7 Years and 200,000 Miles

I’ve done it, two milestones within 30 days of one another: My GTI’s 7th birthday and over 200,000 miles of driving it! When I bought the car on Veteran’s Day 2016, my driving schedule suggested that I might reach 200,000 miles by the end of 2022. I drove far less from 2020 to 2022 (I wonder why?), even with back-to-back drives to California. I didn’t think I’d reach 200k until 2024. But a few road trips in 2023 to various ham radio conventions for exhibitions, as well as trips to St. Louis and Nashville to support bicycle tours, put me past the milestone earlier than expected.

I know a lot of you are cringing at the thought of anyone putting so many miles on a GTI! In fact, many of you have asked over the years, “WHERE are you driving your car?” or “Why don’t you put those miles on something else?” I’ve made my GTI into my “Everything Car.” I use it for commuting, road trips, errands, towing light loads, and recreation, including my ham radio endeavors. Yes, driving is recreation to me! I prefer to do it all with just one car instead of having different cars sitting in my driveway for various needs. Maintenance and fuel for one car may or may not be cheaper than having three cars; but there’s no doubt that I’m saving on insurance premiums and property taxes!

To be clear, I do have two cars in my household. One is my 2017 GTI, which I use for nearly everything. The other is my wife’s 2018 Jetta SE with 50,000 miles, which is used almost exclusively by HER. I say “almost” because sometimes we drive it to places where she wants to drive. She hates my car, feeling that it’s too loud and “rides like a jackhammer.” Those of you who’ve seen my exhaust videos or have ridden in a GTI with stock suspension are probably laughing at that thought since my GTI is far more tame than most modified cars. Still, it’s how she feels. Oddly enough, our daughter’s 2015 IS20 Golf, shown in this photo, is lowered on coilovers and has no muffler. My wife doesn’t seem to mind driving it. Somehow, MY CAR is the problem. HAHA!

Alright – Let’s talk about my car and what’s been replaced over the years. The car is modified, despite what its stock appearance may suggest. I had it programmed with APR Stage 1 at 17,000 miles. I upgraded the stock clutch with an RSR kit by HS Tuning at 35,000 miles due to some slipping and to prepare for a Stage 2 upgrade. I added APR’s Stage 2 upgrade (DP and IC) at around 45,000 miles, then upgraded the turbo with a Golf R’s IS38 at 128,000 miles. Eventually, the RSR clutch started to slip slightly under certain conditions. I couldn’t replicate the situations, but I also didn’t want to! My usual driving style helped the clutch last 165,000 miles, albeit with slight slipping from time to time. I just finished breaking-in a Stage 2 Endurance by South Bend Clutch. Other mods include a complex suite of communications equipment and a Yakima roof rack to support some of it. This photo was taken in September during what is now a rare time without its roof rack mounted. The paint is ceramic coated and protected with paint protective film, though I must admit that the paint under the roof rack’s contact points is marred. OH – I also removed the rear seat in order to support some electronics projects and a refrigerator/freezer. 😀

So, what has failed in 200,000 miles of driving? Most of my problems happened years ago and have already been covered throughout my website and YouTube channel. In short, I’ve replaced two starter batteries, two ventilator blowers, the injectors (even though only one had failed), water pump/thermostat/housing, and have had two intake carbon cleanings, the second being around the 194,000-mile mark. I replaced the brakes at 135,000 miles. I’ve also replaced the driver’s door seal and seat bolster from me rubbing my rump on those surfaces as I entered the car (stiff hips). Of course, I replace the tires every 40,000-50,000 miles, depending on how long each set lasts, as well as maintenance items such as fluids, filters, spark plugs, etc. I’ve stayed with VW’s recommended 10,000-mile oil change interval. Yeah, warm-up your keyboard to blast me about that one! HAHA! I’ve sent an oil sample to Blackstone Labs for analysis and have shared their report in the album below.

Nearly everything else on the car is original, including the underpinnings/mounts, suspension, and the factory wheel alignment. There may be an item replaced that I have forgotten to report (oh, the windshield). But I cannot think of anything major. The timing chain and tensioner appear to be in good condition; camshaft adaptation is at just -1.8°, which is well below the limit of a tensioner that needs attention. The engine makes no unusual noises, has no stored codes, consumes less than one liter of oil every 10,000 miles, and drives fantastically! In fact, I recently returned from a 1500-mile road trip, including a stop at the VW plant in Chattanooga and runs on Tail of the Dragon (photos below).

How many keyboard warriors are queuing-up comments about how the car never should have made it this far, has had too many parts fail, or DEFINITELY is ready to be junked at this point? HAHA! I caught a LOT of heat on my 3-year/93k video in 2019. So many shared that the car was done for. It was laughable. That “heat” got my YouTube channel noticed and started its slow climb to where it sits now with nearly 10,000 subscribers. Still, I have to admit that my car has entered an uncertainly period, as would any car with over 200,000 miles. I ask myself, “Will the car break down on its next road trip?” “Is it time for expensive parts to fail?” “Is it time to have another car, perhaps as a back-up?”

I drove my Mk3 almost every day for 17 years and 445,000 miles, all on 10,000-mile oil drains! The car left me stranded just two times (broken axle and an alternator); its retirement was due to rust in structural areas, which was a common problem on east coast Jettas from that era. The three cars that I had kept beyond the 10-year mark showed me that AGE affects the car more than mileage. I’m hopeful that my GTI will continue to be reliable at least to the 10-year mark, at which point I might not be far from 300,000 miles! Then I will ask again, “Is it time to…?” Well, you get the idea! Until then, I’ll travel with extra fluids, minor tools, a few small parts, and just let ‘er rip!

Have Some Cake!


About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard for over 30 years. I have an electronics background and continue to work in the electronics engineering field. I taught myself the basics about automotive systems as well as how to perform some of my own maintenance (cars and bicycles). I became involved with Amateur Radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology has made my job and several of my hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography, electronics, amateur radio, web management, and reptiles. Visit my websites to learn more.
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4 Responses to 7 Years and 200,000 Miles

  1. Chris says:

    First, really enjoy your blog! Thank you for all the information you share about maintenance, mods and just being a fellow GTI enthusiast. I have a 2017 GTI Sport and have done some of the same mods (Helix sub, 8” AV infotainment center, APR stage 1 87 tune). I’ve followed your lead, and have been extremely pleased with the results. I know you’ve mentioned the dreaded seat bolster wear issue before. I live near the DC metropolitan area, and a VW dealer in PA quoted about $1200 (sale only) for the factory lower and high back driver’s seat covers. They do not want to do the install (citing liability concerns regarding the seat’s side airbags). A separate independent upholster will replace the seat covers for $300 (total $1500 for this repair). I would be curious to know what you did to fix your seat bolster and if you have any recommendations. Thanks, Chris

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for your comments! Never go to the dealer for work. YIKES! I went to an upholstery shop. These are the guys who restore old cars, make seats for boats, and even fix blown bolsters for old guys who need to learn how to get into their car that rides too low. HAHA! He basically removed the cloth from the seat back, ripped the stitches from the bolster only, and then replaced only that section of fabric. It’s a perfect match with the exception of being a new spot on the seat (which blends now). I’ve uploaded a photo that compares the before and after. See it at https://stealthgti.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Before-n-After.jpg. I think the job cost about $300. If you cannot find a place up there, you could practically come down here (Lee’s Upholstery in Newport News, VA) and save a ton of money. BTW, only my seat back needed work; they lower bolster was fine. Good Luck!

      • Chris says:

        I will be making a roadtrip to Newport News! That’s exactly the repair I was looking for. Thanks for the tip! I have some wear on the lower inside section on the bottom panel too, but nothing compared to my bolster, which is worn through in the exact same area as yours. I’d be happy to just have the patch on the bolster. They did a great job for you and the price was more than fair compared to up here. I need to lose some lbs after the holidays or figure out a new way to enter the car. Although I met a skinny guy with a GTI (2019) and he had the same issue on his bolster…so, newer model and skinny guy didn’t make a difference….you need to decide now whether to keep yours to 300k or get a new one (since 2024 is last year for the manual). Personally, I’m not a fan of the haptic controls and no knobs on the MK8 so I’m running mine till the wheels fall off! Have a happy Thanksgiving!

      • Scott says:

        That’s excellent! I’m about 225-lbs. But I also met a tall, slender owner whose bolster was in terrible shape. I’ve found that my hip rub a bit less if I steer my rub more inward before I commit to sitting. It’s just a slight swing of the hip and seems to make a difference. OH, I WILL be keeping my car for as long as I can. New car prices are staggering, even good used ones. If I jump ship, I’m either getting another Mk7 with lower miles or I’m leaving VW. I dislike the haptic control so much that I won’t buy a car that has them. Send me an e-mail via my contact page when you’re ready to come down. I’d be happy to meet you.

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