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
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
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
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
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
It’s been a few years since the last time my family of three piled into a car for a road trip. As much as I appreciate the higher fuel economy and spaciousness of my wife’s Mk6 Jetta TDI, I’m simply too spoiled by the comforts of my GTI to not drive it instead. I prefer to travel with the car’s interior nearly empty. In keeping with that practice, the GTI is perfect for two-person travel. Packing for three, as well as Thanksgiving food, I knew I’d want to load our Yakima Showcase 15. Our luggage went in the Showcase while our food and other necessities rode in the trunk. Continue reading
As I was writing about my clutch upgrade, I realized that the car was almost one year old. I put my name on this car on Veteran’s Day 2016 and drove it home the following day. So it became one year old over the past weekend. Don’t confuse sentiment with fact by noting that the car was manufactured in July 2016. Oops! I just did that! 😉 I’ll stick with Veteran’s Day as the anniversary since it’s easy to remember. I’ll also stick to my apparent 10,000-mile interval for reporting progress or problems. So this will just be a brief “birthday entry.” However, I will report that the odometer rolled past 34,000 miles on the car’s birthday.
It’s easy to think that my decision to buy a cupcake and pose it with a candle on a VW hubcap may border on freakish. First, I like cupcakes. Second, a true VW freak would have lit the candle! Okay, I didn’t light it because I was too lazy to find a lighter. HAHA! 😉
♫ “Happy Birthday to You…” (No, I didn’t sing to my car!)
I knew I was testing the limits of my stock clutch when I added 81 hp and 111 lb-ft with APR Stage 1. The car drove great and the clutch held the extra power for over 16,000 miles (for a total of 34,000 miles). However, turbocharged cars LOVE cooler temperatures due to an improved ability to make horsepower and avoid heat soak. So it was little surprise when my clutch began to slip as temperatures dropped in October. I probably could have put off a clutch upgrade, but driving the original clutch on our upcoming road trip over the mountains was out of the question, especially since I may take the trailer. I had planned to buy a Southbend Stage 2 Endurance clutch, but then I changed my mind… Continue reading
Many have scorned the large rear headrests in modern cars. Sure, they’re there for improved neck protection for rear seat occupants in the event of a rear-end collision (their function is as a “head restraint” rather than “head rest”). But they also reduce rearward visibility. My primary reason for disliking the larger headrests is because they interfere with quick folding of the rear seatback. I routinely carry a bicycle in the trunk and prefer that the seats lay down without restriction. I noticed a very light wear mark on the back of the front passenger seat that was caused by the rear headrest rubbing as I folded the seat down (even after adjusting the front seat first). As a result, I wanted shorter headrests so I could lay the seats down without having to adjust the front seats or remove the rear headrests. Continue reading
This isn’t exactly a “GTI entry.” However, my “baby trailer” spends enough time behind my GTI that it’s almost a part of the car. Since the trailer is two years old and has a fair chance of joining us on an upcoming 1800-mile road trip, I figured it was prudent to repack the hubs so that we don’t learn any tough lessons on the road. One hub was feeling a little sloppy, so I decided I’d replace the bearings instead of simply repacking them. Then I discovered “XTP Ultra Pack” hubs at Northern Tool. My project evolved from repacking bearings, to replacing bearings, to replacing hubs in just a few mouse clicks. Continue reading
As I routinely accessed the spare tire area to make small improvements to my electronics package, I learned that the spare tire could not be removed unless I emptied the entire trunk, to include removing the floor panel, due to the way the trunk’s rear trim piece was made. This photo shows the factory trim piece with a straight edge, presumably for a cleaner look. However, this clean look blocks part of the tire and requires that it be shifted forward before being lifted up and rearward for removal. This is fairly inconvenient, even when the car is unloaded and driving locally. Imagine having to unpack the trunk during a road trip or on a rainy day. Now imagine having to remove a 68-lb electronics panel anywhere but home with a proper stand to protect the subwoofer (see this photo). Regardless, I’ll never remove that panel in the rain! I needed to improve my access to the spare tire. Continue reading
Believe it or not, I didn’t expect to be the blogger who’d write about his GTI every week. But purchases and events continue to give me something to say. 😉 This time, it’s tire repairs. Back when I built a subwoofer box for my Mk6, I opted to remove the spare tire and carry a plug kit and air pump in its place. People thought I was crazy, but I hadn’t needed any of the 30 tire plugs from the kit… until I got the GTI, that is. My first three punctures happened close to home. The tire pressure monitoring system definitely works! The kit sat in my garage for home repairs. However, my most recent puncture happened 50 miles away… and I could tell that it was a faster leak than the others. I found an auto parts store, bought a compact air pump, over-inflated the tire, and made it home for repair. I decided I wanted to make room to carry the repair kit in the car full-time, especially since we have upcoming holiday travel plans. Continue reading
I liked the WeatherTech floor liners I had in my Mk6 Jetta. So getting a set for my GTI last year was a no-brainer. My only gripes about them was their unwillingness to come clean and the lack of traction when wearing dress shoes. My feet just sort of slid around until the liners got a little dirty. Later, I concluded that the dead pedal could use more coverage because a lot of debris slipped behind the liner there. I tripped over a photo of molded waterproof liners by Findway Canada, Inc. Their pricing was too good to not at least try them out. The liners feature a carpeted texture that matches the factory carpet fairly well. The reinforced heel sections look a bit awkward since I’m used to seeing either all carpet or all plastic. But the design is bound to stand the test of time. This video shows how easy they are to clean. Continue reading
[Updated on 2/13/2019] I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my VW’s over the years. My website serves as a way to say “read this” so that I don’t have answer the same questions every day. This includes in discussion forums, where someone might ask a question such as “Which cargo liner do you recommend?” or “How do you install a hitch?” I usually answer these questions and include a link to my site for more reading and details. I share fewer links these days because I joined the Amazon Affiliate program in February 2018. This is my full disclosure about what visiting my website does for my wallet. Continue reading
The past 10,000 miles have flown by quickly, taking only three months! It’s hard to believe that I’m at this milestone before the car is even a year old. That should put me around the 35,000-mile mark by the car’s first birthday, which happens to be on Veteran’s Day. New accessories include a Canvasback Cargo Liner and a Rhino Rack for my Yakima ShowCase cargo box. The car’s existence is still mostly as a quiet commuter car, but I have done a bit of towing recently and even entered a VW car show. This car is doing it all!
Adding a roof rack, cargo box, and other attachments has an effect on aerodynamics, noise and fuel economy (oh my!). I’m an analytical type who wants to know “how much noise” and “how much fuel economy” each option affects. So, I did some testing! The noise test was first since it is easy and fast to do. I don’t have a wind tunnel or high-tech measuring equipment. However, I am scientific-minded and knew to keep my testing environment consistent. With that in mind, here is the stage I set for my noise testing: Continue reading
My Rhino Rack Vortex 2500 RS is a very quiet rack. Still, I had to know if it could be even quieter with a fairing, particularly with my ShowCase cargo box mounted. My only concern was whether the fairing’s mounting hardware would interfere with the proper seating of the ShowCase. I also wondered if the fairing’s “landing pads” along its leading edge would mar the paint. Unfortunately, the fairing produced more noise than just a naked rack. Even worse, at least one of the fairing’s landing pads vibrated against the paint as speeds exceeded 75 mph. I don’t drive that fast very often, but there still was no way I was going to risk paint damage from a fairing that does nothing to reduce noise. Therefore, I didn’t even bother to test it with the ShowCase. Continue reading
It had been ten years since the last time I attended a Volkswagen car show. The TDIFests in 2009 and 2011 are noteworthy exceptions, but they cater only to the TDI crowd. “BugOut” is for all Volkswagens and has a long history that likely started when only classic, air-cooled Volkswagens were featured. BugOut may have been among the first of VW shows to unify the air-cooled and water-cooled scenes. Somehow, attending VW shows became stale for me after years of regular attendance. I was autocrossing or bicycling most weekends, so I had plenty to occupy my time. Still, I’ve had an urge to go back. BugOut is relatively close to home, so it’s an obvious choice for me to attend. Continue reading
I used a Yakima roof rack on my then-new 1988 Nissan Sentra for about 10 years. My 1992 VW Golf saw time with the same rack. There was no denying the marring to the paint over the years from long-term use. I opted against a roof rack when I bought my Mk3 Jetta in 1998. I moved to a hitch-mounted cargo tray and have stayed that course ever since. I still prefer to use my hitch carrier when I transport two bicycles. I put everything inside when I bike alone. I prefer to keep all cargo out of the passenger compartment when I travel (seats down with a bicycle inside being the exception). Family trips drove a need for external cargo capacity. I’ve already shared my choice of cargo box. Here’s how I carry it: Continue reading
I’ve been on many road trips over the years. I’ve come to dislike having baggage or cargo in the passenger compartment. With my Jettas, anything that didn’t fit in the trunk usually found its way into a 10 cubic-foot cargo bag on the hitch-mounted cargo carrier. When I first used the same carrier and bag on my GTI, I noticed that the license plate is completely obscured by the load, which is asking for “unwanted interviews” on long trips. The Golf/GTI’s license plate mounts below the rear bumper, making it impossible to see with a load in place. Sure, I could move my plate to the cargo tray, but I’d rather not mess with changing things around on trips or additional lighting. I decided it was time to try a cargo box. Continue reading
I’ve been very happy with the VW “Car Go” Heavy Duty Trunk Liner accessory that came with my car. I’m confident that it would contain most spills due to its raised lip. However, there was one area of the trunk that I wanted to make sure was protected when I lay my bicycle inside. The chain or chainring rests very close to the side of the trunk. It wouldn’t take much for the bike to shift and stain the fabric during a turn. I also get plenty of debris on the seat backs when I carry cargo with the seats folded flat. I learned about Canvasback cargo liners in an online discussion about cargo area protection at TDIClub.com. One of the posters shared his support of Canvasback products, so I gave them a look and decided to make a purchase. Continue reading
When I first created this blog, I started with a banner that I created with an image from Volkswagen’s website. I was able to use images of my own once I acquired my GTI. Later, I wanted the banners to reflect the content of each blog entry. Over time, I have created many banners which display above the various pages on my site. The “Blog” page randomizes a selection of banners while other pages show specific banners. I collected all the banners in a single image to share with you here. Click the image for a full-sized look at all the banners.
If you found this article by clicking the “Kill Stories” category, you’re going to find this “kill” a little unorthodox. I recently did a major cleaning of excess material from my home. Some items were headed to the used book store, others to the DAV Thrift Store, and the rest was off to the city dump. This is when having my “baby trailer” is awesome. Once I had loaded a good bit of junk for a run to the dump, I figured I’d toss one more light item on top. I chose a loose lawnmower catch bag that had sat on the patio for a while. I kept an eye for snakes and spiders as I picked it up. All went well as I walked it to the trailer and tossed it on top. As I began to tuck an empty gas can into the back, I found myself surrounded by several dozen wasps! Apparently, there was a nest in the bag and they were quite irritated by my unceremonious tossing of their home. Continue reading
It’s been just three weeks since replacing the windshield and I already find myself needing more glass. This time, it’s the passenger side rear door window. I noticed the shattered glass after cutting my lawn, so I’m certain that I kicked-up a small rock with the lawnmower. I’ve been in my current home for 14 years and have never had this happen. I hope the odds of it happening again are slim. Still, breaking another window so soon after the windshield stung just a little more than if it had happened much later. I managed to support the glass by reinforcing it with Gorilla Tape on both sides of the window. I wasn’t sure how long it would hold, so I parked the car until I could get a local shop to do the repair. The incident happened over the weekend and glass shops didn’t open until Monday at 8am. Continue reading
Seven months of GTI ownership has passed; I’m now at 20,000 miles. If you’ve read my other blog entries, then you know that I’ve been fairly busy with some modifications. Unlike many VW enthusiasts, I haven’t gone wild with performance mods such as intake, exhaust, a turbo swap, coilovers, or other popular improvements. Instead, my mods have leaned more along utilitarian lines. My efforts include a 3M clear bra, stereo upgrades, a ham radio, a trailer hitch, and (best of all) APR Stage 1. Continue reading
I’ve had plenty of rocks bounce off my windshield without apparent damage over the past several months. Two days ago, I had something hit my windshield that was barely perceivable. About ten minutes later, I heard a strange noise that turned out to be the glass cracking. The crack was about six inches long at 8am and had spread to the center of the glass by lunchtime. It looked like it was going to turn back upward and make a “U” shape that touched the edge of the glass at two points. By 7pm, it had turned downward and was headed toward the driver’s line of sight. As the crack spread, I did some quick research at VWVortex regarding replacement options and asked members of a local Facebook group who they trusted with the work. From there, a plan for replacement quickly came together. Continue reading
The first generation TDI was one of the first cars in VW’s North American line-up to be able to make substantial gains from what was then known as “chip tuning.” The chip was physically removed from the ECU and replaced with another which contained more powerful programming. Gains of 25 hp and 50 lb-ft were typical for TDIs (much less for normally-aspirated engines). Later, the 1.8T was able to gain ~35 hp and 70 lb-ft. The subsequent 2.0T gained ~45 hp and 94 lb-ft. These are increases in peak numbers; gains in the middle of the power band could be even greater. Incidentally, all of these ever-increasing gains were being had by engines that were more powerful than their predecessors. This brings me to the Mk7 GTI, the chassis for VW’s most potent North American four-cylinder engine (as of this writing and aside from the Golf R). It starts with a reportedly under-rated 220 hp and 258 lb-ft. Dynamometer testing by tuners and enthusiasts indicates that the actual output is closer to 235 hp and 270 lb-ft, figures which rival that of tuned engines of earlier generations and already beats my bought-back Stage 2 Jetta TDI. A tune alone transforms the GTI into a different car! APR was having a sale and I found a hole in my work schedule that allowed me to visit a tuner during the week. I decided to take the plunge… Continue reading
I finally managed to get my GTI on a road trip after 12,000 miles of mostly commuter miles. The Tail of the Dragon is often said to be the trip every driving enthusiast must make. I’ve driven the Dragon three other times in other cars, twice with my daughter. This was my first time driving it in a car that’s made for the curves right out of the box. I had planned to make the journey on the first weekend of spring. Adverse weather in March deferred the drive until the first weekend in April. My daughter and I left Newport News, Virginia for Maryville, Tennessee on March 31st, just as her school was closing for its spring break. It was raining in both locations, but expected to clear for a great weekend! Continue reading
I just wanted to post a quick note to announce two new pages in which I detail my EcoHitch and Carry-On trailer. I don’t think subscribers are informed when I add new pages (unlike posts such as this one). Feel free to have a look.
Ready to Transport,
One of the symptoms of having the “mod bug” is the pursuit of continual improvements to projects. When I first built my subwoofer upgrade, I had accidentally purchased a subwoofer with 2-ohm voicecoils instead of 4-ohm voicecoils. My P300X1 amplifer maximizes its output power with a 2-ohm load. My 4-ohm system sounded good, but I still had to know if a 2-ohm subwoofer would sound better. IT DID. However, the system had some problems. An over-abundance of bass in the 50-70 Hz range was particularly nagging. But I had a solution in mind… Continue reading
It’s hard to believe I’ve already accumulated 10,000 miles, all in just four months! My commute is 53 miles each way, so I’m quickly racking up the miles. That’s okay; I buy my cars to be DRIVEN! If you’ve read my “First 1000 Miles” entries (Part 1 and Part 2), then you already know that I’m very pleased with the car. Here are my thoughts after a few more months of driving:
I can’t speak for what other auto brand enthusiasts are doing to “hack” their cars, but Volkswagen and Audi owners have some fantastic options. An enthusiast named Ewe Ross (Ross-Tech) backwards-engineered a VW/Audi dealer diagnostic scan tool into something for enthusiasts. I was one of his beta testers in 1999 and have one of his more capable tools today. You may be wondering, “Why not just buy a generic scan tool?” VW/Audi has used a proprietary diagnostic protocol that provides more information and scans FAR more modules than just the emissions-related items that were mandated by OBD2 in 1996. In fact, VW had the FIRST on-board computer system with scanning capability way back in 1968! VW/Audi complied with the federal requirement to have OBD2-compatible codes by 1996, but they also kept their more-thorough diagnostics system (and continually improve it). Ross-Tech was the first to bring it to the people who prefer to avoid being fleeced by their VW/Audi dealers. When I first bought VCDS, I was only interested in reading and clearing diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) without having to drive 50 miles to my nearest VW dealer. Today, VCDS and other tools bring far more capability, thanks to the marvels of modern automotive technology. Continue reading
I prefer to avoid using my phone’s USB port by charging my phone wirelessly. I had seen accelerated wear, even failure, of the USB port on previous phones. So I knew I wanted to use wireless charging in the car to reduce wear and tear. I found a Qi charger I liked and then GOOP’d it to a ProClip mount that’s designed for the Mk7. I’d share more about my Qi charger, but it’s no longer available. I don’t like unsightly power cord runs, so I routed my cord through the AC duct and behind the dash, plugging it into the 12V outlet that’s inside my arm rest. I had to disassemble the center console to pull it off, but I’m pleased with the outcome. It’s only drawback is that it doesn’t deliver enough current to keep up with charging demands when the phone is using high-current apps such as GPS, mapping, or navigation. Still, the rate of discharge is reduced and battery life is prolonged beyond having no charger at all. I’ve shared photos in an album below.
I had been pleased with Volkswagen’s MIB II base stereo. It’s no powerhouse, but it has cool features and adequate sound output. To add deeper bass, I would have been satisfied with simply tapping into the rear speaker wires to feed an amplifier and a subwoofer. But Volkswagen decided to discontinue an older version of its Helix subwoofer accessory, VW P/N: 000-051-419 (replacement is VW P/N: 000-051-419B), meaning they slashed its price by over 50% to quietly clear their inventory. What was once an “is it really worth $660?” item was suddenly a very affordable $300. I managed to get the kit shipped to my door for $235 after some discount shopping and a manufacturer’s rebate. The wiring harness and digital signal processor alone are worth more than that! Watch this video for a introduction to Helix, then return to read my installation tips below. Continue reading
I recently experienced my first dead battery in a very long time. This was a big surprise in a car with only 4500 miles on the odometer. But there was a cause that turned out to be my fault. Let me set the stage for this comedy of errors: Continue reading
I love WeatherTech floor mats! They’re molded to fit the exact contours of the floor and protect more than standard floor mats or even the factory “Monster Mats.” They’re wonderful for containing slush and snow, which inevitably wind up in the floor each winter. They were a fantastic Christmas gift! I was a little concerned that water might leak past the retention buttons on each mat. However, the mats proved water tight after some snow had melted and I had to leave water standing in them for a few days. That makes them awesome in my book! My only gripe is that they’re not very “grippy.” Their grip-vs-slip feels okay in multipurpose shoes, but I must clean the mats only with soap and water to keep them from being slippery to my dress shoes. See more photos below.
Bring the Rain!
I treated each of my Mk6 Jettas to 3M clear bras within 24 hours of purchase. The hood on my Mk3 was chipped-up pretty bad after 10 years, so I hoped to protect my newer cars since I planned to keep them for a long time. Little did I know that Dieselgate would change that! HAHA! Anyway, the 3M clear bra is expensive, but I knew it was worth it after the first time I saw a rock fly over the center median and strike my hood without damaging it. I inspected the hood after 50,000 miles and found several tiny gouges in the material, but none of the damage went through to the paint. I knew I wanted the same for my GTI! Continue reading
I wasn’t quite ready to discuss performance impressions when I wrote Part 1. I’m ready now, even though I STILL haven’t completely unleashed the GTI’s power. I had been driving with a party-pooper diesel redline of 4600 rpm for the past 18 years. As a result, I still instinctively shift before 3000 rpm, 4000 if I’m being brisk. Even driving in such a limiting way, this little car still feels stronger than my tuned Stage 2 Mk6 Jetta TDI! My TDI tuner stated that a “CR140 Stage 2” outputs over 300 lb-ft, even with a legal exhaust system. However, it’s mostly gone early in the rev range, usually within a few seconds of stomping the accelerator. According to Volkswagen, the GTI’s max torque hits at just 1500 rpm and holds on until nearly 5000. As a result, I don’t feel like I’ve lost any torque around town. What was felt as a nice initial thrust in my TDI has proven to be a “hold on, I’m not done yet” experience in the GTI. Continue reading
I took just 10 days to blast through the first 1000 miles. I had a goal to follow the break-in schedule as detailed in the owner’s manual, but to do it quickly. My first impressions were not performance-oriented due to the easy driving. Instead, they were about the ride and build quality. I really liked my Mk6 Jetta. It was light-years ahead of my Mk3 Jetta. Sure, my Mk3 was faster, more nimble, and more fuel-efficient; but the Mk6 had comfort and refinement like I had not had before. Everything I had read about the Mk7 GTI told me that it has even more refinement and far better performance. Notice that I didn’t write “comfort?” Comfort is very subjective. Still, it was the first impression the car gave me. Continue reading
I’m a fan of splash guards, aka “mud flaps,” on my cars. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss them until I left them off my Mk6. Sure enough, I found myself needing to clean tar and grime off the rocker panels and rear bumper skin on a regular basis. As a result, I knew I wanted splash guards on my GTI. I had hoped to negotiate a deal on some during the purchase. But I guess I got my car at or near the dealer’s bottom line; there was no slipping them into the deal without paying their mark-up. No thanks! I knew I could order a set for less and install them myself. Continue reading