My GTI recently saw its six year anniversary. I bought my car new on Veteran’s Day in 2016 and it’s been really good to me. Yes, I did have an injector problem and a few minor issues over the years, but I still consider it to be a great car! I drove 29,000 miles over the past year, which puts the car at almost 172,000 miles. I’m pretty much done with performance mods, although I did make one more exhaust change in 2022. Instead of vehicle performance, I’ve been working more on my ham/amateur radio performance. I’ve gone a bit nuts and have blown my “stealth” appearance.
One of my biggest projects over the past year was the addition of a secondary battery. I use it to power my electronics equipment area. I built it during my local ham radio club’s “Builder’s Group” session. Having it in the car has been wonderful. I can park and operate my radios for hours with no concerns about whether my starter battery will have enough juice to start the car afterwards. The starter battery is used only for car operations and the LiFePo4 battery is used for nearly everything else. I recently ran a load test and the battery’s capacity is still 100.45 amp-hours. Read more details about the battery and its charging system here.
I mentioned Baun Performance visits. I had tested three of his cat-back systems on my car and evaluated the aggressive setup on his car. See my Baun comparison video for details. All of his systems are built-to-order; so, I was already committed to the “Stealth Dual” (center) when I discovered that I like the “Stealth Suitcase” (bottom) much better. I bought a Suitcase for myself after just six months with the Dual and have been quietly driving with it since May (pun intended). I recently sold the Stealth Dual (just the axle-back) to someone who I had hoped would be happy with it. However, he needs to sell it already without even installing it. It is not compatible with 2018 and later GTIs. Serious inquirers with 2015-2017 GTIs may contact me to see if it is still for sale. I do not set the asking price; nor am I playing a part in the sale other than sending interested parties his way. I will update this paragraph when he sells the part.
With my newfound battery capacity, I decided to take a deeper dive into ham radio activities, particularly during road trips. I’ve taken an interest in Parks on the Air, or POTA. My mobile station is a great match for operating as a park “activator.” Activators travel to designated parks, set up a station, and make themselves available for “hunters.” Hunters are often home or fixed operators who contact and collect as many parks as they can. As an activator, I know that anyone who I can hear calling me can also hear me. That’s a role reversal from when I try to compete with other callers who are attempting to contact a popular station.
In addition to POTA, I’ve also taken an interest in VHF contesting. Contests present a challenge to contact as many stations as possible during a prescribed period. Contesting can be very competitive. It’s not about the competition for me, although I do like to be successful. Instead, it’s about the challenge of setting up a capable station, putting it on the road, and then activating numerous maidenhead grid squares. Stations that activate more than one grid square are known as “rovers.” I’m still building my rover station, which is said to be quite effective as it sits today. But I’ll make it better! Read more on my dedicated “rover page.”
I’ve started showing at VW shows again. I cannot say that I’m dedicated to going to them all, but I attended three in 2022 that were new to me. My communications exhibit proved to be more popular than I expected. I continually add to my display, which needs to be updated as I change the car. Eurofest in Maggie Valley, NC was my largest event this year. I drove the Tail of the Dragon (photo above) and also activated three parks during the trip. Read about that trip here. Oddly enough, my setup may be even more grand in 2023!
I’ve had a few small problems in 2022. I experienced my second blower motor failure during the summer. Thankfully, it didn’t completely fail. Instead, it gave me some warning signs and enough time to order a replacement. Swapping the parts took about 15 minutes. I shared my first replacement here. The second swap was nearly the same, only quite a bit faster. I also met my second starter battery failure. I had abused the AGM battery during its three and a half years in the car. I wasn’t stranded, but I could tell it was time for a new battery after a few S-L-O-W morning starts. Much to my surprise, Batteries+ gave me a free replacement under warranty after confirming that the AGM had failed. I hope to see this one last much longer now that the LiFePo4 battery has the electronics load. I shared a video about the exchange here.
While not a “problem,” the time did come for me to replace my original brakes at around 145,000 miles. I didn’t upgrade anything. The GTI’s Performance Package brakes are already more than I need. So, I just replaced the pads and rotors with OEM replacements. It’s getting close to time to refresh the suspension. I hear creaking over uneven intersections as well as when turning the steering wheel. Both sounds are indications that I need to replace my strut mounts. The struts do not appear to be leaking and their ride quality is good, especially considering how much weight the car has gained over the past few years. I have not decided whether I will replace just the mounts, the struts and mounts, or even more. If I replace the struts, I haven’t decided whether I will stay with stock units or some sort of Bilstein setup. The car’s ride is still good and the alignment has been PERFECT over the years. So, I hate to change a good thing!
Finally, I replaced my tires since my last milestone. I liked the Michelin Pilot Sport AS3 all-season high performance tires that I had used. However, they’ve been discontinued in favor of an improved tire, Michelin’s Pilot Sport All Season Fours. They cost about the same, grip better, run quieter, and seem to be wearing very well. They have 30,000 miles on them and still have lots of tread left. I’ve been tempted over the years to return to a summer-only performance tire. Realistically, all-season high performance tires are a better fit to my usual driving habits.
I mentioned that I got a bit nutty with my ham radio setup. Oh, did you think that I had already shown you the nutty part? I started participating in various single-sideband communications nets, which compelled me to leave the horizontal antenna module mounted more frequently. Even if I opt to mount the module only part-time, I still leave my roof rack mounted full-time. I wasn’t able to completely restore the paint that was marred by the roof rack during our coast-to-coast trip in 2020. So, I figured I’d just cover the marring with the rack itself. HAHA! The rack offers so much room for mounting antennas that I decided to add a few. There are NINE antennas shown in this photo. I’ll cover their capabilities later. I’m also transforming the electronics area of my trunk. I’ll share a new overview when it’s done.
So, what’s next? How about 200,000 miles in 2023?