Ham Radio Display Relocation

When I first bought my car, I chose to mount my Icom ID-5100A display down by the gearshift because I had become accustomed to having my smartphone mounted high on the dash. The display location certainly made for a good photograph, one that combines ham radio, the GTI (Plaid seat), and manual transmissions. But it was  not ideal for convenient operating. Eventually, I decided to try a D-Dock for my smartphone, which freed some real estate on my dash. I decided to use my existing ProClip mount to move my 5100 display to a more visible location (see the photo below). I like the improved visibility! Continue reading

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D-Dock Smartphone Dock and Android Auto

I’ve used smartphones in my cars for over 10 years. I don’t text and drive, but I like being aware of when I receive a message and will take a look at short messages. I WON’T read a message that’s more than a few words if I’m on the road. Instead, my family knows a simple “Call me” is usually enough to get my attention and allow me to make a one-touch call. I started using my phone for navigating as Google Maps and 4G LTE networks expanded and became more usable. Eventually, I could use travel-related apps and certain food apps while stopped. Having the phone mounted someplace visible was good for a lot of things. Then Volkswagen started equipping their cars with Car Play and Android Auto. Driving was bound to change… Continue reading

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Long Term Review: Helix Sound Upgrade

Believe it or not, I’m no audio systems expert, despite what this photo may compel you to believe. I just know more about stereo upgrades than the average driver; plus, I know how to get what I want in an efficient way. A 30-year career in electronics doesn’t hurt, either.  😉  Plenty have mentioned that I could have installed a much better system with digital signal processing (DSP) than the Helix system. A quick look at Crutchfield.com shows that DSPs can be expensive. Then one has to add an amplifier, the wiring to/from the trunk, and whatever else is needed, especially the parts required to break into the factory wiring harness or connector (I hate cutting factory wires). My enthusiasm for that level of effort has waned as I’ve gotten older. The Helix upgrade saved a lot of time and effort in the long run. I’m still quite pleased with it. Continue reading

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60,000 Miles; Plus Musings About Future Volkswagens…

My drivetrain warranty is officially over now that I’ve reached 60,000 miles. Amusingly, I declare that as though my power upgrades hadn’t killed the warranty already. HAHA! The car’s been running great. My list of mods continues to grow slowly. Since my 50k update, I’ve tinted the windows, added a few 3D printed accessories, went even darker on the glass by adding VW accessory sun shades, added an 8-inch European MIB2 display, and finally mounted my powdercoated Nogaros. I’ve also been working my GTI like a mule by hauling plenty of rock and dirt loads with my utility trailer. Feel free to click each link to read more.  Continue reading

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Eight Inch MIB2 Display

I’ve been very pleased with the MIB2 infotainment system in my GTI. The display size is adequate, sound quality is good, and the system introduced me to AndroidAuto. If you’ve explored my site, then you know that I’ve upgraded my system with Helix and beyond. In time, I learned that the European version of my car has an 8-inch display. I was not shocked. As a longtime Volkswagen enthusiast, I am perfectly aware that Europeans get all the best stuff in their Volkswagens. Americans want it, too. HAHA! Thankfully, someone has found a way to import the larger displays and their associated bezels and sell them as a kit. It’s an expensive upgrade, so I avoided it for some time. Then the kits went on sale, dropping in price just enough for me to make an impulse buy. Continue reading

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OEM Pop-In Sunshades (Rear)

I tinted my glass a few months ago, but I was still intrigued by Volkswagen’s pop-in shades. The shades were recently on sale at Deutsche Auto Parts (DAP), so I made an impulse purchase. The kit comes with tight-fitting black perforated shades for the rear side windows and hatch glass as well as the retaining clips and a pry tool. The directions are vague, but easy enough to figure out. The fit and finish is excellent. But I can see how having these things installed with tinted glass may get me pulled over someday.   Continue reading

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More Nogaros, Now in Gunmetal Gray…

I recently found myself wondering if the 18×7.5-inch Nogaro could become rare in the United States. They seem to be common in the U.K. However, they were available only on the 2017 GTI Sport in the U.S. See this post for details. I had thought about buying a second Nogaro set just in case one of my wheels gets damaged. Being a wheel whore, I even considered a second set just to maintain the same look between winter and summer tire sets. Nogaro sets still sell for a pretty penny, with some sets going for $600-$700. So I was in no hurry to make a purchase. I had hoped to see a good deal on a set nearby someday. Then I got lucky and found a set at a great price. Continue reading

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OBDEleven Scan Tool Holder

I have an OBDEleven scan tool. I learned the hard way that leaving the scan tool plugged in full-time isn’t a great idea. Mine has lived in the glovebox for the past 18 months. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that. However, GolfMk7.com user “southpawboston” created a slick solution that I knew I had to have. The Mk7 GTIs have the MIB2 brains in the glovebox. There are holders on either side, one for SD cards and another for ID cards. Keeping spare SD cards in the glovebox is very handy for a photographer who sometimes forgets the camera’s SD card. I do not find the ID card holders very useful. This is where the OBDEleven scan tool holder fits. Southpawboston essentially created a fake OBD port that clips into the existing opening in our cars. Continue reading

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Bicycling Event Support

I had planned to enter my car in Sunday’s BugOut 81 show in Dinwiddie, VA. However, ongoing home projects and a long day on the road Saturday precluded me from making it a priority. What was I doing on the road Saturday? With no VW show to blog, here’s a story about driving behind the scenes in support of a growing bicycling event.  🙂  My local bicycling club, the Peninsula Bicycling Association (PBA), hosts two major events each year, one in May and one in September. I started driving a support vehicle (aka “SAG” vehicle) instead of cycling these events in 2012 as a way to serve the club. It became a tradition for me; I even served as SAG coordinator from 2013 to 2016. . Continue reading

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Hüper Optik Ceramic Window Film

I enjoyed a moderate tint on my Mk3 Jetta TDI for over 16 years. There were times when the tint was old, faded, or even bubbled at a point or two. I had opted for inexpensive dyed film for both the initial tint in 1998 and the retint in 2006. The dyed film was good for shade and cosmetic purposes. However, today’s ceramic window films are great for shade, cosmetics, and heat rejection. They’re also more expensive, but worth the extra cost. It can make the difference between needing the AC or not… or needing “Max AC” or not.  Continue reading

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50,000 Miles!

I’m still blasting-up the miles! I passed the 50,000-mile mark right when the car turned 17 months. I once predicted I’d reach 175,000 miles by the five-year mark. That was when I had a 50-mile each way daily commute. But I have a new commute that’s a tad shorter at 31 miles. Now I’m expecting to reach “only” 125,000 miles by five years. HAHA! I’ll probably still run the car to 150k by then since I love to drive this car! I tend to take it on road trips, so that’ll drive-up the miles, too. I’ve had a busy few months, both with modding my Mk7 and moving other VWs in and out of my household. I’ll share details about both below. Continue reading

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Vibrant 17950 Resonator

Upgrading to APR Stage 2 yielded great results, but the free-flowing downpipe also introduced a prominent drone, starting at 2800 rpm, even with an otherwise-factory exhaust system. At cruising speeds below 2800 rpm, the car sounded just as it did when it was new and stock. But the exhaust note would easily double in amplitude the instant the engine reached 2800 rpm. It’s not often that I cruise at 3000 rpm. But I sometimes find myself accelerating gently, perhaps being too lazy to shift since I know I’m about to slow down again, and my engine speed is hovering between 2800 and 3200 rpm, right where the drone can be most annoying. “Annoying” is a rather harsh term to describe my drone because it’s really not that bad. Still, I was happy to learn that I could eliminate or reduce it by replacing the factory front muffler/resonator with a different resonator. Continue reading

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Door Creaking (Resolved)

I noted some creaking in my door or B-pillar during my 30,000-mile entry. I had read reports of a weld that might have failed in a number of Mk7s. I was hopeful that was not my case. I noticed the sound mostly during low-speed maneuvering, even when barely rolling down my uneven driveway, but not usually on the highway. My first speculation was that I needed to check the interior panels that I had removed while installing my subwoofer and ham radio wiring. The interior panels fit with VERY tight tolerances, so it seemed logical that a couple of pieces may have been rubbing as the body flexed. The creaking seemed to disappear for a bit, but my celebration was brief… Continue reading

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Firestone Firehawk Indy 500… and Bent Wheels…

When my car was in for the APR Stage 2 upgrade, the mechanic noticed that the tread on one of my tires was separating. I had just starting hearing some noise that sounded a little like the tread wear bars pulsating against the pavement. There was enough tread on the tires to last until spring, but the tread separation sped my upgrade plan. It was probably a good thing that last week’s rain kept my newfound Stage 2 exploitation temptations in check. I had hoped to wait until I knew the freezing weather was behind us before mounting performance tires, but I needed something right away. I quickly upgraded to a set of Firestone Firehawk Indy 500’s. I hate the idea of tire shops mangling my pinch welds or over-torquing my lug bolts. So I mounted and balanced the tires myself at a nearby military auto/hobby shop. It was while balancing the wheels that I noticed two were bent. Continue reading

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APR Stage 2

I had planned to add APR’s downpipe and upgrade to Stage 2 in the spring. Being a relatively new resident of Virginia (I maintained Texas residency during my military career), I had created a financial safety net so that I wouldn’t have any unpleasant surprises when the 2017 tax bill came. As it turns out, I over-budgeted and had plenty of leftover cash. What a great opportunity to upgrade to APR Stage 2 and more! I didn’t have immediate plans for a new intercooler, but the surplus tax money made adding one an easy decision. I took my car to Euro Pros to have APR’s downpipe and intercooler installed, as well as new spark plugs and a flash to Stage 2. Continue reading

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Subwoofer Power Upgrade – Rockford Fosgate T1S1

My subwoofer journey has been a series of incremental improvements. My first setup accidentally included a subwoofer with dual 2-ohm voicecoils instead of dual 4-ohm voicecoils. The difference meant that my 300-watt amplifier could only output about 200 watts since the 2-ohm voicecoils had to be wired for 4 ohms. I quickly replaced that subwoofer with a 4-ohm version, which allowed me to wire the speaker for 2 ohms and get the full 300 watts of amplifier output. Later, I decided to make some changes that had me switch to an amp with a smaller footprint. Although the new amp is rated at 516 watts, its actual output was around 330 watts since I was still using the 2-ohm subwoofer configuration. That was more than enough because of how I had indexed the system, but I decided to make more changes… Continue reading

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Nogaro Wheels: Will They Be “Rare” in the Near Future?

The 2017 GTI Sport came with 18-inch Nogaro wheels. I’m not sure why VW chose to equip this trim differently from the other GTIs, but the fact remains that these wheels were sold on a relatively small number of GTIs in the United States (model year 2017 only). This is not to say that the wheels are rare or “limited edition.” Volkswagen sold far too many Sports to qualify for that title. Additionally, the Nogaro was the standard wheel on the European Golf GTD from 2013 through 2016. It sold in high numbers due to the popularity of diesels in Europe. So, it’s not as if these wheels are rare worldwide. But could they be rare in America someday? Continue reading

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40,000 Miles!

Smartphone photo while driving in the dark.

Happy New Year! My GTI continues to accumulate miles at a quick pace. At my current rate of driving, the car should reach 175,000 miles by the time it’s five years old. It’s scary to consider the car’s value at that point. I think it would be too low to bother selling, so I’d probably keep it even if I buy a newer car. I wonder if VW’s electric cars will be tempting for me by then? Most people are not terribly impressed that my 20-year old Mk3 Jetta TDI has 450,000 miles on the odometer. It’s an old diesel, right? But a Mk7 GTI with 200,000 miles may turn a head or two someday. Continue reading

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USP Motorsports Steel Oil Pan Conversion

Automakers continue to find ways to save weight for better fuel economy and performance. Some choose to eliminate the spare tire. Others, including VW/Audi, choose to use plastic oil pans on some of their engines. The risk of damage seems low, especially at stock ride height. But accidents happen: road debris, ice chunks, or even animals can damage a plastic oil pan. Sure, the odds of those things actually striking the oil pan seems low. Regardless, the day is ruined once the pan is cracked and the oil gushes onto the road. Even if I could get the car to the shoulder and turn off the engine before damage occurs, I’d still be in for a wait for a tow truck and the headache of replacing the oil pan under conditions other than my own. I also tend to believe that the plastic will become brittle after years of heat-cycling, meaning a lighter hit could shatter the pan. I decided to convert the oil pan to steel during a routine oil change. A steel pan is more likely to bend than crack, so it’s more durable. For just $69… Why not? Continue reading

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Long-Term Review: Yakima Showcase 15

I had some opinions about my Showcase 15 right away, but decided to wait until after its first real trip before writing a long-term review. I used the box on a Thanksgiving voyage from southeast Virginia to St Louis, Missouri, about 880 miles each way plus local travel. Prior to that, I had stored my Showcase outside and locked it to my trailer. I discovered water inside when I opened it to move it to my car. I put the box back on my trailer and then looked for the point of water intrusion the next time it rained. I found the intrusion point and more… Continue reading

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