Tag Archive for: mechanic

Mk3 VR6Jetta Auto Mechanic

As you all know, I have been working on a 1988 VW Cabriolet called Project Luv A Dub. When you are working with a car that is 25 years old parts can be tough or expensive to come by. So instead of hunting down things part by part, I was looking for a donor car.

I had planned on changing engines in the Cabby from day one. There are endless possibilities when it comes to swapping engine in that model VW. the only limiting factory is how much I want to pay. If budget were no obstacle, I would be putting the 1.4t fsi that is coming in the new hybrid Jetta. Since I am not rich I need a realistic swap. I figured I would just let the universe decide. When the right car came along, I would just use that engine and transmission.

I finally found the car. A 1998 Jetta with a VR6 engine. The add on Craigslist said it needed a head gasket. That is not something very common on any VW. I called the guy and we worked out a time to meet. He said he had another guy coming to look at it, but he would be willing to meet me too. This is were the story gets strange. So bare with me as you hear the tail of the VR~

The seller and I worked out a deal. I would pay him a few bucks more for him to meet me at a VW dealer. I know the service manager at a VW store one town over. We agreed to meet there. The seller called me around noon on Saturday. He told me the other guy was going to give him $300 more than I was, and he would not have to drive to meet the other guy.

This was an obvious attempt to get some more money out of me. Me being the guy I am, plus having watched Shark Tank the night before, I don’t play games like that. I told him to take the other guy’s offer, but call me if it fell through. Would you believe that the other deal fell through? Big shock right? The seller called me back and said that he wanted to sell me the car. Then he started freaking out telling me that I needed to promise to buy his car. A car a had not seen at this point.

I told him I would not do that. If he wanted to meet me he could, just like we agreed. He insisted on me meeting him at his house. Not being an idiot, I told him no, and that I was not interested in the car anymore.

Thinking that the whole thing was done, I get a call from the guy a few hours later. He tells me he will meet me where ever I want, he needs to sell the car. At this point I am not really interested in driving across town. The seller says the car will make it to my dealer and that he will meet me there. You might be shocked, but the car would not make it almost 50 miles with a bad gasket.

He calls me telling me that he will have to have the car towed. Again, I am not really thrilled with the buying this car, but its a pretty good deal. The seller show up an hour later than he said. First thing I notice, it is an AUTOMATIC! I asked the guy several times if it was a manual. So it seems he didn’t know the difference. We have some back and forth, and I tell him I don’t want the car.

At this point, he is begging me to buy it. What a change of events from trying to get more money from me. I tell him that I am only interested in the car for about $500. Surprisingly, he agrees and we make the deal. After some tax drama, and waiting I finally sign the title and the Jetta is now mine.

What a stressful ordeal over a few hundred dollars. My plan with the car is, take the parts I need for the cabby. Then part out the left over good parts. After that happens I will just send the Jetta to the crusher. I hate to see a VW go to the crusher, but it is a fitting end to a Jetta that has seen better days.

Next up, find a transmission for the car. I think I got that locked down. 🙂

Auto mechanic Shop pictures new VW wheels

It’s time again for Shop Shots! The behind the scenes look at automotive service. As an auto mechanic, I see some crazy things from time to time. This is your chance to see the crazy things too. Okay, let’s get down to business.

Auto mechanic Shop pictures broken VW oil panYou are looking at the bottom of an oil pan on a VW Beetle. The customer came in for an oil change. They had mentioned that there “might” be an oil leak. When I got the car up in the air, I found this. Yep, there was an oil leak, not doubt about it. It was pretty obvious that someone had attempted to fix the leak. There was some type of sealer on the pan. It looked like a rock popped up and hit the pan. This is actually a really common thing on MK4 cars. This is one reason that VW went to a steel oil pan. Luckily we had the pan in stock, and I was able to get the customer taken care of that day!

Auto mechanic Shop pictures new VW wheelsOne thing that I try really hard NOT to do, is judge what people do to their cars. It can be really hard sometimes because I see some dumb stuff. 😛 All that being said, I have not been a huge fan of wheels on the newer GTIs. That was until this wheel came out. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this wheel. It has a slight gunmetal finish. It is an 18″ wheel with 225/40/18 tires, or Tyres since we are talking about a VW. If you want to learn more about tires, check out, Understanding Your Vehicle’s Tires.

Auto mechanic Shop pictures car out of gasHAHA, sometimes things happen that make me shake my head. This customer came in for a service on their car. When I get in the car and start it, the “Low Fuel” warning started dinging. I looked down and found that the range was “0 miles”. That means you probably have about 10 actual driving miles. (don’t blame me if you run out of gas because of that) I also noticed that the gauge didn’t even move.

The good thing is, I didn’t have to take the car on a long test drive. So free tech tip, make sure you bring your car in for service with some gas in it. If you have a good service department, you wont have to worry about them driving your car all over town.


Auto mechanic Shop pictures Readers Rides Last week we talked about adding a “Readers Rides” section. Well, the first person to submit was Joe. This is Joe’s 2004 Audi S4. Here is what Joe says about his car.

2004 B6 S4 imola yellow (ly1c paint code) I’m a loser. 4.2 liter chain driven v8 (350 hp) 6 speed trans couple to Audi’s Quattro system. All leather Recaro seats. Love the non flashiness (beside the color of course) of the s4 platform. The sheer “get up and go” of a v8 keeps me smiling every time I drive it. Having a car that I’ve always drooled and dreamed over in my driveway is like a lil gear heads dream come true. Being that it’s a very intricate design maintenance is very very important. The right oil and the right parts (Oem) are very critical to me and most importantly the car!!! Plans include a nice free flow exhaust from Labree and cat-less down pipes from JHM, some altitude adjustment is needed for those that have seen my previous vehicles. 😉

I have to tell you all that I LOVE this car. I also want to point out that Joe and his wife have a Cabby, a GTI, and a Rabbit. Total VW Love in that house 😉 Thanks for submitting Joe.

If you would like to submit your car just shoot me an email Charles(AT)humblemechanic(DOT)com. Send me some pics, and some information about your car. Also, don’t forget you can follow the site on so many of the cool places like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. All you have to do is click one of the pictures to the right. 🙂

Passat Engine Mount Auto Mechanic

We missed last week’s Shop Shots, but we are back today! This is your behind the scenes pictures of Volkswagen service. The good, the bad, and the crazy! Okay lets get to it!

Melted Volkswagen Fuse Auto MechanicThis is a fuse. Well, it is what is left of a fuse. This fuse came out of a Tiguan. We have seen a few Tiguans burning up fuses for part of the exterior lighting circuit. My buddy actually sent me this one. I think my dealer has seen 3 of them. I can honestly tell you all that I have never seen a fuse melted this bad.

Missing Intake Auto MechanicHAHA, I do actually laugh about 60% of the time when I put these pictures up. This Beetle came in this week. The car was towed in for another shop. The complaint was, “Brake pedal is hard to push”. I drove it into the shop, and sure enough they pedal was almost impossible to push the brake pedal. I also noticed that the MIL was on. when I pulled the car into the shop. This is what I found. The air filter housing, and intake pipe was MISSING. I laughed for a minute, then called a few guys over to take a look. When ever something like this happens, we all try to share the fun.

It turns out another shop put a brake booster in the car. They used a non-factory part, and it was worse than the bad one. The shop towed the car back to their shop to be repaired. HAHA

Passat Engine Mount Auto MechanicI posted this on Instagram a few days ago. Here is more information about these 2 parts. These are front engine mounts for a B5.5 Passat think 2001.5-2005. I refer to them as jounce bumpers. Most aftermarket places refer to them a snub nose mounts. Either way is cool by me. The entire engine was slamming up and down due to the condition of the mount. Oddly enough, the one on the left is the bad one 😉 Hard to believe that the part on the left and the part on the right are the same part. After I replaced the mount, the car was 100x smoother.

Smoking Volkswage Auto mechanicJust something fun to rap up Shop Shots. I noticed this just as I was about to lift the car off the ground. A cigarette got caught in the slot for the lower front spoiler. It stuck in perfect. Now the car looks like it is smoking. We brought the customer back to show her she had a broken CV boot. (btw I practice what I preach. Read “How to tell if a mechanic is ripping you off“) She noticed it, and asked me if I put that there. We all shared a good laugh at it.

Well, that pretty does it for another volume of Shop Shots! I think that I want to start taking your submitted photos for Shop Shots. What do you guys think? Post it up the comments below. I am sure some of you have some awesome car pics that you can share.

Left Handed extranctor set Auto Mechanic

There comes a time in every mechanic’s life when something goes wrong. It might be a slightly rounded bolt head, or something really bad like a cleanly broken off stud. Today I want to show you guys some of the tools auto mechanics use when things go wrong.

Removing The Bolt

Outside Exctractors Auto Mechanic's Tools

I want to start out with my favorite extractors. We use these when bolt heads get damaged. It can be anything from rust, to a bolt head damaged from an accident. This extractor grabs the outside of a bolt. As you loosen the bolt, it grabs the bolt head even tighter. I find that this works the best. The only negative is, you need a fair amount of space to tap the extractor on. This set is from Craftsman. I highly recommend them!

Inside extractors Auto Mechanic tools

The next type of “Uh Oh” tools I use are inside extractors. These, believe it or not, grab on the inside of a bolt. I commonly use this on allen head bolts. They will fit inside the opening on the bolt head. Just like the outside extractors, the more you loosen the bolt, the tighter the extractor grabs. If I had my choice, I would use outside extractors. I use these when space is limited. This is a Snap-On set. From what I remember it costs a fortune.

Left Handed extranctor set Auto MechanicHere we have a drill bit and extractor set. This set functions the same way the inside kit from before does. I use these when a bolt breaks flush with a surface. I drill a hole with the drill bit, then use the extractor to remove the broken bolt. This set works really well on lower torque bolts. I have had little luck using this set when bolts are rusted, or require excess force. They also require a lot of room. You need to be able to fit a drill where ever you are working.

Power Extractors Auto MechanicThis is a Power Extractor Set. These go on the end of a drill. They are the same as the outside extractors as far as removing bolts. The only difference is they are meant to go on a drill, or other powered driver. I don’t use these much. I bought the set because a recall for B6 Passats. The extractor worked awesome on the bolts that we remove as part of the recall. Sadly, I don’t use them very much these days.

Repairing The Damage
Now that the damaged bolt, or whatever you are working with, is removed, it is time clean fix the damage. Here are some of the tools auto mechanics use to fix the damage.

Thread Chaser set Auto MechanicThis is a thread chaser set. Auto mechanics use this for cleaning threads on nuts, bolts and other fasteners. These are great for a quick clean up. They are not sharp enough to cut new threads, they will just get rid of any dirt, or burrs. I also use this on oil pans, to clean the threads and help the drain plug go in smooth!

Tap Set Auto Mechanic's toolsThis is a tap. You might have heard this type of tool referred to as a “Tap & Die Set”. The tap portion of the set is used to cut new threads in a bolt hole, or a nut. They are very sharp and very strong. If someone were to install a bolt incorrectly, and damage the threads, I would use the tap to cut new threads. Using the proper size tap is vital to doing the job right. If I were to cut new threads at the wrong pitch, I would destroy the new threads. THAT will make for a really bad day.

Die Set Auto Mechanic's toolsHere is the opposite of a tap. This is the die. I use this to cut new threads on bolts and studs. To be honest, I don’t use these all that much. I use them more like a thread chaser, to clean up bolts and studs. Usually, I will replace a damaged bolt before taking the time to cut new threads. 🙂

These type of tools are the “must have, but never want to use” tools. Every mechanic will have some, all, or more of the Uh Oh stuff, but trust me when I say, ” I don’t want to use them” 🙂


Lucky Mechanic

Yesterday we talked about what it takes to be a top level, Master mechanic. One thing that I left out was LUCK! Yep luck. Yes a good mechanic needs to have top notch diagnostic skills. But it never hurts to get lucky. I thought I would tell a few stories about getting lucky fixing cars.

A 2004 Passat wagon came in for the radio cutting out. It had been around and around the shop. The radio had been replaced several times, the amplifier had been replaced and rewired several times. The radio would only cut out once every few months. Like many times when a problem is sporadic, it never messed up at the shop.

When it got to me, I spend about an hour messing with it. Checking this, testing that. Looking at all the work that had been done to the car. Finally, and very frustrated, I flopped down in the back seat. The radio cut off. I stood up, and the radio came back on. YES! I found something. It might have not been the problem, but I was able to duplicate the customers concern.

I pulled the bottom of the back seat up. There was a nicely wrapped wiring harness that ran right under the seat. I pulled the harness up, and the radio came back on. It turns out that a small part of the body of the car was rubbing a wire. We never found it because we never had anyone riding in the back. It was something that the customer did not put together. A quick wiring repair and she was good to go!

I guess me getting mad at the car paid off. This next one happened to the guy that works next to me. It also happened last week. This is one of those weird electrical issues that we see from time to time.

The customer’s concern was the headlight was not working. The tech pulled the car in, and found nothing. All the lights were working. He checked all the faults in the vehicle and found several faults for lighting.

Next he disconnected the module that controls most everything in the car. That really made the car mad. Now all the things the customer told us started happening. It was not just the headlight, ALL the lights were going nuts. Some lights on, some lights really bright, some only half lit.

After diagnosing the car a little further, checking ground connections, fuses and so on, he had no answer. We chatted about the car for a while and didn’t come to any answer. He was pretty frustrated, and I didn’t blame him 1 bit.

While we were talking about the car, I started whacking the fuse panel with the butt of my flashlight. All of a sudden, the lights came on. Poof, just like magic. Not really sure which fuse or relay made the car happy, I started whacking again. This time everything worked fine. We turned the car off and let it sit for a few minutes.

When we turned the car on, the lights were off. I started whacking the fuses again and BAM, found it. We pulled the fuse and found that the fuse was burnt on the backside. Technically, the fuse was good. The issue was the fuse block. It was slightly melted causing the fuse to lose contact. Another easy fix, but a hard problem to find.

So you see, there are times where being lucky is good. Sometimes stumbling onto a problem is just as awesome as actually diagnosing the problem. Fixing a car is fixing a car, for the most part, I don’t care how I find it.

What Exactly Is A Master Certified VW Mechanic

Hi folks! I hope you all had an awesome weekend. Summer is here in full swing. Glad that I work in a shop that has A/C. 🙂

Today I want to talk a little more about what it takes to be a VW Master Certified Auto Mechanic. I was having a conversation with a good buddy of mine. He was asking me about being a certified mechanic, and what that really meant. I went on and on about how mechanics get to that level. He said “dang man, that is a lot of training, you should talk more about it.” So that is what we are going to do!

It takes over 520 hours of advanced classroom training to become a Volkswagen Master Technician

That is over 65 training days. I can tell you that it takes so much more. I started with VW by attending a training program. It 11 weeks of highly specialized VW training. I spent all day learning the “unique” way that VW cars are build, maintained, and repaired. It was a pretty tough program, 8 hours a day in class and 2-3 each night of homework. I think we only had about 14 guys finish the training. That gave me the basic level of certification, in addition to “Electrical Specialist”. That was all before a stepped foot into my current dealer job.

VW Master TechnicianEach one of these courses is instructor lead. So for each class, I would have to make a 360mile road trip. Like I said, coming out of VW academy I had all the core classes, all electrical classes, and a few of the other ones. Well, all but Routan, there was no Routan back then.

As you can see, getting all of those classes done is no small task. After the classes come the Master Technician Assessments. They consist of 50(i think) multiple guess questions. Closed book no cheating, either you know it, or you don’t. They are probably the hardest test I have ever done. I still don’t know how the heck I passed them. The first time, I failed all 5. After some hardcore studying, I passed all 5!

That just covers the “scholastic” part. The real world part is where a Master Tech is made. Years and years of getting my butt kicked by cars. Having to “just know” so many things that are not in any book, or manual.

For the folks that think that being a mechanic is an easy job. Take a look at the chart, you tell me if that looks easy 😉

One more thing, I posted this to Facebook, but here it is all official. Saturday marked the 1 year anniversary of Humble Mechanic. I am so excited to see what the future holds for this site. It is not always easy, but it IS always worth it! So thank you to everyone that has visited the site, posted a comment, like a post, retweeted something, emailed me, and so on. I really appreciate each and every one of you.

Volkswagen Routan Tranmission Problem
VW Routan Transmission Problem

This is how far down the transmission was disassembled

I have posted a few pictures of this battle over the last few weeks. The guys of a automatic transmission, and the VW Routan downed for several weeks. Now the the car is finished, I can tell the whole story. Some of the details are a little fuzzy. I was the 3rd mechanic involved, and most of the information I got was well beyond second hand.~Oh, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent~

In mid April, a customer brought their VW Routan in for service and a few concerns. The mechanic that got the job is one of the senior level guys in the shop. I think that he has more experience working on cars than anyone in the shop. On top of that, he is a really smart guy. I will call him Jim. The customers concern was the van would roll back while on a hill. Jim proceeded in the proper manner for diagnosing the vehicle. Attempting to duplicate, then making sure there was an issue. He test drove another Routan, and that one did not act the same.

Before proceeding with a transmission repair, Jim called VW technician help line. That is pretty standard when in comes to trans repairs. The guy at tech line advised him to remove the transmission, disassemble it, and try to find an issue. I am sure that Jim could not contain his excitement knowing he was about to remove, and disassemble an automatic transmission.

So far so good, but here is where the story gets crazy. See Jim, at the time, was on semi light duty. That means he would not have been able to remove the transmission. That job is about as far from light duty as you can get. The service manager shifted the removal of the transmission to another mechanic. Lets call him, Ted. Ted removed the transmission. He did an outstanding job labeling each part, bolt, and connector. That would make it easy for anyone to reinstall the transmission. As “luck” would have it, Ted went out with an injury about a week later. He is still out of work, but doing better. 🙂

The transmission is now on the work bench waiting for Jim to disassemble, and diagnose. This is not really a job that any of us in the shop do very often. On top of that, this is NOT a VW part. The transmission is a Chrysler part. Jim spent some time disassembling the transmission. At that point, I am not sure that he found a problem. I do know that he ordered some parts needed to reassemble and started the process of putting it back together.

I was off while when the reassembly started. I get a text from the service manager asking me to come in and help him out. I was not able to come in that day, but I was more than willing to help Jim when I got back to work the next day. When I come into work the next day, I find out that Jim is now out on medical leave. Due to the fact that I am the only certified Routan mechanic in the shop, I get the honer of putting it back together.

Just to recap, we have one mechanic remove the transmission, another take it apart, and now a third

mechanic to put it back together. No problem right? Think about it this way. Imagine a 10,000 piece 3d puzzle. Each piece fits both ways, you don’t really have a clear picture of what it looks like, and the only way to now if it is right, is to finish. No problem right? 😉

I take about an hour to evaluate the entire situation. I am trying to find the logic that Jim used to disassemble the trans. To he honest, I don’t think that he did a great job organizing the parts. He might be able to figure out what is happening, but few others would.

Volkswagen Routan Tranmission Problem

Here is the mess that I came into

As I start my journey, I have the following aids

  • repair manual
  • parts list
  • training book

Armed with as much information as I can find, I spend about half a day putting the guts back together. Finding that I had to order some more parts, the job was on hold for a few days. I came in on my day off the next week. I spent almost the entire day at work finishing assembly, and then installing the transmission. I was not able to finish the trans install, so I went in to work on my next day off to wrap it up.

I finished the install. Then started the car. Yay, it starts, things are looking good so far. Next I test reverse. Wheels roll in “R”. All of that uncertainty I had about the repair was starting to go away. I shift the van into drive. NOTHING. Wheels don’t turn. I shut the car off, thinking that if I just try again, everything would be fine. As you might have guessed, it wasn’t. I spent about an hour going over the things that I could see. Nothing jumped out and said “HEY YOU SCREWED ME UP”.

I had never felt as defeated in my career as I did at that moment. I had just spent my 2 days off plus half another day rebuilding this transmission, only to fine that I did something wrong. After a few phone calls, and a couple of other tests, I knew I was pulling the transmission back out. Our regional guy came out to help me out. We did some further testing, but the conclusion was the same. The transmissions was coming out.

I pulled the transmission back out of the van. Then took it back apart. As I Routan transmission problemgot to the point where I first start, we find the problem. 1 missing seal. 1 stupid seal missing. I was not really happy that I didn’t put that seal in, but I was glad to find a fixable problem. I ordered some parts, reassembled the transmission, and put the van back together. This time SUCCESS! all gears shift properly. The van drives great.

The van was in our shop for over 6 weeks. The customer was in another Routan for the entire time. As of right now, I think they are getting a new van. They were pretty awesome about the entire situation. I totally feel bad they were stuck in limbo for so long.

I checked the time that I had into the job. Over 30 hours of work time on this van. All things considered, I got paid okay on the job. I was able to get paid for both repairs. I am pretty thankful for that. I am really glad to put this job behind me. 🙂

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