Tag Archive for: driving

Auto Mechanic Podcast

Hey we made it to Friday! Today I want to talk about being aware of your surrounding while driving. This comes from something that happened to me a few months about. If I was not as aware of a driver, I may have gotten myself into some trouble. While today we are talking about being an aware driver, this can really apply to all parts of life.

Join me today as we chat about:

  • Understanding odd situations
  • Making very quick decisions.
  • Stop texting while driving
  • When a situation feels wrong
  • How I avoided a bad situation
  • and more

Trouble viewing? Watch “Being A Situationally Aware Driver ~ Podcast Episode 47” 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!

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Hey everyone! Today I want to share some tips on preparing your car for a road trip. My wife and I are taking a road trip soon, so this is perfect timing.

What I really want to get into today is, things we should do about 2 weeks before a big road trip. What is a big road trip? Well for us it will be driving a little over 2000 miles in 4 days. That is a lot of time on the road, so I want to be sure that my car is

  • Up to date on all the maintenance
  • Functioning properly
  • Safe
  • Clean


This one is pretty easy. About 2 weeks before your trip, make sure your car is 100% up to date on all the maintenance. That might mean you are a little early for an oil change, but it is better than being 1000 miles past due.

This is a time where taking your car to the dealer is going to be the best choice. Dealer mechanics see all the common issues with your car. They know to look for leaks in certain spots. Spots that a Jiffy Change place might not. For those of you that “hate” taking your car to the dealer. I would really consider it before a long road trip.

Taking your car in a couple of weeks before your trip will give you time to make any repairs your car will need. It will allow plenty of time for your mechanic to order parts. It will also give you a day or so to really consider the repair. You can use the tips listed in “How to tell if a mechanic is ripping you off“. I would really recommend getting the following services done.

  • Oil and filter change
  • Tires rotated and balanced, this will also give a mechanic a chance to look for strange tire wear or nails, screw ect.
  • Not a MUST, but really consider a 4 wheel alignment. That slight pull is not a big deal around town, but imagine 12 hours dealing with it.
  • Cabin air filter, you will be in the car a long time. You don’t want to A/C to be smelly
  • Top off ALL fluids
  • Replace windshield wipers
  • Full inspection of car for leaks, and any other maintenance issues like brakes and belts.

Again, doing these things about 2 weeks before the trip will give you time. If you are a DIYer make sure you do a full inspection too.

Is Everything Working?

Now is the time to make sure everything works. Go ahead and push all the buttons. Make sure things like your windshield washer sprayers work. Do a walk around and inspect your lights. You don’t want to get pulled over in the middle of the night, in another state for having a light out do you?

This is also the time to break out the tool kit that came with the car. Make sure your jack works, and that you have all the items needed to change a tire. DON’T FORGET THE WHEEL LOCK!

If you are planning on using a GPS, a power inverter, a phone charger make sure they work. I would consider getting a backup phone charger in case one stops working. You will be relying on these during your trip make sure they work. Also check and make sure all your 12v outlets work. You can have 100 chargers, but with something to plug them into they are worthless.

Safety Check

This is something you do with out even knowing. This time I want to make sure you are knowingly checking. Look at all the things like your seat belts, air bags, brake system(again) light(again). For me, part of my drive will be through the mountains. I need to make sure my car is 100% safe.

Also when it comes to safety, make sure your first aid kit to good to go. I would take it out of the car, and inventory it. Be sure that nothing is expired, or ruined by heat/cold. Or that something didn’t spill inside the kit. If you don’t have a first aid kit, check out “Building a vehicle first aid kit“.

I would also take the tool kit you built out and make sure everything is cool! If you carry a “bug out bag” or a “get home bag” I would do the same with that bag.

Remember, this is just part 1 of the series on prepping your car for a road trip. We will get into more things you need to do to prep your car in part 2 and maybe part 3.

Is there any rituals you guys have for road trips? Other than hitting the road at 3am I don’t think I do. Well that an obsessing about the trip for weeks. But that is just me!

Don’t forget Shop Shots tomorrow. If you want your car featured in the Reads Rides section, email me a couple of pictures and some detail about your car. Send them to Charles(at)HumbleMechanic(dot)com Put something like READERS RIDES in the subject so It doesn’t get filtered into spam.

I see this debate come up a lot. It usually comes about when talking about the VW R32!

In 2004 Volkswagen made a VR6 AWD(all wheel drive) Golf. This car got the wheels moving with a 6sp manual transmission.To be honest, this is one of my favorite VW cars ever build. Then in 2008, Vw built another R32. This time, it was paired with an automatic transmission(DSG to be exact). The newest version of the “R” is now back to a 6sp manual transmission.

When the 2008 R32 came out, most people were complaining that the “needed” a manual transmission, and that it was a “sports car” so there was no place for an auto trans. I now see the opposite complaint. It goes “we want an automatic in the the ‘R’ “. I guess is almost impossible to please everyone. I do enjoy asking the question, Which one would you choose?

Back when I was a kid, people got manual transmissions for 4 reasons.

  1. Performance
  2. Fuel economy
  3. Cost
  4. Its what they prefer

Back then a manual trans would get much better fuel mileage. You could also count on huge savings on the purchase price. I remember about half of the cars we had where manual transmissions.

Today is a new day, the reasons that people use to buy a manual are not the same. The cost savings are almost nothing, and the fuel mileage can actually be worse. So it comes down to preference and performance. There are die hard manual trans fans. I would say that I fall in that category. I learned how to drive on a car with a manual. No one can take away someones love for driving a manual.

Then there is the performance side. For the average driver, a manual trans is just not as fast as an auto. The DSG is an automatic transmission. It shifts gears faster than you can. It is actually in the next gear before it shifts. So it you are driving in third gear, before the trans shifts out of third it has forth gear ready to go. Sorry, but we can’t shift that fast.

The auto trans of today is highly computer controlled. The cars engine computer(ECM) and transmission computer(TCM) work very hard to optimize every part of a shift. This allows the vehicle to get great fuel mileage, and still be performance minded. The newer VWs have a “sport” mode that is pretty fun. The auto trans is definitely a “set it and forget it” way to drive.

My Passat is an automatic. While I prefer a manual, it is great on road trips and in traffic. The other nice thing is my wife and I can trade cars. She does not want to drive a manual. I have taught her how, she just doesn’t want to do it. So having 2 cars with automatics is nice. She lets me drive her truck from time to time. 😉

There are other forms of automatics, the CVT and the DSG. The CVT is just awful and I don’t want to talk about it. It is a gear-less transmission. The idea is it will always be in the right spot for power and fuel economy. I had one in a rental car one time. AWFUL! Audi has it in some cars, I just hope that it stays out of my brand. DSG on the other hand I LOVE! Super fast shifts, great fuel mileage, the option to shift yourself. Ahh love it! It does have some quirks, but I think they are largely due to perception. If you think of the DSG as an automatic trans, you might not be happy with the way it shifts, or the fact that it will roll a little on a hill. If you think of it as a automatically controlled manual trans, you will understand why it acts that way.

So that brings me to the big question of the day. Which do you prefer? Does banging though the gears and playing race car suit you? Or do you like to “shift” to “D” and just ride? I think that buying that Cabby has got my brain on my true love of driving. 2 post in the same week about driving~interesting 😀


Well, it was only a matter of time before we came to Fahrvergnügen. Do you remember the ad campaign from the 90s? You know,

Its what makes a car, a Volkswagen!

I didn’t work for VW during that ad launch, but I remember it pretty well. I know that people were kinda nuts about saying it. Since the weather is getting awesome, I thought that I would take a little step back and share my “Driving Enjoyment” story.

Growing up I was not really a kid that was into cars. I mean, I loved the poster of the Ferrari Testarossa, or the Lamborghini Countach as much as any kid, but that was about it. My first car was a sweet red Jeep Wrangler. It was the super underpowered 5sp 4 cylinder, but none of that mattered. It was so much fun to drive. What could be better than 4wheel drive, AND a convertible? Not much in my mind..

Now me being me, I could not leave the Jeep how it was.(hang with me, I will get back to driving). The first thing that I did was get a CD player installed. Now this was pretty awesome for 1997. Since I ALWAYS had the top off, I needed to add some bigger sound. I got a couple of speaker boxes from Best Buy, and installed them. I had no idea how, but I figured it out. I had an amplifier installed to pump more juice to the speakers. At the time, I didn’t care about going fast, it was all about the ride.

As a teenager, there as nothing better than cruising around on the back roads with the top down, and radio pumping. I thought I was the coolest cat in town. It was those times that made me fall in love with driving. It didn’t matter if I was in a bad mood, a great mood, mad, sad, you name it. That drive seemed to cure what ailed me.

Fast forward a few years, and a couple of lame cars later, I fell back in love with driving. Ironically it was about the time I started working in the car business. When I worked at CarMax, I found the next my next car love. It was a 1997 Acura Integra GSR. The GSR looked cool, sounded awesome, and was FAST. It was far and away the fastest car I had owned, and my love of driving was renewed. Much like the Jeep, it was windows down, radio blaring, just enjoying the ride. Well, I sold that Integra in an adult decision. I needed to ditch the car payment to go to tech school. It was a sad day to see her go. I learned a lot about installing car stereos on that car. It was the first car I really hooked up, the right way.

Since then I have had some cool cars. My Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX was cool. I had an Acura CL Type-S for a while that was nice, but nothing like the GSR and the Jeep. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Passat. I have had it longer than any other car I have ever owned. The Fahrvergnügen is there, but not like it was.

You know its funny, I talk to people that say “I hate driving”. I like of all the really awesome times that I have been behind the wheel. It bums me out that they don’t share that same love of driving that I do. Now don’t get me wrong, I HATE sitting in traffic and I hate driving in snow. Short of that, I am all about the drive. Let me also be clear, NOT the ride. I don’t make a very good passenger. I am sure that my wife would be more than happy to tell you all about it. 😀

Be sure to subscribe to the  Humble Mechanic YouTube channel. The videos will coming more often. The Cabriolet will be coming home on Tuesday(I hope). I can’t wait to start working on it. There will be lots-o-videos to see. Don’t miss them.

If you have ever caught the Fahrvergnügen consider sharing the love, by sharing this post. Share this post by clicking your favorite icon.

VW Beetle TDI with damage

Well folks, it is that time again! We got Shop Shots of automotive service today! This week we have 3 “shots” and one quick video of a smoking Tiguan! 3….2….1…. GO


What you are looking at here is the result of a Beetle doing some “off roading”. The part that is sticking out is the Tie Rod. The tie rod is part of the steering system. It is the link between the steering rack, and the wheel. As you might be able to guess, it should not be belt at a 90degree angle. The tire you see is the left tire. notice how it it turned all the way to the right. What you can’t see is that the right tire is completely straight. I have seen many bent tie rods, but I don’t think I have seen one ripped from the steering rack. I am pretty sure the damage totaled the car. Sad to see a TDI go out like that.


This is a picture of the screen of our VW scan tool. We have a program called Guided Fault Finding. This program has several tests for almost every system of the car. If a car has a fault, it can automatically load a plan to test the fault. It usually works pretty good, despite what some mechanics would say. Every now and then, you get some random repair instruction like this one. It is basically telling me to

  1. Check the connection
  2. Find the problem
  3. Repair it

HAHA, Duh! What the heck else would I be doing? I always get a kick out of this stuff. That and when you get a random screen that is in German!


If you read the post the other day called “Throwing Automotive Logic Out The Window”, you would have read the story about an alternator causing the engine not to start. Well here is the failed alternator. You can see the ball bearings at the bottom of the pulley mount. That should not be that way. I do not really have an explanation as to why this happened. Thankfully it fixed the no start problem. I wish I could have taken it apart, to find the failure. There are some parts that we have to return to VW. They will manufacturer this and resell it after fixing it.

Oh hello pollution! This is a little video of a VW Tiguan that is obviously smoking. The problem here is a fuel injector that got stuck open. It causes way too much fuel to be sent into the engine. The high amount of fuel is not able to be fully burned. The only place for it to go is down the tail pipe. The result is awful smoke coming from the tailpipe. I hope that the customer had the car towed it. I would be mad if I was driving behind that car!!

I hope you all have a really great Wednesday. I am off work, but will be busting my butt to get some flooring finished. Don’t forget to signup for email updates. I know I keep saying “I got things in the works”, but I do, and the email list will get 1st dibsies!

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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?

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