30,000 Miles!

The past 10,000 miles have flown by quickly, taking only three months! It’s hard to believe that I’m at this milestone before the car is even a year old. That should put me around the 35,000-mile mark by the car’s first birthday, which happens to be on Veteran’s Day. New accessories include a Canvasback Cargo Liner and a Rhino Rack for my Yakima ShowCase cargo box. The car’s existence is still mostly as a quiet commuter car, but I have done a bit of towing recently and even entered a VW car show. This car is doing it all!

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Aerodynamics, Noise, and Fuel Economy (Oh My!)

Adding a roof rack, cargo box, and other attachments has an effect on aerodynamics, noise and fuel economy (oh my!). I’m an analytical type who wants to know “how much noise” and “how much fuel economy” each option affects. So, I did some testing! The noise test was first since it is easy and fast to do. I don’t have a wind tunnel or high-tech measuring equipment. However, I am scientific-minded and knew to keep my testing environment consistent. With that in mind, here is the stage I set for my noise testing: Continue reading

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Rhino Rack Fairing

My Rhino Rack Vortex 2500 RS is a very quiet rack. Still, I had to know if it could be even quieter with a fairing, particularly with my ShowCase cargo box mounted. My only concern was whether the fairing’s mounting hardware would interfere with the proper seating of the ShowCase. I also wondered if the fairing’s “landing pads” along its leading edge would mar the paint. Unfortunately, the fairing produced more noise than just a naked rack. Even worse, at least one of the fairing’s landing pads vibrated against the paint as speeds exceeded 75 mph. I don’t drive that fast very often, but there still was no way I was going to risk paint damage from a fairing that does nothing to reduce noise. Therefore, I didn’t even bother to test it with the ShowCase. Continue reading

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BugOut 80

It had been ten years since the last time I attended a Volkswagen car show. The TDIFests in 2009 and 2011 are noteworthy exceptions, but they cater only to the TDI crowd. “BugOut” is for all Volkswagens and has a long history that likely started when only classic, air-cooled Volkswagens were featured. BugOut may have been among the first of VW shows to unify the air-cooled and water-cooled scenes. Somehow, attending VW shows became stale for me after years of regular attendance. I was autocrossing or bicycling most weekends, so I had plenty to occupy my time. Still, I’ve had an urge to go back. BugOut is relatively close to home, so it’s an obvious choice for me to attend. Continue reading

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Rhino Rack Vortex 2500 RS

I used a Yakima roof rack on my then-new 1988 Nissan Sentra for about 10 years. My 1992 VW Golf saw time with the same rack. There was no denying the marring to the paint over the years from long-term use. I opted against a roof rack when I bought my Mk3 Jetta in 1998. I moved to a hitch-mounted cargo tray and have stayed that course ever since. I still prefer to use my hitch carrier when I transport two bicycles. I put everything inside when I bike alone. I prefer to keep all cargo out of the passenger compartment when I travel (seats down with a bicycle inside being the exception). Family trips drove a need for external cargo capacity. I’ve already shared my choice of cargo box. Here’s how I carry it: Continue reading

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Yakima ShowCase 15

I’ve been on many road trips over the years. I’ve come to dislike having baggage or cargo in the passenger compartment. With my Jettas, anything that didn’t fit in the trunk usually found its way into a 10 cubic-foot cargo bag on the hitch-mounted cargo carrier. When I first used the same carrier and bag on my GTI, I noticed that the license plate is completely obscured by the load, which is asking for “unwanted interviews” on long trips. The Golf/GTI’s license plate mounts below the rear bumper, making it impossible to see with a load in place. Sure, I could move my plate to the cargo tray, but I’d rather not mess with changing things around on trips or additional lighting. I decided it was time to try a cargo box. Continue reading

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Canvasback Cargo Liner

I’ve been very happy with the VW “Car Go” Heavy Duty Trunk Liner accessory that came with my car. I’m confident that it would contain most spills due to its raised lip. However, there was one area of the trunk that I wanted to make sure was protected when I lay my bicycle inside. The chain or chainring rests very close to the side of the trunk. It wouldn’t take much for the bike to shift and stain the fabric during a turn. I also get plenty of debris on the seat backs when I carry cargo with the seats folded flat. I learned about Canvasback cargo liners in an online discussion about cargo area protection at TDIClub.com. One of the posters shared his support of Canvasback products, so I gave them a look and decided to make a purchase. Continue reading

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Banners Over StealthGTI.com

When I first created this blog, I started with a banner that I created with an image from Volkswagen’s website. I was able to use images of my own once I acquired my GTI. Later, I wanted the banners to reflect the content of each blog entry. Over time, I have created many banners which display above the various pages on my site. The “Blog” page randomizes a selection of banners while other pages show specific banners. I collected all the banners in a single image to share with you here. Click the image for a full-sized look at all the banners.

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The “Trailer Kill”

I recently did a major cleaning of excess material from my home. Some items were headed to the used book store, others to the DAV Thrift Store, and the rest was off to the city dump. This is when having my “baby trailer” is awesome. Once I had loaded a good bit of junk for a run to the dump, I figured I’d toss one more light item on top. I chose a loose lawnmower catch bag that had sat on the patio for a while. I kept an eye for snakes and spiders as I picked it up. All went well as I walked it to the trailer and tossed it on top. As I began to tuck an empty gas can into the back, I found myself surrounded by several dozen wasps! Apparently, there was a nest in the bag and they were quite irritated by my unceremonious tossing of their home. Continue reading

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More Broken Glass

It’s been just three weeks since replacing the windshield and I already find myself needing more glass. This time, it’s the passenger side rear door window. I noticed the shattered glass after cutting my lawn, so I’m certain that I kicked-up a small rock with the lawnmower. I’ve been in my current home for 14 years and have never had this happen. I hope the odds of it happening again are slim. Still, breaking another window so soon after the windshield stung just a little more than if it had happened much later. I managed to support the glass by reinforcing it with Gorilla Tape on both sides of the window. I wasn’t sure how long it would hold, so I parked the car until I could get a local shop to do the repair. The incident happened over the weekend and glass shops didn’t open until Monday at 8am. Continue reading

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20,000 Miles!

Seven months of GTI ownership has passed; I’m now at 20,000 miles. If you’ve read my other blog entries, then you know that I’ve been fairly busy with some modifications. Unlike many VW enthusiasts, I haven’t gone wild with performance mods such as intake, exhaust, a turbo swap, coilovers, or other popular improvements. Instead, my mods have leaned more along utilitarian lines. My efforts include a 3M clear bra, stereo upgrades, a ham radio, a trailer hitch, and (best of all) APR Stage 1. Continue reading

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Cracked Windshield; Replacement by Fuyao

I’ve had plenty of rocks bounce off my windshield without apparent damage over the past several months. Two days ago, I had something hit my windshield that was barely perceivable. About ten minutes later, I heard a strange noise that turned out to be the glass cracking. The crack was about six inches long at 8am and had spread to the center of the glass by lunchtime. It looked like it was going to turn back upward and make a “U” shape that touched the edge of the glass at two points. By 7pm, it had turned downward and was headed toward the driver’s line of sight. As the crack spread, I did some quick research at VWVortex regarding replacement options and asked members of a local Facebook group who they trusted with the work. From there, a plan for replacement quickly came together. Continue reading

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More Power, Much More…

The first generation TDI was one of the first cars in VW’s North American line-up to be able to achieve substantial gains from what was then known as “chip tuning.” The chip was physically removed from the ECU and replaced with another which contained more powerful programming. Gains of 25 hp and 50 lb-ft were typical for TDIs (much less for normally-aspirated engines). Later, the 1.8T was able to gain ~35 hp and 70 lb-ft. The subsequent 2.0T gained ~45 hp and 94 lb-ft. These are increases in peak numbers; gains in the middle of the power band could be even greater. Incidentally, all of these ever-increasing gains were being had by engines that were more powerful than their predecessors. This brings me to the Mk7 GTI, the chassis for VW’s most potent North American four-cylinder engine (as of this writing and aside from the Golf R). It starts with a reportedly under-rated 220 hp and 258 lb-ft. Dynamometer testing by tuners and enthusiasts indicates that the actual output is closer to 235 hp and 270 lb-ft, figures which rival that of tuned engines of earlier generations and already beats my bought-back Stage 2 Jetta TDI.  A tune alone transforms the GTI into a different car! APR was having a sale and I found a hole in my work schedule that allowed me to visit a tuner during the week. I decided to take the plunge… Continue reading

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Tail of the Dragon

I finally managed to get my GTI on a road trip after 12,000 miles of mostly commuter miles. The Tail of the Dragon is often said to be the trip every driving enthusiast must make. I’ve driven the Dragon three other times in other cars, twice with my daughter. This was my first time driving it in a car that’s made for the curves right out of the box. I had planned to make the journey on the first weekend of spring. Adverse weather in March deferred the drive until the first weekend in April. My daughter and I left Newport News, Virginia for Maryville, Tennessee on March 31st, just as her school was closing for its spring break. It was raining in both locations, but expected to clear for a great weekend! Continue reading

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EcoHitch and Carry-On Trailer

I just wanted to post a quick note to announce two new pages in which I detail my EcoHitch and Carry-On trailer. I don’t think subscribers are informed when I add new pages (unlike posts such as this one). Feel free to have a look.

Ready to Transport,

Scott

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Subwoofer Changes

One of the symptoms of having the “mod bug” is the pursuit of continual improvements to projects. When I first built my subwoofer upgrade, I had accidentally purchased a subwoofer with 2-ohm voicecoils instead of 4-ohm voicecoils. My P300X1 amplifer maximizes its output power with a 2-ohm load. My 4-ohm system sounded good, but I still had to know if a 2-ohm subwoofer would sound better. IT DID. However, the system had some problems. An over-abundance of bass in the 50-70 Hz range was particularly nagging. But I had a solution in mind… Continue reading

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First 10,000 Miles – Broken-In

It’s hard to believe I’ve already accumulated 10,000 miles, all in just four months! My commute is 53 miles each way, so I’m quickly racking up the miles. That’s okay; I buy my cars to be DRIVEN! If you’ve read my “First 1000 Miles” entries (Part 1 and Part 2), then you already know that I’m very pleased with the car. Here are my thoughts after a few more months of driving:

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Convenience Mods

vcds-openI can’t speak for what other auto brand enthusiasts are doing to “hack” their cars, but Volkswagen and Audi owners have some really good options. Long ago, an enthusiast named Ewe Ross (Ross-Tech) backwards-engineered a VW/Audi dealer diagnostic scan tool into something for enthusiasts. I was one of his beta testers in 1999 and have one of his more capable tools today. You may be wondering, “Why not just buy a generic scan tool?” VW/Audi has used a proprietary diagnostic protocol that provides more information and scans FAR more modules than just the emissions-related items that were mandated by OBD2 in 1996. In fact, VW had the FIRST on-board computer system with scanning capability way back in 1968! Sure, VW/Audi complied with the federal requirement to have OBD2-compatible codes, but they also kept their more-thorough diagnostics system (and continually improve it). Ross-Tech was first to bring it to the people who prefer to avoid being fleeced by their VW/Audi dealers. When I first bought VCDS, I was only interested in reading and clearing diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) without having to drive 50 miles to my nearest VW dealer. Today, VCDS and other tools bring far more capability, thanks to the marvels of modern automotive technology. Continue reading

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Wireless Phone Charging

consoleI prefer to avoid using my phone’s USB port by charging my phone wirelessly. I had seen accelerated wear, even failure, of my the USB port on previous phones. So I knew I wanted to use wireless charging in the car to reduce wear and tear. I found a Qi charger I liked and then GOOP’d it to a ProClip mount that’s designed for the Mk7. I’d tell you more about my Qi charger, but it’s no longer available. I may switch to this one if I ever need another one. I don’t like unsightly power cord runs, so I routed my cord through the AC duct and behind the dash, plugging it into the 12V outlet that’s inside my arm rest. I had to disassemble the center console to pull it off, but I’m pleased with the outcome. It’s only drawback is that it doesn’t deliver enough current to keep up with charging demands when the phone is using high-current apps such as GPS, mapping, or navigation. Still, the rate of discharge is reduced and battery life is prolonged beyond having no charger at all. I’ve shared photos in an album below.

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Helix Sound Upgrade

helix-msrp2I had been pleased with Volkswagen’s MIB II base stereo. It’s no powerhouse, but it has cool features and adequate sound output. To add deeper bass, I would have been satisfied with simply tapping into the rear speaker wires to feed an amplifier and a subwoofer. But Volkswagen decided to discontinue its Helix subwoofer accessory, VW P/N: 000-051-419, meaning they slashed its price by over 50% to quietly clear their inventory. What was once an “is it really worth $660?” item was suddenly a very affordable $300. I managed to get the kit shipped to my door for $235 after some discount shopping and a manufacturer’s rebate. The wiring harness and digital signal processor alone are worth more than that!   Continue reading

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