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 15,000 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 8/30/2018] I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my VW’s over the years. One reason for my website is as a way to say “read this” so that I don’t have retype the same answers to the same questions regularly. 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 often answer a question and include a link to my site for more reading and details. I’ve backed off this practice because I joined the Amazon Affiliate program in February 2018. This is my full disclosure about what visiting my website does for my wallet… (TLDR: visiting and reading does nothing, but…) 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