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Painting markes on a timing belt
Common Rail TDI Timing Belt

This is a TDI timing belt

When I started this series, this was the service I had in mind. Of all the maintenance that a car needs, this one is vital. In fact, I think I could just have the post of one word. YES! I would not do that to you guys. You need to know why you need a timing belt. Like most of the “Does My Car Really Need This Service” this goes beyond a VW. It will apply to all cars.

What is a timing belt.
A timing belt car be a difficult thing to understand. Like I have said before, you don’t need to be a car expert to understand your car. A timing belt keeps your engine “timed”. It keeps parts in the top end, from hitting parts in the bottom end.

Think of it like gears and a chain on a bike. With out the chain the gears wont move. A combustion engine needs it’s gears connected too. Imagine if your bike’s chain broke, you would not be able to pedal. The timing belt is just as critical.

Some cars have other things that the timing belt does. Most VWs run the water pump off of the timing belt. Some of the TDI engines run a fuel pump with the timing belt. I have seen oil pumps, distributors, fuel pumps, water pumps, balance shafts by the timing belt.

How can the timing belt break?
Before we can talk about what timing belt failure means, we need to talk about how they can fail.

  1. The belt breaks apartvw Timing Belt damage
    This is where the belt separates, like undoing your belt for your pants. I don’t think that I have seen a belt do this, but it’s possible.
  2. The teeth sheer come off the belt.
    The belt is “toothed”. That is how the belt turns the gears. I have seen many many timing belts with teeth missing from the belt. This can be the result of a worn belt, or the next way a belt can fail
  3. Seized, or failed component in the belt circuit.
    There is also parts that keep tension on the belt. If a tension fails, it can cause the belt to be too loose. That can cause the belt to skip and become out of time. If a component seizes, it can rip the teeth from the belt.
  4. Outside influence
    I have seen a few timing belts break due to outside influence. Whether it is damage from a wreck, or a bolt came out of the engine. Outside influence is bad news. Check out the picture above.

What happens if it breaks?
The phrase “Possible catastrophic engine damage” is what I like to say. I have seen a few different things happen when a timing belt breaks or the belt circuit fails in some way(see above).

  • Nothing, but the belt breaks
    This is rare. I have seen timing belts fail, I put a new belt on and the car ran perfect. One of the guys in the shop had a PD TDI that had no teeth on the belt. Somehow there was no engine damage. In cases like this, you need to replace all the parts on the belt circuit.
  • Catastrophic engine damage
    When a belt fails, this is the worst case scenario. This is when parts in the top of the engine, the valves, crash into parts in the bottom of the engine, the pistons. If this happens it can cost a few thousand dollars to get repaired. It’s a lot of labor, parts are expensive, and you still have to put a new timing belt on the car.

How to check a timing belt
This can be a difficult thing. Timing belts are generally covered up to keep debris out. This can also make it hard to check your own belt. If you can get to the belt, you can do a little checking.

  • Look for cracks
    Check the belt for surface cracks.

    Timing Belt with out teeth

    This is a timing belt missing all the teeth

  • Belt deflection
    Basically see if the belt is loose. This can be tricky. Find the section of belt that has the furthest distance between gears, or tensioners. Some belts have a spec, generally it is twisting the belt ~90 degrees.
  • Listen for noises
    When tensioners and rollers go bad, they can make noise. They don’t always make noise. If they do, it is time for replacement.
  • Check for leaks
    Leak, from a belt? Well not exactly. However leaks from a water pump, or an oil leak can damage the timing belt. If you have a belt that is saturated in oil or coolant, it’s time for replacement.

How is a timing belt get replaced
This really depends on what car and engine. On 1999-2005 Passats, the front end comes off. Golf, Beetle, and Jettas are done by removing the engine mount. Some cars like the Touareg and Phaeton is just a matter of taking the fans out to gain access to the belt.

Some engines have special tools to hold the engine in place. Others have various markings that get lined up. I prefer to line the marks up on the engine and paint my own marks on the belt. It just makes for a little insurance when doing a big job like a timing belt.

Painting markes on a timing belt

This is how I paint marks on a timing belt

So, do I really this service.
This is a service that you can’t afford to pass on. If you wait, you are really run the risk of an expensive repair. Yes a timing belt replacement is expensive, but you can do 3 or 4 timing belts before having to pay for a cylinder head repair.

I replaced my belt on my Passat about 20,000 miles before it was technically due. Please check your owners book regarding your timing belt. Then do it 10%-20% before that. Better 20,000 miles early than 1 mile too late. Timing belts are no joke.

Enjoy this post? Go ahead and consider sharing it. All you have to do is click one of the little buttons below. Remember that this applies to almost every car, not just Volkswagens. I really do appreciate it when you share the posts. 😛

VR6 Cylinder head damage

Wednesday, to many it is known as “hump day”. For all of us, it is one of the best days of the week. That”s right, it is Shop Shots time. Today we jump behind the scenes to see a side of automotive service you will not see anywhere else. Alright, let’s get this ball rolling.

VR6 Cylinder head damageBefore I tell you all about this picture, I need you to know something. There are many times that I put these pictures into the post and seriously laugh out loud. This is one of them LOL!

This is a picture of a 4valve VR6 cylinder head. You might notice that it looks a little strange. Yep, it is covered in duct tape. You may know it as hurricane tape, riggers tape, or (my favorite) 100-mph tape. So you might be wondering why the bottom of a cylinder head is covered in Duct Tape. Well here is the skinny. I posted a few pictures of a VR6 engine all torn apart. This is the top end of that same engine.

We sent the cylinder head to the machine shop to have it checked for damage. While it was at the machine shop, VW decided that they would pay for a new engine. That left us needing to reassemble the cylinder head. We couldn’t find the right tool to properly install the valve and other cylinder head parts. So what is the solution? Duct tape of course. He was able to tape the valves to help secure them while he reassembled the cylinder head. Don’t worry, this engine will not be installed in a car before a complete rebuild.

I posted this picture on Facebook the other day, but I didn’t explain it completely. You are looking at the back window of a 2006 Beetle convertible. The Beetle convertible is equipped with several safety systems. Because the convertible does not have a hard roof, VW has built extra safety features in to it.

You are looking at the rear headrest in the extended position. When the Beetle is involved in a crash, the rear headrests pop up. This provides added support on the roof. There is a picture that I have seen with a big pickup truck resting on this support. These supports are no joke.

Clogged VW pollen filterThis is a VW pollen filter. This filter is completely clogged up with all kinds of nasty stuff. This filter is actually inside the car. So all the dirt and sticks would be inside the cabin of the car, if not for this filter. I was not the one that replaced this filter, but I bet the car was pretty smelly. Just imagine having to breathe this junk. No thank you.

Custom VW seatRemember the picture at the top? Remember that I said we were replacing the engine? When VW ships an engine, the do a great job packing it with this foam. The shop has been a little on the slow side over the past few weeks, and that is when the shenanigans tend to start.

We decided that making a “custom” seat would be the best use of all this foam. I am not gonna lie, it was very comfy. It did however have a strange smell. I would not recommend sitting on it for that long. We try to be professional, but sometimes you just gotta get some fun time in.

Dubs for a CauseOne last thing. If you are in the Raleigh,NC area please come to this event. Just grab a few canned goods and come out to meet some great Dub folks. I will be there in the early afternoon. You may also notice the logo on the bottom right. Yep, I am one of the official sponsors of the show. So come out, say hi, and support a really good cause.

There you have it, another week of Shop Shots in the books. I hope to see as many of you as possible at the “Dubs For A Cause” in a few weeks.

1.8t Passat engine Failure

Hey everyone! I hope that you are all enjoying your Monday. I spent the weekend doing some remodeling on my bathroom. It turns out that I like working on cars much much more than I like working on the house. Okay enough about houses, let’s talk oil changes.

This is another installment in the “Does my car need this service” series. That is where we take a commonly recommended service, and drive in to see if you really need it. This week we are talking about oil changes. We have talked before about “What exactly an oil change is“. Today we will talk about WHY!

Why would it need to be changed?
The oil in your car does basically 3 things

1.8 Passat engine damage

This is the result of not changing oil

  1. Lubricates
    This is the obvious one. It lubricates by keeping metal riding on a thin film. That prevents metal parts from touching. If metal parts actually touched, they would seize pretty quick.
  2. Cools
    Oil pulls heat away from the moving parts of the engine. That is why most cars have an oil cooler. It also reduces friction, that keeps parts cooler.
  3. Cleans
    Engine oil is responsible for moving debris from the engine crank case and oil galleys. It is also built with detergent packs to keep those moving parts clean. This is one area that car separate cheap oil from the good stuff.

The longer the oil is in your engine, the less it will do it’s 3 main jobs. Oil, will break down over time and lose it lubricating properties. As it loses it’s lubricating properties, it will not cool as effectively or clean like it should.

Using a good quality oil filter will help keep your oil clean. I recommend changing the filter when you change the oil. I use manufacturer oil filters in all my cars. If you choose an aftermarket filter, be sure it is the right size. The 1.8t Passat is a great example. VW switched to a big oil filter in 2005. I still see them come in with the smaller filters. They fit just fine, but it is not the proper filter.

How to check the fluid
Checking the level of your oil is pretty easy. Just make sure that your car is on a level surface. I need to shoot a little video for you guys. That would really be the best way to explain it. I am due for oil changes on both my cars. 🙁

Checking the condition is a little trickier. I check it by dabbing a little oil from the dipstick on to a piece of paper. Sift through it and check the color, and check for small chunks. The chunks are generally carbon. If you are getting carbon chunks, you not only in need of an oil change, but probably an oil system flush. Carbon chunks are a bad bad thing. Things get a little tougher when you have a TDI. That is is almost always very black. It makes it hard to determine the condition.

All that makes a great case for keeping good records. At my dealer, we can look at all the services that a customer has done. We can only see what services were done at my dealer. I have a file in my desk that I keep all my car maintenance records in.

How is the fluid replaced?
Nothing really fancy here. Just shut off the engine, and pull the plug. It really is that simple.

So do I really need it?
100% yes! Changing engine oil and filter is one of the most important things you can do for your car. I have replaced more than one engine due to lack of proper oil changes. I have also done tons of engine oil services because people didn’t change the oil in their car. They were not all 1.8t Passats.

Make sure that your car is getting the proper engine oil. Follow your owners manual for the proper oil, and the proper replacement interval. This is definitely one of the cheapest, most important services your car needs. Please don’t skip it.

1.8t Passat engine Failure

Change your oil, or your car will end up like this!

One last thing. I emailed the winner of the Snap-on tray. I have not heard back from them. If I don’t hear back by Wednesday, I will pick another winner. Make sure you all check your email. Be sure to check the spam folder. My email may have gotten filtered.

Volkswagen brake fluid service

I get this question, all the time. If comes in several forms, but all boils down to to this,

Does my car really need this service?

Today I want to talk about Brake Fluid. It can often be over looked. Flushing it will not get your better gas mileage. It wont make your neighbor come over and ask if you just detailed the car. That does not mean that you can just pass on doing it.

Why would it need to be changed?
Like most fluids in your car, brake fluid has a service interval. If you drive a VW, it is every 2 or 3 years. Please consult your owners manual for the proper service interval.

Volkswagen brake fluid service

This is what your fluid should not look like!

The fluid in your brake system is vital to proper brake operation. The fluid in the system moves pistons which push the pad into the brake rotor. When that happens your car stops 🙂

If dirt or other contaminates get into the fluid, it can change the behavior of your cars braking. The biggest enemy to brake fluid is moisture. Brake fluid is hygroscopic. That means it absorbs and holds water. This is a good thing in a brake system. It will all but eliminate brake lines rusting from the inside.

There is another reason that moisture is bad in your brake lines. Water can boil. If the fluid in your brake fluid boils, it can engage the brakes, or change the way they behave. In the right climate that water can freeze too.

Phoenix Systems Brake Fluid Test Strips (100 / Tube) - PHOFASCAR-1-100

Brake fluid test strips

How do I check the fluid
Checking the brake fluid is pretty easy. All you have to do is open the reservoir and look inside. That will give you a basic idea of what the fluid looks like. That may not tell the entire story. You can not see how much moisture is in brake fluid.

Something like these brake test strips work really well. They are pretty expensive for most people. These come in at about $70. Since you can get your brake fluid serviced for ~$100-$120 it seems silly to spend $70 to test, then another $100+ to replace.

When I inspect brake fluid, I really focus on the color. New brake fluid is clear with a yellow tint. As it ages it turns green, then brown. If your brake fluid is brown you are in bad shape. When I checked the fluid in the Cabby, it was really thick and brown. Not a good thing. I have a feeling that it will take a lot of cleaning to get the lines right

How is the fluid replaced?
At work, we have a really great machine to flush brake fluid. The fluid in the reservoir gets vacuumed out. Then we ‘push’ clean brake fluid through the system. Each brake has a bleeder valve that we open and allow the fluid to flow. I let it flow out until the fluid coming out is clean, then just a little longer. You can also check out the post I wrote about Servicing Brake Fluid. It was my 2nd post on the site so it’s not great, but the information is spot on.

So do I really need it?
I would have to say yes on this service. This is one service that really can cause some safety issues, and costly repairs down the road. Check with your owners manual to see when your brake fluid is due for service. If you don’t have your book, call your local dealer and ask them. If you have never had your brake fluid serviced, get it serviced, or DIY.

From time to time, I give you guys some information that is really worth sharing. I think that this post in one. Every car has brake fluid, and all brake fluid needs to be serviced. Make sure that you get yours done when it needs it!


Shop Shots VW Battery Corrosion

Hey everyone, I am back and all fired up. I know that I missed a few days worth of posts, and for that I am sorry.

If you are a new reader let me give you a rundown of what Shop Shots actually is. As you might imagine, auto mechanics see some interesting things. It can be anything from a wrecked car, something that broken in a strange way, or something weird a customer had in their car. I can’t tell you how many times I have found pot in a customer’s car. This series is a way for me to share what I find in the shop. Think of it as a behind the scenes look into a VW service center.

Shop Shots VW Battery CorrosionThis is a close up shot of a VW battery. The “growth” on the terminal is corrosion. It can be caused by a leaking battery. Heat tends to aggravate the situation. This is not a good thing to have built up on your battery. It can cause issues with your vehicle. Modern cars are very very sensitive to low voltage.That means when the battery gets worn out, it will make the car do strange things. The most options a car has, the more important proper battery voltage it.

Be careful around this stuff. It is a product of battery acid. It will burn your skin, and eat holes in your clothes.

Shop Shots broken VW glassThis is a picture I put together with a really cool Iphone app called PicStitch. It lets you frame and combine pictures. This is a picture(s) of a broken rear side glass on a Jetta Sport Wagon. The picture on the lower right shows the impact point. I am not sure what hit it, but no doubt something did.

I tried really hard to get a cool shot. One that showed the entire window, but still close enough so you could see the break. No such luck. The picture on the top right is from the inside out. There is just something so cool looking about broken safety glass. Oh and that is what a $400 piece of glass looks like.

Shop Shots VW Coolant LeakThis is a perfect example of preventative maintenance. This is a picture of the crankshaft gear on a 2006 GTI. The customer was in for his 120,000 mile service. That is a pretty big service. It also happens to be the mileage that the timing belt is due. I recommended the belt to him because it was at the proper mileage.

When I took the lower timing cover off, I noticed a slight pink trail. That is a dead giveaway that the car had a coolant leak. That is a free tech tip. If you see a crusty pink trail on your VW or Audi, just follow it and you will find your coolant leak.

The leak was coming from the coolant pump. With only the intention of replacing this pump as PM(preventative maintenance) I was also able to make a repair. At some point this pump would have needed to be repaired. Glad it was before the customer was stranded with a severe leak.

Shop Shots Humble MechanicOkay today your are getting a bonus Shop Shot. I was working on this Passat yesterday. It was a 2012 and in for it’s first service. When I popped the hood, I noticed something sitting on the cowl right by the wiper blades. Well, it turned out to be a pack of playing cards. How in  the world did a deck of cards get there? The world may never know.

That will wrap up another volume of Shop Shots. I am out of the shop today doing errands and heading out to Sears to exchange some broken tools. I might even get my wife’s truck detailed. Hopefully it will be a surprise. Don’t forget that to swing by and like the Facebook page. I do post a few things over there that don’t make it to the blog. 🙂

I didn’t really want to leave you guys out another day. I don’t really share a lot of my non car related life. So today I want to just share a few pics from the trip we took.

We hit the road around 1:30am Thursday. Stopping only for fuel, coffee, and the inevitable bathroom break.. We rolled into Munster,IN about 2:30 central time. That is about 14 hours of travel time. We spent the night in IN, and enjoyed a few brews at 3Floyds brewing.

The next two days were jam packed with visiting as many friends and family as possible. We didn’t do everything that we wanted to. We didn’t get to see all the people that we wanted. Over all it was great to see the people we did. The far and away high point was seeing our cousin Mag. She has spend the better part of the last 2 years fighting the “C” word. She looked amazing! We chatted all through lunch about this and that. I even got to share some gardening tips with her. Just being around such an amazing person really does warm your heart. I am so proud to know her, and call her family. Congrats to you Mags, you are a hero!

Much like the trip out, we got rolling about 2:30am. The trip home is always worse than the trip out. I need to give a shout out to my wife. She pulled about 3 hours of driving time. That is huge for her.

The Passat did great. Not one hiccup or anything. Here is a run down of the stats

  • Overall MPG 26.9
  • Miles Driven 1893.3
  • Fuel fill ups 7
  • Average speed 69.1(that was on the return trip)

I like to think that all that prepping really helped! Here are some pictures of our trip. I almost forgot. We did get to see some of that meter shower. I couldn’t get any cool pictures, but it was really neat.

Automotive Service pictures Shop Shots VW belly Pan

Okay I have to tell you guys something. I never thought we would get to Volume 25 of shop shots. I just want to take a second to thank each and every one of you that have made doing this so much fun! Seriously, you guys freaking rock!

Let’s talk some automotive shop pictures! Oh, and I have another “Reader’s Ride” this week. Remember if you want to submit your car, just email me some pictures and a short description, and I will put you on. Don’t be shy 😀

Automotive Service pictures Shop ShotsGross! This is a pictures of a cabin air filter from a Jetta. As you can see it is filled with nasty. The stuffing that you are seeing is some of the sound deadener from the car. I didn’t find anything living in there(thank god). I was still grossed out by how much dust and junk was caked into the filter. Please don’t let your pollen filter get this nasty, especially if you have allergies. I will be replacing my filter as part of my road trip prep.

Automotive Service pictures Shop Shots VW belly PanThere is a rhyming saying about duct tape, but I will leave that to your imagination. Now this might come as a surprise, but duct tape can’t fix everything. This is the bottom of a Beetle. The customer had hit something at some point. The belly pan(part that is hanging down) has been torn off. The customer attempted to reattach it.

As you can see they tried several different methods. Duct tape didn’t work, so a bent up coat hanger is the next best thing. The big issue is the part that holds the belly pan up is broken. That would be a $800+ repair. We see this kind of thing a lot. I was lucky enough to catch a picture of this one. the guy that works next to me in the shop was working on this Beetle

Automotive Service pictures Shop ShotsI didn’t realize how weird this picture looks until now. I promise that I didn’t photo shop this or anything. Really, I would have no clue how to do that.

I was standing in the drive aisle waiting to talk to my service advisor. I glanced out to the covered breezeway. I was checking out a new 2012 Passat. I noticed something hanging from the car. At first I figured it was a clip from the car wrap.I must have looked at it for a full minute. Then it clicked, they are scissors. The scissors were jammed up into the little flap just in front of the rear wheel. I walked out and plucked them off the customers car.

It turns out the customer was talking to my service advisor. I walked back in and asked him if he wanted a survivor. I don’t think the customer thought that it was as funny as I did. How often do you see a pair of scissors jammed into the bottom of a car?

Reader’s Rides

Humble Mechanic Readers Rides

This is Garrett’s Jetta. Just some back round. Garrett has been an awesome part of the community. He is the one that chose Luv a Dub for the Cabby project! He also has had some crazy electrical issues. What kind of Vw driver would he be with out it? 😛 Thanks for submitting Garrett! Here is what He had to say.

Here’s a pic of my car to start. Hope everyone else digs the idea.
It’s a 96 jetta, 202k miles, pacesetter headers an custom cat-back, aluminum intake, pioneer head unit and speakers, 3000 watt 12 pioneer premier sub. Custom blue dash lighting. Eibach pro-kit springs and dampers. I drive it every day an love it very much 🙂

You survived another round of Shop Shots! I hope you all enjoyed. On a totally other random note, is anyone watching the Olympics? I am just now getting sucked into watching the swimming. WOW how awesome are these people. Good luck to all the athletes!