Tag Archive for: Maintenance

Selling a car

It’s Friday! I hope you all had a great week! Today I wanted to give everyone some pointers for selling a car.

For most of us the day will come when we want a new car. When that day comes we have a few choices for dealing with the old car.

  • Trade it in to the place we buy our new car
  • Sell it to a private party
  • Pass it down to a friend or family member
  • Donate to a charity for a tax right off
  • Give it to Charles for the Humble Mechanic site 😉

I really want to talk about the selling it to a private party. When you trade your car in at a dealer, they are not as concerned about how clean it is. They can look beyond the dirt and evaluate the car. With in reason that is. So let’s get into some ways to get the most money when selling your car.

Up To Date On Common Maintenance
Having the basic maintenance up to date is an easy way to stand out. Things like

  • Oil and filter changed
  • Air filter
  • New wiper blades
  • Tire pressure set properly
  • Battery tested (replaced if needed)
  • All the fluids topped off

Other than the battery, the rest is REALLY cheap. I would also recommend keeping all the receipts for any maintenance and repairs you do. Now, that does not mean I will spend $3,000 getting maintenance done if it would not translate to selling the car for $3,000 more. That is silly!

Push Some Buttons
If you are like me, you might use all the features of your car. I can’t tell you the last time that I locked the doors from the button on the rear door. Or plugged something into the 12v outlet in the back. Take a few minutes to push every switch and button in your car. I am not suggesting that you fix everything, but telling people something is wrong is much easier than stumbling for an answer when they find a problem. Good luck convincing them “you didn’t know”.

Enlist A Friend
You are in your car all the time. Because of that, your car might have issues that you don’t see anymore. It could be a small scratch that has been there for years, or that little chip in the windshield. Grab a friend and have them look at your car as if they were going to buy it.

Make It Not Belong To You
Just like when you are selling your house, you don’t want the buyer feeling like it is your car. You want them to think it is theirs! So take all your stuff out, and get ride of that thingy hanging from your rear view mirror.

Get It Clean
This should be a no brainer! Get your car as clean as it will get. If you are not a fan of washing cars, take it somewhere and get it cleaned. Spending $100 getting your car cleaned by the pros will be worth it. I have shopped for a lot of cars in my day. There is not much worse than looking at a car and it being completely nasty. Even if you are selling a cheap car, run it through the wash!

Other Great Tips
Here are a few other things that you can do to help you sell your car faster and for more money

  • Make sure all your lights work both inside and out
  • Make sure you have a spare tires and the car’s tool kit
  • Be open to having your car inspected by a mechanic
  • Use pricing guides like Kelly Blue Book and Edmond’s to help set a price

I hope that you guys can use things if you ever have to sell a car. Do you guy have any other tips that we can add? I want to put together a checklist type document for folks to download and use! What do ya got.

Do you enjoy this site? Want to make sure you never miss a post? Consider joining up on the email list. You will be notified of posts before anyone else. Also, there are things coming down the road that are awesome. The folks on the email list will be getting first dibs 😉 Don’t worry about spam or anything, you will only be getting updates from me!

Enjoy the weekend everyone, try and stay cool!

VW Cabby Luv A Dub project

Happy Monday everyone!

I am out of the shop today, so I thought I would give you all an update on the VW Cabby, aka “Luv a Dub”. I have had the car for about 3 months now. I must say that I wish I was further along that I am . You can probably guess that finding time can be tough. It can also be hard to work on cars all day, then come home and work on a car. 🙂

When I first bought the car, it needed a few things just to get it home. Those were all, “under the hood” type stuff. After fixing those issues, I brought it home and started on the interior. It has been more of a challenging than I expected.

Here is what I have done on the Cabby so far.

  • Clutch ~$80
  • Engine Mount ~$12
  • Clutch cable ~$18
  • Spark plugs $20
  • Distributor cap and rotor ~$15
  • Sound dampener ~$130
  • Bulk wiring ~$25(not installed yet)

Here is the pictures of the interior stripped down and the sound dampener put in.

So what is next for the Luv A Dub? Well, I found out why the cluster lights were not working. You can see the video of the “custom” lights at Meet Luv A Dub video. I decided to hold off on carpet and padding. I want to be sure that all the interior wiring is complete before putting some carpet in. The Cabby does not have a lot of interior wiring, but I want to make it right. Plus I know it needs some new speaker wires ran.

Thank you all for following the progress on the Cabby. I am really looking forward to the day when I can unveil her. That will be a good day.

Dig the site? Consider sharing it. All you have to do is click or tap one of the little icons below. It IS that easy. 😛

We talk all the time about making good choices when it comes to car repairs. Everything from required vehicle maintenance to repairing broken or worn out parts. You might be asking yourself why we are talking about NOT fixing your car. Well, lets face it, sometimes repairs are just not doable.

Today I am not talking about getting scammed, or the mechanic in a can type stuff. I am talking about real repairs to your car. Whether it is money, time, or priority sometimes we just can’t make the repairs to our cars. Here are some ways to decline a repair, but still get the most from your shop, and mechanic.

Be Honest
Honesty is the best policy! If you find that your car needs a repair you didn’t expect, just be honest about it. If the repair is not in the budget just say so. If time is an issue, just let the advisor know you don’t have the time right now.

I appreciate when a customer is honest. I understand that repairs are not planned. Not many people can just drop $500 plus on a car repair.

You want to do some research
With the internet being the endless source of information, it can be easy to find answers to questions. Telling your advisor that you want to do more research is totally understandable. This can give you time to find out more information about the recommended repair.

If it is a safety issue, there is an option too. Don’t be afraid to leave your car at the shop. That will still give you time to research, but not risk doing more damage.

Ask for a printout
Well to be fair, you should not have to ask. 😉 That is something that good repair shops would do for you anyway. Getting a print out will do a few things.

  1. Keeps a record for YOU! Then you don’t have to try and remember what was wrong.
  2. Keeps a record for the shop. Lets say you don’t do a repair. The information will be on file for the next visit.

If your car needs more than one repair, have the service advisor prioritize the list. Just like a printout, a good advisor will do this with out asking. The order I like to use is

  1. Safety. Items that are safety related are always the most important. If it can cause harm to you, or others on the road, it is priority number 1
  2. It can leave you stranded. If not making a repair can leave the car not drivable, it is a very close second. Cars usually don’t break down in your driveway at home.
  3. Further damage will occur. If not making a repair will cause other items to fail, it gets pushed up on the list. If your timing belt breaks, it will cause engine damage. That is much more expensive than just replacing the timing belt.
  4. State Inspection. In my state we have annual inspections for the state. Most of the items we check are safety related. The ones that are not, need to be fixed before a car can pass.
  5. Past due maintenance. This one is pretty self explanatory.
  6. Regular maintenance. Sadly this one will fall to the bottom of the list almost every time. 🙁

The funny thing about prioritizing is, they can fall under more than one number. Leaving you stranded can totally be a safety issue. That is where a good service advisor/mechanic team is vital!

If you feel like your being bullied, be strong. I was at the dentist(YUCK) today, and went through the up selling. I just asked them to keep noting it in my file. That stopped the pressure to buy more stuff.

Any other tips on declining recommended work? I think the key is being nice about it. It is the old saying, you get more flies with honey!

Remember, you can sign up for all the post updates. Just fill out the box on the right, and BAM, you will get notifications on all post. Oh, don’t worry about spam, I don’t do that junk. I also wont send you 35 emails a day. That is not how I roll.

VW Routan Transmission Problem

It’s Wednesday so you know what that mean, “Shop Shots”! Remember that these are all pictures from behind the scenes in automotive service. I like doing these posts because it can really show some of the weird stuff that auto mechanics see.


What you are looking at here is a gas tank. This came out of a 2008 VW Touareg. The customer’s concern was the car would not take a full tank of gas. This was actually the second time she had the same concern. This time we had to replace the gas tank, lines, and all the evaporative emission parts. My guess is that a valve got stuck on the tank.

There are 2 fuel pumps in this tank. If you notice all the lines that run on the top of the tank. Picture about the same about of lines running inside the tank. The worst part of the whole job is running the lines.



Talk about an unsafe tire. This tire belongs to a newer Jetta. The car was in for its 30,000 mile service. If you look really close inside the crack, you can see the threads inside the tire. There must have been a defect with this tire. I could not find any rim damage, or other outside influence.

The sad part is, the customer declined replacing the tire. He didn’t even want me to put the spare on. He side “I like the rims to match. I don’t want the steel wheel on my car”. The customer then said that he didn’t want to replace the tire and that he would replace it himself. CRAZY?


I posted this on instagram the other day, and got some flack for it. Let me explain what is going on in this picture. This is an oil pan on a 2000 (or so) Jetta 1.8t. The drain plug is covered in duct tape. Yes, I was the one that did that. Here is the FULL story!

The customer brought it in for an oil change. When I drove it into the shop, the oil warning light came on. That tells me the car has low oil pressure. I checked the level, and found no oil on the dipstick. That is a BAD thing for any engine, but even worse for a turbocharged engine.

When I put a wrench on the drain plug, I noticed that it was loose. Before removing it, I tried to torque it. If the plug torqued, then someone left it loose. If it didn’t torque, I know I have a problem with the oil pan. I am sure by now you have guessed that it did NOT torque down. The plug would just turn and turn.

At this point it is time to tell the customer that they have a damaged oil pan. The quote for a new pan was $600 something dollars. She, understandably, declined the repair. The car is old, and she didn’t want to put the money into fixing it just yet. She asked, “Can it get me to the airport?. I tell her it might be okay, but no guarantees. The customer was pretty cool about the whole situation. So I tell her, “Don’t worry, I will just put some duct tape on it for you”. I think that she thought I was kidding. As you can see from the picture, I was not!

I duct taped the plug. I figured that even if it leaked some, the plug would not come all the way out. This was not an attempt to repair the car. It was only a bandaid to get her where she needed to go. The proper way to repair this issue, is replacing the oil pan. The newer pans are steel where the drain plug goes. This pan is all aluminum. When a plug is over tightened, it will ruin the threads inside the pan. There are some aftermarket fixes that work really good, and some that are awful.

Just remember any repair that I make must have a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty. So we don’t do many non-factory repairs. Again, this was a bandaid, not a repair. Personally, I think it came out pretty nice


Further down the transmission hole! There will be a full post about this transmission at some point, but let’s just talk about this picture. You are looking down the opening of a transmission. The transmission is about 1/3 of the way taken apart. The gear you can see at the top is the differential gear. It lets your wheels turn at different speeds. All the small holes are transmission fluid passages. I think I will leave the transmission talk at that. 😉

I am really curios what everyone thinks about the duct taped oil pan. Was it the wrong thing to do? Would love to know your thoughts. That wraps up this volume of Shop Shots. Can you believe we are almost at 20? I how awesome is that?

One more thing. I posted something on Facebook yesterday about Facebook charging for businesses to get into a personal new feed. It may not have been true, or it might be some form of the truth. Here is the deal, if you like to see Humble Mechanic updates on Facebook, just like interact with me there. “Like” a post, comment on a post, or share a post. That will make sure you keep getting the updates on FB. Or, just move to Twitter or instagram 😉

Yesterday I was talking about customer service. I made mention of “topping off” your gas tank. I had a few folks ask what them means. So today we are talking about the common things that people do that can damage their car.

Not Doing Maintenance
This almost goes without saying, so I will keep it short and sweet. Skipping out on the proper maintenance can ruin your car. This also includes not checking your oil and tire pressure.

Not keeping your car clean.
Ok, I am really guilty of this one. Keeping a clean car will of course make your car hold up better. There is another side that most folks don’t consider. A clean car is awesome. When you keep your car clean, it feels like a newer car. This might not keep your car from breaking, but it will keep you happier in your car. I always love my Passat more when it’s clean, I just don’t like cleaning it.

Using your wiper blades to clear ice
I have to be honest, I am guilty of this one too. You know, that really cold morning where you have ice and snow built up on your windshield. You forgot to run out and start the car early. Now you have to make a mad dash to clean the windshield before your coffee gets cold. Most folks will jump in the car, jam the wipers on high.

This can do damage to your car in a few different ways. The extra wear on the wipers blades never a good thing. VW blades are about $20 each, you don’t want to put more stress on them than needed. There are more components that can be affected. Consider the wiper motor, and transmission. Yep, the wipers have a transmission. Anytime the wipers slow due to an outside influence, the motor and transmission are stressed. Extended stress can cause premature wear on both the motor and transmission. (The transmission is what the linkage for the wipers is called). To avoid the extra work done by the wiper system, just start your car early, or scrape your windshield.

Starting your car and “punching it”
Years ago, my dealer had a shuttle driver that would do this. He would start the shuttle van on a super cold morning. Then with out delay, slam it in drive and “punch it” As you can imagine, that is not a great thing for a car. I know that is an extreme example, but most of us are guilty.

The better way to get your car rolling is to let it run for a minute or so. Let the fluids circulate, and build pressure. You want to make sure that oil, coolant, and transmission fluid are flowing before you jam the gas and go

“Punching it” then shutting off your car
The flip side is letting your car cool down. This is much more critical for a turbo charged car. Letting your car idle for a minute before shutting it off, is a great habit to start. When your engine is running, all the fluids are moving. When they are moving, they are carrying heat away from the engine. When you just shut the car off, all that heat is trapped. This can cause the engine oil to break down faster and “coke”. When oil “cokes” it will harden. This is one of the big issues with the B5-B5.5 Passats. Not only will it speed up the break down of oil, it will clog the oil passages. Remember, no oil = sad engine!

“Topping up” your fuel tank
Ah yes, the worst one so far! Let us talk about what “topping up” really is. If you set the pump and it clicks off at $38.45. Then you turn the pump back on and put and even $40 in.Then you have successfully “Topped up” the tank. I guess now a days an extra dollar will get you no where, but you guys get the point. 😉

You are probably wondering why that is so bad. See, all modern cars have more emissions controls and you can imagine. One of the systems is designed to control fuel vapors. Whether it is a leak in the tank, while you are filling your car, or just normal driving. The vapors are managed by a system called the Evaporative Emissions system, or evap system for short.

The evap system will deal with fuel vapors by holding them in a canister. This is called a charcoal canister. The vapors are then pumped back in to the engine and burned. When you over fill your gas tank by “topping up”, you pump liquid fuel into the charcoal canister. This can cause the charcoal to break apart. When it starts to break apart it gets pumped into the engine. That part is usually not an issue. The issue comes in the damage to the canister and the control valve.

The control valve will get clogged with charcoal and cause the MIL to come on. 🙁 The end result will be replacing the charcoal canister, and control valve, and flushing all the tiny bits of charcoal out of the system. That can be a pretty costly repair. If you do it one time, fine, but don’t make a habit of it.

What do you guys think? Are you guilty of any ,or all, of these? I know that I am. If you enjoyed today’s post, please consider sharing it. I love getting new readers joining our community.

1.8 Passat engine damage

I talk all the time about changing engine oil. I have said that it is the one, if not THE, most important thing you can do to keep your car healthy. I went back and checked all the “Behind The Wrench” interviews I have done. Everyone said that changing engine oil was the most important thing for your car.

What exactly is an oil change? The obvious answer is “changing the oil” DUH! But oil changes are more than that. When I do an oil change on a customer’s car, it goes something like this.

  1. Take a quick spin around the lot. That give me a chance to listen for any weird noises.
  2. Check all the lights on the car~I don’t want my customers getting a ticket
  3. Check the wipers and make sure they clear properly.
  4. Look under the hood, here I am checking for any damage to belts, hoses, vacuum lines. I also look for any coolant or oil leaks.
  5. Check the oil level. I want to know if it is low before I start the service.
  6. This next step varies from car to car. Some I change the filter first, other I change it last. On my Passat, I do the filter first. On the other 1.8t engines I do the filter after. It doesn’t really matter.
  7. Next I drain the engine oil. I try to let it drain for about 10 minutes, or until the oil is dripping out. The more oil that comes out, the more through of an oil change it is.
  8. While the oil is draining, I take a look at the rest of the under car. Checking tire pressures, looking for anything that might be an issue, including brakes.
  9. Install and torque the drain plug. To be honest, I don’t put a torque wrench on the drain plug in the oil pan anymore. I have a really good idea of what 30nm is. 😉
  10. After lowering the car down, I fill the engine with oil, checking the level twice.
  11. Next I top off all the fluids, do another quick check under the hood, and wrap it up.

As you can see, there is a lot more to an oil change, than just draining and filling engine oil. At my shop we call an oil change a LOF/S. That is a Lube, Oil, Filter, with Synthetic. The lube is generally topping off all the fluids. We have went over the oil. Then of course the Filter. The filter is a very important as well. It is the filter that catches all the little partials, and junk floating around in your oil. Remember that your oil carries debris and the filter holds it. You would not all that junk to get caught in an oil passage, and cause engine damage.

Clean engine oil is so so critical to a vehicle! I don’t really care if you do your own, or bring it to the shop. Just get your oil changed. I am actually due for an oil change on my car. When I do it, I will shoot a little video for you guys. You can see exactly what I am talking about.

UPDATE~ I am traveling for training this week. I leave on Wednesday and will not be home until Saturday. That should not affect any posts with week, but traveling might throw a wrench in things. I will be learning about our new diagnostic software. I will give you a full report when I get back. I hope I can find some cool stuff to show you while I am there. Remember you can always connect with my on Facebook, Twitter, and email.

Today we will wrap up the 2 part post about scams! I really want to thank AskMen.com for making the post on their “Top 10 Mechanic Scams“. If you missed 10-5 check them out at Mechanic Scams Confirmed and Debunked

No.4 Unneeded air conditioning recharge

“You might think you know whether or not your air conditioning is fully functional, but the mechanic disagrees. “You’re only blowing X degrees,” he says, which stirs potentially unsettling mental images. Then he offers to recharge the system’s refrigerant, which is something most of us won’t touch on our own. So where’s the scam? If you’re not noticing any defects or diminished cooling ability, you’re probably just being asked to address an inconvenience before it ever happens. Again, not a car-killer, but it’s an issue of spending too much too soon.”

This is a tricky one. The say the word “unneeded”, and of course that means you don’t need it. There are some advantages to getting your a/c system serviced. When I do an a/c system service, I remove all the refrigerant, most of the oil, vacuum the system, then recharge it to the proper level.

Much like with coolant, refrigerant holds contaminants. Removing all of the refirgerent, will remove most of the contaminating debris from the system. Applying vacuum will boil off any moisture in the system. Then when charging it, you know your are putting in the proper amount. This can make an a/c system last longer, but keeping it clean and dry. ~Free Tip~ this works the same for your home’s a/c system. I learned that the hard way to the tune of $2500.

No.3 Premature shock/strut replacement

“Sooner or later, you’ll need to replace your car’s shocks or struts. The mechanic scam here is when “sooner” is pushed too hard. Do a little pushing of your own. The old bounce test on your bumper in many cases is still a reliable way to tell if your shocks or struts are really bad, but also pay close attention while driving. If the car is like a bobblehead doll after hitting bumps, pitches and rolls in slow corners or is noticeably unable to quietly absorb all but the slightest imperfections, then it’s time.”

I pretty much agree with them here and I am not sure this really applies to modern cars. I hardly ever replace shocks or struts. I will say that having the bushings checked is really important. They tend to wear out faster than the shocks. Not really much more I can add than that, great job on this one.

No.2 Fuel injection service

“Here’s a mechanic scam with ties to the engine and transmission treatments mentioned elsewhere. Again, it’s all about removing contaminants and restoring efficiency and performance, like finding “hidden” horsepower. And like the others, it’s to be taken with a massive grain of salt — probably best avoided altogether. Name-brand gasoline usually contains enough additives to keep typical engines free of serious buildup under normal conditions. If you do want periodic help, skip the expensive service and add a bottle of name-brand treatment to your tank, such as Techron.”

I have seen this go both ways. To me much of these services depend on the end goal. If you are trying to remove carbon on the back of the valves, a good fuel injection service just might do the trick. If you are trying to unlock “hidden horsepower”, you are wasting your money. I have done this on several cars and it has worked great. I have seen it not do anything before. Using the right type and good quality fuel can help with some of this. Also a “spirited drive” can blow the junk out. I wrote a post about best way to drive a car that goes into more detail.

No.1 Premature brake pads/rotors

“The mechanic’s not lying: You do need fully functional brakes, and the pads and rotors aren’t at their peak thickness levels. But think about it. Technically, “peak thickness” only exists upon installation; everything after that is compromised. So, don’t ignore your brake system by any means, but also be aware of what does and doesn’t happen when you use them. If there’s truly a legitimate issue, address it. If not, don’t get taken by this mechanic scam and spend money prematurely”

There is that word again, “Premature”. I have a asking that I use, mostly when talking about timing belts, but it applies here too, “better 5,000 miles early than 1 mile too late”. Sure you can run your brakes down to the last 0.5mm of pad, but should you? Nope, you should not. Brakes produce a lot of heat, a pad that thin can not dissipate heat properly. This can affect stopping distance for sure. Not only that, it can warp the rotor causing a vibration.

There is also a cost saving, replacing brakes when the rotors can be resurfaced will cost about $280 at my dealer.(don’t hold me to that, its just an estimate). Replacing the pads and rotors will cost $470, due to the extra cost of buying rotors. So is getting another 1,000 miles worth risking the price almost doubling? I would so no.

Well, I really want to think AskMen.com for writing that article, be sure to check their site out, its has some cool stuff for guys and gals. What did you guys think of this format? I might do something similar in the future,there are no shortage of “scams” out there right!

Remember that I am still taking questions for another rapid fire Q&A. Just contact me with your question. If you know of any scams, post them up in the comments, lets get it rolling!.