I can’t believe it’s been five years in my Mk7 GTI already! Is it too late to add more mods to this geriatric GTI or should I sell it? According to some, I’m way overdue for ditching this car! I had plenty of comments on my 3-year video saying that 93,000 miles was too much and that I should get rid of the car while I still could. Of course, I didn’t listen. The car now has over 143,000 miles! So, what’s next?
Unlike a lot other GTI enthusiasts, I use my GTI mostly in a utilitarian way. With nearly 400 horsepower on tap, it certainly has a “sport” bias to it! So, does that make it a “Sport Utility Vehicle?” Most SUVs are large and not sporty at all. “Compact Utility Vehicles” are a little smaller, often gutless, and similarly unsporty. Perhaps my GTI is a “micro-SUV!” You may recall that I coined the term “microlander” back when I was considering some camping. “Microlander” is basically a variation of “Overlander,” a form of adventure that has seen a rise in popularity over the past several years. Since my camping ideas haven’t become a reality, perhaps “micro-SUV” is a better fit for my GTI.
Clearly, I’m using the car in ways that it wasn’t intended, right? If you’ve been following for a while, then you know that the car is stuffed with ham radio equipment, electronics, and even a refrigerator! Many would say that I’d be better served by an Atlas or another large vehicle. Maybe it’s even time to get a Jeep or Bronco to scratch my itch for off-road adventure. But, if I’m honest with you and myself, I really enjoy driving my GTI almost every day. Sure, I can’t drive it off-road. Sure, it’s not large enough to camp in. Sure, it’s a small platform for the things I have in it. But my GTI is the car I want to be in any time I get behind the wheel!
So, if the GTI is my car of choice and mine’s old enough to put out to pasture now, then why not get a newer one? To put it simply, there’s nothing wrong with the car. That’s not to say that it hasn’t had its faults or that it won’t fall apart soon, but the car is currently perfect! On top of that, I don’t want to undo all of the work that I’ve done to this car so that I can sell, only to reinstall everything into a newer car. Besides, you may have noticed that the used car market is CRAZY right now. Sure, I could get top dollar for my car, considering its age and mileage. But then I’d have to pay top dollar for its replacement. For the money, I’d rather maintain what I have. I’ve always been one to keep my cars for the long haul.
I kept my first new car, a 1988 Nissan Sentra, for eleven years; we kept my wife’s 2003 Passat for eleven years as well. My 1998 Jetta TDI was my daily driver for 16 years and 445,000 miles. I sold it for parts when it was 20 years old. My daughter came home for the first time in that car and she got to drive it before it was retired. Will my GTI last as long? That’s hard to say since it has better body construction, but more plastic on the engine. Perhaps we’ll find out together.
I mentioned that the car has had some faults. My three-year entry detailed a list of really minor, mostly self-inflicted items. Virtually nothing new surfaced between then and the car’s fourth anniversary. At that point, I had just cleaned the intake in preparation for a 7000-mile round trip to California. We took a trailer on that trip. The car had its most significant setback nearly 3000 miles into the trip. I had “Cylinder 3 Misfire” and “Hide Cylinder” faults. We were on a very tight schedule, set by my mother’s memorial service, and didn’t have time to find an independent VW shop in California. I tried a few things on my own, but quickly decided to visit a Volkswagen dealer for a more competent and speedy repair.
The dealer tried to take me on a ridiculous and expensive pursuit of parts. Long story short, my local mechanic, Euro Pros of Yorktown, VA, diagnosed the car over the phone after learning that my compression and leak-down tests had very good results. With the car safe to drive, so long as I stayed out of the power, we drove 4000 miles back to Virginia with the trailer and my mother’s stuff in tow. Sure enough, Euro Pros’ diagnosis of a faulty injector was spot-on. So much for relying on any sort of competence at that particular Volkswagen dealer! While all injectors were being replaced, the mechanic noticed a coolant leak, FINALLY, after all of this time suspecting something, but being unable to find any evidence of a leak! He replaced the water pump, thermostat, and its housing. All of this work was done at 114,000 miles almost a year ago. See more about that troubleshooting journey here.
A lot of my YouTube viewers blamed the injector fault on my excessive towing. My mechanic disagreed. Sometimes, parts don’t last as long as they should. I found myself in need of returning to California just a few months later. I took my cargo trailer that time. Driving a similar route outbound and even more mountainous roads on the return trip, I’d say the GTI, its 2.0T engine, and the injectors completely redeemed themselves. The car performed flawlessly during the 7600-mile trip! I had taken my Dometic refrigerator with me on both road trips. It was after the second trip that I found merit in leaving it in the car full time. I shared that decision in this video.
At 128,000 miles, a time at which most would not consider doing power mods, I decided it was time to replace the turbo with an IS38, which is the standard turbo on the Golf R and Audi S3. There’s nothing wrong with my stock turbo… no shaft play or signs of damage; I just wanted to chase more power. I stayed with APR for the tune and upgraded my spark plugs to factory parts for an Audi RS7. The difference is fantastic! Learn more about that upgrade here. Believe it or not, the car is still capable of good fuel economy. I got 42 mpg on one of my road tests! I recently replaced my tires with Michelin’s new “Pilot Sport All-Season 4” tires for improved grip. They’re an excellent improvement over the outgoing “Pilot Sport AS3+” that lasted over 40,000 miles. The only other maintenance item needed during the past year has been a new key FOB battery. I had switched from the standard CR2025 to the slightly larger CR2032 and was surprised to see it last for two years!
I’ve expected to replace a few things that have actually lasted very well under my driving style. My brakes, suspension, and engine mounts are all original! My brakes MIGHT pass inspection this year, but I’ve budgeted to replace them in December. My suspension is still working well and does not have excessive rebound. My mechanic said that he’s never removed a failed factory strut. HAH! Challenge accepted! I may upgrade my suspension next year. But I’m not in a rush. The car rides perfectly and the alignment has never needed checking. My engine and transmission mounts are holding up well, too, even the dogbane mount. I attribute some of that to having disabled my “cross differential system” (XDS) and letting the VAQ differential do all of the work. I have yet to experience wheel hop. Perhaps I’m being too much of a grandpa! 😉
Given all that I’ve done to the car, especially this year, I’m sure you can imagine why I plan to hang onto it! While some choose to buy, mod, and sell every 2-3 years, I opt to mod at a slower pace and then keep my cars until they’re almost worthless. It has worked well for me for 30 years. Personally, I’d rather spend $5,000 to fix an older car that I like than $30,000 to replace it. Thankfully, I haven’t had to make that decision, not yet, anyway. Stick around and see just how well this modified geriatric GTI holds up over the long haul. Will it last or will it implode? Time will tell.
Click here to see a video about this milestone. Full disclosure: This article is the script; so, you’ve pretty much absorbed all I’m sharing! 😉
Pass the Geritol,