Friday, April 26, 2013


Wheels have been a big focus this month. As I wrote before, I went with a set of Axis XMX wheels. However, I wasn't happy with one small detail, something I took for granted. The VW center caps don't fit after market wheels unless they specifically say so.

I went to my local VW dealer, Dorito Brothers in Walnut Creek, and the parts department was very generous with their time as they tried to fit VW center caps of various sizes on the XMX wheels. The enormous Toureg center caps were close, and I even tried a rubber mallet to get them to fit, but no dice. I ordered stickers for the center caps on Ebay before I realized this really wasn't going to do it for me. I returned the wheels to Tire Rack without any trouble.

Volkswagen OEM wheels are about $450 each, compared to the $175-200 you'll find with after market wheels, but once they're used, the price falls dramatically. With that in mind, and not too concerned with minor curb rash and blemishes (like I have on my Detroits), I found a set of used Mallory wheels that looked like they would fit.

I arranged the purchase and had them shipped. In the mean time, I did even more research, perhaps research I should have done initially, and found confusion. Some said they fit, some didn't. I expressed my concern with the seller, mostly to let him know I would likely re-sell them if they didn't fit, but he assured me they would. Various third party parts sellers sold these and other wheels claiming they fit the GTI, so I wasn't sure why there was confusion. The keyword, it turns out is "poke."

Poke refers to the wheels poking out from the fender. The offset on the back wheels is different than on the front, so although the Mallory wheels fit great on the back, there is a slight amount of poke on the front. This is a style issue for most people, as there's not a lot of down side to some poke, although I've read complains about wheels that poke dirtying up the sides of the car. As a detailing fanatic, that wasn't going to fly with me. So no poke.  I'm re-selling the Mallory's on VWVortex, where I found them, but I'll likely move to Ebay soon, since the original post sat for quite some time.

So what's the solution? When the center cap issue first started, I posted on VWVortex asking for suggestions. Besides the stickers, I was told about a company that tackles the aftermarket versus OEM issue head on. Velocity Motoring (VMR) designs wheels specifically to fit particular cars, including use of the stock center cap. Looking over all the options, I went with the very popular V710's, a wheel so common on GTI's that it lacks exclusivity. I've got no problem with that, I just want something nice, less garish, that fits properly. I do appreciate the clean, stock look for the most part.

I've got VMR V710's in gunmetal on order through PYSpeed. They were helpful as I went through this, including canceling one order and helping me get the proper sizing on the second. Unfortunately, during my vacillation, the wheels went out of stock, so I've got a three week delay. They cut me a deal for waiting, which is fine, since I still have about 3,500 miles left on the original tires. Plus I still need to pay for all that other gear I bought for my 40,000 mile service.

One question that remains is whether the gunmetal wheels will look alright with the stock lug bolts. Lug bolts are about $85 for a full set, so it's not an insignificant expense.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The End of German Volkswagens

The 7th generation Golf, including the next GTI , will be built in Mexico and made available next year. Some enthusiasts, myself included, have complained about this on various forums. The response is often met with accusations of racism, with claims a Mexican built Volkswagen is just as good as a German built one. I highly doubt that. 

The only used Volkswagen Consumer Reports recommends is the German made Golf, skipping over the nearly identical Jettas built in Mexico. Objectively, if you want a reliable Volkswagen, you buy the German made Golf and pan those built south of the border. And if you're an enthusiast, you also pan Volkswagen's attempt to compete with Buick, the American only market, Passat. 

If you want a German built VW, you've got until this Summer to pick up a MK6 Golf, or you can go with the truly last German built VW for the American market, the small ute, the Tiguan. I would be incredibly surprised if the Tiguan continues to be imported from Germany beyond it's current generation. Having shopped one for my wife, it misses the mark in the US market and falls behind its competitors. It accounts for less than 10% of their US sales.

I don't blame Volkswagen for building cars in North America instead of importing them. I understand the economics. They've just shown they can't do it as well. So I'll wait and see, since I probably have another five years on my GTI, but if they can't live up to their own high standards.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I hadn't done a good detail for a while, and boy did the GTI need it. The horizontal surfaces, especially, had a nasty, brown contaminant (probably just dirt) that fouled my clay bar. This was the worst I've ever seen on any of my cars.

After the clay, I gave it a single coat of Zaino polish. At that point, I was two and a half hours in, so future coats will have to wait for subsequent washes. My process:

  • Pre soak with bug and tar remover and wheel cleaner (1Z).
  • Wash with Dawn 
  • Dry 
  • Clay Bar (Meguiar's Smooth Surface Clay Bar Kit)
  • Wash with Dawn
  • Dry
  • Zaino polish (Z2 with ZFX accelerator)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I went ahead and bought new wheels, justifying it with the resale of the stock Detroits, which I'm complimented on all the time, but have never liked. I'm in the Jeremy Clarkson camp of thinking they're too garish. I instead went with the Axis XMX in matte graphite silver. I think they're cool, subtle, and easy to clean. Plus they're on sale.

As for the 40,000 mile "things that need a doin'," what should you expect to pay?

Tires: Assuming you go with a good, best seller, like the Continental ExtremeContact DW's, it's likely to cost you about $650 plus installation. Lets call that $750.

Rear Brakes: puts the average cost at $475, but possibly as low as $303. Labor looks like a couple of hours with parts being the wild swing in price.

40K Service: Going back to repairpal, it's about $235, which includes the two air filters, oil, etc., but not the optional fuel filter or spark plugs.

So get ready to pay $1,460 at 40K. If you've got the DSG transmission, expect another $600 or so in service (I keep bugging my wife to get hers done).  I'll post what I actually paid, although my numbers will be skewed because of how I'm going about this.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Upcoming 40,000 Mile Service

Brakes and tires are on order for the 40,000 mile mark, about the time they'll be do. As for the 40K service, I decided to skip the dealership and go back to my nearby trusted mechanic. They'll be able to do the tires, brakes, oil and all the rest at the same time. It's just more convenient for me and it's not like the Volkswagen dealer has shown any level of mastery in this area.

The 40,000 mile maintenance includes:
  • Oil
  • Oil Filter
  • Air Filter
  • Cabin Air Filter
  • Optional: Spark Plugs
  • Optional: Fuel Filter 

Both optional items are recommended for 60,000 miles, but they're fairly inexpensive and recommended by some to improve performance and avoid trouble. 
I decided to order parts, since finding VW parts is kind of a crap shoot and most shops don't stock them. Have you ever needed coolant? It's a dealer only item. ECS Tuning was recommended the various forums for their maintenance kits. They have a convenient 40,000 mile kit with all the parts I listed for $180, or you can go à la carte and just do the required bits, maybe even with compatible Mann filters instead of VW branded stuff that's more expensive.

ES#2550934 Genuine 40k Service Kit ES#2550934
Everything you need to complete your scheduled maintenance using Genuine VW Parts



Saturday, April 6, 2013

New Brakes

With tires on the way, I turned my sites back to brakes. The rear brakes on this car are good for about 40,000 miles. If you buy a Golf of any sort via CPO, like my wife's, most have had their rear brakes replaced as part of the preparation for re-sale, so this seems pretty typical.

Unlike most "regular" cars, and very much like most German performance cars, when you change the brakes, it's recommended you also change the rotors. The thin rotors are a high performance design and can't be resurfaced. Some will say they're good for two sets of pads, but from what I've read, most problems with noise and other issues are new pads attempting to seat with old rotors. Rotors are fairly inexpensive, so it's recommended to just replace them.

Part of my "ticking time bomb" comment that upset people was related to the short (high performance) brake wear life, although I didn't know rotors were also required at the time. You are paying for performance, more than with other cars. My old Mazda 6 for example, went 110,000 miles before needing new brakes.Still, if you do the research, the total maintenance costs for the GTI are similar to other cars in its price range, so no big deal.

I could have saved money with OEM pads and rotors on just the back, but as I've mentioned, I'm unhappy with GTI braking. It's likely a lot to do with Pirelli mud and snow tires, but I figured, since I'm paying to have brakes installed anyway, lets go with a higher performance application. Like most people, I'm looking for a quiet, long lasting solution that avoids fade and simply stops better in normal driving applications.  The car will never see an autocross track and I'm not likely to be chased by baddies in a shopping mall. Ceramic pads sounded like a great solution. It's especially recommended you change rotors if you change brake compounds, in this case semi-metallic OEM to ceramic.

Here's what I'm doing at all four wheels:

1 Centric Posi Quiet Ceramic Pads (front) $68.00 $68.00
1 Centric Posi Quiet Ceramic Pads (rear) $40.00 $40.00
2 Centric High Carbon Plain 125 Series Rotor (rear) $32.00 $64.00
2 Centric High Carbon Plain 125 Series Rotor (front) $63.00 $126.00


Total $372.10

I could have saved some money at Amazon, but Tire Rack deserves a lot of credit for their research and value add. Also, which company is likely to help with a problem, the one with a staff of wheel specialists or the online discounter who sourced my four parts from three different third party vendors?

There is endless research on pad selection, with the obvious choice being a brand of Hawk pads. After a lot of forum research, I decided against them, due to conflicting reports of noise, and instead went with the Centric ceramics, as there's nothing but positive praise for these. For street use, rotors are less important, or at least less hotly debated, so I went with Centric again, perhaps gaining a little "synergy" by staying with the same brand of pads and rotors.

Mileage: 35,600

Friday, April 5, 2013

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

The saying refers to putting your money where your mouth is, a gut check, a decision to put up or shut up. It's especially fitting when choosing performance tires. Are you willing to spend the money for your self perceived driving style? Will you give up some tread life, some comfort, and about $50  per tire for ultra high performance? Well, it turns out, yes. There was a sale.

Tire buying didn't start with the need for tires, it started with the slightest dissatisfaction with the GTI, spurred on by details of the new Mark VII GTI, which, among other things, has bigger brakes. Why? Because this car needs bigger brakes. It has a poor stopping distance. Those on the forums will howl in derision at me for making such a heretical statement. It's not that the car is really bad, like the Dodge Magnum I used to own that would lead to seat wetting. No, it's just not on par with the performance of the GTI. Volkswagen knows this. The MKVII is 50 pounds lighter than the current generation GTI, but has bigger brakes. I wasn't the only one thinking that.

How do you make yourself feel ever so slightly better about your MKVI GTI? You spend a little bit of money to fix its flaws, and no better time or justification to your wife (chill, I know the demographics for this car) than when parts need replacing. It didn't start with tires, however. Brakes are also due soon, so I picked out some good Hawk XPS street pads and started researching "larger brakes" for the GTI. Holy Jeebus. Good sets are thousands of dollars!

The alternative is to work around the edges, with things like pads, and, you guessed it, better tires.The stock tires are rated for mud and snow. You know, they're not bad, but they're likely a big culprit in understear and poor braking and I would never drive this car in snow. Surely you would work on a tire upgrade before you jumped to the black magic of a new braking system

If I'm seriously interested in better braking, a couple hundred bucks extra for the best tires is a small price to buy, even if it's essentially "renting" them for two years, as they'll be gone in 30,000 miles, which is actually very good considering the history of performance tires. So rather than spend $2000 on a brake kit, rather than pine over the MKVII or the sure-to-brake-my-heart-and-the-bank 128i, just spend a bit more on some tires and let it go. At the very least, the fever might brake and I'll happily drive this car for another 100,000 miles or so, as planned.

As will happen with daydreaming about cool toys, I ended up buying the tires an hour ago. Tire Rack has a special through the 14th that makes the Michelin Pilot Super Sports just expensive and not crazy expensive, offering a $70 rebate. Decision made. I'll wait on the pads for a couple months. It will give me time to consider ceramics, and I do love a research project. I'm just worried the ceramics will leave me in my neighbors living room with their longer warm up time and my steep driveway.

Twaron, Son of Aramid (A solid hook for you Lord of the Rings fans)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cold Feet

If you're married, you might have experienced the last minute jitters. You could leave, right now, drive off into the desert, and avoid making this decision, good or bad. That's how I felt this weekend with the odometer promising to tick over 36,000 miles in April, the warranty shot.

The logical thing to do, with such worries, might be to get an extended warranty, a kind of vehicular prenuptial, to riff off my previous metaphor. Extended warranties aren't logical though, otherwise they wouldn't be profitable to those who sell them. The logical thing to do is buy the right car, with a strong reliability record, and have some confidence.

So my thoughts went to alternatives, kind of like a guy thinking of all the people they might still have a shot with, if they avoid putting a ring on it. The BMW 128i was top of the list, due to its pure, rear-wheel drive driving dynamics.

Euro Delivery sounded tempting; I've done it twice before. A stripped down 128i sounded perfect: sport package and probably another after market NAV system when I got back. They're too damn expensive though, but used ones are about the same price as a new GTI, and with a 100,000 mile CPO warranty. The 328i is probably a better choice, but it's harder to configure with just the basics, plus I've kind of done that already, and I hated that car (E46, 330i Sport).

I also considered the Subaru BRZ, since my research already told me it was a better choice for me than the Scion FR-S. By the end of the weekend, I had read a bunch of reviews, including people contemplating this exact switch, and the conclusion? The GTI is the best car for me right now. It's roomy, has four doors, has just enough cargo space, and, most importantly, it's sitting in my driveway.

So my feet are warming and I'll likely perform this exercise again when it's paid off in a few years. By then, I've read, BMW is likely to have new 1-series models to take on its core competitor in that segment, the GTI and the various Audis, although the trade off for more room and possibly a hatchback will be a loss of purity, as turbo fours take over basic sixes in the 128i.

Mileage: 35,600