Friday, September 16, 2011

No Rest for the Wicked

I had a wonderful mini vacation this week at Harbin Hot Springs. The two hour drive up was the kind of back roads the GTI loves to soak up, especially the many miles of twisties through the hills. The tires are still new, which is probably why I couldn't make them complain doing twice the recommended limit on corners. Yes, it's supposed to be a relaxing trip, but people get their kicks in different ways.

This was the trip where I finally got comfortable with the Pioneer stereo/nav combo and getting the most from it reliably. Part of that enjoyment is the money I've spend in the past few months on iTunes music. For the most part, my musical tastes end somewhere in the mid-90's, with a few exceptions.

I came back a day early, hoping to have some extra time to try out the new Zaino polish on the car. Yes, you can only admire beautiful naked people for so long before it becomes a bit boring. Of course there were other things to do, like read Pathfinder modules on the sun deck and soak in hot tubs, and get massages, and be surrounded by nature, and ... wait, why am I home again?

The new ZFX accelerator makes the Zaino process no more difficult than wax, as it removes the extra step of laying down a polymer bonding agent before applying the polish. Now you just mix the binder into the polish and use it more or less like wax. There are still the extra prep steps, like stripping off old wax, clay bar, etc., but you would want to do that periodically anyway. So start to finish was about three hours.

My steps:

  1. Spray bug splatter with 1Z Anti-Insekt and wheels and exhaust tips with Meguiars Hot Rims
  2. Fill bucket while those two cleaners do their job.
  3. Wash with Dawn dishwashing soap (Dawn is a great way to strip wax)
  4. Clay bar (Mothers)
  5. Wash with Zaino Z7 soap
  6. Apply polish (ZFX with Z5)
  7. Wipe off Z5 after 30 minutes
  8. Spray with Z8 detailer
Sure beats yoga.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


After three months, I finally figured out how to turn on the fog lights. It's a kind of reverse corkscrew pull of a nob, a nob that threatens to break if pulled in the wrong direction. That's the kind of car it is sometimes. Willfully quirky and obscure. I do love driving it though.

On the way home yesterday I drove with the radio off and appreciated the sound of the engine once again, something I hadn't heard in a few months since installing the Pioneer head unit. The Pioneer has been the focus of much of my blog posts and much of my frustrations with this car. I managed to get the album artwork to load properly by wiping my iPhone and restoring it. Yes, I wanted it that much. The current issue is how it requires such a long time before you can plug in the iPhone before it will authorize. Since the cables are in the glove box, this means you really can't move until the Pioneer is settled.

The big discovery with the car is iTunes. Yes, iTunes has been around forever now, but I never had a conduit to my car, the only place I listen to music. So I did cut back on eating out last month to cover my new car expenses, but oh my god did my iTunes bill add up. Around $40 later and I had learned a love for new music, including some new favorites like Johnny Cash and Amy Winehouse. This meshed well with classics like Led Zeppelin and Love and Rockets. My son got in the car the other day and said, "Can we listen to some legendary music daddy?" Why yes, yes we can.

Finally, giving up the VAG-COM cable seems almost painful now. The control I have over the car and the 14,000 items checked by the computer is immense. It now seems like a pretty good investment, rather than a temporary expense. I'm torn on whether I should keep it. I may have to wait until it gathers some more dust. One of my fears is the dealer futzes with the computer in a way I don't like. In fact, I'm of a mind to never let any Volkswagen dealer near the car again. It has free maintenance, but that's really only three visits when you get 10,000 mile oil changes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


This is my last time doing a standard wash of the car before I strip off the wax and start using Zaino polish. No, I haven't gone total car fetish nut, I'm actually trying to reduce the detailing work, as much as I enjoy the exercise. While wax needs to be re-applied constantly (I'm on round two now in month three), the polymer polishes only need to be applied every 3-6 months.

Carnauba wax has a warm look that many appreciate over the reflective look of polymer polishes. Here's my car today after a wash. I like how it looks, but the wax just wears off too quickly, despite being a "carnauba plus" with some polymer in it.

Polymer provides superior protection, but gives a blinding mirror finish. I would gladly take the carnauba look if wax lasted for 3-6 months. But it doesn't, and therein lies the ass pain.

Here's an example of a MKV GTI with Zaino polish:

A GTI with Zaino

On the positive side, Zaino has advanced a bit since I last used the stuff (my left overs have gone bad after 7 years). Rather than doing multiple coats of bonder and then polish, you instead mix their ZFX bonder with the polish and apply a single coat.  You do however, need an awful lot of prep work. First, I'll be stripping off all the wax with Dawn, followed by a clay bar, another wash, and then the work begins with the polish. In between there will likely be some additional work to remove blemishes and water marks that I've been putting off fixing.
I do this to save time. If I keep telling myself this, it must eventually come true, right?

  • VAG-COM. No problems or changes in several days, so I may be reaching that point of contentment where I can eBay it. I do want to keep it now.
  • Pioneer. I have the album artwork problem, in which adding new songs doesn't allow the Pioneer unit to see the new artwork. Pioneer really is a shoddy company, if you ask me. On the positive side, I've managed to master their confusing interface.
  • Broken VW Head Unit. VW wouldn't honor the warranty and I got tired of fighting them. I'll take it out on my local dealer by never letting them service the car. They could have been helpful, but they decided it wasn't worth it for them. I'll find an independent shop to do some of the work I have planned. I'll likely buy some electronics safe spray to see if I can fix the sticky button and eBay it.
  • PAC Problem. The East LA installer blew me off when I tried to get them to address the PAC problem. PAC never got back to me when I emailed them. The PAC unit hasn't locked up again, which is good. I need to call PAC and get a replacement.
  Average Fuel Economy: 26.9
Miles: 3976

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Man of the Cloth

    I've decided leather seats in cars are just not as good as cloth. It's something I realized in the GTI. My previous five cars have had leather seats and I haven't been with cloth since 1997 with another Volkswagen, my Jetta. I've always thought of leather as premium, better in every way, but I'm having my doubts.

    The problem with leather is it's always too hot or too cold, and once it's taken on a temperature, it's difficult to coax it to change. Leather is recalcitrant.  It's also slick and doesn't hold you in your seat when you drive aggressively unless you have enormous side bolsters. I like enormous side bolsters, but they're hard to sell to the American market with our increased ... girth. And finally, most of the surfaces you actually touch in a car with leather are plastic rather than leather, while most of my surfaces are cloth. Sure, you're sitting on leather in a leather seated car, but most arm rests are plastic, most seat bolsters are plastic, and the steering wheel is usually wrapped in plastic.

    The GTI thankfully covers those plastic surfaces in cloth, with the steering wheel leather wrapped. I suppose I would call the GTI's interior "premium cloth" since some of these features are exceptional. You're going to be touching a lot of plastic in your average leather car interior.

    When shopping for a GTI, you don't realize these premium additions, you just see check boxes and enormous sticker prices for things like leather and think cheapness when you see cloth. In fact, to get leather in the GTI, you need to spend $30,000 to get the top of the line Autobahn package. That leather option requires a sunroof, a navigation system and some cooler wheels. So if you really can't see yourself without leather, you might also have a problem seeing yourself in a $30,000 Golf. I would need convincing why I'm not driving an Audi or BMW (I know why, repair costs).
    The down side is cloth is harder to clean. I feel a little ridiculous doing it, but I use a lint roller on all those cloth surfaces about once a week. I've noticed that my allergic reactions to dust and pollen have disappeared in the new car and I want to keep it that way. It's likely a combination of keeping the interior clean and regularly changing out the cabin air filter. So there I am rolling my little lint roller along all the cloth surfaces like some OCD nut case. Cleaning my car turned out to be my new Summer exercise program, by the way.

    The other down side is that most cloth interiors look like hell to start with and only get worse over time. Sit in a five year old used Civic on a used car lot and you'll see what I mean. It's pretty disgusting. I'm told the GTI seats keep looking good for many years, but we'll see.