Some of you have been waiting for the inevitable post where I write about how one or both of my dubiously cheap Volkswagen Touaregs break in a way that creates a quantum singularity in my bank account. I’m happy to say that such hasn’t happened yet, but my Touareg VR6 still broke in a silly way, and it took two mobile mechanics to get it back on the road.
My 2005 Volkswagen Touareg was the cheapest running and driving Touareg on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist in a radius of 500 miles. The 177,000-mile SUV had some ugly crash damage, but was said to be running and driving fine. That was sort of half-true as the transmission sometimes flared shifting into third gear due to a worn valve body.
I never replaced the valve body. Instead, I did a workaround that I found on Touareg forums and let off the throttle when the SUV shifted into third. This workaround meant that the Touareg didn’t flare during my 4,200-mile trip to pick up my Honda Beat.
It wasn’t long after that trip that I decided to see if a fluid flush could improve shifting. I cracked the transmission pan open and flushed it out before my trip to pick up the Suzuki Every. The fluid that came out was dirty, and I’d wager it was probably the factory fill. I gave it fresh juices, and at the advice of a VW expert, tossed in some Lubegard transmission additive.
Its shifts became smooth and precise with the flaring eliminated.
At my hotel in Baltimore, I discovered a new problem as the transmission was now leaking from somewhere. If let to sit overnight, it’ll leave a small puddle. Let it sit for a few days, and it becomes a mess.
I thought that maybe I overfilled it, but that didn’t seem right. Eventually, I rolled the SUV onto my ramps again, expecting to find the fill plug’s O-ring damaged or missing, causing my leak.
The plug’s ring looked fine, but I replaced it anyway, topped up the transmission, then buttoned it back up. And right when the fill plug got tight, a stream of fluid began leaking out of the transmission. Wait, what?
Upon closer inspection, the leak looked like it was coming out of the bubbling paint on the pan next to the fill plug.
As one does, I poked at the bubble. The paint flaked off, revealing some heavy rust and causing the stream of fluid to turn into a shower.
From the looks of it, the torque of tightening the fill plug during the flush before my Baltimore trip broke the rust on the pan. Then it got even worse when I topped it off this time.
I ended up parking the Touareg as it drained fluid into a giant roaster pan.
I found a clean pan on eBay for $35 and picked up a set of gaskets and a filter.
Forums suggest that the job could take three to six hours or even longer depending on your tools and the rust you have to deal with. Some people reported snapping a number of the 16 bolts that hold the pan on.
My wrenching time has been limited lately, as I’m often finding myself all over the country for different events and road trips. Making matters worse was the fact that the SUV was no longer capable of moving under its own power.
So I either had to find some time to fix it or have it towed to a mechanic. Then it hit me that I had a third option: a mobile mechanic!
Mobile auto services have been around for a while. You can get new tires installed and oil changes done without leaving your home or office. Mobile mechanics are out there, too, offering car repairs with the similar kind of convenience.
I first tried Your Mechanic, a website that pairs broken cars with local mobile mechanics. Your Mechanic doesn’t offer a transmission pan replacement for the Touareg, so initially I felt bummed. Then I had a galaxy brain moment. Your Mechanic does offer a transmission fluid and filter replacement. Guess what has to come off to get the filter off?
The mechanic dispatched by Your Mechanic arrived early, and we had a conversation about how silly VWs are to work on. It didn’t take him long to tap out. He found that a few of the bolts holding the pan on were likely to snap, and he said it was policy that he couldn’t snap the bolts of a customer car. I told him that it’s fine, I mean, this Touareg is my beater, anyway. Sadly, he declined.
Seeing as Your Mechanic was a bust, I decided to go a different route and find a local mechanic outside of the mobile mechanic apps. I contacted JET Mobile Auto Service, a mobile mechanic that advertised serving my county. I gave him a call with the lowdown, including the possibility of breaking some bolts. The owner, Jack, didn’t seem fazed by my threats of working on a Volkswagen and scheduled a time.
As expected, a few transmission bolts snapped, and Jack was able to extract all but one of them.
He had to drill that one out and used a Heli-Coil to restore the threads in that area. Eventually, the Touareg had a fresh fill of fluid, new gaskets, a new filter and a shiny, rust-free pan. I forgot to pick up more Lubegard, so the shift flares are back, but they aren’t nearly as bad as when I first picked the SUV up. And best of all, using JET was cheaper than a tow alone would have been. If you think of time as being like money, I would have lost out on trying to do it myself, too.
So if you’re crunched for time and need your hooptie fixed, I’d recommend giving a mobile mechanic a shot. You could get your ride fixed without ever getting out of your pajamas.