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Thu May 15, 2014
18:35

I had purchased a VF Engineering "pendulum" transmission mount from the good people at ECS Tuning a while back, and I finally felt good enough (after a recent neck injury) to install it. The 3.2 VR6 in the R32 makes a bunch of torque, so those factory rubber mounts take a real beating. Soft and unpredictable throttle response, lurchy downshifts, and less-than-crisp upshifts can all result from this. I don't know what the DSG R32s felt like when they were new, but I know what mine (with 96,000 miles on it) felt like when I got it. I had chalked up the strange throttle response to it being drive-by-wire, but the lurchy downshifts were especially annoying. The VF Engineering mount, shown below, uses a polyurethane insert to fill up the voids in the factory rubber mount on the chassis side, to increase rigidity. I bought the full mount, which includes the aluminum "pendulum" parts, fitted with polyurethane bushings:

VF Engineering Mount

It was a breeze to install - it only took about an hour, and that was with the kids "helping". To install the poly insert, I greased it up with a little bit of petroleum jelly and tapped it into place with a rubber mallet. If you're just doing this one mount, supporting the engine isn't necessary (but it can help the bolts come out a bit easier), this mount only keeps the motor from rocking back and forth on the other remaining mounts. I needed to use a jack to crowd the engine just a bit to get the holes to line up when installing the new mount.

The mount made a very noticeable difference. The throttle response is definitely sharper, downshifts are amazingly good now, and upshifts are a little bit more crisp. I noticed absolutely no difference in vibrations or harshness coming through the chassis.



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Mon Jun 23, 2008
18:24
So, nothing terribly exciting lately. The high compression ABA Mk2 has about 600 miles on it since the engine rebuild/swap, so I'm planning on an oil change tomorrow night. The original radiator was cracking around one of the upper mounts and seeping coolant, so I replaced that this past weekend. The oil pressure sensor mounted on the oil filter housing is leaking oil at the electrical connector. I'm also in the process of finding the best temperature range to use for spark plugs - I have mostly been running a set that are 1 heat range colder than stock. The stock heat range does appear to be a little too warm.

New summer tires came in a while back - a set of Nexen N3000, in 195/45-15. They were crazy cheap, and seem to grip just fine. I read some reviews which mentioned poor hydroplaning resistance, but it was pouring with rain today and they seemed to do well. They aren't super quiet, but they're one heck of a lot quieter than Yokohama A-520s (haha).

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Mon May 26, 2008
16:38
My Mk2, with new side marker lights!

Can you tell what's different in this picture, other than the front bumper finally being reinstalled?

Last inspection, I was told that I should have side marker lights on my 91 Golf for the next time. The previous owner had removed them and filled the holes in the fenders before painting the car. I decided that since anything I did would require modification to the fenders, I might as well do something cool looking and unusual. I don't care for the factory A2 side marker lights. I've always rather liked the A4 style side markers that are also found on some Audis and Passats - those small, clear, oval ones. So I ordered a pair, along with the amber colored bulbs, and also scored a pair of the bulb connectors to splice into my wiring. After that, it was simply a matter of making a template, and using that template to mark and cut holes in the front fenders - I chose to locate the new lights in the rear of each fender, just ahead of the front doors (very similar to their location on the A4s and Audis). With the inner wheel well linings removed, there was plenty of room to access the lights from the back. I'm pretty happy with the end result - definitely a huge improvement over the factory side markers.

Here's one of the 2 spliced adapters to go from the factory wiring harness to the Audi style light:
adapter for Audi side marker lights


And here is a closer view of the end result:
adapter for Audi side marker lights


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Sat May 03, 2008
04:25
A quick update: a few nights ago my new alternator arrived and I installed it. No more charging problems! With everything working I was finally able to take her out for a spin around the block. The car had moved under its own power since the engine swap, but this was the first time I had really driven it. I'm hoping to get some video footage to post up - watch this space!

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Sun Apr 27, 2008
14:37
I took a trip to Autozone this weekend, and it turns out that all 3 alternators are actually bad. Go figure. A new one is on its way. On a related note, I had tried taking one of the alternators to Pep Boys to have it tested - it took them 10 minutes to discover that they didn't have the right adapter to go from their machine to the exciter wire terminal. So if you want your A3 alternator tested, don't waste your time at Pep Boys.

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Sun Apr 13, 2008
08:01
The major remaining issue with the high compression engine swap is the battery charging circuit. I've tried 3 different alternators so far, and all produce no output. The testing procedures in the Bentley manual lead to all 3 alternators being bad... but I just have a hard time believing that. What I need to do is take the alternators to an Autozone (free alternator testing!) so that I can be 100% certain. The wiring is so darn simple with these things, that I'm basically stumped.

On a more positive note, the motor runs great with the Techtonics 268 camshaft and the ignition timing close to correct. Some of you may be wondering why I chose the TT 268 over the 270. The 270 has better idle characteristics (close to stock, actually) and fantastic power gains. The 268 does have a little more lift, but I chose it mostly for it's large valve overlap period. It is also ground with an offset to favor top-end power. The larger valve overlap should really favor high compression applications like mine. Had I kept the factory compression ratio, then I would have chosen the 270.

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Wed Mar 26, 2008
19:33
So, a little more than a week and a half ago, I started the high compression ABA engine for the first time. Since I half expected the engine to explode, I consider this a minor success. Ignition timing issues, alternator issues, and a clearance problem with the adjustable cam pulley kept me from running the engine for more than a couple of minutes.

Here are a couple of shots of the new engine, installed, and in a ready-to-run state:
High compression ABA engine, ready to run

High compression ABA engine, ready to run


And here is a close up view of the clearance problem with the Autotech adjustable cam gear - note the back surface of the gear, where it has "machined" itself against the edge of the valve cover.
High compression ABA engine, ready to run


I e-mailed Autotech to see if they had any advice as to whether I should shim the gear, or clearance the valve cover. I was leaning toward shimming the gear, since the timing belt was running just a hair over the outside edge of the gear. I never heard back from Autotech, but in the meantime I ordered a Techtonics 268 camshaft to install at the same time I addressed the cam gear issue. What I ended up finding was that the Techtonics camshaft was just a tiny bit longer than the stock camshaft I had been using, and so the cam gear sat that much further away from the valve cover, which eliminated the clearance problem. The new cam is now completely installed, and at the same time I addressed the ignition issue I was having. One of the pins on the ABA distributor body wasn't completely removed (it was sheared off) and that was limiting the amount of adjustment I could make to the ignition timing ... I couldn't get it advanced enough to run right before that pin got in the way.

So, I'm looking forward to starting it up with better ignition timing, and with the more aggressive camshaft in place.

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Sun Mar 23, 2008
07:02
I've been meaning to put up a quick post about this for a while now. I've mentioned it before, but the ABA swap into our Mk2 Golf is using a complete serpentine belt setup, completely eliminating the original v-belt. The serpentine setup is far easier when it comes to maintenance, and much less prone to slipping in wet conditions. For my application, this conversion was particularly easy, since I'm not using A/C or power steering. This leaves only the alternator and water pump that need to be driven by the serpentine belt. The alternator is easy - it can be used exactly as on an A3. The water pump is a little tricky, because even 4 cylinder A3s have a v-belt to drive the water pump and power steering pump. I used a fairly common trick, which is to bolt a VR6 water pump pulley onto my water pump. The VR6 water pumps are driven from the back side of a serpentine belt, so the pulley is smooth. If you use this pulley on a 4 cylinder water pump, then you must drive it from the ribbed side of the serpentine belt - otherwise the water pump will be turning in the wrong direction. This method works just fine, and you can even get the VR6 pulleys brand new from the dealer as well as most of the online parts stores (that is, if you can't find one in a junkyard). Next, you'll need to figure out what length belt to use. For my application, I'm driving the A3 alternator, water pump with VR6 pulley, and using the non-AC alternator bracket with automatic spring tensioner. The length of belt I ended up using was 41 inch. I believe that 40.5 inch might have been a slightly better fit, but 40 inch was definitely too small. Find a local auto parts store with helpful people behind the counter, and they'll be happy to help you get your hands on the different belt sizes.

Here are a couple of pictures showing the new serpentine belt setup. It is a much cleaner looking configuration than the factory A2 layout.
A2 ABA swap serpentine belt setup
A2 ABA swap serpentine belt setup


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Sat Jan 19, 2008
06:49
Last weekend, the high compression ABA motor became officially installed - the transmission is bolted to it, and the rear engine mount is connected. With the crankshaft serpentine belt pulley removed from the timing belt pulley, there was enough room to maneuver the engine so that it would mate up to the transmission. Here she is, finally home:
high compression ABA motor installed


While working on the cooling system, I ran into a little bit of a problem. The Mk2 Golf coolant hose which runs from the front side of the cylinder head down to the water pump did not really fit any more. Two things that the original engine block did not have were the auto tensioner for the serpentine belt (since it didn't have a serpentine belt at all) and the assembly for routing crank case vapors. The coolant hose was really blocked by both of those until I trimmed about a half inch off the end of it. That allowed it fit, albeit snugly, between the serp tensioner and the lower crank case vent. Most people doing this sort of ABA block swap would be using a blockoff plate for the crank case vent (like the one Techtonics sells), and that would save you from this coolant hose problem. Instead of using the blockoff plate, I used the original plastic vent and simply plugged it using a modified coolant flange plug and o-ring. Here is a picture, showing the coolant hose wedged snugly between the vent and the serpentine belt tensioner:
high compression ABA motor, coolant hose


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Tue Dec 18, 2007
19:18
My digital camera stopped working about a month ago, so that has kind of discouraged me from posting lately. Anyway, here's an update on the high compression ABA engine swap for my Mk2 Golf. The engine is completely assembled, and I opted to use a set of ARP undercut head studs (they are supposed to be ideal for high compression applications like this) and an Autotech adjustable cam gear. I removed the old engine, while leaving the transmission in the engine bay. Once I install the intake manifold, timing belt, and accessory belts, then the motor can be bolted into place.

Here are some pictures of the new engine, almost ready to go into the engine bay:
high compression ABA into Mk2 Golf
high compression ABA into Mk2 Golf


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Thu Aug 09, 2007
18:47
This week I picked up my spare Digifant cylinder head from the machine shop. This is the cylinder head for my ABA engine swap. I had 50 thousandths of an inch milled from the gasket surface of the head - when used with the ABA block, it will give me a compression ratio of 11:1. If this motor actually holds together, it will be a monster (for an 8 valve, at least). I'm sure I've mentioned it in one of my very early posts, but the 2.0 ABA blocks made before the 1996 model year have high quality forged internals and piston oil squirters. These blocks are perfect for high compression and forced induction builds. I will start by using the stock camshaft and cam timing gear, just until the engine gets a few hours on it. With so much shaved from the head, there will be a 1 degree cam timing error that I really should compensate for, using an adjustable cam gear. This engine should also respond pretty well to an aggressive camshaft. I haven't decided which cam I will use yet. I may try more than one.

Enough yakking. Here are pictures of the head, which has been pressure tested, milled, and has had the valve seats resurfaced... oh, and check out my polished combustion chambers:
high compression Digifant cylinder head
high compression Digifant cylinder head

And here is the head after I spent some time lapping the valves into it:
high compression Digifant cylinder head


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Sun Apr 29, 2007
08:27
Well, the ACN transmission I rebuilt is finally installed in our Mk2 Golf. While I was removing the old transmission, it fought me every step of the way. The new transmission went in fairly well, but there were a few hiccoughs along the way. I guess I'll start at the beginning.

A2 transmission removal is possible without removing the engine, and without removing the front axles ... but just barely. It is a tight, tight squeeze and the transmission has to be twisted around into precisely the correct position before it will drop out from the bottom of the car. First, the starter needs to be removed (the engine has to be supported first, since the starter bolts are also the front engine mount bolts - weird, I know), the shift linkage disconnected, the inner CV joints disconnected, the speedometer cable disconnected, and the clutch cable disconnected. You can also make the whole unit a couple of pounds lighter by draining the gear oil first (recommended). I didn't drain the gear oil because I didn't have room left in any of my oil-draining containers. Next, there are two 11mm hex bolts that bolt that tin cover plate to the bottom of the transmission bellhousing. You'll see them at the bottom of the bellhousing, hanging right below the engine's oil pan on that side. They might be completely invisible underneath a heavy layer of grime - so grab a brush and start scrubbing if you can't see them. Other than those, there are only three 19mm bolts left holding the tranmission to the engine block. Two are near the back-side of the engine - one up top that goes in from the transmission side, and one down at the bottom that goes in from the engine side. There is one more on the front-side of the engine, near the top, that also has a ground strap bolted to it. At some point you'll want to support the transmission with something (a jack, or jack stands, or a strong friend).

Next, there are two transmission mounting brackets (one steel, one aluminum) which both come together to bolt down to a single transmission mount on the subframe. One bolt holds them down to the mount, and it's located below the brake master cylinder which makes it kind of tricky to get to. I used an impact wrench with an impact-grade universal joint and a long extension (when you use a universal joint with an extension, always try to get the joint as close to what you're trying to remove as possible - that makes it a little more stable). The aluminum transmission mount needs to be disconnected from the transmission. It has some of the shift linkage fixed to it, so you can either disconnect the linkage from it and remove the aluminum piece altogether, or you can leave the linkage affixed and just swing the piece up on top of the transmission (that's what I did, and it didn't seem to be in the way at all). Anyway, three long bolts hold that aluminum bracket to the differential housing. I removed two from the top (leaning over the engine bay) and one from underneath (laying on the ground). You will need to remove the steel mounting bracket from the transmission also - but it can be tricky. The two bolts holding it in place go through from the side closest to the body of the car, and even after you take the nuts off the opposite end, the bolts will not slide out until you let the transmission drop down so that those bolts can be slid out underneath the driver's side crumple zone. Then the steel bracket can be removed from the transmission. Those brackets will both hit the side of the engine bay, preventing you from completely removing the transmission - so definitely take the time to remove them.

At this point, I had absolutely everything disconnected from the transmission. There was nothing left holding it in place except for fear and common sense (as a favorite saying of mine goes). I spent the next 2 hours trying to remove the transmission from the engine bay. This is where a second person helps - otherwise it is just a physical wrestling match. The key is to rotate the gearbox so that the differential is raised up, and then swing the back side (fifth gear housing side) of the transmission at an angle downard and slightly toward the front of the car. That sounds easier than it is, trust me. The passenger side output flange will want to keep catching on the flywheel teeth on the engine, and the bracket for the front motor mount will want to keep binding against the transmission housing. Removing that front engine mount completely might make things easier - and removing the passenger side drive flange from the transmission would definitely make things easier but could also get pretty messy. I finally worked the transmission out while supporting it with my knees from under the car and then let it slide into my lap. The front of the car was jacked up high enough so that the transmission came out with me as I slid out from underneath the car. ... and that was Thursday night. I needed a shower and some sleep after that nonsense.

Friday after work I wrestled the rebuilt transmission into place, which went much easier than removing the old unit. I had some parts to swap over from the old transmission onto the new one before installing it, but that didn't take very long. All in all, it was about 3 hours until the new transmission was physically bolted into place. I called it a night and cleaned up, counting on getting all the loose ends tied up in the morning. ... silly human.

Saturday morning I resumed work. Did up the transmission mounts, torqued those 19mm transmission-to-engine bolts, installed the starter (and front engine mount bolts), attached the shift linkage, and attached the clutch cable. Before filling the transmission with oil, I wanted to make sure the clutch felt like it was engaging and disengaging properly. Everything felt good, so I added 2 quarts of Redline MT90 through the speedometer cable hole (way easier than using the fill hole on the side of the transmission) and then attached the speedometer cable. I then turned my attention to reconnecting the inner CV joints to the differential output flanges. It was about this time that I realized something major that I had overlooked. The flanges I reused on the transmission I rebuilt were the wrong size!!! This transmission came out of an early A2, and used 90mm flanges. My A2, being a 1991, uses the larger inner CV joints which need 100mm output flanges. I now faced having to swap out the flanges with the transmission in the car, and filled with brand-new Redline oil. Crapola. So I bit the bullet and removed the driver side axle completely (it was the only way to get enough room to operate on that flange), took the 100mm flange off the old transmission, cleaned it up, then removed the small flange from the transmission in the car... then I scrambled to install the larger flange while transmission fluid was peeing out. I didn't want to lose any more than I had to. That stuff is about $10 a quart (if you find a decent deal on it). The other side was a little easier because I could just prop the axle up out of the way rather than completely remove it. In the end I only lost a few ounces of fluid. That whole operation ate up quite a bit of time, though. Now I had correct flanges that would mate up to the inner CV joints. I made sure the transmission was in neutral so that I could rotate the flanges while installing the inner CV joint bolts... but there was a problem. Even with the gearbox in neutral, I could not get the output flanges to turn. Before installing the larger flanges, they turned with little effort. All kinds of terrible thoughts started to go through my head - had something in the transmission popped loose and allowed a gear to engage? Had something in the process of installing the larger flanges caused the differential to bind up? In desperation, I pushed down the clutch pedal and ran the shift lever through the gears and everything felt fine. Now everything was mysteriously freed up. Strange. That made me a little nervous, but everything seemed okay so I continued bolting the inner CV joints to the transmission drive flanges. With that done, I started the engine with the front end in the air just to make sure the clutch engaged and disengaged correctly, and to make sure the tranmsission would actually drive the wheel hubs when it was in gear. Everything was fine - clutch acted correctly, and my front brakes started spinning up like crazy as I ran through some of the gears. Cool. I took this opportunity to install my summer wheels and tires too, since nice weather is finally here.

So now everything was back together and the car was back on the ground. Ready for a test drive. One thing that I don't believe I've mentioned yet is that I rebuilt this transmission using a Peloquin 80% limited slip kit. It takes the factory 20% limited slip and anti-torque-steer effect and increases it to 80%. So in theory, it should now take nearly 100 ft lbs of torque for a wheel to start spinning instead of the factory 25 or so. Anyway, test drive time - and everything was good. Better than good, actually. The transmission is nice and quiet (especially compared to my old one, which had some nasty bearing noise), all the gears engage very nicely, and I'm not leaking transmission oil from my drive flange seals anymore. That whole thing was a real fight, but definitely worth it. I need to do an alignment now, though. The alignment was a little bit out to begin with, and now it's even worse because I had to disconnect the driver's side ball joint to remove the axle on that side. I may do a writeup on how to do your own alignment soon. Watch this space.

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Tue Apr 24, 2007
14:10
As I mentioned in my last post, I have been rebuilding an ACN code 020 transmission to swap into our Mk2 Golf.

I did not document tearing down this transmission, because my last post documented tearing down an A3 transmission and the procedure is practically identical. Once the unit was disassembled, I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the synchros were good, all of the bearings were good, and there was no damage to any of the gears. The parts for the rebuild consisted almost entirely of seals and gaskets. Even the large pinion shaft bearing was nice and smooth, with no play whatsoever - and that is pretty unusual. I think this unit may have been rebuilt in the past, because I'm certain that it did not come out of a low mileage car (none of our parts cars were low mileage).

Most of the time I put into this unit was in sand blasting (technically, glass bead blasting) the aluminum case pieces. They came out pretty nice, as you can see here:
020 rebuild, the aluminum parts, sandblasted


The first picture below shows the differential and pinion shaft installed in the case. The second picture shows the input shaft installed. The third picture shows the 1st through 4th shift forks installed:
020 rebuild, differential and pinion shaft installed 020 rebuild, input shaft installed 020 rebuild, 1st-4th shift forks installed


Assembling the two case halves can be tricky if you are not replacing the large input shaft bearing. The official procedure is to press the bearing into the upper (or rear) case half, and then install the case halves so that the input shaft presses into the bearing. If you want to reuse your existing bearing then you would have to pull it off without damaging it first, and that can be tricky. I wanted to reuse the bearing without pulling it off first, so I tried a trick using the bearing plate to help press the bearing into the upper case half while assembling the two halves. In the first picture below, you can see the case halves partially together, which I accomplished by heating up the upper housing with a torch, then tapping it down onto the bearing (don't pound hard, it could damage the bearing!). I had made sure to roughly line up the bearing plate before installing the second case half, so that I could then use some very long metric bolts of the appropriate size and thread to draw the bearing plate up close enough to be able to install the correct screws (those four inset triple-square screws), which you can see in the second picture below. That method worked pretty well. The third picture below shows the case halves assembled and the driven 5th gear in place on the pinion shaft.
020 rebuild, case halves partially together 020 rebuild, trick to pull large input shaft bearing plate into place 020 rebuild, case halves together and driven 5th gear installed


Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the drive 5th gear (on the input shaft) being installed, but it really is just the opposite of taking it off. Press it into place (may need some gentle tapping with a rubber mallet) and get the shift fork back into place so that you can engage both 5th gear and reverse gear at the same time. You will need to manually move the shift forks to do that, which means you can't have the selector shaft installed just yet. The first picture below shows the shift forks through the reverse light switch hole in the selector shaft housing (later transmissions don't have this hole, FYI) - the fork on each end needs to be pressed down. This will allow you to correctly torque the hollow input shaft bolt on the end of the drive 5th gear. You may need a friend to help.
020 rebuild, shift forks exposed through selector shaft housing


Now the selector shaft can be installed. The first picture below shows the selector shaft installed, with a new seal in place. The second picture shows the installation of the selector shaft cover. Don't forget that big spring that goes in there. The tool I'm using here is just a bolt with a 27mm hex head with a couple of nuts jammed against each other. Jamming the nuts probably wouldn't be quite good enough for removing this plate - welding them onto the bolt would be the way to go. This tool can also be used for the timing plug in the top of the bell housing.
020 rebuild, selector shaft and selector shaft oil seal installed 020 rebuild, selector shaft cover being installed with homemade 27mm hex tool


Now you can adjust the 5th gear shift forks. The first picture below shows me measuring between the top of the threaded rod and the shift fork. That measurement should be 5mm (or 0.2 inches). In this picture, I still have some adjusting to do - I am measuring about 0.1 inches.
020 rebuild, 5th gear shift fork being adjustment being measured


In the picture below, you can see the 5th gear housing installed. Don't forget to install your throwout bearing.
020 rebuild, 5th gear housing installed


Now is also a good time to replace the clutch rod bushing and clutch rod oil seal (actually, the best time would be just before you install the 5th gear housing). The bushing is very important - a worn bushing will cause a new seal to start leaking pretty quickly. My bushing was totally shot. It was worn to the same inside diameter as the rest of the input shaft pushrod bore. When they get that worn, you cannot push them out from the back like the book recommends without doing something to plug up that hole first. The easiest way is to get a thread tap that will fit the worn ID of the bushing and cut threads so you can install a bolt to plug the hole. You can now either rig up something as a slide-hammer against the bolt you put in, or just whack it out from the back like the book says to. In the first picture below, you can see the trashed bushing I removed along with the tap I used to cut the threads. The second picture shows the new bushing about to be installed. Drive it back until it seats against the smaller inside diamater of the input shaft. The oil seal gets installed in front of the bushing, sitting back roughly 0.5mm from the end of the shaft.
020 rebuild, old clutch pushrod bushing removed after being threaded 020 rebuild, new clutch pushrod bushing being installed


And here is the end result. I didn't cover the installation of the drive flanges, mainly because I didn't take pictures of that... but it really is straightforward. If you removed them, you know how to install them. I installed a Peloquin 80% limited slip upgrade while I was installing these flanges, which included new flange seals, inner flange caps, brass rings, and good instructions. Well worth the price at just under $100 (for a kit that does both sides). The stock limited slip is 20%, so it will be interesting to see what kind of difference I notice.
020 rebuild, the entire transmission back together


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Sat Mar 17, 2007
11:31
We have decided to take in a 96 Subaru Outback that a coworker of mine just wanted to get rid of. It needs plenty of work, but is basically a good running, good driving, and good looking vehicle. We needed a station wagon anyway. It has 201,000 miles and still runs great (a good sign that the engine was taken care of), but needs some exhaust work (it has a large leak near the rear muffler), and possibly brake and suspension work. The check engine light is on, so I'll need to investigate that too. The tires probably won't pass inspection either. Yeah, that's a lot of stuff - but for 100 bones, it's still a smoking deal. I never would have guessed that I'd find a car for that cheap that I could actually drive home.

$100 Subaru Outback $100 Subaru Outback


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Sat Mar 17, 2007
11:09
A fellow Vortexer was parting out a 1998 VR6 GTI, so I made a deal to buy the front and rear black leather seats along with the smoked rear tail lights. Claire and I swapped out the seats this afternoon, and then Claire swapped the tail lights. All we need now is a set of black leather door panels that will fit. I did get the GTI door panels thrown in with the seats, but GTIs are 2 doors and our Golf is a 4 door.

Here is Virginia with the smoked tail lights:
Smoked tails on 1996 Golf

And here is the interior with the new seats installed:
Leather seats in 1996 Golf Leather seats in 1996 Golf


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Sun Feb 04, 2007
16:51
Last summer I replaced the main bearings in our 1996 Golf (her name is Virginia), and I really should have done the rod bearings at the same time. I just got back from my trip to Australia last week, and was welcomed with single digit temperatures. In that kind of cold, I noticed Virginia was awfully noisy until the engine warmed up, and it sounded like it could possibly be rod knock. The rod bearings are pretty easy to replace, so I decided to do it - plus, I already had the new bearings sitting around somewhere.

The job went real smooth, and even though the old bearings weren't worn quite as much as I expected, they were still pretty trashed. Lots of pitting and scoring in all of them. The upper halves of the bearing shells showed far more wear than the lower halves.

Here are some pics (click them for larger views):
old connecting rod bearings

old connecting rod bearings

old connecting rod bearings

old connecting rod bearings

And here is a picture of the tiny bits of plastic I found in the bottom of the oil pan. I found these last time, too. The black pieces are hardened gasket maker material, and I think that the reddish brown pieces are from a broken dipstick tube (you VW owners out there know how often those things break). There's nothing else I can think of made of that color plastic that could get into the oil. (click for a larger view)
bits found in the oil pan



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Sat Jan 06, 2007
17:39
So, I have a decision to make regarding my A2 Golf. I will be installing small euro bumpers and a chin spoiler at some point, and the front euro bumper just does not look right without something in the plate recess. I've always had mixed feelings about euro plates on US cars - cool or pretentious? Hm, tough call. Well, now I find myself needing one for aesthetic reasons. Of course, legally, I still have to display my NH front plate. I'm toying with the idea of mounting my real plate beneath the front bumper, offset to one side. I found a source for custom German registration plate replicas, made from aluminum plate just like the real ones. I just need to decide what text I want on the plate. Below are a few ideas so far:

euro plate
euro plate
euro plate
euro plate
euro plate
euro plate
euro plate
euro plate
euro plate
euro plate
euro plate


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Tue Dec 05, 2006
07:59
After I got home from work last night, I pulled the 91 Golf into the garage and started to attack the exhaust system. The old system was a pain to remove because it was all welded together. With the old system out, I took a look at the innards of the catalytic converter and I was surprised to see that it looked excellent. The previous owner must have installed that cat not long before I bought the car (it is supposedly a Techtonics high flow cat, but I haven't verified that yet).

Installation of the new system was problematic at times, but I worked through it. The diameter of the pipes was so large that everything just barely fit. This system is supposed to be the same diameter as the stock PF engine'd 8 valve GTIs. I had no idea any of the factory systems were that beefy. Since I was installing an exhaust that technically was made to fit a different car (mine is a Golf GL, RV engine code), I wasn't surprised that I ran into little problems. The forward-most hanger had to be removed from the body of the car and then rotated almost 180 degrees. The over axle pipe just barely missed the brake balance controller (there's about 1/8th inch of clearance). The intermediate pipe rests firmly on the rear subframe, and there is absolutely no adjustment in the system to raise it. It's so close to everything everywhere that once everything physically fit, there was no adjustment for anything. My rear-most hanger was missing (since the last system didn't use it), so I had to make a hanger to mount to the stud coming out of the body. The other issue I ran into was with some of the hardware that Bosal provided with the system. I nearly stripped out 2 of those nice copper nuts because they got cross threaded... and I was trying to be incredibly careful for that very reason. I had to chase the threads out with a tap in order to use those nuts, but that destroyed the nuts' self locking ability. Bummer.

With everything installed, I started the engine to make sure there were no leaks and to see how bad the rattles would be. Amazingly, the system does not rattle at all. Some vibrations come through the body because one of the pipes is resting on the rear subframe, though. I will insulate that with some rubber, I think. The system is quieter than I expected, but the rear muffler appears to be glass packed which means the sound will change as it gets broken in.

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Mon Dec 04, 2006
12:47
Last Thursday I finally got pulled over for the exhaust on the 91 Golf. I was only pulled over for a couple of minutes, and I didn't even get a written warning so it may have just been a "drunk check", so to speak. Anyhow, that got me thinking that I should start looking at new cat-back systems for it. I've been real lucky not to have been pulled over at all until now.

First off, I figured I should get a new catalytic converter at the same time. The Golf used to burn a lot of oil (before I replaced the valve stem seals) so the cat may have some clogging. In addition to that, the previous owner had the mid-pipe welded to the catalytic converter. Between those 2 things, I can't count 100% on being able to reuse the existing cat. To top it off, I thought it would be nice to upgrade to a 55mm cat, which was the largest that they used on any A2 Golf/Jetta from the factory. I found a new OEM (Emico) cat at autohausaz.com for just over $150, which is a pretty good deal. The 55mm cats were used on, among others, the later 8 valve GTIs with the PF engine - so I kept that in mind while looking for parts (mine is a Golf GL with the RV engine, at the moment). Even though I wanted a stainless cat-back system, I didn't want to spend the money for one (for the most part, they were $500 and up). I saw that the Bosal stainless sport systems were not necessarily made entirely of stainless steel (their description says all mufflers and "select systems", whatever that means, are stainless), and I didn't want to spend almost $400 for a system that might end up being partly aluminized instead of stainless. I did some more price checking online, and even priced out a completely factory system (Ansa/Bosal) - which was looking like the least amount of money. A factory system would have been a little too tame for my taste, but I was considering it.

The next day I headed to Atlantic to see what they could do for me, since I know they're good about trying to match online prices. I won't disclose what I ended up getting for a deal, but I was pleasantly surprised. They said they were pretty certain that the Bosal sport stainless systems for the A2s were made entirely of stainless, and then they quoted me a fantastic price for one of the systems. To make a long story short (too late?) I ended up with the cat and a stainless cat-back system for only a little more than I would have paid online for a cat plus a nice aluminized system.

I went to pick up the system today, and was thrilled to see that it was not only made entirely of stainless, but it was also completely polished and used flanged connections! In this picture, you can see the whole system laid out, along with the new 55mm cat:
stainless bosal cat back exhaust for A2 Golf GTI w/55mm cat


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Wed Nov 15, 2006
18:53
Older VWs like to keep you busy, and my Digifant Golf has been no exception lately. I posted some time ago about replacing the knock sensor, and she just ran fantastic after that... for about a week. The next gremlin was a cold starting issue that got so bad I nearly gave up on getting the car started after work one day. The car would run fine after warming up, but would run rough for the first minute or so after a cold start (if it even started, that is). In the process of troubleshooting, I tested the fuel pressure by hooking up a fuel pressure guage to the fitting on the end of the factory fuel rail. The pressure was 44 psi - quite a bit higher than it should have been, which indicates a bad fuel pressure regulator. I replaced the fuel pressure regulator (pretty easy chore, it's quite accessible), but it was not related to my cold starting issue. I eventually had it narrowed down to either the coolant temperature sensor or the ECU itself. The ECU uses the signal from the coolant temperature sensor to determine how far to advance the ignition timing under certain conditions, so it's pretty critical that the sensor operates correctly. I really didn't suspect the coolant temperature sensor because I had replaced it a couple summers ago, but when I tested it I found the signal was way out of whack when the coolant temperature was cold. As the coolant warmed up, the signal from the sensor quickly pulled back into it's correct range. The sensor is an easy and inexpensive fix, so I was happy. With the sensor replaced, my cold start issues were gone and the Golf ran real nice immediately after cold starts - no more rough running.

With the Golf really straightened out, I thought it would be a good time to install a Digifast 2 performance chip from vw_pilot (if you're on the vortex, look him up if you need a digifant 2 chip). It was $42 including shipping; however, I never received it. After about a month it was looking like the post office had just lost it or something. The seller was great about it, though - he sent out another one, at no charge, via usps priority mail so we could track it. The chip arrived this evening, so I installed it and took the Golf for a quick test drive. I am definitely happy with it. There's some extra pull at low RPMs under heavy load. I didn't really wind it out, so I have no idea how it affected the top end under full throttle yet. My favorite thing about it, though, is the fuel cutoff when the throttle closes. The fuel shuts off completely when you let off the throttle, until the RPMs reach idle speed. That may not sound like anything, but it's a huge difference in "fun factor" as it really increases the engine braking. The Digifant II cars are fairly high compression (high enough so that they use a knock sensing system), so there's some pretty decent engine braking when the fuel is cut off. Not only that, the RPMs drop quicker between shifts, which means you can shift that much quicker without trashing your syncros. In fact, the RPMs drop so quick that most of the time I end up double clutching when up-shifting in order to bring the RPMs back up to where they should be for the next gear.

Here are pics of the new chip - one before installation, and one after installation (click for larger view):
Digifast 2 Digifant performance chip installation
Digifast 2 Digifant performance chip installation


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Sun Oct 08, 2006
18:09
It's now been a few days since the FK 60/40 springs have replaced my old, trashed Tokico springs and I'm still very happy with them. Even though the front springs are lower and the rear springs are the same height, the FKs provide a better ride while still keeping my tires from rubbing against the fenders (with the Tokicos, I had to be very very careful - even small bumps would cause the rear tires to rub). Fortunately, the Tokico dampeners are much better quality than the Tokico springs, and they work well with the FKs. The front dampeners should be changed, though, because the Tokicos have too much travel (which means the springs are loose, just flopping around, when the vehicle is raised off the ground). A set of Bilsteins in the front would be really nice, but they're pricey.

My Golf, with Tokico HP shocks and FK 60/40 springs:
91 Golf, FK 60/40 springs


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Wed Oct 04, 2006
17:22
*sigh* Is anyone out there thinking about purchasing Tokico springs for their Volkswagen? If so, then take my advice and don't spend money on them. A year ago I installed a Tokico HP kit, which consisted of dampeners (struts) and springs. I was pretty happy with them at first, but that didn't last very long. It was only a matter of months before the handling started to get worse, and the front end started making all kinds of horrible sounding groans and clunks. Some time ago, I got under the car to find out what was going on, and there was nothing obviously wrong - everything felt real tight. I did notice, though, that the springs were looking incredibly poor. Yes, in almost exactly one year the Tokico HP springs had degraded to the point that I could only describe them as "beat". I saved about $100 over the cost of a quality suspension setup from H&R, and about $300 over the cost of Bilstein struts with Neuspeed springs... and now I wish I had spent the extra money because the Tokicos are complete junk. The dampeners are still working fine, thankfully.

What I decided to do this evening was remove the Tokico springs and replace them with a set of FK 60/40 springs that I had hanging around. FKs are some of the best springs out there, but FK products can be a little bit difficult to get in the U.S. I scored a set a couple years ago, though - behold: (click image for larger view)
FK 60/40 springs


I only had enough time to do the 2 front springs tonight, I will do the rears later. The front FK springs are 60mm lower than stock, which is even lower than the Tokicos I had been using. Both the Tokicos and FKs are so short that I didn't have to use spring compressors to disassemble and reassemble the struts. Here are a couple of pictures of the Tokico springs that I removed (click them for larger versions):
beat Tokico springs
beat Tokico springs


I took the Golf for a quick spin, and the difference is amazing. Even though the FK springs are shorter and stiffer, the ride quality is much, much better and there are no more funny groans and clunks when I go over bumps or cut the steering wheel at low speeds.

If you're going to spend your hard-earned money, spend it on quality.

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Tue Sep 26, 2006
18:27
My 91 Golf is well on it's way to running really nice (new oxygen sensor, and new knock sensor on the way). While I was searching for Digifant II troubleshooting info (even though I have the Bentley book, I still like to search the web), I found a guy who sells reprogrammed Digifant II chips. There are a few choices out there when it comes to Digifant II chip upgrades, but some of them ignore knock sensor input, which requires you to run high octane fuel all the time. One of the most well known upgrades is the Autotech chip, which also comes with an aluminum bushing to mount between the knock sensor and the engine block - that basically dampens the feedback through the knock sensor, which I'm not crazy about. To me, if the knock sensor and ECU are working correctly, and if the engine itself is in decent mechanical shape, then there's no reason to alter the factory knock sensor setup. I'd rather keep that functionality 100% intact if possible. This other chip I just found out about not only preserves the knock sensing system, but actually samples input from the knock sensor (as well as several other sensors) more frequently than the stock program. The chip gets great feedback from other folks who have used them (there is an entire thread on VWVortex dedicated to praise of this chip upgrade), and seems to be more of a driveability upgrade than a performance upgrade. Well, the chip upgrade is only $42 including shipping, so I went ahead and ordered one. I will put up a post once I receive it and install it. These chips only work with certain Digifant II ECUs - luckily, I have a KEN box which is original (as opposed to the later boxes issued around 1996 which supercede the original ones). Siemens, Triumph-Adler, and Bosch also made original Digifant II units.

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Thu Aug 17, 2006
17:40
So, part of the reason I haven't posted since our trip to Great Britain is that I've been having exhaust issues on my 91 Golf. The system, as you may know, is a Brospeed (Bosal) header into a Techtonics high flow catalytic converter and then straight pipe to a single Flowmaster Delta Flow muffler. Let's just say it has plenty of "character" (that means it's loud). Ever since I finished the shift linkage rebuild, there has been a little bit of a leak between the header and the catalytic converter. It wasn't much of a leak, but just enough so that I noticed it. The part that was sealing that join was nothing more than a strip of stainless steel mesh wrapped around on itself to form a ring. A couple weeks ago I decided to drop the exhaust again and get that sealing ring seated a little better. To make a long story short, I disassembled and reassembled the exhaust 5 or 6 times over the next couple weeks and only managed to make the leak even worse. Along the way, I tried several different parts to replace the strip of mesh that was on it. I tried a ring from a Jeep Cherokee downpipe, but that was too small. I tried two different factory VW exhaust rings, and both of those were too big (in fact, they appeared to be identical even though they were different part numbers). Finally, I got in touch with the good people at Bosal North America and they sent out the correct part to fit their header. I figured that was the best way to get something that was going to fit correctly. Even if I had managed to find a universal part with the correct inner and outer diameters, I really wasn't sure how deep (thick) the ring needed to be in order to seal properly. Well, the part from Bosal arrived today and I just finished installing it this evening. No more exhaust leak!

I'm now surfing the web, looking for good prices on cat back exhaust systems. My cat-back system is just too loud for this quiet little neighborhood we moved into, and it's getting kind of tender anyway. I can get an entire Ansa cat-back system, but it's a factory replacement system and isn't likely to have much of a sound at all. Our 95 Jetta has the Ansa factory replacement cat-back system, and it sounds great for a stock system but it's just far too civilized for an A2 GTI clone like mine. I need something with a little bit of a bark. I would be thrilled to find something that sounds as nice as the stainless Neuspeed exhaust on Claire's 96 Golf, but I doubt that's going to be the case with the cheaper systems that I'm looking at.

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Sat Apr 15, 2006
20:19
Last season I ordered a MissingLinkZ solid shift kit (an all metal shift linkage with spherical rod ends) along with MissingLinkZ teflon bushings for the relay shaft, UHMW poly selector "ball" and teflon poly bushing for the main shift rod. I also ordered a factory "rebuild kit" for the lower end of the shift lever. Soon after receiving the parts (which turned out to be pretty nice quality), I installed everything except for the bushing for the main shift rod (the rod that goes from the gear shift lever up into the engine bay) and the shift lever rebuild kit. To install those parts on my A2 requires the exhaust system to be disconnected and dropped, the exhaust heat shield to be removed, and the shifter box/lever/rod (the whole linkage from the passenger compartment to the engine compartment) to be removed. I wanted to wait until I had a replacement part for my reverse gear lock-out so that I could do that at the same time. It's a plastic piece pop-riveted the shifter "box" that is much easier to drill out and remove with the box removed from the car.

So this weekend I decided it was finally time to replace that bushing, install the shift lever rebuild kit, and fix my reverse gear lock-out. I worked at a pretty leisurely pace all day Friday (had the day off from work) and then finished bolting the exhaust back up this morning (Saturday, that is).

Here is a shot of the engine bay, in which you can see some of the MissingLinkZ kit - especially that nice billet weighted shift rod painted with silver Hammerite. The kit is great, and made a huge difference in the feel of the shift linkage - no more A2 slop! This kit is nice because it eliminates rubber bushings in the factory linkage by using all metal spherical rod ends instead.
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


Here is a shot of the exhaust disconnected between the catalytic converter and header, and the heat shield removed. To get my exhaust to drop down far enough, I had to disconnect all the hangers. Even then, the heat shield was tricky to get out without damaging it
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


With the heat shield removed, you can see the bottom of the shift box and the main shift rod coming out of it:
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


Four bolts hold the shift box to the body of the car - when you remove them, the whole box will drop down:
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


At the other end of the main shift rod, just going up into the engine compartment, there is a clamp arrangement that provides adjustment and fixes the main shift rod to the rest of the shift linkage. In all factory A2 Golf/Jetta shift linkages (except for 1992 and some 1991 - they have additional adjustment) this is the only point of adjustment - you can adjust both side-to-side and front-to-back throw of the shift lever. Here is a shot showing the clamp arrangement and the single bolt that hold it in place. Remove the bolt completely and the sleeve clamp will slide off the end.
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


With the shift box disconnected and the main shift rod unclamped, the struggle to remove the whole assembly can begin. Most of the work is trying to squeeze the shift box down past the exhaust. Don't forget that the shift lever is still sticking way up out of the top of it, so that really makes it awkward to remove. If you can work your exhaust all the way to the side, then it won't be as bad. My exhaust, however, barely moved aside enough to get the box dropped down.

With that whole mess of shift box, main shift rod, and gearshift lever removed from the car, my next job was to remove the gearshift lever from that whole assembly. There are two small nuts holding the shifter base to the shift box and once those are removed the whole shift lever can be worked free. Kind of tricky because you have to sort of muscle it out while sliding the main shift rod back at as extreme an angle as possible. It's hard to describe, but pretty obvious once you have everything out where you can see it. Carry on sliding the shift rod back to remove it from the shift box. I removed it completely so I could clean up the box and the bushing mounted in it. You'll want to replace that if if it's worn, brittle, or broken. Here is my shift box with the shift lever and main shift rod removed:
Photo of Golf shift linkage work

In the picture above you can see the white piece of plastic pop-riveted to the shift box - that's my old, broken reverse lock-out. You can just barely see part of the shifter base in the bottom of the box - it's a plastic and rubber piece that simply presses into the bottom of the box and acts as a seat for the mating part of the shifter base (a plastic ball on the bottom of the lever). My rebuild kit for the shifter base included this piece, so I removed the old piece just by working it out from the bottom. The new piece slid in from the top quite easily.

And here is my shift lever with the replacement shifter base ball installed - the ball is the mating part for that piece pressed into the bottom of the box that I mentioned above. The ball is spring loaded so to remove it you have to keep it pressed "upward" (toward the top of the lever) and drive the roll pin out of the bottom of the lever and then the ball will slide right off the end.
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


Here is a side-by-side comparison of my old, broken reverse lock-out piece and the replacement piece that I found from another car. You can see that the piece on the left is complete and has a tab to keep the shift lever from engaging reverse unless the lever is pressed down. The piece on the right, obviously, has had the tab broken off. This is common for older VWs and will make it difficult to get into first gear and possibly even cause you to shift into reverse without realizing it. To remove the old piece, just drill the heads off the rivets (the rivets in mine were copper).
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


You can pop-rivet the new piece back into place like I did, or you can use short bolts and nuts. If you use bolts, install them so the heads of the bolts are on the inside of the shift box and you may even have to grind the heads down so they don't stick out as far. Otherwise they may interfere with the shift lever's movement. I prefer rivets for this because the head ends up nice and flush rather than sticking out. Here is my shift box with the replacement piece riveted into place:
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


The last part of my chore was to remove the bracket for the relay shaft which mounts to the top of the steering rack. The main shift rod passes through a bushing in this bracket, and it's that bushing I needed to replace with the new teflon part. There are three bolts that hold this bracket to the steering rack. The two in the back you'll have to get from under the car, and having the exhaust system and main shift rod out of the way first really helps get to them. The third bolt is trickier (in fact, it's even tricky to locate at first) and I could only get to it by leaning over the engine bay and reaching down to it with a long extension on my ratchet. The bushing is held in place by a metal shell pop-riveted over it and if you were replacing it with a factory-like rubber bushing then you could just slide the old one out and slide the new one in. My replacement teflon bushing, though, was rock solid so it could not squeeze into place like that. These MissingLinkZ shift rod bearings come with two short bolts and nylon-insert nuts because of this. I had to drill out the rivets, swap the bushings, then use those bolts and nuts in place of the pop rivets. I could have pop-riveted it back together, but the bushing came with those nuts and bolts so I decided to put them to use. Here is a picture of the relay shaft bracket with the new teflon bushing sitting loosely in place. Next to the bracket is the metal shell that holds the bushing in place:
Photo of Golf shift linkage work


From there on, it was a matter of putting everything back together. Reinstalling the relay shaft bracket, installing the shift lever and main shift rod back into the shift box, then working the shift box back into place while routing the main shift rod back through the relay shaft bracket, and then reinstalling the heat shield and putting the exhaust back into place. The shift lever base rebuild kit and teflon main shift rod bearing made quite a difference in the feel. Gear selection is firm, positive, and smooth. As close to perfect as you'll ever get in an A2, methinks. And having a working reverse lock-out is just great - that alone is worth all the work involved.

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Sun Mar 12, 2006
22:02
Last weekend we took a trip to visit friends in Keene, which involved driving down a particular stretch of Route 101 with a speed limit of 65mph. Traffic flow along that section of road is pretty much 80mph. We were in our 1996 Golf, which currently has a very short 5th gear installed - so 80mph is well over 4000rpm. After about 20 minutes of cruising with the engine at higher rpms, I noticed that the oil pressure light started to come on every time we had to come to a stop and let the engine idle. I had noticed for a while that the engine was starting to develop a pretty nasty sounding knock (not like a knock caused by cheap gas or incorrect ignition timing) and it seemed to be getting slowly worse. During this trip, it was bad enough so that the motor pretty much sounded like a diesel at higher rpms under light to medium load. Needless to say, I took it pretty easy on the poor thing after that.

Now, poor oil pressure only at idle is often a sign that the main bearings are getting worn beyond their allowable tolerances (or that they are badly scored). A worn or malfunctioning oil pump is also a likely candidate. Our 96 Golf only has 125,000 miles on it, so I was surprised to see this happening at all. The 96 and later ABA engines, though, use lesser quality internals - so I wasn't going to rule out main bearing wear without doing some checking. I talked briefly to Klaus and Wolfgang over at Atlantic Imported Auto Supply about this, and they informed me of a fairly common problem on these ABA engines. Apparently, the plastic oil baffle surrounding the pickup tube for the oil pump is notorious for cracking and breaking, which can cause small bits of that hard plastic to clog the screen at the end of the pickup tube. They suggested that I pay close attention to that.

If my only symptom were the oil pressure (without the knocking and rapping), then I would have assumed an oil pump problem... but the noise really made worry that the main bearings were in tough shape. The only way to really tell is to tear into the bottom of the engine block and investigate. My dad was in town, visiting for the weekend, so we both spent Saturday doing a little bit of open-heart surgery on that ABA motor in the 96 Golf.

The oil pump, main bearings, and lower rod bearings can all be accessed by removing the oil pan. On these engines, the oil pan is quite easy to remove because there are no exhaust pieces or subframes in the way. Behold:
Photo of Golf main bearing work


You'll definitely want to drain the oil first:
Photo of Golf main bearing work


All of the bolts holding the oil pan into place are easy to get to, except for the two closest the transmission - those 2 can only be accessed by removing that small aluminum plate covering the very bottom of the bell housing. That plate is very easy to remove and once it's out of the way you get to those 2 tricky bolts by using a "wobble" extension (a socket extension with the end formed so that the socket will wobble just a few degrees in any direction). On the ABA engines (and some others) you can use either a socket or a torx bit to remove the bolts. They use nice bolts that are 6 point on the outside, and torx (star) on the inside. So no need to panic if some of them are stripped out! Oil pan bolts being removed:
Photo of Golf main bearing work

Here is a closeup of the head of one of the oil pan bolts:
Photo of Golf main bearing work


Even after all the bolts are removed, oil pans can be a pain to break loose. The gasket material often causes it to stick, but enough persistence will get it done. The oil pump will be in plain sight, staring you in the face once the oil pan is removed. The two larger bolts going up through the bottom of the pump body are the ones that fasten it to the engine block - remove those, and it will slide right out. Do not try to remove that plastic baffle around the pickup tube unless you absolutely have to. It's quite difficult to remove without cracking the clips that hold it in place. Here is a view of the bottom of the oil pump and pickup tube/baffle.
Photo of Golf main bearing work

And here is a view of the top of the pump, showing the input shaft and the teeth of the pump gears (which actually pump the oil):
Photo of Golf main bearing work


If you look closely at the picture showing the pickup tube, you can see a couple of dark flecks caught in the screen. We also found pieces of old gasket material in the oil pan. If enough of that junk got sucked up against the pickup tube screen, that could really inhibit oil flow and cause poor pressure... however, I couldn't really see that being the problem in this particular case (where oil pressure rises again as the engine rpms are raised slightly). It seems like a blockage against the screen would keep restricting oil flow through all engine speeds, until the blockage had a chance to fall back away from the screen. Here is the inside of the oil pan with a little bit of oil pooled inside - even though there is a lot of junk floating around in it, you really can't see it in the picture:
Photo of Golf main bearing work


The plastic pickup tube baffle showed no signs of being cracked or broken, and we could find no trace of that hard, black plastic in the oil. Since the oil pump was out anyway, I decided to check it out using the procedure from the Bentley book (the VW shop manual), which involves measuring the backlash and the lateral play of the pump gears. It all checked out - the pump had minimal (if any) wear. At this point, I was excited to measure the main bearing tolerances. The main bearing caps can be seen clearly with the oil pan and oil pump removed, as seen here:
Photo of Golf main bearing work


The bearing shells farthest away from the oil pump will normally exhibit the most wear, so we started by measuring the clearance of the #2 bearing (#1 bearing cap is a little more difficult to remove - more on that in a moment). Plastigage is used to measure the bearing clearance - it's just a thin strip of plastic that gets installed, sideways, between the crank journal and the wear surface of the bearing shell. When the bearing cap is torqued down, the plastic gets squashed. The bearing cap is then removed again, and the width of what remains of the plastic strip is used to judge the clearance. Here is the #2 crank journal, with residue from the plastigage still visible:
Photo of Golf main bearing work

And here is the #2 bearing cap with the bearing shell still showing the plastigage:
Photo of Golf main bearing work

Even though the wear was still within spec, there was visible scoring that went well down into the copper layer of the bearing.

The #1 main bearing cap is tricky, because the heads of the bolts are so close to the plate that covers the front main seal. The space is so tight that a socket will not fit around the bolt head. An open-end wrench can be used (barely), but that is not recommended (you run the risk of rounding off the bolt heads). The #5 bearing cap is even worse to get to - not only is it very close against the plate for the rear main seal, but it's also right up against the toothed wheel that triggers the crankshaft position sensor. The only way to remove #5 without splitting the engine and transmission and removing the clutch and rear main seal plate is to use a socket with very thin walls. A thin walled socket is also really the only good option for the #1 cap. My dad has a real knack for hacking together special tools and modifying tools for special purposes, so he butchered one of my 1/2" drive 17mm sockets on the bench grinder, and we ended up with a magnificent thin-walled socket:
Photo of Golf main bearing work Photo of Golf main bearing work


That couldn't have worked any better for those stubborn #1 and #5 bearing caps. We plastigaged the #1 bearing and found it to be a little more worn than #2, although still within spec. That scoring on #2 worried me, so I decided it was worth the little extra effort to change the main bearings while we had everything apart. #4 was also scored (even worse than #2), and #5 turned out to be the most worn (surprising, as it's closest to the oil pump). We didn't bother plastigaging #5, since I had already made up my mind I was replacing all of them. Here is the very strange thing I found, though. The ABA main bearings are each made up of 2 bearing shell "halves". The upper halves all have oil passageways in them, and all of the lower shells are solid... except for #3. #3 has the grooved shells both top and bottom. This is clearly stated in the Bentley manual. The lower shell of the #3 bearing that I removed from this engine was not grooved - it was solid. I have no idea why.

The trickiest part was removing and reinstalling the upper shells (between the crank journals and engine block), but we managed. By the time the sun started to set, I was done installing the main bearing caps, oil pump, and oil pan. After re-tensioning the timing belt and adjusting the power steering belt tension (it was getting kind of sloppy), we were ready to fire it up. We started it and let it run for a few seconds, and the oil pressure light was on constantly, regardless of engine rpm. We figured it was just the oil pump being dry, and since we had used plenty of assembly lube when installing the new bearings, we gave it another 30 seconds or so of running to try and build some pressure. No luck. You know the kind of tricks your mind plays when things like this don't go like you expect - you start to backtrace and think of anything that you could have done wrong. What a lousy feeling. Everything had gone very well up until this point. Finally, we removed the ignition distributor and rigged up a device to drive the oil pump using an electric drill. After lots and lots of spinning, we seemed to have resistance in the pump again (it felt like it was drawing oil). So we reinstalled the distributor and gave it another try... and success! We had oil pressure and the motor sounded great - no more ugly rapping noises. The Golf has made quite a few small trips since then, and it just runs great. I'm happy.

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Sun Jan 08, 2006
10:32
A few days before Claire and I went down south to visit relatives we had a very cold morning. It was right around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Our 96 Golf had always seemed to be harder to start in very cold weather, and this particular morning it just would not start after several attempts. When we finally did get it started, it ran funny and the check engine light was on. At that point, I didn't have time to look into it before we left for our trip, so I left it until we got back. When we got back and I hooked the car up to my laptop running vagcom, this is what I found for a code stored in the ECU:

VAG-COM Version: Release 512.1-UD

Control Module Part Number: 037 906 259
 Component and/or Version: MOTRONIC M5.9 HS V08
  Software Coding: 00000
   Work Shop Code: WSC 09446
1 Fault Found:
17988 - Throttle Actuator (Bank 1): Malfunction
 P1580 - 35-10 - - - Intermittent


Seeing this made a lot of sense to me, because I have heard that the electronic throttle actuators used in OBD-II Volkswagens are prone to sticking and jamming during colder weather. I cleared the code and it hasn't returned yet, although I expect that it would be a problem again once the temperature drops. I hope that some cleaning and silicone or white lithium grease will do the trick to keep this from becoming a problem again.

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Thu Jan 05, 2006
20:16
I know it's been a while since my last post, but that doesn't mean nothing's been happening! I've got plenty of stuff to share, but this post is just for my most recent car-related activity. I've known my A2 Golf needed a new head gasket for some time now, so I finally got around to doing it. This past weekend was a good time for it, since I had Friday and Monday off from work. Saturday I started to come down with some kind of bug - I felt pretty run down and had a sore throat. I made it a lot worse by spending all day Sunday and all day Monday out in the freezing cold New England winter tearing my car apart and putting it back together.

So what are the symptoms of a headgasket leak? Well, it can vary quite a bit. The main components of an engine are the engine block and one or more cylinder heads. An in-line engine will have one cylinder head, while most boxer and "V" engines have 2 cylinder heads. One exception to that is Volkswagen's narrow angle V6 (VR6, as they call it) which has only one cylinder head. The engine has passageways for circulating oil and coolant, and these passageways run through both the cylinder head(s) and the block. The head gasket goes in between the block and the cylinder head, and provides a seal to keep these oil and coolant passageways from leaking into each other and into the combustion chambers. The gasket also keeps coolant and oil from leaking outside of the engine. So depending on where the headgasket is leaking, the symptoms could be oil and coolant mixing with each other (there will be oil blobs floating in the coolant reservoir, and coolant sitting in the bottom of the oil pan), or coolant leaking into the combustion chamber(s) and getting burned, or oil leaking into the combustion chamber(s) and getting burned, or coolant and/or oil leaking to the outside, and running down the engine block. In some cases, a headgasket failure can cause compression from one cylinder to leak into a neighboring cylinder, which can really screw up the way the engine runs.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Here is the subject: 1991 Golf, 1800cc 8 valve, Digifant II.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Here's the dirty, old engine bay.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
The easiest way to drain the coolant on this car is to disconnect the lower hose going to the water pump. If you don't drain the coolant, you'll get a huge mess when removing the cylinder head. I didn't drain the oil, because the level doesn't come up past the top of the block.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Here the valve cover has been removed, and you can see the splash guard that sits directly over the camshaft. That white stuff on the splash guard is a sign that there is a *lot* of moisture getting mixed with the oil. This could indicate a bad head gasket.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Yikes! This is the under-side of the valve cover. Lots more of that white goop. It is normal for some of this stuff to develop, especially if the car gets driven mostly for short distances or if regular oil changes aren't performed. This much of it, however, is not normal.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
The "goop" has the consistency of warm peanut butter, and even though it looks nearly white in these pictures it's actually a light brown (not quite as dark as peanut butter, but close).

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Here is a shot of the engine block all by itself in the car - the cylinder head has been removed. This car has a Brospeed header installed, which turned out to make things a little difficult. One of the pipes in the header just barely blocked one of the intake manifold bolts from coming all the way out. Unfortunate, because the best way to get access to the exhaust manifold/header nuts is to remove the intake manifold. In the end, I elected to disconnect the header from the catalytic converter, and remove the cylinder head with the header and the intake manifold still attached. It was very heavy that way, but it worked out well.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Here's the grimy, old head gasket. Some of the coolant passageways were completely blocked with crud.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
This is the cylinder head, removed from the engine bay with the header and intake manifold still attached. Lots of carbon buildup in those combustion chambers.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Here is the underside of the cylinder head again, after I spent a few minutes cleaning up and blocking the surface that mates against the gasket. I used a good, heavy straight-edge with some fine sand paper and diesel fuel to wet sand the surface (using the straight-edge as a block for the sand paper).

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Here is the gasket surface of the block after getting the same treatment. I also spent some time cleaning some of the nasty carbon build-up from the tops of the pistons.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Hooray! The cylinder head is now back in place and bolted down. Some head bolts are made to stretch when they are torqued down, so they cannot be re-used. Others are not made to stretch, and can be safely re-used as long as they are not damaged.

Photo of Golf head gasket work
Here's everything else installed - looks nearly the same as when we started! After refilling the coolant system, I tried to start the car... and no luck. It just kept cranking. By this time it was really late Monday night, and I was really feeling under the weather and I was sick of being out in the cold. So I gave up for the night. I finally got a chance to look at it again tonight, and it just turned out to be the valvetrain timing. Once that was corrected, she fired right up.



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Wed Nov 30, 2005
19:42
Our new Golf has been on the road for close to a month now, and all is well. One thing I have noticed about the OBD-II A3 Volkswagens is how slowly the engine RPMs drop between gear changes. The OBD-I VWs have a small hydraulic device on the throttle body that causes the throttle valve to close slowly, achieving nearly the same effect. I believe this is done to make the cars easier to drive. It allows the driver to make easy, relaxed shifts without jerkiness during clutch engagement. If the RPMs drop quickly, then you must either shift quickly or quickly raise the engine RPMs again as you re-engage the clutch in order to avoid an ugly mismatch that can cause the car to buck or jerk. Anyway, the reason I mention it is because the OBD-I cars can be made to behave more naturally by removing that small hydraulic device. The OBD-II A3s, however, appear to behave this way due to the program in the ECU, and so only an ECU update will get rid of this annoying trait.

All in all, she's a great little car that we are very happy with.

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Thu Nov 03, 2005
19:54
The black Golf had a state inspection appointment for Tuesday of this week (that was November 1), so my plan was to drop it off at the garage (Car Works) after dark on Monday. That would lessen the chance of being pulled over for driving an uninspected vehicle. My dad offered to follow me to the garage and give me a ride back. Anyway, we went to start the Golf Monday evening, and the battery was weak enough so that the starter wouldn't crank. Kind of a pain, but no big deal - we jump-started the car and drove down Route 125 to Car Works. When we got there, I opened the door to get out of the car, and the alarm started going off! The factory VW alarm simply blares the horn over and over - the sound slices right through you. The normal way to turn off the alarm is to insert the key into a door lock, and turn it. I was frantically unlocking and locking doors to shut the thing up, to no avail. The alarm simply would not deactivate. By this time everyone at the shop was wondering what the heck was going on outside. I had to run inside and borrow a wrench so that I could disconnect the battery. We spent a good 30 minutes there in the parking lot trying to figure out what the heck was going on - the alarm goes off when the battery is disconnected then reconnected (that's normal behavior for VW alarms), but we had no way to turn it off. I will spare you the painfully long version of the story, but we finally managed to get me into the driver's seat of the car, with the alarm deactivated, so that I could drive it back to the house (the car won't start if the alarm is active). After hours of investigation without getting much of anywhere, we started to get desparate and were checking everything that was even remotely related to the alarm and central locking systems (not only was the alarm acting up, but the central lock function seemed to stop working as well). This car has the vacuum pump for the central locking system located in the same housing as the central lock control module. We tested the vacuum pump to see if it was working, and it was dead as a doornail. Just for the heck of it, and because the central locking system is sort of related to the alarm system, we decided to see what would happen with the central lock control module and pump disconnected. Sure enough, the alarm behaved normally again. Going back to the central lock module, my dad pried the cover off the box, and some water poured out. The module itself is just a small circuit board, and it was extremely corroded and stank of burnt electronics. We got the car back to the garage around 11:00pm.

I got a call on Tuesday from Car Works, saying that they didn't like the amount of play in the front strut mounts. I had replaced the bearings in the mounts, but not the rubber bushing that takes up the space between the bearing and the body of the car. So I took the car back that night, spent a couple of hours replacing those bushings, and the next morning I made arrangments to drop the car off again. It is now back at the shop, waiting for a sticker.

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Sat Oct 22, 2005
20:00
At long last, our "new" Golf is ready for state inspection. Today I replaced one of the turn signal bulbs, a front corner marker bulb, both rear license plate bulbs, and one tail light bulb. The brakes are all taken care of now, too. The parking brake cables needed a lot of adjustment - that's kind of a pain because the rear section of the center console has to be removed in order to get to the cable adjusters behind the base of the parking brake lever. I had thought that the brakes would need to be bled, but once the parking brake was adjusted, the brake pedal felt nice and firm.

So, that's it. That's all she should need to pass inspection. Since purchasing the car, I have done the following work to it: New Neuspeed stainless steel cat-back exhaust system, new master cylinder, new braided stainless steel brake lines, new front strut inserts, new upper strut mounts, new rear wheel cylinders, new upstream oxygen sensor, new mass airflow sensor, realigned front doors, adjusted parking brake, replaced a bunch of exterior light bulbs. Looking back on it, that's quite a bit! Including the $1000 that I paid for the car itself, I think I have just over $2000 into it - and that's including the stainless exhaust sytem, which was almost $600 by itself. I could have gone for a plain aluminized exhaust system for around $200, but I really wanted a high quality stainless system. In this part of the country aluminized exhausts just dont' last very long, and I don't enjoy doing exhaust work. At any rate, she is one *sweet* Golf for just a couple grand.

I now need to make an appointment at Car Works (our local VW/Volvo specialists) for an inspection, and an alignment (because I had the front suspension apart). I think it should pass, but you never know.

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Wed Oct 19, 2005
18:42
I meant to post this yesterday, but didn't get a chance. The front doors on the black Golf are now aligned so that they open and shut correctly without rubbing against neighboring body parts. It really was kind of a pain, but well worth the effort. The doors had to be completely removed in order to access the torx bolts that hold the hinges to the body. The hinges have elongated holes, which allows for adjustment.

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Sun Oct 16, 2005
13:30

This morning I replaced the MAF (mass airflow sensor, or "air mass sensor" as VW calls it) in the black Golf. I replaced it with a remanufactured sensor that I purchased from Impex. I don't know what "remanufactured" means with these things, but it looks brand new to me. You can get the reman sensor for roughly $70, versues nearly $300 for the new.

Once the sensor was replaced, it was once again time to run through the tedious procedures for setting the readiness codes, using the vag-com software. There are portions that require the car to be driven under certain conditions while at the same time examining the feedback from the vag-com application. It would be very difficult and incredibly dangerous to attempt that on your own; fortunately, my dad was around to ride shotgun and keep an eye on the laptop while I drove. I am always worried that stuff won't work, so imagine my delight when when we finished all 20 procedures and saw the following screen, telling us that the readiness codes are now set:

Screenshot of readiness codes


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Sun Sep 25, 2005
18:24
Here are pics of the block, with all 4 pistons/conrods installed:
ABA block being rebuilt ABA block being rebuilt


Here is one of the reasons that the OBD-I ABA block is such a popular upgrade - they have 4 of these piston oil squirters (normally only found in high end turbo applications) from the factory:
ABA piston oil squirter


Here are some shots of the valve spring compressor that my dad and I made:
Homemade valve spring compressor Homemade valve spring compressor Homemade valve spring compressor

It works well. In the pictures above, you see it bolted to the cylinder head that I will be using on top of the ABA block. There are no valve springs or valves in the cylinder head in the pictures - these are just to show the way it works. That little window cut into the "foot" of the spring compressor allows access to the valve keepers once the springs are compressed.

Here is a box full of the valves, valve springs, keepers, and retainers that will be going into the cylinder head. They are all stock.
Box-o-valvetrain pieces


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Sat Sep 24, 2005
19:29
A quick update for tonight - all 4 pistons/connecting rods are now installed. After mis-reading the markings on the connecting rods and the rod bearing caps, I had all 4 caps installed wrong. Once that was corrected, everything turned over nicely.

I found the camera, so tomorrow you can see pics of the home-made valve spring compressor that I will be using for the cylinder head that will be going on top of the ABA block. It should work well, I think.

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Thu Sep 22, 2005
17:20
I can't find my camera, so I don't have any pictures to post with this, but 3 of the 4 ABA pistons are now installed. "Why only 3?", you ask? Well, there was an incident several days ago. I accidentally broke a couple of rings while attempting to install the first piston. My first attempt was using a rolled piece of sheetmetal and a couple of hose clamps to compress the rings. That arrangement was awkward to work with - nearly impossible to get the bottom edge of the sheetmetal to sit perfectly flush against the top of the cylinder block. That meant that there was a little bit of a gap between the ring compressor and the block that allowed the rings to expand just enough to get all mangled as I drove the piston into the block.

The day after breaking the rings, I ordered replacements. Just last night I found that my dad had borrowed a real ring compressor from a friend of his. So we tried it out and had great luck getting 3 of the pistons installed. The new rings arrived today, so now I can get the fourth one out of the way. Pics when I remember where my camera is.

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Wed Sep 07, 2005
18:15
Yesterday I called Atlantic and had them order a set of correct piston rings for my ABA build. They arrived today, so I went and picked them up. These are Goetze instead of Mahle. Both are superb quality, but at least the instruction sheet with the Goetze rings has better grammar.
new piston rings new piston rings


I was planning on getting the crankshaft and pistons/rods installed tonight, so I started by opening my package of new main bearings:
new main bearings

That little white packet contains the 4 thrust bearings that get installed on either side of the #3 main crankshaft journal.

I had all of the main bearing caps bagged and tagged, so I just cleaned them up, popped all of the new main bearing shells into place in the block and in the caps, applied plenty of assembly lube, carefully placed the crankshaft into place, and worked the caps into place on top of their respective main journals. According to the Bentley manual, there are 2 types of main bolts used. The early type are shouldered and get torqued to 48 ft*lb. The later type are threaded all the way up to the head, and get torqued to 48 ft*lb plus another quarter of a turn (90 degrees). I had the later type. The crankshaft is the original from this engine block (220,000 miles!), and I had it worked over by a reputable machine shop in our area (R&L engines). They didn't have to grind the journals for oversized bearings because they were still well within spec. It was a simple radius and polish job. I got the crankshaft back well packaged, oiled, and looking brand new. It only cost $65. Here is that beauty of a crank installed:
Crankshaft installed


I didn't get any of the pistons installed because I don't have a ring compressor. Well, that's not entirely true. I just don't have one that will fit 82.5mm pistons. So my next ABA rebuild related post will be me making a ring compressor and (hopefully) installing the pistons and attaching the connecting rods to the crankshaft.

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Mon Sep 05, 2005
18:15
Today's "down": That nice set of Mahle piston rings that I bought quite a few months ago to use in my ABA rebuild turns out to be for 1.8 liter VW engines with an 81.0mm bore. If you know the ABA motor, then you know it's a 2.0 liter with an 82.5mm bore. Had I bothered to look at the label on the bottom of the box after receiving them, then I would have known right away:
wrong rings
Gah!!! I'm a moron.


That was a real downer after I got myself all excited for reassembly and even put together one piston/rod assembly:
note the can of Moxy Rod and piston assembled


Today's "up": I got a chance to try Ross-Tech's little diagnostic procedure to do a sort of crude check of the mass airflow sensor in the black Golf. I think their fuel-trim writeup was geared toward something other than the ABA cars because the measurement block they said to read for the mass airflow sensor feedback was 002. I ended up finding it in 003 instead. So I did what they said - while monitoring the sensor feedback in group 003, I did a run up to redline in 2nd gear. The reading peaked at about 103g/s which is definitely a little high. The calculation is pretty simple: take the peak reading and divide it by 0.8. The result should be the approximate horsepower output of the engine. In my case, it's a stock ABA which is supposed to be 115 horsepower. My peak reading of 103 divided by 0.8 gives 128.75. To reinforce this, I found that there was a DTC stored in the car's computer:
16487 - Mass Air Flow Sensor (G70): Signal too high
  P0103 - 35 - 10 --- intermittent


So that gives me something solid to go on, at least.

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Sat Aug 13, 2005
21:52
It's been a while since my last post. You may have noticed there is now a link over to the left to get an RSS feed. I doubt anybody will subscribe, but hey - it's there if you want it.

So, the new oxygen sensor is now installed. Since the purpose of this blog is to document my mechanic-ing, here is a little writeup outlining what was involved.

Here is the target of our operation, the old oxygen sensor. This is the upstream (or forward) oxygen sensor so it lives, as you see here, threaded into the rear of the downpipe (just ahead of the catalytic converter).
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work

Here is a point-of-view that I'm all too familiar with.
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work

Okay, step one is to unplug the electrical connector coming from the oxygen sensor. In this case, the plugs for both oxygen sensors meet their mating plugs in the back of the engine bay, toward the side where the airbox is mounted. The engine mount in that rear corner has a small bracket mounted to it that the oxygen sensor plugs snap into, to keep them from floating around inside the engine compartment. These two pictures are looking down past the air intake at the plug for the upstream oxygen sensor, disconnected from it's mating plug. You can't see it, but just behind my hand in the second picture there is a brown plug, which is the connector for the rear (downstream) oxygen sensor.
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work

With the electrical connector unplugged, and the clips/zip-ties removed from from the wire, the sensor itself can now be removed from the downpipe. In the first picture below, you can see a special oxygen sensor socket slid over the sensor. Unless you're willing to cut the wire off the sensor, you need more than just a really deep socket - you need one of these, which has a channel cut into it that lets the wire get out of the way. Of course, you can also use an open-ended wrench if you happen to have one the right size. It can sometimes be a real struggle to remove an old oxygen sensor. I usually have good luck letting the car run for several minutes, and then squirting some penetrating oil (like PB Blaster or Aero Kroil) around the mating surfaces. In this particular case, it worked quite well - very little effort was required to remove the old sensor.
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work


Here is the new sensor (Bosch, of course) - I recommend OEM for these things because I've heard too many stories of people using aftermarket sensors that don't respond as quickly. For older cars, it's probably no big deal, but for anything 1996 (OBD-II) or newer, that could be a problem. This Bosch sensor even came with anti-seize compound on the threads - how nice is that!
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work


Here is the new sensor being installed.
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work


With the new sensor installed, I fired up the vag-com software on the laptop again to take a look at things. As expected, it showed that the upstream oxygen sensor was now perfectly within spec all of the time. Unfortunately, I continued to get "multi-trim fuel bank too rich" DTCs when trying to set the readiness codes. Below is a picture of the Go Mango laptop running the vag-com software. Notice the USB-to-OBD adapter running from the laptop to the diagnostic port in the dashboard of the Golf.
Photo of Golf oxygen sensor work


I've been doing some research about this multi-trim message, and somewhere in the VW Vortex I found this really handy posting on the ross-tech website: http://www.ross-tech.com/vag-com/cars/fuel-trim.html. It looks like I need to take a closer look at my Mass Airflow Sensor. I'm not getting any codes that indicate a MAF problem, but it's worth checking at this point.

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Wed Aug 03, 2005
23:29
Shift linkage is now taken care of. I removed the bolts holding the bracket to the steering rack, chased the threads with a tap, and reinstalled the bolts using some red loctite.

In other news, the new oxygen sensor for the black Golf arrived today. Sweet.

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Sun Jul 31, 2005
11:44
I found an OE upstream oxygen sensor for the 96 Golf at Autohaus Arizona for $72.92 so I went ahead and ordered it. 2 day UPS delivery was only $9.31 extra - so even with fast shipping it was cheaper than the next best price I found. Sweet.

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Fri Jul 29, 2005
22:32
So, last night I took a stab at setting the readiness codes on our A3 Golf. After replacing the cracked ignition coil, I wanted to give it a try to see if that was the cause of my DTC indicating a rich-running condition. I am still getting that same DTC part-way through the readiness procedure, so now I am leaning toward the upstream oxygen sensor as the culprit. The duty cycle for the upstream sensor is intermittently out of spec, I have noticed.

I meant to post this last night, but I just didn't have the time.

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Mon Jul 25, 2005
21:31
This evening my dad stopped by with a spare ignition coil to try on the A3 Golf. Once the old coil was removed, it didn't take much looking to see that it was badly cracked. It still had some throttle hesitation after swapping the coil, but in the course of fiddling with things, we ended up removing the connector from the throttle position sensor and then reconnecting it... and then it ran just fine. I think the connector may not have been fully seated.

So now I'm really eager to hook the laptop back up and see if I can get those readiness codes all set. More news tomorrow, I'm sure.

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Sun Jul 24, 2005
22:56
The pistons are nice and clean now, I gave them a final Castrol Super-Clean bath today and they're now ready for reassembly. This coming week I should have an update (and pics) of the putting-stuff-back-together phase.

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Sat Jul 23, 2005
23:12
As promised, here are some pics of the "new" Golf:

1996 Golf picture 1996 Golf picture 1996 Golf picture


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Sat Jul 23, 2005
21:24
Today I had a spare half hour or so to do a little more cleaning on my ABA pistons, they're starting to look nice:

ABA piston photo ABA piston photo ABA piston photo


And here are some pics of the block I mentioned earlier:

ABA block photo ABA block photo


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Sat Jul 23, 2005
11:41
This is another background post, regarding our "new" 1996 Golf. This black beauty came from LaPlata, MD (just a few miles from the Maryland/Virginia border), the previous owner was getting rid of it for a song because it had issues he didn't want to deal with. Those issues were, primarily, brake fluid leak, wheel bearing noise, and of course the "check engine" light was on. My father and I have done crazier things than drive to southern Maryland, buy a car, and tow it back all in the same day... I just can't remember any offhand.

We rolled into LaPlata a little before 6:00am after driving all night, and by 9-ish we were back on the road with the Golf in tow. Before too long, we had an incident with a truck driver honking crazily at us and trying to catch our attention with excited gestures. So we pulled onto the side of the highway and inspected things - turned out the rear drivers' side wheel bearing was loose. We limped to the next exit, found an empty parking lot, removed the wheel, and tightened the bearing a whole bunch. That would be the source of the bearing noise the previous owner was complaining about. I think when that bearing was installed one (or both) of the outer races didn't get pressed completely into place, and as the car was driven they slowly seated themselves, leading to excessive play. At any rate, we completed the rest of the journey without incident.

I'll post pics of the car later, but she's definitely a looker - especially for a 4 door. No rust (gotta love those southern cars), good original paint, and fewer-than-usual dings.

The problem with the brakes, which the previous owner had supposed was a bad master cylinder, turned out to be an external fluid leak at the passenger side rear wheel cylinder. It was leaking so badly that brake fluid peed out everywhere when I removed the drum. The cylinder on the driver side was beginning to leak as well. I replaced both rear wheel cylinders, as well as the master cylinder (I had already ordered it, and the old one will come in handy the next time I need to do a big brake conversion on a Rabbit) and both of the flexible, rubber brakelines up front that attach to the calipers. I replaced them with braided stainless steel lines to tighten up the brake pedal feel that little extra bit. I bled the brakes using an el-cheapo one man brake bleeder that seemed to work okay, but there's still a little air in the lines so I'm going to pressure bleed them.

The next issue to tackle was the check engine light. My dad and I use the Ross-Tech vag-com software to interface with our Volkswagen ECUs, so I fired up the little orange laptop and took a look at which DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) were active. Of course, being an A3 Volkswagen, it was: G40 (Camshaft Position Sensor, Implausible Signal). In english, that means "someone didn't know how to do the timing on this vehicle". After a couple of attempts at setting the valvetrain-to-crankshaft-to-intermediate timing, I got it right on the money and the ECU was happy again (no more check engine light).

After clearing the DTCs (necessary to shut the check engine light off in this case), the "Readiness Codes" also get reset. I could write a whole book on readiness codes, but they're basically a bunch of TRUE/FALSE conditions that all OBD-II (1996 and newer) vehicles store in their ECU. They are all directly related to emissions equipment on the vehicle (evaporative emissions system, catalytic converter, oxygen sensors, etc) and all of them must be TRUE (or READY) in order for the vehicle to pass New Hampshire state inspection. So at this point, all of my readiness codes were FALSE (NOT READY). There are a series of procedures that can be performed to enable the readiness codes one-by-one (these procedures vary depending on the vehicle), or it can be done by simply driving the car under all possible driving conditions for several days. So what I found while trying to enable these codes on our new Golf is that a few of them were failing. After a lot of hassle and troubleshooting, I found that the ECU is reporting a rich condition under some of the "driving conditions" and that is keeping some of the readiness codes from being set. I suspect a spark issue based on the car not starting a couple of times after it had rained, and poor throttle response under most conditions (I think all of my cars have had ignition issues at one time or another).

Along the way, I also replaced the front struts and strut mounts, as well as the exhaust. For the exhaust I went with a cat-back system from Neuspeed... yes, the stainless one. You've probably seen it - it looks pretty hot on an A3 Golf, with those dual up-swept outlets. I opted for the version with two mufflers and one resonator, just like the stock system. I didn't want this to be a loud car, but I didn't want it to sound stock either. The sound, I must say, is impeccable. Very subdued, but deep and a little bit throaty at the same time. It's the polar opposite of my obnoxious sounding little A2. On a related note, I was very impressed with the quality of the Neuspeed system. The welds were top quality, and the over-axle pipe mated to the front pipe using a flange rather than the usual slip-over connection. The clamp for joining the front pipe to the catalytic converter was also top quality. The fit was superb, and it was a breeze to install.

So, all in all I'm feeling great about this little car. I'm really excited to get it through inspection and have Claire (my wonderful wife) start driving it on a daily basis.

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Wed Jul 20, 2005
23:21
This is a project that has been in progress for a while now, so this post is just to provide background info and get up-to-date on where I am with it now.

Purpose: Perform one of the most basic watercooled VW engine swaps: An OBD-I ABA 2.0 liter block swap. The ABA block is fantastic because it bolts up with the cylinder heads used on the earlier cars. It also mates with the 020 transmissions and uses the same engine mounting points. In my case, I have an A2 Golf with the factory 1.8 8valve and Digifant engine management. Here is the why:
-My current motor is whipped (poor headgasket, valve stem seals, main bearings).
-200cc increase in displacement (more torque, potential for more power)
-The OBD-I ABA has high quality, forged internals.
-This will allow me to easily use a serpentine belt to drive the alternator rather than a v-belt.
-It's nearly as easy as replacing the stock engine block, so why not do it?

There are a few minor differences between the ABA block and the earlier blocks that I will need to contend with. First of all, the physical height of the ABA block is about a quarter of an inch greater. Secondly, the ignition distributor normally used with the ABA block is different than the distributors used with the earlier blocks (it's hall sender uses a different number of pulses per revolution and the mounting base is physically larger). Last of all, there are openings in the ABA block, which are normally used for crankcase ventilation, that must be blocked off for my purposes.

I will be rebuilding a spare Digifant cylinder head as well as an ABA block that I received for free from my brother, so that I will be able to swap the whole assembly once the rebuild is complete.

I have all of the parts necessary for a complete head and block rebuild, the ABA block has been completely disassembled and pressure-washed and painted (using POR-15), the cylinder bores have been honed, the crankshaft has been professionally resurfaced by my favorite local machine shop, and I am nearly done cleaning the pistons. Once the pistons are cleaned, I can start assembling the block.

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A1 parts for sale:
intake air preheater hose
Item: Intake air pre-heat hose (from exhaust manifold shroud to air box), for Scirocco 2 (1982+)
Condition: New
$12


A2 parts for sale:
A2 GTI dual round grill, with inner lights
Item: GTI dual-round grille with inner lights, bulbs, and lower trim strip
Condition: Used, lower trim strip is weathered.
$35

parcel shelf strap
Item: Parcel shelf strap, 3 available
Condition: New
$3.50 ea.

A2 valve guides, 8 valve
Item: 8 (eight) valve guides, German, standard size, for 8 valve head
Condition: New
$24

wheel cylinder
Item: Wheel cylinder (for rear drums, obviously), 2 available.
Condition: New
$12 ea.


A3 parts for sale:
parcel shelf strap
Item: Parcel shelf strap, 3 available
Condition: New
$3.50 ea.


A4 parts for sale:
ALH water pump
Item: OEM Water pump, ALH engines
Condition: Used, 130,000 miles
$20