed” into a false reality of maintenance costs. Sure, someone can pay

$29.95 for an oil change, but does that mean you can pay that much? You know that really tiny print

at the bottom of ads, here is what they are telling you

Is it REALLY possible to get a proper oil change for this price?

  • Not all cars qualify
  • Limit of 5qt of oil
  • Filter might cost extra
  • No trucks
  • Diesels not included
  • Non Synthetic oil
  • lots of other BS restrictions that will wind up costing you

Ok, those ads usually don’t come right out and say that last one, but we know its true!

Lets look at the other side too. How often do you hear that the dealership is a rip off? I hear all the time that “We charge too much”. The truth is, we are cheaper than Jiffy for an oil change. Try convincing customers of that. Even if we were a few dollars more, the valve is unquestionable!

Lets also consider the maintenance needs of our cars have changed. When I was a kid, oil changes were common at 3,000 miles. Now VWs are due for an oil change every 10,000 miles. Does it really matter if an oil change costs double what it did 20 years ago, if you can go 3x longer between oil changes? Sounds like even though the oil itself costs more, the per year service is cheaper.

Non of that really even touches on the actual COST of a service. Crude oil prices are up, that will make EVERYTHING cost more. It adds cost to each leg of the process. When oil prices go up, it costs more to ship and make things. Plus at an est. 73% inflation since 1990, that $19.99 oil change will cost you about $35, just based on inflation. (if you want to be sick, check out Inflation Calculator)

So how can we as customers see through the crap that we are fed? Try these ideas

  • Shop around, you might be able to save a few bucks
  • Be sure to COMPARE apples to apples. Synthetic and Non-synthetic oil are NOT the same
  • Find a mechanic you trust. Even if it cost a couple of bucks more, it will be worth it in the long run
  • Learn to do some of your own maintenance. (I hope I can help you with some of that)

Don’t fall into the $29.99 oil change trap. I unless you drive a 1995 Chevy Cavalier, it will cost you more. Even if you can get the $29.99 oil change, it will cost you more in the long run.

One more thought, be sure to consider how much your car cost when it was new(not USED). Our VW Touareg was a ~$50,000 vehicle when it was new. Now the 2004 are dirt cheap, I mean $12,000 cheap. That doesn’t mean that you are trying to maintain a $12,000 car. The car will still cost what other $50,000 vehicles cost to maintain.

What do you guys think? Have we been “marketed” into believing something SHOULD cost x, but really costs y?

Oh, 1 more thing,again. Be sure to check out the forum. There is still some room left in the “First 50“. Lets try and get there this week. I do need you guys to help me spread the word on that. Also, if you have signed up, and have not been approved, please Contact Me. Some people have weird email addresses that might look like spam. I want to be sure to keep the forum free of crap.

VW has been a strong diesel supporter for many years.  In 2009 they released the Common Rail engine.  This new Common Rail (CR) engine is very powerful, fuel efficient and ultra clean.  VW dealers have a hard time keeping them on the lot, because everyone wants them.

I have been asked a couple of times over the past week or so, “Should I buy a Jetta TDI?”  My answer usually surprises people.  I almost always say “NO”.  That is always followed up by, “Charles, they get 40+ MPG”.  I know they get great mileage, but a TDI is not for everyone.  Here are some reasons why I would give a TDI real consideration before jumping right in.

They cost more initally

The Jetta for example, is about $2550 more for a TDI than a similarly equiped Jetta with a 2.5L engine.  That means you are down about $2500 from day 1

Fuel is more expensive

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, I know that sounds fake!  Regular unleaded fuel is about $0.20 cheaper a gallon than diesel.  Yeah, I know its only a couple of bucks for each fill up, but remember in 2008 when diesel was $0.40 more per gallon?

The new TDI is super fuel sensitive

As little as 1% of gas in the fuel will cause catastrophic damage to the fuel system.  At this point, I dont think that the diesel quality in the USA is high enough.  I have replaced, or have seen several fuel systems replaced because of bad fuel, algee in the fuel, or because gas was put in the tank.  A few gas in the tank issues were the customers fault, some were proven that the station had the wrong fuel in their tank, and some are still unknown. Its a much higher risk than having bad gasoline

Maintenance costs are higher over the life of the vehicle

The current TDI needs a fuel filter at least every 20,000 miles.  This will run you about $80 at the dealer.  At 80,000 miles, your car will need a timing belt.  Get ready to spend $1200 or so on that.  The other common VW engines are chain driven and do not have a maintenance interval for replacement.

Based on all that, I dont think that a TDI is right for a lot of the people that buy them. They need more love than other VWs do.  I will say that I really do like diesel technology.  I think for the person that burns up the road, a TDI is perfect.  It bothers me that people will buy a TDI without the proper research.

I do support our TDIs.  I think its a great engine. In heavy traffic, the air coming out of the tail pipe is cleaner than whats coming into the engine.  So before you buy a TDI, make sure its right for you and it fits your vehicle needs.


Post what you think in the comments.  I know there are lots of hardcore diesel folks that would not trade a TDI for anything, but thats not most people.