Tag Archive for: Safety

Crumple Zones

Happy Friday everyone. I hope that you all had a great week. Can you believe it is almost February already? Today we are going to talk about something that I kinda nerd out on. That is vehicle safety and safety systems. There is so much more to staying safe in an accident than just airbags and seat belts.

Sadly this came about because my best buddy wrecked his Civic. He does not know the total amount of damage yet, but I can promise you it is not the $30k worth of damage my friend Jack’s Ferrari had.

Join me as we talk safety:

  • Active safety systems
  • Passive safety systems
  • Airbags
  • Seatbelts
  • Radios and A/C controls
  • Dashboards
  • Steering columns
  • Headrests
  • Engine mounts
  • Crumple zones
  • Fenders
  • Side panels
  • My totaled Civic
  • and more

Having trouble viewing? Watch “A look At Vehicle Safety Systems ~ Podcast Episode 39” On YouTube.

As always, your comments are more than welcome. I hope that no one has to comment that they were in an accident. But what other safety features do cars have that we do not commonly think about?

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Cars stuck in Snow Storm

Cars stuck in Snow StormOn February 12, 2014, a big snow storm hit the east coast. The storm brought snow almost all day, followed up by ice at night. It was a traffic nightmare. People were stuck in their cars, for 6+ hours. Some even had to abandon their cars and walk home in the snow. Lucky for me, I was off work that day. My wife and I stayed home all day, and watched the new reports. Today I want to talk about some things folks could have done to put themselves in a better position if something went wrong.

Snow in the south is different than snow in the north!
Before we move into the main topic, I need to talk about this. I lived in the suburbs of Chicago until I was 24. I remember driving in snow all the time. Here in the south it is very different. It is not just that we do not have the equipment to maintain the roads. We also see more ice than snow. We also have the people that “grew up in the north” and think they can drive on ice. I admit I was that guy when we first moved here. Now I LOVE the fact that the town shuts down. Now we can move on and get to things that can help anyone in this situation.

Avoid the situation
The easiest way keep yourself out of trouble is to avoid it all together. That means when it snows you stay home. For most of us, this is not an option. My dealers policy is “we are open, get here if you feel safe”. I have only called in a few times. Like I said yesterday, I am an old school type dude. So this is not my first thought. I always try to make it in. But if you do not have to go out, don’t go out.

Keep your vehicle ready
This time I am not talking about maintenance. I am talking about having things you store in your car to be ready for a situation like this. You don’t need to have a giant SUV to keep a few extra things in your car.

Cars stuck in Snow Storm

Photo c/o News&Observer

  • first aid kit
  • safety triangle
  • flashlight
  • water
  • snacks
  • boots
  • cellphone charger
  • get home bag
  • full tank of gas
  • weather appropriate gear, coats gloves, hats, socks, socks, socks
  • A reflective jacket.
    This advice comes from my buddy Lucas at TriangleTactical.com. It is something I never even thought about.

Everything on this list, other than the get home bag, will fit in a small bag in the trunk of your car. Having a get home bag might make you seem like a crazy person. I can’t tell you how many people I seen get interviewed say they walked 2 miles, 5 miles or more. That is a long, cold, wet walk if you are not somewhat prepared.

I am sure that some of those “walkers” did not have to abandon their cars. But it is not always about YOU and YOUR can. It might be the 10 cars in front of you, and 40 cars behind you that are stuck. I think back to something my mom always said to me. “It’s not you that I don’t trust, it’s all the other crazies”.

I hope that you all will take 15 minutes tonight and evaluate your car kits. If you got stuck in the snow, would you be able to make it home 3 miles? What if you stayed in your car? Would you be freezing, hungry, and with out cell phone communication?

I used this event to evaluate my own 3 cars. Here is the results:

  • CabbyCars stuck in Snow Storm
    Well, the Cabby is not running right now. So I have nothing in it. More updates on the Cabby later this week.
  • Passat
    The Passat is pretty well stocked. I have everything on the list, other than a reflective jacket. I will be adding that ASAP. I do need to restock my water and snacks
  • Frontier
    The truck is about 50/50. We have first aid kits, flashlights, chargers, and water. But we need a get home bag. This will be done this weekend.

I really do want you all to take some time and evaluate your car. Most of what you need can be found around the house. What you have to buy, think about hitting the Dollar Store. It is a great place to get things you will keep in your car. I would recommend buying a good quality flashlight.

Did I forget anything? What do you keep in your car to keep you out of a jam? Post it up in the comments. It can help all of us safe.

Volkswagen Timing Belt Water Pump Failure

Hi folks, welcome to another volume of your favorite series, Shop Shots. This is where you get a behind the scenes look at what an auto mechanic sees in their job. Some days it’s crazy broken Volkswagens. Then you may see a moldy car from a water leak, or a nasty customer. Then you might even get to see the weird things people forget to take out of their car when they trade it in. Seriously, that is the weirdest stuff. Some I can’t even talk about. LOL

Volkswagen Timing Belt Water Pump FailureThere are times when we see something fail and think “WOW this customer got so dang lucky”. This is one of those times. This customer had their car towed in because it was making a “chewed belt noise”. The tech verified the customer’s concern. It was a “chewed belt noise”. The noise was coming from, a chewed up belt. 😉

The water pump on this Passat failed. Usually a water pump will leak, or just stop moving water. This one was shifted sideways and completely locked up. It would not turn at all. You can see the resulting damage to the timing belt in this picture. All that fuzzy stuff is parts of the shredded belt. The lucky part was the belt was still in time. The damage to the water pump could have resulted in catastrophic engine damage. By catastrophic, we are talking damage in the $2500 price range. Again, lucky lucky lucky

Volkswagen backup CameraAfter a serious start to this weeks Shop Shots, this is something a little more fun. I pulled a 2013 EOS in my bay to replace the trunk latch. Nothing serious, the trim cover would not stay on. While I was backing the car in, the camera popped on with this view. It caught my eye because it makes my bay look like a giant mess. That is true sometimes, but not so much this day. Then it got me thinking, even though VW backup cameras are really good, you need to follow the instructions on the bottom of the screen. No matter how much technology new cars get, you still need to pay attention.

Propeller Shaft Damage Golf RThe last picture of the day comes as a warning to be careful when modding your Golf R, or any car for that matter. We have talked about a dealership mechanic’s view on modified cars before. I generally don’t care much about folks bringing their modified cars into the shop. This is the propeller shaft on a newer Golf R. The prop shaft connects the transmission at the front of the car to the rear differential in the back of the car. It is a key component in the 4motion system.

This customer had a custom exhaust installed. When they installed the exhaust, they had to unbolt the front side of the prop shaft. Fast forward to now, he has a horrible vibration on acceleration. I test drove the car with him to very the vibration. On the ride, we talk about leaving bolts loose, and not properly torquing them. I put the car up in the air and find one of the bolts missing, and the bolt hole not lined up.

I ordered all new bolts for him so we could get the car fixed. When the bolt came in, I attempted to install them. Notice I said “attempt”. I spent about an hour trying to get the bolts installed. The threads would not line up properly. Finally I pulled the front of the prop shaft off and found this. The sleeve that goes into the transfer case was severely damaged. I spent another hour just trying to get the prop shaft back on the car. The only repair for this damage was a new prop shaft to the tune of about $1700. The moral of this story is, you gotta pay to play. I feel bad for the guy, but modding a car is not cheap.

That does it for another round of Shop Shots! I hope you enjoyed the pictures this week. I sure enjoy sharing them with you. A few reminders before I sign off.

  • If there are topics you want me to talk about, post them in the comments below.
  • If you post a comment, be sure to check the box that says “” Then if you ask a question, you will get an email when I or someone else in the community answers.
  • I will be at the Black Forest Oktoberfest. Let me know if you are going, it will be good to share a beer with you. Save the date, 10/12/13
  • Thank you all for your support. This community means a lot to me, I really apprciate each and every one of you. I may not say it enough, but I think it all the time.
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.

I am sitting my kitchen doing a little automotive research. I was looking at future car technology. There are some really cool things that we will see in the future. Kinda scary really. Well that got me thinking. For some reason I got to thinking about tire pressure monitor systems. Kinda strange right?

If you own a car newer than 2008, it must be equipped with a system that monitors the tire pressure called TPMS. It is a system that monitors the air pressure in your tires. It came about after the Ford and Firestone disasters in the late 1990s. I worked at Carmax at the time and selling Explorers was tough.

So that got me thinking about other safety and security type things. Take the wheel locks on most cars have. Do they really prevent wheel theft? Or is it just more of a hassle for the customer or the mechanic working on the car? Let’s look at some other things that fall into this category.

  • Radio Codes
    All VWs and many other brands have security lock out codes. You can not turn on the radio with out this secret code. I know that cars get broken into all the time. But do the secret codes prevent the actual theft? If my radio got stolen, I don’t really care what happens after that. Plus the codes are really easy to get. So to me, it is just more hassle for the customers.
  • Wheel locks
    I touched on it a little above. Wheel locks are the one we have the most issues. It’s either “I lost me wheel lock, can’t find my wheel lock, or YOU(meaning me) lost my wheel lock”.If a theft really wants your nice rims, they are going to get them. There are several tools to remove wheel locks with out the proper key. I won’t tell you how to do it, but it can be done. It is often more hassle for the cars owners than any thief. Heck I am sure most good thieves can take wheels off faster than I can.
  • Security bolts
    There are several bolts on a VW that are shear bolts. That means they have no way to loosen them. They must be drilled out cut off, or removed with an extractor.
    The most common components held in with shear bolts are ECMs and ignition switches. Again, I think a good thief can rip an ECM out way faster than I can. I guess when you don’t care about doing damage to a car, you can “tear out” parts faster.

So why do we have these things on our cars? Sometimes I think it is just to make my job harder. 🙂 My guess is that it keeps most of the rookie thieves at bay. Much like the locks on the doors of our cars. A simple brick will get around those locks 😉

What do you guys think? Are these so called “security systems” a good thing, or just more work for the owners?

I want to just take another minute to thank you all for being awesome. I really appriate all the likes, tweets and comments. It means so much to me that you would take a few minutes to interact with me and the rest of the community here. Your support is really one of the main things that keeps this site going!

Humble Mechanic Logo

Do you remember that Viper commercial from years ago? The one were the viper scares the would be thief away? Well, I just so happened to find a video of it.

I have a love for cheesy commercials.

But it does bring up a good point. Will that fancy alarm protect your car? It all depends on what you mean by “protect”. I have had a couple of my cars broken into over the years. My Jeep was broken into twice. They took just about everything both times. My Integra was broken into 3 times. Out of those 3 times, only my radar detector was taken.

The different was an alarm. I had a Viper alarm installed in my Integra. It was crazy sensitive. The jerk that lived in the next apartment building liked to set it off when he drove his truck past it. As annoying as that was, it helped me keep my stuff.

Let’s face the truth for a minute. If someone wants to steal your stuff, or your car, they will find a way. Modern cars have an immobilizer system. That system will prevent your car from being started with out an authorized key. That is a great feature. It will stop the average thief, but a seasoned vet has a way. Breaking a window, opening the hood, and disconnecting the battery can take less than a minute. Now the car is silent, and can be towed away. Before you know your car is gone, it has been stripped and crushed. Not much you can do about that.

But that doesn’t mean a car alarm is a bad idea. In fact if I didn’t have factory alarms on both of my cars, I would have to use the key to open the door. NO THANKS! 😉 I need my keyless entry. There is also a feature on most factory remotes we forget about. That is the “Panic” button. That button that forces the alarm to sound. Another great deterrent.

So what is really the point? If someone is going to steal your car, or steal your stuff why bother? Auto makers and aftermarket companies will always be a step behind the thief. Overall I think that car alarms and anti theft devices are worth the money and the trouble. Of course I am much more in favor of the factory installed stuff. The alarm my wife had on her Civic would lock the doors no matter what. I got locked out of that car more than once.

Car technology will advance. Many cars have a towing alarm. That will go off if the car is being towed. They also have a “battery backup” for the alarm. That will keep the alarm going even if the battery is cut. None of those advances will ever prevent the smash and grab style break in, but might keep your car from being stolen.

What would this post be with some tips on keeping your car safe? Lame that is what!

  • Lock your car! It should go with out saying. An unlocked car is a really easy target
  • Keep your stuff hidden. Don’t leave your ipod, GPS, and laptop laying on the seat. You are begging for a smash and grab.
  • If you are going to add all the cool high dollar accessories, try and keep them subtle. I spent  months trying to find a stereo for my wife’s truck. I wanted a few features, but most of the radios were awful. they had “steal me” lights on them.
  • “Don’t go to stupid places, with stupid people, and do stupid things”That is some of the best advice you can ask for!

What do you guys think? Are car alarms worth the trouble? Post your thoughts in the comments below. Or, if you have some advice on keeping your car safe, post that too.

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2.0t VW cylinder head removed due to oil consumption

Ah Wednesday, I can’t think of a better day to post some really cool auto mechanic pictures! Let me also say that I am really sorry about missing yesterday’s post. I don’t like leaving you guys with out some content. Should that happen, you can always go back in the archives and see some of my early “work”. Some of it is just awful. It might be worth a read just for that. 😉  Okay, enough of that lets get into some Shop Shots!


First up is a picture that make me sick! This is the guts of a Routan transmission. I posted a picture of the inside of the case last week. Here you are looking at the stack of clutch packs, snap rings, seals, and plates. The parts all disassembled belong to the input clutch assembly. That one of many parts that make the engine power transfer to the transmission. I spent so much time trying to put the trans back together it is not even funny. Long story short, 1 guy took out the trans, 1 guy disassembled the trans, and I got to put it back together. This is round 2 of trying to put it back together. The whole story is kinda interesting. I think it deserves it own post. Maybe tomorrow..


It is crazy what a car looks like with a bumper isn’t it? Here you are looking at a newer, 09 I think, Jetta TDI. The car came in for an A/C problem. The mechanic working on it found that the compressor was bad. As part of the repair, he replaced the compressor, replaced the condenser, the drier, and the expansion valve. The key part of this repair is cleaning the lines of the system. If debris stays in the lines, it can cause failure of any A/C parts down the road. This is another reason that have only qualified people work on your car’s A/C system!



As bad as the transmission is, this is not much better. One of the guys a few bays down from me is doing some internal engine work. You are looking at the top end of a 2.0t from a GTI. The customers concern was it was burning oil. The mechanic verified and now it is time to find out why. He removed the cylinder head in order to remove the pistons and check the rings. This is a whole lot of parts just to inspect a few rings.

We have seen this issue on a few of the early 2.0t engines. It is not as big of an epidemic as you might read about, but we have repaired a few. Just a reminder to check your oil!

Failed VW tireThis picture didn’t come out as good as I thought it did. What you are looking at here another failed tire. The “cut” you see in the tire is actually a defect in the tire. If you look close, you can see the cords of the tire coming out.

When I took the tire off, I snagged my glove on the sharp metal cord. At first, I could not tell if there was just something in the tire. A little tug with some pliers and I found the cords were pulling. It was ripping the sidewall of the tire open. I could not find any damage to the tire or the rim. So outside influence was not an option. This is just a simple manufacturer defect in the tire. I see a lot of issues with tires, but I can say, this is among the strangest.

I think that will wrap up this weeks Shop Shots! What do you guys think might be worse to take apart and put back together, ENGINES or TRANSMISSION? Post it up 😀

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