Pros and Cons of Various Cargo Transport Methods

As I wrote about my hitch-mounted cargo carrier, why I bought it, and why I stopped using it, I felt compelled to create lists of the pros and cons of each cargo transport method that I have at my disposal. Each has its merits, drawbacks, and levels of planning required before use. Oddly enough, my “baby trailer” is the most convenient go-to option if my ball mount is already installed. Here is my list of  pros and cons between my three cargo carrying options, hitch-mounted cargo carrier, rooftop cargo box, and a small utility trailer. I’ve included price examples using the least expensive options available online as well as what I paid for my own selections. Keep in mind that these prices are for the cheapest combinations available, but don’t include tiny trailers from discount stores due to their dismal 45-mph speed rating. I suspect most will prefer more sturdy options, which are more expensive. I’ve also created a lengthy YouTube video, which I eventually broke into smaller segments linked below: Continue reading

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Pro Series 20×48″ Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carrier

As I make updates to streamline some of my web pages and menus, I found myself with orphaned information about my hitch-mounted cargo carrier. I used it a lot on earlier cars, but not so much with my GTI. I still have the carrier, but I don’t use it as much now that I have the rooftop cargo box and trailers as other options. How did I use my hitch carrier? Why did I stop using it? What do I use instead? Continue reading for my answers and to learn some pros and cons about hitch-mounted cargo carriers. Continue reading

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Cabin Blower Motor Replacement

I’ve enjoyed my GTI. Mechanically, it has been problem free, mile after mile. Sure, there have been a few minor issues that were no fault of the car itself. Other than those minor issues, the car has been perfect… until now. My interior blower motor (ventilation) started making some sickly noises around the 70,000-mile mark. It was disappointing on a car that was just over two years old, especially knowing that the blower motor on my Mk3 lasted nearly 14 years and over 375,000 miles. My Mk7’s fan speed began to fluctuate until it eventually became unreliable, working only from time to time. With January’s “Polar Vortex” heading our way, I knew I wanted that fan working and blowing heat for my early morning commutes. When I shopped for the new blower, I was very pleased to discover that it is removed and installed without tools. Continue reading

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Stuck in the Mud; Saved by the “More Power Puller”

Have you ever wanted to take to the mud with your summer performance tires and see what your Mk7 can do? Yeah, neither have I.    But it still happened. I’ve made a few references to my yard projects in earlier posts. One of those projects was the widening of the slab outside my rear garage door. I bought ten extra bags of Sakrete to make sure I didn’t run out during the job; but somehow I still wound up with 22 bags left over. With a week of bad weather on its way, I decided to move the leftover bags into my cargo trailer to keep them dry until I could decide whether to return them or use them on another project. The scene was set… Continue reading

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Yakima Showcase 15 Wrap-Up (Pun Intended, Leaks Resolved)

If you’ve read my Long-Term Review of the Showcase 15, then you know that I was extremely disappointed to discover that many of its rivets leak during even light rainfall, causing the bottom of the box to pool with water. Imagine my surprise to learn that the rivets are also made of plastic and have no sealing precautions whatsoever. That’s unacceptable in a $700 box! Sure, Yakima has its lifetime “We’ve Got Your Back Guarantee,” which includes free repair or possible replacement for the life of a cargo box. However, the customer is responsible for shipping to their facility in Washington State. That would cost me around $150 in freight charges for an item this large. And what if the “repair” is just more of the same leaky rivets? No thanks! Instead, I committed to finding a way to fix it on my own. Continue reading

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Getting Stoned With My GTI!

I’ve been working on a drainage project behind my house. My back yard slopes toward my house, which means that rainwater from the two homes uphill from me collects against my back door and eventually culminates into a river through the garage. Replacing what was likely a 30-60 year old wooden door was a great start. But I needed to divert water from the back of the house. Gravel-encapsulated drains, aka “French drains,” are a popular way to carry out that feat. My aggressive project required thousands of pounds of #57 stone. So I put my GTI and baby trailer to work. Continue reading

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Two Years Old Plus Turbo Weather!

Yes, it’s photoshopped from last year…  🙂

Time flies when I’m having fun! Veteran’s Day marked the second anniversary of my GTI purchase. It also happens to fall at the onset of “Turbo Weather.” Temperatures are in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, so my intake temperatures are ideal for making power. The car has been running great. Power is good, my alignment and ride comfort is good, and I haven’t had any problems. I’m on the verge of taking the car for its second annual inspection. The car has 66,000 miles, so I’ll check the brakes and suspension ahead of time just to make sure that the inspector doesn’t pull a fast one on me. Other than that, I’m sure everything is fine.   Continue reading

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Overheating Equipment in the Trunk?

My last few entries have been about changes to my stereo and ham radio projects. I’ll finish the series by answering a frequently asked question: “Doesn’t your equipment get hot or risk overheating under the trunk floor?” I considered that possibility after feeling a hot Helix amplifier and had even designed a forced ventilation system to help mitigate any unseen problems. I had some fans on hand, but decided to wait for the car’s first warm weather to watch the assess the setup. The summer of 2017 came and went without a single problem. Sure, the amplifiers felt warm, one was even hot, but how bad was it? I added a remote temperature sensor to the trunk in 2018 to make a better analysis. The results were surprising… Continue reading

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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 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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