Tag Archive for: tires

Tire damage due to bad alignment

Happy Wednesday everyone. I hope that you are all rocking it this week. As for me, I am off work the rest of the week. I will be working around the house and yard. I will be doing a little work on the Cabby, but I fell short of having her ready for the Black Forest Show. I have a few quick things to tell you guys, then we will get into this week’s pictures.

Black Forest 3rd Annual Oktoberfest
This event is Saturday! The folks at BFI are hosting their 3rd Oktoberfest. This another local car show for me. The event will be a car show, plus will have food and local NC beer. As many of you know I am a huge craft beer fan. If you can make it, do it. Check out their event page here. If you are coming, let me know. I would like to say hi. I might even have something cool for you. I will know more about that tomorrow. 😉

Humble Mechanic Podcast
I started an Automotive Podcast. I have a few show recorded. I am still tinkering with the format I want to use. Look for more episodes soon. I am thinking once or twice a week.

Humble Mechanic Gear
I have a few things in the works 😉 I will leave it at that. It will be cool.

Volkswagen electrical ProblemsVolkswagen seems to be known for it’s electrical problems. I am not sure that they are any worse than other cars nowadays. There are 2 things that will cause the weirdest electrical issues, low battery voltage, and loose ground connections. For those of you that say, “I don’t know anything about cars” don’t worry. You know more than you think. Think for a moment about your TV remote control. How do you know the batteries need to be replaced? It stops working right? Or you have to really mash the buttons. Or only the volume up works.

Modern cars have more electronic than we realize. Every module talks to other modules. Basic relays are now control modules. Some modules only function as a slave module to another module. There are even modules that run on something called virtual power. Confused yet? Good, now you can accept the fact that cars need good voltage to function.

This mess of a connection at the vehicle battery was causing low charging voltage. This is an older Jetta, so the symptoms were minor. A baking soda/water mixture and a toothbrush can clean most of the corrosion. The terminal end may need to be redone.

Overheated Volkswagen Engine DamageDid you know that when you first turn your ignition on your car does a self-test of all the instrument panel lights? For about 3 seconds your instrument panel looks like a Christmas tree. Why is this important? You need to know what the warning lights in your car look like. Why is that important? So you do not do more damage to your car when something fails.

This customer totally ignored the flashing light, the warning “STOP COOLANT” that pops up, and the temperature gauge that was pegged to hot. They continued to drive until the car stopped running. You are looking at the inside of the thermostat housing. In good condition, this would be the same color of black the outside is. Instead, you are seeing the burnt up coolant residue. Driving the car so long while it was overheating turned a $1200 timing belt/ thermostat job into a $3000+ cylinder head or more. The V6 Passat has been sitting at the dealer for about 2 months now. Just waiting for the customer to figure out what they want to do.

Tire damage due to bad alignmentI talk about getting your car serviced a fair amount. I also have voiced my opinion of the 10,000 miles service interval. THIS is why I don’t like that higher interval. Not only is this tire completely useless as far as traction, it’s DANGEROUS! When you read or hear me talk about “cords and or threads” showing, this tire is what you should think of.

This tire is worn this way due to vehicle alignment. Someone had aligned the car about 20,000 miles ago. When they did that, one of the nuts on the adjustment point was left loose. This caused the vehicle to be out of alignment. How the customer didn’t notice the steering wheel being 45 degrees off, is lost on me. If this customer would have brought there car in for a proper service at 5,000 miles from the alignment, we may have caught the issue.

We need to talk more about vehicle alignments, but I think that is better left to audio or video. Reading about alignments is confusing.

Well folks, that wraps up this weeks Shop Shots. We had some good ones this week. Don’t forget to let me know if you are going the the Black Forest show. It will be a good time. I will be posting pictures next week. Also, I will be live tweeting and instagramming from the show. One more thing. I want to throw a huge shout out to my buddies Haw River Farmhouse Ales. Swing by and check out their new website. The poke around in the “store”. You might find someone that looks kinda familiar. 😉 Wait until the 3rd picture in that link.

Nail in tire

Hi everybody! You read the title right, Shop Shots are BACK! We are on volume 58 of the pictures that give you a behind the scenes look at automotive service. For those of you that are new to the community, all of these pictures are taken with my Iphone 4s(for now 😉 ) One quick thing before we get into the pictures. I am working on getting the email alerts system worked out. If you have subscribed to updates, you should be in the new system. If you have any problems please let me know. You can contact me, or email me Charles(AT)humblemechanic(dot)com. I hope to have it totally worked out in the next few days. Alright, it is picture time.

Nail in tireThis type of thing really stinks. A customer came in for a tire that was loosing air. The nail entered the tire pretty close to the edge. Based on the place the nail entered the tire, it looked repairable. When I took the tire off the wheel, I didn’t expect it to be a giant nail. As you can see, the nail dug into the inner part of the tire. This damage can compromise the sidewall of the tire. Any time something like this happens, the tire needs to be replaced. Luck for this customer, she bought the wheel and tire coverage. I should do a post about the “extras” that dealers try and sell you. Some are junk, but the wheel and tire coverage is worth the money.

Vehicle tire vibration We are continuing the the tire theme. I didn’t really plan that, it just happened 😉 This customer brought her car in for a basic service. She also mentioned that she thought her car had a vibration on the highway. As part of the service she was getting we balanced the tires, and do a ton of visual inspections. The tech that was working on her car, found that the left rear wheel was packed with mud and rocks. This probably added a pound of weight putting the wheel assembly out of balance. When I told her, and showed her this exact picture she just laughed. She lives on a gravel road so this type of thing happened to her all the time. The tech cleaned the junk from the inside of the wheel and she was good to go!

Failed Diesel TDI fuel pumpThere is so much talk on the internets about VW diesels. Everything from the high pressure fuel pumps that “always” fail on the new TDIs, to failing cam shafts on the older Pump Duse engines. I wrote a post a long time ago talking about the Volkswagen TDIs. My opinion is basicly the same as it was back then.

What you see in the picture is the fuel pump that lives inside the fuel tank. It is coated in black goo. That goo is the result of failing seals in the fuel injectors. The bad part about this repair is it can be expensive. The issue of failing seals gets worse because of the high compression of the TDI. That causes the injectors to walk around in their holes. The “walking” causes the holes to no longer be round. So what is the repair? A new cylinder head to the tune of $5000 or so. Never a fun thing to tell a customer.

Well friends, that wraps up this weeks Shop Shots! I know it has been a while be it really feels great to be back in action. Remember if you have any topics you want to talk about just post them up in the comments of a post. I always like to know what you guys want to know about. Hopefully the email thing is worked out and you all can get the updates again.

bad tire on a Volkswagen

Worn out VW tireNext up in the “Does my car REALLY need this service” we have tires! Today we will talk about

  • When to rotate, and when to NOT rotate
  • Why balancing is important
  • When you should replace your tires

If you want to learn a little more about tires, check out Understanding Your Vehicle’s Tires. That breaks down the parts of tires, how to read the sizes, and tons more great information.

Why are tires important?
Consider that your tires provide 100% contact with the road. That means every bit of acceleration, and braking rely on just a few square inches of contact pattern. All 4000lbs of your car are riding down the road on that little spot. We need to make sure we get the most out of that contact area.

What are the types of tire services?
There is a heck of a lot that goes into making a tire. The good thing is the average driver doesn’t need to worry about that. All we need to worry about is keeping our tires in tip top shape. Here are the basic services your mechanic can perform on tires.

  • Rotation
    This is where you would move the front tires to the back, and the back tires to the front.
  • Rotate and Balance
    Here your wheel and tire assembly is put on a machine and balanced. Weights are added to off set heavy spots in the tire. Generally the tires are rotated here too.
  • New tires
    When your old tires are worn out, it’s time for new ones. After a new tire is mounted on a wheel, it is balanced too
  • Flat repair
    If you get a nail or something in a tire, it may be repairable. I recommend having a tire repaired. The plug kits they sell at stores are okay, but a professional repair is best

Pretty simple right? There is not too much to maintaining tires.

When to rotate, and when to not rotate
This is the most affordable way to prolong the life of your tires. Well, this and keeping the pressures set properly. You really can’t over rotate your tires. Plus when your mechanic takes the tires off, he will generally look at your brakes too. There is no harm in rotating your tires every time you have the oil changed.

There are times when you do not want to rotate your tires. If rotating your tires will put bad tires on the rear,  DO NOT ROTATE. You want to keep your best tires on the back.

Why is balancing so important.
Your riding down the highway. Your steering wheel is shaking back and forth making you crazy. You might just have a tire out of balance. If you have a tire that is vibrating bad enough to feel, you need to get your tires balanced.

There is also a good case for having your tire balance checked. Vibrations can develop slowly. You might have a slight vibration that is now just a normal for your car. There is also the extra wear on the tires. The more a tire is out of balance, the more it can hop, and shimmy. that can cause abnormal tire wear. The only repair for abnormally worn tires is replacement.

When do tires need to be replaced.
So you have properly rotated your tires, and kept them balanced too. At some point all tires wear out. How do you know if they need to be replaced? There are a few hard rules:

  • Any tire at or below 2/32 of tread
  • A tire that is older than 6 years old(this one shocked me too)
  • Any tire with side wall damage.
  • Any tire with cords, or belts showing, or worn into the secondary rubber
  • Severely dry rotted tires
  • If the shoulder of the tire gets punctured. You can’t safely repair that.

Now those are the rules when a tire MUST be replaced. When a tire gets down to about 4/32 of tread, it’s time to get them replaced. Sure you can get a few thousand more miles out of them. But they are not as safe as they were. Is rolling the dice on your safety and the safety of other on the road really worth it?

So do you really need this?
This is one service, or 3 to be exact, that really depend on the condition of your tires. If they don’t fall into the list directly above, you may be able to wait a little while. Just remember that your tires are one of the most important safety features!

  • Rotate
    Go ahead and do it. The service is very cheap ($20 or so) service to prolong your very expensive tires
  • Rotate and Balance
    I like to balance my tires every other oil change. Again it’s a very cheap($40 or so) service. Plus driving a car with a vibration can be maddening.
  • Replacing tires
    follow the rules I posted above. If you are not sure, have your mechanic show you why you need new tires. 4/32 is the measurement that you need to really consider new tires. 2/32 is MUST REPLACE. Just for prospective, most new tires are 11/32

Now you can feel good about getting that tire rotation, balance or replacement. If you have a service you would like added to the series, please post it below in the comments.

If you have a tool fan on your gift list this year, check out my Holiday Tool Buying Guide. There are some great and affordable suggestions for buying tools as gifts. Check it out and pass it along. Also, be sure to sign up for email updates. You wont miss any posts, and I don’t spam. Okay, one more thing.

Shop Shots loose Bolt VW

Hi everyone. It’s Wednesday so we are rocking and rolling on some Shop Shots. I am also running a little behind to day. I have spent the day hanging a TV over our fireplace. Something that should be fairly simple, but running the wires was kind of a pain. All right, let’s dive in to this weeks automotive pictures.

This one comes from a fellow VW tech. I don’t recall what car it came from. This is a picture of a bolt jammed into an intake valve. If you think that it looks really clean you would be right. This car only had about 150 miles on it. I didn’t get the entire story on how this came about. But really, a freaking bolt laying in the engine? How does that even happen?

This pictures might be a little tricky to see. This car came in for an intermittent no start. The first time around we put a battery in the car. At that time it would start every time. This time it got towed in and would not start. Not only would it not start, but it was totally dead. We even tried t jump start it, and it was still dead.

The mechanic working on the car just happened to smack the fuse block. When he did that, the car switched on. We pulled the fuse block out trying to find the the loose connection. It got to the point where we could get the car to switch off, but could not find the wire. Finally I pealed back the tape in the wiring harness. I gave the big red wire a slight tug and pulled this big wire from the loom(focus on the top left of the pic). A few crimps and the car is good to go. We really got lucky finding that issue. It could have been one of those stories that went the wrong way for a long time.

For some reason this week has been full of weird tire issues. This is a bent piece of steal jammed through a tire. I have never seen a metal rod this size stuck in a tire. It was a little bigger around than a Sharpie marker.

We could not tell if the rod was bent before going into the tire, or because it was in the tire. There were not any witness markings on the rim. This is not a tire that we felt comfortable repairing. We just replaced it. It is funny to see a shop full of techs that have lots of years experience stand around and say, “Wow I have never seen that before”.

The other one I posted to the Facebook page yesterday. Swing by and check it out. 😛 That wraps up this weeks volume of Shop Shots. I am thinking of doing something cool for Volume 40. Throw me some ideas. A recap, best of the best, giveaway? What do you guys got? Post it in the comments, and let’s make #40 awesomer than normal.

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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