Tag Archive for: Maintenance


DIYOilChangeIt may shock some folks, but I too must change the oil in my car. Yes even auto mechanics have to maintain their car. So today I will be giving you some awesome and very important tips on changing the oil in your car. We will be using my 2005 Volkswagen Passat 1.8t to learn the right way to change oil. I also need to thank Apex Tuning  for letting me use their shop to do this video for you. This video has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DIYOilChange



Remember any time you are working on your car, safety is priority number one. Please make sure you are working in a safe manor.

Join me for an oil change DIY:

  • Oil filter I use on my VW
  • Engine oil I use on my car Pennzoil Platinum engine oil
  • What to do with used engine oil
  • Working safe
  • Cleaning up after an oil change
  • Removing the oil filter
  • What is double gasket
  • Under car inspecsions
  • Drain plug
  • Tips for filling engine oil
  • and more

Trouble viewing? Watch “How To Change Your Car’s Engine Oil” on YouTube.

As always I love to hear your thoughts. Please post them in the comments section below. 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:

Passat TDI Oil Change
Plastic oil pan MK7 GTI

Plastic Oil Pan?

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the oil extractor that I bought. I mainly bought it because someone at Volkswagen thought it would be a good idea to use a PLASTIC oil pan on the new MK7 GTI. It’s too early to know if a plastic oil pan is a good idea or not, but let’s shelf that for now.

When I posted the picture, it brought up a good point. Is extracting oil better, worse, or the same as draining it from the drain plug.

Before we talk about the Pros and Cons of these methods. Let’s be sure to define each.

  • Draining Engine Oil
    This is the process where a plug is removed that the oil drains out the bottom.
  • Extracting Engine Oil
    This is where a device is used to suck the oil out. For this discussion, let’s assume we are pulling oil out through the dip stick funnel.

When most folks think of an oil change, they think of draining the oil. Up until a few months ago, that is how I did every service. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of DRAINING oil first


  • It is fast.
    We are letting gravity do the work for us. On a hot engine you will get most of the engine oil out in about 5 minutes.
  • You MAY get more oil out.
    I say you MAY because that is not a guarantee you will get more oil out
  • You can do other things while the oil drains.
    I usually pull wheel caps off while I drain the engine oil
  • It is a more traditional way to change oil


  • It can be messy
    You basically need to be sure you hit the target of the drain pan
  • You have to raise the car up.
    You need to have the car high enough to access the drain plug
  • Risk oil pan damage
    May oil pans are made of soft metal, or plastic, each time a drain plug is removed, the potential for damage is there.

    Passat TDI Oil Change

    Extracting engine oil

Let’s look a little deeper into the Pros and Cons of extracting engine oil


  • Clean
    All of the oil is pulled in to a container. Mine has a spout to make pouring easier
  • No need to raise the car
    This is great when putting the car in the air is not easy.
  • No worry about drain plug damage
    A you can see I am concerned about the long term on these plastic pans.


  • Noisy
    Mine is fairly loud
  • Need air supply
    With most of these extractors, you need a good supply of compressed air, or you have to manually pump the oil
  • You may not get all the oil out
    I have found that mine does not get all the oil out of some engines.
  • It may take more time
    On a cold engine, my extractor takes forever to pull oil  out.

There are a few other points that I want to bring up about using an extractor. They may or may not be cons. It is more like just thoughts. Just because you don’t need to put the car in the air to drain the oil, doesn’t mean you don’t put the car in the air. You may still need to access the filter from the bottom. It is also important to put the car up in the air to do an inspection.

There is also the idea that debris in the engine oil will settle to the bottom. When a drain plug is removed, that will be the first to come out. This sounds like a good theory. But the oil filter will hold most of the debris. The oil is changed HOT. This means the debris doesn’t really have time to settle. Plus no matter what you do , there is still oil left in the engine. Heck there is still oil left in the pan.

Mityvac 7300

This is the extractor that I use

Conclusion, which is better?
Well, like most good questions, the answer is “it depends”. For me, extracting the oil on a TDI that comes in to wait is perfect. The filter is on the top, the extractor gets all the way down to the bottom, and the oil is hot.

I can tell you that on a 2.0 FSI, there is is no point to use an extractor. I still have to put the car in the air to access the oil filter. It would be a waste of time to extract the oil, then lift the car to replace the filter.

Your thoughts
What do you think? Is draining better? Do you get more oil out? Does a 1/2 of a cup left in the engine really matter? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

K&N Air filter

Hey everyone. Today I am traveling with my boss out to NASCAR Technical Institute in Charlotte,NC. We are planning to hire a few rookie techs. For me it’s about a two and a half hour road trip. I will also be taking a little detour to see some folks at a certain tuning shop in Charlotte, NC. For those of you that know what I mean 😉 more to follow.

As many of you know I am currently in the process of building of restoring a 1988 VW Cabriolet aka project “Luv A Dub”. Not only am I bringing this Cabby back to life, I am installing a freshly rebuilt VR6. This will take the horsepower from a weak 90hp to 172hp. That is a nice increase in power, especially from a ~2300lb car.

The awesome folks at AutoAnything.com asked me if K&N Air filterthey could help out with the project. As their name says, Auto Anything sells just about anything your car might need. We decided that putting a K&N air filter on the Cabby was the way to go.

If you are not familiar with K&N filters, they are a filter that never needs to be replaced. Instead of replacing the filter you can clean it. I will put some videos about cleaning a K&N filter at the bottom of the post. Not only are K&N filters reusable, they also let more air flow through than many disposable air filters. For all the stats on K&N filters check out their site KN Filters.

After We decided on going with K&N for the filter, Kelly from Auto Anything helped me pick the right filter for the Cabby. This was not your average task. This is a custom application. After some measuring on my end, and a few emails, they got me the exact filter I needed. Don’t worry, if you are replacing your factory size filter, getting the right one is much easier.

There is some controversy about using oil charged filters on VWs. I can tell you I have replaced tons of air flow sensors on cars with K&N filter. I have also replaced tons of air flow sensors with out K&N filters. Just like any part you use, you must make the choice on your own.

K&N Air filter

This is a close up of the filter element of the K&N filter.

if you have any questions, thoughts or comments about K&N filters, post them in the comments below. I will also tell you guys that I am also traveling on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Be sure to follow the Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. I will be posting picture from the road. One last thing. My wife and I had a chance to check out the Porsche By Design exhibit at the NC Art Museum. It was awesome! I posted a bunch of pictures on FB. When I get back, I will post more on the blog.

Dirty VW Pollen filter
Dirty VW Pollen filter

This filter needed to be replaced

Happy Monday everyone. Today I want to get back to the series “Does my car REALLY need this service”. Have you ever wondered if the service your mechanic is recommending is really needed? Well if you have then this series is for you. I will post links to all the rest of the posts in this series at the bottom of the page. Today we are talking about pollen or cabin air filters.

What is the Pollen or Cabin Air Filter?
This filter cleans the air that enters your car. It can remove dust and pollen from the air before it enters the cabin of your car. Think of it just like the filter that you have for your home heat and A/C system.

Why is it important?
In the grand scheme of car performance, it is not very important. Many cars don’t even have a pollen filter. So you need to make sure your car has a filter before letting a mechanic replace it. 😉 The pollen filter is more of a comfort filter. Imagine driving through a dust storm with out something to filter the air coming into the car. That dust could just come right on in.Or, if you live in the southern USA imagine all the pollen that would be coming in the car if you did not have a filter.

Like I said, this filter is NOT a critical  system of your car. Having a dirty pollen filter will not leave you stranded. It will not cause your vehicle not to perform properly. It is there specifically to add to your comfort while you drive. And that can be pretty dang important.

How do I know if I need a new cabin or pollen filter?
Inspecting a pollen filter is just like looking at any other filter. It can be really easy to tell if it needs to be replaced. Heck, removing the filter will be the hardest part.

  • Follow the owners book.
    Dirty VW Pollen filter

    A VERY dirty pollen filter

    This will give you a good idea of the average life of a pollen filter. Replacing it every 20,000 miles seems to be a common standard. Check your book and see.

  • Visual inspection
    This is a great way to check your filter. If you can remove it, give it a good look over. Look between the ribs of the filter and check for dirt or other debris. Also make sure it is not wet. You may have bigger issues if your pollen filter is wet.
  • Sniff test
    This reminds me of someone that would say “Hey, smell this, it’s awful” and then you smell it. And it is awful. Giving a filter a sniff test is the last test. Just be careful, you don’t really want a face full of stink.

Do you REALLY need a new filter?
Just like any filter, it really depends. If your owners book says replace it, just replace it. If you inspect the filter and are not sure, just replace it. Pollen filters are not that expensive. If the filter is in bad shape, you can attempt to clean it, but I have not really seen that work. Pollen filters are also a great first DIY. There is very little risk of doing it wrong on most cars.

Well, that wraps up another “Does my car really need this service?”. I hope you are enjoying the series. I really hope that someone has used this as a guide in servicing their car. If you have, PLEASE post in the comments below. I would love to get some feedback.

Check out the other posts in the “Does my car really need this service?” series.

Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Brake Fluid
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Brake Job
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Oil Change
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Engine Air Filter
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Tires
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Serpentine Belt
Does MY Car Really Need This Service ~ Timing Belt

Metal in DSG transmission fluid

Happy Tuesday everyone. It is a rainy and cold Tuesday here. I hope the weather is better for you. Today I want to share a little story about car repairs, and how sometimes they wrong. Well, not really “go wrong, but more unexpected. This would fit in well as a Shop Shot, but I think it needs more information.

A customer brought his 2009 VW Jetta in for repair. His concern was a delay when shifting into reverse, and a strange shift from first to second gear. I test drove the vehicle and finally got the DSG transmission to shift poor. I have driven enough cars with a DSG(think a manual transmission that shifts automatically), to know what it feels like when the mechatronic unit starts to fail. The mechatronic unit is the brain, and controller for the transmission. This one was not bad, but it did need to be replaced.

The symptom the customer had was very minor. The car was 100% safe to drive. I didn’t have any issue with letting him drive his car for a few days while I waited on parts. This is a very normal thing. If the car does not have a safety issue, or another major problem, we let the customers keep their car.

When the customer brought his car back, I started the repair. I removed the transmission oil pan to gain access to the mech unit. Once the pan was off I found the unexpected part, METAL!

Metal in DSG tranmission fluidNotice the shiny silver streaks in the pan. That is tiny metal chucks that have settled. There was also plenty of metal in the fluid. As soon as a mechanic finds a problem like this, it is time to stop and evaluate the situation.

From here I took some pictures and sent them to VW technician help line. They are key in advising whether to repair or replace a transmission. This one was a slam dunk REPLACE! There is very little chance you can get all the metal out of this transmission. Even if you could, it would cost just as much to repair, as it would to replace.

There is nothing that this customer could have done different. They did the service the transmission requires, at the proper interval. The transmission just failed. I don’t know exactly where the metal came from. I have to send the transmission back to VW for them to analyze. So odds are I will never know exactly what happened. The good thing for the customer, this was all covered under their warranty.

This is not something that happens all that often. When it does I like to share. What do you guys think, did this customer luck out or what? Don’t forget you can follow all the stuff the community is doing. It is as easy as clicking your favorite box to the right, it will take you right there. 😉

Dirty Engine Air filter
Dirty Engine Air filter

Top is a dirty air filter, the bottom is new

The engine air filter may be one of the most up sold items in the entire automotive world. But do you really need to have your air filter replaced? Today we will talk about some of the reasons why you may need a new engine air filter. We will also look at how you can be sure you actually need a new one.

What is the Engine Air Filter
It may come as a big surprise, but the engine air filter, filters AIR! Yes that is me being slightly sarcastic. There is really no need to over complicate what an air filter does. As air is pulled into the engine, the filter prevents debris from getting in the engine. It really is as simple as that.

Why is it important?
Well we answered this question above. The better question is, what happens when an air filter is bad. In this case bad means:

  • Dirty
    A dirty air filter will cause your engine to work harder. That can mean decreased MPG, and a reduction in power
  • Wrong, or improper fitment
    This can cause a number of issues. An air filter that does not fit properly can allow debris into the engine. It can also alter the flow of air into the engine. In some cases this can fool the sensor that monitors the flow of air into the engine. This can lead to a check engine light, and poor MPG.
  • Old and damaged
    An old air filter can actually come apart. On top of allowing debris in the engine, the engine can suck parts of the air filter in to the engine. This can cause damage to the engine.

How do I know if I need a new air filter
The great thing about air filters is it can be easy to tell if you need a new one.

  • Follow the owners book
    Most car manufacturers have a replacement interval. That interval is a great guideline to follow. Just remember that manufacturer inOtervals do not apply to everyone. For example if you live near the beach you need to replace your filter more often. Sand will clog a filter pretty fast.

    Dirty Engine Air filter

    Here, the top filter is new, and the bottom one is dirty

  • Visual inspection
    This is the only way to if you need a filter replacement. Here are a few things that you can look for:

    • Excessive dirt or sand
    • Oil saturation, this is can be the result of another problem. Do not just replace the filter if you find oil saturation.
    • Foreign objects, yep, it could be anything from a little critter to a Hot Wheel. None of those things belong on your air filter.

Do you REALLY need a new air filter?
This one depends on the condition of the air filter in your car. If the filter is dirty replace it. If it is clogged up, or falling apart replace it. Let’s say that a service place recommends you replace the filter because “it is dirty”. You should do what I always recommend and ask to see it. If the service department does not have the filter at the ready, they may not have inspected it. If they can show you the dirty filter from your car, ask to see a new one. This will let you see how bad the filter is. It will also let you check and make sure they are using the right filter.

If you have any further questions about replacing or inspecting an engine air filter, please post them in the comments below. Odds are if you have a question, tons of other folks have that same question. So please feel free to post them below.

I also want to take a second to thank you all for hanging in with me while I moved. It was a crazy busy, and stressful time. We are finally getting things back on track. I should be bringing the Cabby, aka Luv A Dub, home this week. I can’t wait to get back to working on her.

Cracking VW serpentine belt

Serpentine belt routing Hey everyone, happy Monday. Before we get rolling I want to thank all of you that entered the contest.  Congratulations are in order for Larry and for Mathew. Larry’s name was picked (at random) from the comments. He won the VW car wash kit. Mathew won the Snap-on gift pack. His name, (actually his twitter handle) was picked at random. Thanks again to everyone that entered. We will have more fun stuff like this soon.

Today I want to keep rolling on our “Does my car really need this service?”. We are talking about Serpentine belts. What it does. Why it’s important, and how do you know if you need to replace yours.

What is a Serpentine belt
This is the belt on your car that drives the accessories. In order to technically be a serpentine belt, it must drive multiple accessories. Things like:

  • Power steering pump
  • Alternator
  • Air conditioning compressor
  • Water pump
  • Super charger 🙂
  • Smog pump(this is an emissions control on older cars.

Those are some of the things that can be driven by a serpentine belt. Well, I guess those are more like necessities by today’s standards.

The serpentine belt can also be called a ribbed belt, Vee-belt, or a multi belt. The are kept tight by a tensioner. It can be be tensioned automatically, or have the tension manually set. They may also use pulleys that simply route the belt properly.

Volkswagen TDI timing belt damage

Strands of a broken serpentine belt stuck in the timing belt

Why is it important?
The serp belt has a pretty serious job. With out it your car will will have a dead battery, and may even over heat. Plus we all love our a/c, at least if you live in the south.

A broken serpentine belt can surely lead to you being stranded. At best your battery will be dead. At worst, you can have issues with engine damage. It it rare for a serpentine belt to break in a way that causes engine damage, but it can happen.

This car had a serp belt that broke. It did not leave the owner stranded, but it did cause an issue with the timing belt. When the belt broke, strands of belt got pushed into the timing belt. That cause the car to be slightly out of time. The customer brought his car in for a “hard to start” concern.

How do you know you need to replace it?

Cracking VW serpentine belt

This belt needed to be replaced due to cracking

Many times a worn serpentine belt can be easily seen. If you can see the belt while it is on the car, you may only see a small section of belt. The good thing is, you see it at the most stressed point, rapped around a pulley. That will allow you to see cracking of the belt easier.

Luckily serpentine belts only fail in a few ways:

  • They break completely. Be careful about only replacing the belt. There may be a pulley that has failed causing the belt to break.
  • Cracking, this is the most common way to know your belt is due for replacement.
  • Noisy,  sometimes a belt that is making noise just needs to be replaced.
  • Contamination. This is from other issues with the car. If a water pump leaks coolant, or there is oil leaking on the belt, it is best to replace it. Contaminates can penetrate the belt and cause failure.

So, do I really need this service?
This one is not an easy YES/NO question. Do you need a properly functioning belt, YES. Do you have to replace it right now, probably not.

This is a part that I highly recommend you ask your mechanic to show you. If it looks like it is full of cracks, or is soaked in oil/coolant, replace it. If the belt looks okay, and your mechanic can not show you the issue, it may be fine to wait.

One quick tip. If you want to replace your own serpentine belt, I say go for it. If I don’t know the car very well, I like to draw the pulleys. Then draw a line simulating the belt. That way you don’t have to remember how the belt is routed.