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Journal Archive - 2006

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December 28, 2006 -- Just got these pictures from Roger at Autopia:

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Pirrello Collision have completed the repairs to the bodywork, so mechanical repairs can now begin in earnest.  Getting closer...

November 25, 2006 -- A little more progress to report.  First, I took delivery of the replacement SSR GT2s yesterday:

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They're all shod with Pirelli P Zero Nero M+S tires with a very healthy amount of tread left.  One of the wheels is a bit scuffed in a couple spots (no physical damage--just cosmetic), but the other three look to be no more worn than my own set.

Later in the afternoon, I got an e-mail from Toney Clark @ Baron VW informing me that he has taken delivery of a hood for my car.  Autopia was closed for the holiday, so I'll call 'em up first thing Monday morning to see if they're still looking.  (They're sourcing parts through Molle VW, but I know Toney through his involvement with the Mo-Kan VW Club.)

This afternoon, I finally got around to modding the new OEM HIDs to convert them from auto-leveling to accepting the rheostat switch input.  I'll drop them (and new front Bilsteins that were delivered earlier in the week) off at Autopia over my lunch break on Monday.

November 10, 2006 -- Some parts have arrived, and we're still waiting for some more parts.  Here's a quick summary:

I have received new OEM HIDs and smoked bumper markers.  I need to modifiy the wiring in the HIDs to bypass the auto-leveler inputs and work with the rheostat switch instead before delivering them to Autopia.

I have also received replacement intercooler and boost pipes from EIP.

I have found a guy in California looking to sell a complete set of 4 SSR GT2 wheels in the exact same size and fitment I currently have!  The check is in the mail.  ;)

I delivered the parts from EIP and my winter wheels to Autopia this afternoon.  Sitting behind my car were lots and lots of boxes--kinda like Christmas.  They want to let the body shop do their work before replacing all the mechanicals, but the only piece we're missing is the hood.  Apparently, MkIV Golf/GTI/R32 hoods are on "intergalactic backorder".  Never saw that coming.

Here are pics of everything as it sits now.   Yes, ALL those boxes are for Dieter.

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October 22, 2006 -- I finally made it back to the site of the accident to take some pictures, which clearly show I could not have touched that lamp post (and it's a good thing that guard rail was there, or I would have "touched" it very badly).  Pictures added to the accident picture page.

October 18, 2006 -- The adjuster came today (really pleasant to work with!), so we began the teardown and took a closer look.  Pictures and commentary have been added to the accident picture page.

October 16, 2006 -- Dieter was delivered to Autopia today, where the repairs will take place.  I took some pictures of the damage, which can be found here (along with commentary).

October 14, 2006 -- I wrecked Dieter today.

Short version:
I went too fast. I ran out of talent. Then I ran out of luck.

Long version:
I got an e-mail a couple days ago from a new-ish salesguy working at Molle VW, Franck, who found my web site about Dieter while searching the web for various R32 stuff. He invited me to come meet him at the dealership so he could check Dieter out and chat about VWs and such. I was out running some errands today and found myself "in the neighborhood", so I swung by to pay him a visit.

Franck is a pretty cool guy, has a '95 Golf Sport that he's had for awhile, and is an actual VW enthusiast. I told him about KCH2O and the Mo-Kan club, so maybe I'll see him at some future events. Our conversation was wrapping up, so I offered to take him for a quick spin and he agreed.

I took the traditional Cunningham/Jay Wolfe/Molle test route that takes Holmes to 103rd to 104th, etc. (Those of you who have driven this route can probably guess where things went awry.) The turn onto 104th street is a 90-degree right-hand turn with a stop sign, just after crossing the railroad tracks that run parallel to 104th there. I launched hard from the stop (ESP off, of course) to demonstrate the beauty of AWD in that situation and proceeded rapidly up the hill. At the top of that hill, the road makes a long sweeping turn to the right. Since the road runs parallel to the railroad tracks, there's a bridge on that corner to go over the tracks--actually smack dab in the middle of that corner.

There's a big bump where the road meets the bridge, so I let off the throttle a bit before to scrub off some speed. Went over the bump just fine, but got a small chirp from the tires. I took a mental note to not go any faster than that next time, and got back on the gas. Unfortunately, I forgot that there's another bump when exiting the bridge until we were over it. This time, I was carrying enough speed to really upset the suspension and the rear end swung out to the left (would have been fine, otherwise). I believe I let off the gas at this point in the hopes of scrubbing off speed and began counter-steering...and the fish-tailing began: back to the right, back to the left, back to the right, back to the left (still rounding the rest of that corner, mind you). On the last transition to the left, I could feel that the amount of rotation had reduced a fair amount, so I thought I actually managed to pull it out.

I was wrong.

One more quick fish-tail to the right set me up for the rear to make a big swing to the left--too big to correct (or maybe I over-corrected on the last swing?). Next thing I know, I'm watching the guard rail sliding parallel to the front bumper as I'm asking myself if this is actually happening. One quick 270 later, I'm past the corner in the outside lane (the left-most lane of the two right lanes of the four-lane road, which has a decent median between), facing the correct direction. Warning beep telling me the washer fluid is low (nice) and a few other sensors were probably unhappy, too. Don't recall if the car was still idling or not (maybe about to die?) but I turned the key off at that point.

Right front wheel is toast (dammit!), but the suspension didn't appear to be obviously out-of-whack. Front bumper cover, grille, headlights are all toast, as is the FMIC, immediate piping, and radiator (incriminating trail of coolant from where I struck the curb while kissing the guard rail leading up to where we came to rest).  Both front fenders are messed up, as is the hood.  Skid plate appeared to be intact. I'll take pictures of the carnage on Monday after the tow service delivers it to the shop.

Most importantly: no injuries. Not a scratch, bump, or bruise on either one of us (aside from my ego). That rawks. No other vehicles involved. Only damage to my car and the guard rail. Oh, and the helpful tow truck driver pointed out to the police officer that the glass was broken out of the street light behind the guard rail, and they concluded that I broke that, too. The thing is, I came off the guard rail before we got to that lamp post. The guard rail is obviously pushed back where I hit it, but there's absolutely no contact between the guard rail and the still very upright lamp post. <shrug> I may take some pictures of the scene sometime before my court date on 11/22 (citation for careless driving).

So, I'm grounding myself until further notice...at least until after repairs are complete or my court date, whichever occurs last. And I expect I'm going to become super-careful while driving for some time now and cut out all shenanigans. I need to look into track days at Heartland Park instead of trying to get my kicks on public roads...or possibly stop doing "the car thing" for good.

September 17, 2006 -- Took a trip to the Ozarks this weekend for a much-needed romp and a successful exercise for Dieter and his turbo system.  I drove around 700 miles in total by the time I got back home.

The locals in Springfield, MO clued me in on which stations still sell 93 octane, and I can tell you that the 91 octane software I'm running responds very favorably to the higher octane gas.   Yummy!

I gave a LOT of joyrides to various folks Saturday night (many of them in rapid succession), and Dieter ran great the whole time. We all had a blast and everyone was pretty impressed with the total package a turbocharged R32 provides.

For the first time, I drove exclusively with the ESP turned off, and was quite pleased with how "uneventful" that was.  The tires communicated well in advance of loosing much traction, so I was able to carefully explore the limits of their adhesion without drama.  I'm quite pleased.

August 13, 2006 -- Lots of driving around this week, and no hints of overheating.  I even did some cruising around and idling with the A/C turned off, and all seemed to be operating correctly.  I even noticed the fans turning back on after turning off the engine.   So, maybe the episode last Saturday was a fluke?  <shrug>  I'll keep an eye on things just to be sure...

I gave Dieter another water bath Friday night, and then I spent most of Saturday using Blackfire PolyClay clay bar all over his exterior.  He REALLY needed that, and now his paint feels much smoother to the touch.  I finished off with good ol' Dri-Wash 'n Guard "Ultra-Ion" to wash/polish/protect the paint, followed by Dri-Wash 'n Guard "Classic" on the wheels and Dri-Wash 'n Guard All-Weather Tire Treatment on the tires. 

Later in the evening, I drove to my favorite photoshoot location and snapped a bunch of pictures to celebrate Dieter's much cleaner state.  I spent the bulk of today cleaning up the pics and resizing them to various resolutions for use as wallpapers.  You can find 'em all here, in Dieter's gallery.

August 7, 2006 -- Yesterday, I finished up washing Dieter by cleaning/treating the leather, cleaning the wheels and tires, and spiffing up the exhaust tips.  Kept an eye on the coolant temp gauge whenever I drove, and it seemed to behave normally (had the A/C on, though).  I have noticed that the fans stop running when I turn the engine off, and they don't kick back on afterward as they used to.  Hmmm...

And this morning...it RAINED.  Dammit.  So much for the forecasted 20% chance.  I kept an eye on the radar as I ate my breakfast and saw that the rain was just on the other side of the interstate.  It was totally dry when I left home to make my dash to work, but got dumped on just a block away from my destination (and covered parking).  Gah!  Oh well.  The forecast is calling for a 30% chance of rain tomorrow, so we'll see if I'm going to bother with a quick re-wash tomorrow night.

Tonight, I filled up with yummy 92 octane gas at the local BP Amoco station.  I've done enough driving with 91 octane to be satisfied with the new software, so it's time to put Dieter back on the good stuff.  :)

August 5, 2006 -- Lots o' good stuff today.

I gapped the spark plugs to EIP's specification of .030".  They were at .032" before.  Then I went for a test drive to check for boost creep.  The creep is still there, but only managed to peak out at .40 bar in third gear (wasn't brave enough to really push fourth gear, but all seemed to be well enough.  Dieter felt nice and strong, and all appeared to be working well.   EIP recommends running at an average of .40 bar on 91 octane, so I'm going to put the boost creep issue on the back burner for now and just drive/enjoy my R32 as much as possible.  I've got the overboost alarm set on my boost controller, so I'll keep an ear out for that whenever I'm driving spiritedly.  Of course, ambient temps were in the mid-80s, and boost creep seems to be a bigger issue when the air is cooler and more dense.  We'll see how things go once the daily temps cool down again this fall.

After Dieter cooled back down from the test drive, I took a spin to the local McDonald's to pick up some lunch.  While waiting in the drive-through line, I noticed the coolant temp needle creeping upward from its normal, straight-up "190F" position.  (Didn't notice it doing that during the morning test drive.)  It crept as high as two tick marks beyond that, but never got into the unhappy red zone near the upper end of the gauge.  Eventually, the needle crept back down towards the center mark...and then crept back up a bit again.  The Climatronic was off (no A/C) and the windows were down.  Driving at speed on my way home put the needle back to the center mark. 

There have been reports of the radiator fans failing in other R32s, so I checked 'em out as soon as I got home.  Both fans were running at their low speed, and they kicked up to their high speed when I turned the A/C on, just like they're supposed to.  A low-temp thermostat was installed during one of the upgrade rounds earlier this year, so it would be unusual for that to fail so soon.   <shrug>  Guess I'll have to have ImagineAuto check it out...

This evening, Dieter got a MUCH-needed bath.  I started by vacuuming and cleaning the interior, which had accumulated an impressive layer of dust.  I used Einszett Cockpit Premium on all the plastic/vinyl/leatherette.   (Tomorrow I'll use Einszett Leather Care to clean and condition the "real" leather bits.) 

I then washed Dieter's exterior the "traditional" way, with water and carwash soap.  I usually use a product called Dri-Wash 'n Guard, which is is a waterless car wash made of space-age polymers that cleans, seals, polishes, and protects the paint.  I haven't used the Dri-Wash since before my trip to SoCal back in April, and Dieter's paint really needs some TLC with a clay bar.  There are lots of contaminants in there now.  Icky.  Since I haven't used the Dri-Wash in so long, and since I plan to clay bar Dieter very soon (have been meaning to do it since before my trip to SoCal, but never got it done...but I REALLY intend to do it very soon), I figured I would keep him clean the "old-fashioned way" until I can actually get the clay bar done.  I used Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner, Meguiar's Gold Class All Wheel Cleaner, and a multi-spray-pattern hose nozzle--all of which I picked up at the local Target store.  To dry Dieter off, I used a product called The Absorber, which I also bought at Target, and that thing is awesome!

I'll probably save the clay bar action for next weekend, as that will take some time.  I'll have to wash Dieter before using the clay bar, and again once I'm done.  And since I plan to use the clay bar from bumper to bumper, that's gonna take some time--especially considering how slow and methodical I work.  And once I'm done with the second wash and he's all dried off, I'll put on a couple coats of Dri-Wash 'n Guard to seal the paint back up.  <whew!>

August 3, 2006 -- I managed to fulfill my required 50 boost-free miles tonight, and only dipped into the boost a little bit.  I want to ease into things a bit and make sure all is well before I really put the hammer down.  Man, I had forgotten just how effortless it was for this car to go fast!

August 2, 2006 -- w00t!!!  Dieter is back on the road again as of this evening! 

I have to take it easy for the first 50 miles or so to break in the new turbo before hitting the boost, but that shouldn't be a problem considering this oppressive heat (which should be breaking for a bit, considering the thunderstorm that's brewing outside right now).

During my wait, I've compiled a laundry list of things to take care of, so I hope to get some stuff done this weekend.

My daily commute just got a LOT more fun.  :)

July 20, 2006 -- The replacement turbo arrived yesterday, so I drove up to ImagineAuto over lunch to personally inspect it. 

First, I screwed in one of the prescribed 3/8" bolts EIP sent, to verify that it properly mates with the threads on the new turbo's flange:

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Excellent!  I screwed that same bolt into all four holes, just to be certain.  ;)

Next, I tried one of the original 8mm bolts that was used on the old turbo:

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As you can see, it's a no-go.  It threads in one or two turns, then binds up because the pitch is wrong, so it sits in the hole off-kilter.  I find it very interesting that the bolt doesn't just slide on through, like it does with a 3/8" nut I bought at the local hardware store.  This seems to support the theory that the threads on the original turbo were out-of-spec, rather than flat out the wrong size.

When I got home, I checked the old turbo's flange holes with one of the original 8mm bolts.  The 8mm bolt threaded right in, like it was meant to fit there, and went all the way through...which means the threads on the backside of the flange--which were never touched by the shallower 3/8" bolts installed in SoCal--are actually compatible with this bolt, whereas the threads on the new turbo are not.   Wow.

And here are some identifying marks on the new turbo: 

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I also dropped off the remaining two VF-Engineering engine mounts I bought long ago, but never got around to installing.  ImagineAuto will install these "while they're in there", with the hopes that the VF mounts will help reduce engine movement enough to minimize undue stress on the downpipe/turbo interface.

They plan to dig into the repairs next week, and I hope all goes well.

July 14, 2006 -- Okay, a new turbo is finally on its way from EIP and should arrive next week.  As soon as it does, I'm going to personally inspect it and take pictures of it...and make sure the prescribed 3/8" bolts fit in the exhaust flange threads.  ;)

July 7, 2006 -- The plot thickens.  ImagineAuto finally got around to digging into Dieter--they've been really back-logged, apparently.  At any rate, they finally removed the turbo today and had me take some pictures of it.   The threads in most of the exhaust flange holes were pretty trashed, but one hole still had some serviceable threads in it.  I was actually able to thread one of the original 8mm bolts into that hole.  And the threads didn't just engage due to slight interference--I was actually able to lift and suspend the entire turbo by that bolt!

EIP specifies that a 3/8" bolt is supposed to be used on that flange, which is 1.5mm larger than the 8mm bolts ImagineAuto used.   If an 8mm bolt is inserted into a 3/8" nut, it just slides right through, because it's diameter is too small to engage the threads (unless it's levered in at a very off angle).  The fact that the 8mm bolt engaged the threads so well that I could lift the turbo by it suggests that the flange did not meet EIP's specs to begin with.  AND that also suggests that ImagineAuto was not negligent when they performed the installation.

Between the messed up flange and the pre-existing oil leaking from the turbo, I plan to replace it with a new one altogether.

June 23, 2006 -- There was talk in the R32 forum on VW Vortex that the white "unicorn" R32 was featured on the cover of the July EuroTuner magazine.  I met the owner and saw the car in person during my trip to SoCal in April, and both were very cool.  In fact, they took the pictures for this article following the track day at Streets Of Willow.  So I went to the local Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy. 

This issue also has an article on the SoCal R32 GTG, with several pics of the cars at the show and on the track.  So, being slightly vain, I thumbed through the pages to see if I could spot Dieter in the crowd of 100+ R32s that were in attendance.  Much to my surprise, the top third of page 82 shows me driving Dieter hard out of the corner before the front straight, with two more R32s giving chase!   Clearly, this picture was taken before the big meltdown--in fact, I can tell it was during my second session, as the pic shows Ian in the passenger seat, and he rode along with me during my second session to help me with my driving lines.  Very cool!

Once I can, I'll scan the pic in and add it to Dieter's gallery.  :)

June 12, 2006 -- I made my annual trip to the Ozarks this weekend for the June Bug Jamboree VW show in Springfield.  Of course, Dieter is still down for repairs, so I drove Gretchen.  (Gotta love being able to fill up in KC, drive to/around the Ozarks for the weekend, and driving all the way back before having to fill up again.) 

At any rate, I learned something disturbing:   93 octane is no longer available there.  The distributors are no longer supplying it, so crummy 91 octane is now considered "premium" down there.   Sonuva...!!!!  I guess that's the flip side of supply and demand biting me on the ass.  As the cost of gasoline rises, demand for higher-priced 93 octane gas goes down, and the suppliers adjust their production to sell what the masses are buying.   :(  I will gladly pay the premium for true "premium" gas, but clearly I'm in the minority.  And of all the places I can really put the higher-octane stuff to good use, the Ozarks were the best.  Grrrr!

May 21, 2006 -- ImagineAuto immediately agreed to cover the repairs for the heat damage to Dieter's engine bay, although they were understandably skeptical that they used the wrong-sized bolts.  In their defense:

  1. All the Garrett turbos they deal with use 8mm studs.

  2. They managed to properly torque the wrong bolts down--twice (the initial installation and later after swapping turbo core manifolds).

  3. Everything did hold together for a couple thousand miles of normal driving.

I'm pretty sure things got loosened up when I bapped the skid plate, and the rigors of thrashing around on the track finished the job.

At any rate, we've been waiting for a replacement firewall heat shield that had to be shipped from Germany, so no "real" progress has been made yet.  I went ahead and had them install the newest wastegate spring that arrived just before I left for SoCal, so I could test to see if that helps my boost creep issue.  Under moderate loads, I see .38 bar, but if I stay in the throttle for a full-RPM run in third gear, it will creep up to .52 bar.  (Again, EIP recommends .40 bar for 91 octane.)

My opinion is that the updated turbo core manifold is the culprit here, as I didn't notice any boost creep with the original one.  Rich @ EIP mentioned that they developed a revised manifold during development of their Series-B non-intercooled turbo kits for the R32, and this manifold allowed them to limit boost with authority.  Hopefully I can convince them to send me one of those manifolds...

Meanwhile, since I haven't been driving Dieter regularly, I took the opportunity yesterday to remove his intercooler and paint it black.   I used several light coats of Krylon black BBQ & Stove spraypaint, and only on the front face, where the intercooler is visible through the bumper. 

I thought that I only "smoked" the intercooler, because when it was off the car and in direct sunlight, you could still see the "eip" logo on the front--I didn't lay the paint on as thick as they did.   I was cool with that, as the logo was still present, but far more subtle.  My goal wasn't to necessarily do away with the logo--just make it less obvious.  As you can see in the pictures, though, the logo is even less visible when the intercooler is on the car and behind the bumper.  I can almost make it out...

Here's a picture in the shade, with the flash turned off:

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Now, here's a picture  with the flash turned on, revealing the hidden message:

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Stealthy!  More pictures can be found here.

As part of this process, I also FINALLY finished cutting up a new driver's side lower bumper grille to be open like the passenger's side.

Finally, I replaced Dieter's incadescent city light bulbs with BAX9S LEDs from 42 Draft Designs because the driver's side bulb burned out.  The cool thing about these LEDs is that their base is plug-n-play compatible with Euro-spec headlights, whereas most LEDs of this type must be modified to fit.  They're also advertised as having a wider beam pattern than other LEDs--the narrow beam pattern of LEDs means they cast more light forward than they do into the reflector, which results in small dots of light rather than illuminating the reflector like omnidirectional incadescents do.

Unfortunately, these LEDs are only about 60%-75% as bright as the incadescent bulbs they replaced.  And while they may have a wider beam than most other LEDs, they still don't illuminate the reflector as fully as I would like.  I do like the fact that they're more white in color than the incadescent bulbs...but could stand to be a little less "blue-ish".  I think I'll try to find some whiter incadescent bulbs in the meantime.

April 13, 2006 -- I tried fiddling with the intake hose myself before checking out of my room. My tools were limited and I lacked experience, so I eventually decided to leave well enough alone, rather than risk making things worse. Besides, I had managed to drive a couple hundred miles like that without failure (so far), so I figured I could probably make it back home if I continued to drive gently and inspected everything at each gas stop.

Fortunately, the drive continued to be uneventful. Oklahoma City was still windy, but not nearly as bad as the last time I passed through. Ambient temperatures continued to rise as I got closer to home, and reached the upper 90s by mid-day.

Actually, there was one brief moment of excitement. I approached home during the 5 o'clock rush hour, so there was a fair bit of traffic merging onto the interstate. I stayed in the left lane to give everyone room to merge. As I drove past the last exit before the one I needed to take to get off the interstate, some overzealous commuter in a jeep shot all the way over to the outer lane. If I hadn't slammed on my brakes, he would have plowed right into me!  >8^(  Fortunately, I made it home safe and sound.

Pictures for today can be found here.

April 12, 2006 -- The drive from Flagstaff, AZ to Amarillo, TX was also generally uneventful--which was fine by me. To help keep engine bay temps down as much as possible, I drove with the windows down, rather than using the air conditioner. As my altitude gradually decreased, the ambient temperatures began to rise. On the upside, I learned that I could squeeze out 32mpg when maintaining highway speeds on a generally downhill route while keeping out of boost. I've always read/heard that adding a turbo will increase an engine's efficiency, and that definitely appears to be true. Granted, all that fuel economy goes out the window as soon as I hit boost and play around. ;)

After checking into the hotel at Amarillo, I performed another visual check of everything in the engine bay to see how things were holding up. All seemed to be relatively well, but that the intake hose had worked itself partially loose again. :\

Pictures for today can be found here.

April 11, 2006 -- Ian and Dave drove with me out of Lancaster (after stopping to purchase my own fire extinguisher at an auto parts store). I appreciate their concern and willingness to provide support if/when I needed it. And that came in handy, as I discovered a new popping sound/feeling when accelerating from a stop. We pulled over and checked it out. Couldn't find anything obviously broken, so we got back on the road and I decided to just drive a bit gentler. (After returning home, the cause of the popping sound was discovered: One of the subframe bolts was missing! That's a disturbing trend...) Ian and Dave eventually diverted north to Nevada to get back to Colorado, while I turned towards Arizona to return on the same "southern" route back home.

I kept the camera in my passenger seat, so I could snap pictures of the scenery, since I didn't do that on the drive out. I took most of the pictures while driving at speed (keeping my attention primarily on the road for the sake of safety), and I was pleasantly surprised that nearly all of them came out pretty well.

Just outside of Needles, CA, EIP's truck and trailer flew past me. Those guys were on the move, truckin' all the way back to the east coast. I caught back up with 'em near Lake Havasu City and treated them to a quick dinner at Wendy's. During one of my previous gas stops, I discovered that the silicone hose that connects the intake pipe to the turbo had become partially loose. I told them about it, and they quickly went to work to fix it for me. SWeet. I hit the road again while they finished up their pit stop. Of course, they passed me again later. :) The rest of the night's drive to Flagstaff, AZ was nice and uneventful.

Pictures for today can be found here.

April 10, 2006 -- The track day was quite eventful.

Representatives of Volkswagen's "Moonraker" team brought a European-spec MkV R32 for us to inspect first-hand, allowing us to open things up and get in/out of the car. They had us fill out questionnaires to get our opinions on the next generation model. Very cool. Even better, they took the car out on the track several times to demonstrate how well it performs.

With the boost creep issue we've been fighting on my car, I was uncertain about participating in the track day. When my run group was called to pre-grid, however, I decided to give it a whirl. After all, the generous sponsors for this event paid the way so all participants could drive for free. Can't beat that!

As expected, my lines were pretty bad and my laps around the course were probably very ugly looking. Even so, I had a blast! Definitely more fun than a couple short runs around an autocross course.

After my first warm-up lap, things got a little...interesting. When I got hard on the throttle, I heard a strange new sound...some kind of whistling/screaming/fluttering sound. `Let off the throttle, and the sound went away. Got on the throttle again (which built boost), and the sound came back. The car still felt okay, so I continued with my session and asked the EIP crew about it afterward. They said they hadn't heard of a sound like that before, and weren't listening to my session. Ian (Daemon42 on VW Vortex) rode with me during my second session to help me improve my driving line, and he speculated that it might be the BOV or WG fluttering. <shrug>

I planned to sit out my third session, as I was fairly spent. Chris (QBNR32 on VW Vortex) asked if he could drive my car, so I tossed him the keys. He had been test-driving all the various FI options throughout the day, and I wanted to hear my own car from the outside as it passed by. Apparently, the problem grew worse, as he discovered that my car would fall on its face when he tried to get on it in the straights. He took Bobby (from EIP) out for a lap for diagnosis, and they came back in quickly, reporting smoke in the cabin!

Exhibits A, B, & C:

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The shiny bolt on the left is the correct one for mounting the downpipe to the turbo. The other bolt on the right is the size that was used by my shop. It actually fell out, which isn't surprising, considering how wrong it is for this application. (We were all shocked that it held together as long as it did.)

The other item is what remains of the gasket between the downpipe and the turbo's exhaust flange.

Once the bolt fell out, there was obviously an exhaust leak at the interface between the turbo and the downpipe. The bowl-shaped heat shield that goes around the turbo directed all this hot exhaust gas towards the throttle body, which promptly began to melt (causing the smoke they saw). All that heat managed to bake a few other things in the vicinity:

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Poor QBNR32 felt pretty guilty for breaking my car:

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In reality, I feel VERY grateful that he exposed this problem where and when he did. If this had happened to me in the middle of nowhere (like on my way back home), the results could have been catastrophic. (As we later discovered, QBNR32 didn't *actually* break anything. It was already broken...he just helped it along.)

At first, we thought the throttle body itself had failed due to an internal electrical fire, but Ian's observations and further poking and prodding by Rich & company eventually led to the root cause.

EIP donated the throttle body from the Stage 1 car they brought out and put their car in the trailer. After the swap, we heard an exhaust leak when they fired my car up. That's what led us to discover the missing bolt.

When we discovered the missing bolt, we initially thought that it had actually sheared off somehow, because there was still metal in the hole where it goes. The strange thing about that was that the face of the allegedly sheared bolt was completely smooth and had a strange, crescent-shaped hole to one side. Very strange, as nobody had ever seen or heard of a bolt failing like that. Rich decided to tighten the other bolts to try and limit the amount of exhaust gasses leaking from that junction. He called out a socket size after looking at the remaining bolts, and his tech said "That's the wrong size". After a short debate, the technician gave him the requested socket and Rich began cranking away on one of the bolts. After a few turns, he asked "Just how loose *is* this thing?" He then reached in with his fingers, and started rotating the bolt! A little more fiddling with it, and he found that he could just pull it right out--aha! That's when we figured out that the other bolt wasn't sheared; it was plain MISSING. The metal gasket had shifted down, partially obscuring the hole that bolt was supposed to be in. That explained the baffling appearance. There's a reason why nobody had ever seen a bolt fail like that: they don't. ;) We later found the missing bolt rolling around on the topside of my skid plate (while searching for a tool that the plate caught after someone accidentally dropped it from above).

By this time, the track event was long over and everyone else (save for Ian, who stuck around to help) had left for dinner. Pictures courtesy of Ian:

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Bobby and I limped my car back to the hotel (fire extinguisher at the ready) while Rich and the other guys went to a hardware store to buy the correct bolts and a couple tools.

When they got back to the hotel, they set about repairing my car well enough for me to drive back home. This was a daunting task without the aid of a lift and a proper shop, but Rich and his gang rose to the challenge and really came through. By midnight, my car was back together and healthy enough for the trek home. Now that is top-notch customer support!

Pictures for today can be found here.

April 9, 2006 -- Driving with a few R32s is one thing; walking through a parking lot of over 100 of 'em is something else altogether. Some still appeared to be stock, but most were modified to various levels of performance and/or power, from mild to extreme. There were 116 R32s in the show total, with a couple more arriving later in the day for a grand total of 121. Each car there was given a raffle ticket, which the owner could place in one of several drawings for some very cool (and very expensive) prizes. I didn't win anything, but that's okay. I've been fortunate enough to have nearly all the mods I want.

After the obligatory dinner at the nearby In'N'Out, we all left for Lancaster, where we would stay for the night. I drove with four other R32s on the "scenic route" via the Angeles Crest Highway. That was an outstanding drive! ...Even though while we were stopped for a breather, a friendly motorcycle cop paid us a visit to shovel a steaming pile of information about how California follows the Federal law prohibiting the use of tint on the passenger-side front window. When he stopped to visit with us, we were all stopped, but just about ready to get back on the road. When he pulled up, we all rolled down our driver's side windows so we could hear whatever he had to say. We were all from out-of-state, none of us were moving, and we weren't doing anything illegal (at the time). He clearly didn't have a "real" reason to bother us, so he improvised with the first thing he could come up with. I'm sure his goal was to simply make us aware of a police presence in the hopes that it would discourage us from shenanigans...but all he really managed to do was come across as a jerk. Whatever. We all had a blast, and nobody got a ticket. :)

Later that night, the EIP crew were outfitting their Stage 1 turbo car by removing the cats and installing their race series exhaust for the track event the next day. That thing was LOUD! With absolutely no restriction in the exhaust path, you could actually hear the turbo whistling as it chopped up the exhaust gasses. Crazy.

Pictures for today can be found here.

April 8, 2006 -- Dave and I met up with a handful of AZ-area R32s at a nearby Waffle House, and we all then met up with a larger group of AZ R32 owners at a gas station a few more miles down the road. We all then caravanned to CA in a group of 11 cars (including an Audi A3). There's nothing quite like running with a pack of R32s on the open highway! The drive went pretty well until some of us were separated from the rest of the pack approaching (in/near?) Los Angeles. We all managed to get to the hotel, though, so it all worked out just fine.

After checking in, I recognized a couple cars in the parking lot while unloading my car. It's pretty interesting to recognize cars that you've seen on the internet even though you've never physically met the owners. I met up with Ian (a.k.a. Daemon42), who I first met last year at the "No Coast R32 GTG", which was held in conjunction with the VWs On The Green car show in Denver, CO. We caught up a bit and swapped stories about our trips to CA. I also met Boki, who is a really cool guy. His R32 has a lot of character, resulting from many miles of hard use. (Boki REALLY makes good use of his OEM steel skid plate!) Boki's Tonganese cat goes with him everywhere, which is pretty cool, too.

Arrangements had been made with the hotel to make a water hose available to us for washing our cars, which was most excellent. I first tried washing Dieter with good ol' Dry Wash & Guard, but those nasty water spots from Amarillo proved to require a lot more elbow grease than I cared to invest. The water hose and community soap did well enough to get Dieter "cleaner" than he was. Slight remnants of water spots remained (quality time with the clay bar is in my future), but at least Dieter was no longer embarrassingly dirty.

The AZ crew went to a nearby TGI Friday's for dinner. Ian, Boki, Dave, and I followed suit once I was done cleaning myself up. Ian and Boki drove separately and Dave rode with me. My skid plate certainly paid for itself. To enter the shopping mall area to get to the restaurant, I had to turn left across traffic. I got stuck behind someone waiting and waiting and waiting to pull a u-turn. After they finally went, I saw a narrow pocket for me to shoot through, followed by a long line of traffic. I shot through the hole and hit the brakes as soon as I was clear, as the entrance is your typical mall-style entrance that requires you to turn either left or right within 20-30 feet after exiting the main road. I don't know if there was a speed bump or a big dip, but the combination of quick acceleration followed by heavy braking resulted in a loud BAP!!! as the skid plate bounced off some kind of concrete or asphalt. I kept an eye on the dash, looking for warning lights, but none came. Dieter continued to run just fine, and a visual check once we parked showed no damage to the bumper cover--but I did see some paint scraped off the skid plate. Whew!!!

Some of the SoCal R32 guys made plans for us all to meet up at Saddle Ranch later that evening, which is billed as the "official watering hole of SoCal R32". The AZ crew chose to stay at the hotel, in favor of a more relaxing "room party" atmosphere. Ian and I chose to make the trip (about 20 miles away) to meet the infamous SoCal R32 crew.

That's when we learned that LA traffic does not follow any standard rules of logic.

Two-lane on-ramps to the highway/interstate eventually kinda merge into one lane just as the ramp joins up with the highway...which is *kinda* big enough for two cars...but doesn't really have any indication showing that there two lanes anymore. There were occasional yellow diamond-shaped signs that had a single arrow pointing down and to the left at a 45 degree angle. "What does that mean?!?!" we asked each other.

The two outer lanes were used by people travelling faster than 70mph, and any inner lanes are reserved for out-of-towners that aren't driving fast enough, or used by the locals solely for transitioning from one outer lane to the other (at full speed, with no time to use turn signals). At one point, a car shot past us in the far right lane, careened all the way over to the far left lane for a half-mile, then careened all the way back over to the far right lane just in time to go up the exit ramp.

As we approached downtown, the high-speed traffic quickly turned into a parking lot. At 11:30pm. Apparently, *everyone* was going to Hollywood. About 10 minutes later, traffic was moving at high rates of speed again. No idea what caused the slow-down. <shrug>

Getting into the Universal Studios area was a whole new level of confusing, with some streets arbitrarily blocked off, directing us into the employee parking garage, where we had to ask for directions on how to get to the "regular" parking. And that parking had two different rates, one for "standard" and one for "preferred", with no indication what the difference was. (The attendant wasn't too sure, but it was likely that "preferred" parking was just closer to the entrance.)

Ian and I got into Saddle Ranch, only to realize that there were a WHOLE LOT of people there, and we generally didn't know the guys we were looking for well enough to actually recognize them on sight. I called Dave (back at the hotel), and he chased down someone who had Neb's phone number. I relayed the number to Ian, who called Neb and coordinated a meet-up. We met several people that night--more than I can recall. We had fun shouting to each other over the din of the crowd and watching various people ride the mechanical bull.

Ian and I got back to the hotel around 1:30am, where we chatted with some late arrivals in the parking lot and watched the sprinklers quickly ruin the detail jobs on some R32s. I think I got to bed around 3am?

Pictures for today can be found here.

April 7, 2006 -- Found some water spots on Dieter the next morning. It didn't rain overnight, so I can only assume they were deposited by a sprinkler. :\ The spots were reluctant to come off the windshield when I used the wipers & spray, and scrubbing it with a squeegee at my next fuel stop was not entirely effective. Must have been some *really* hard water. <sigh>

I met up with Dave from Colorado at the Navajo Travel Plaza in Gallup, NM. We caravanned into Arizona together, with Dave leading me on a spirited and beautiful drive down into the Salt Creek Canyon. (At least, I *think* that's the name of it.) We rolled into the Phoenix/Mesa area that evening, ready for some rest.

Pictures for today can be found here.

April 6, 2006 -- Leaving Olathe was pretty uneventful. I drove into some rain as I approached Wichita, and it became VERY heavy for awhile, not letting up until I was south of town.

Oklahoma City was very windy, and the roads in town were horribly bumpy (concrete slab construction - thunk-kathunk-kathunk-kathunk), made even more alarming by running over some pieces of broken lumber strewn accross the highway at some point. The strong winds persisted across Oklahoma, with some dust storms that deposited some trademark red dust in Dieter's engine bay.

Texas was still a bit windy, but not as bad as Oklahoma. When I got to Amarillo, I could only find 90 octane gas near my hotel. It may be that they only offer 90 as "premium" gas because the altitude there was nearly 4000 feet above sea level. I was ready to rest by the time I checked into my hotel, which was conveniently right off the interstate. Unfortunately, my room was on the side of the hotel facing that interstate...which meant I got to hear all the traffic...

Pictures for today can be found here.

April 3, 2006 -- EIP recently sent me 91 octane software. Yay! Just in time for my trip out west for the big SoCal R32 GTG event.

Installing the new software involved removing the ECU and physically swapping the chips. I got a CEL for the secondary air injection relay and solenoid complaining of an open circuit after the process. I did some troubleshooting and got that CEL to go away. I think the simple act of unplugging and re-plugging the ECU connectors is what actually fixed it.

The new tune feels pretty good on 92 (didn't push it too hard, though), and just tonight I finally got the tank low enough to fill it up with 91 octane gas (effective octane rating should be 91.26). I'll let the ECU learn the new gas for a couple days and try to take some VAG-COM logs Wednesday night. If I can't do it then, I'll try to get some logs during my trip to CA (leaving Thursday morning).

I also got e-mail notification that they have shipped me another, revised version of their modified wastegate spring. Looks like it will arrive the day before I leave for SoCal, so I won't be able to get it installed until I return. Here's hoping it finally solves my boost creep issue.

March 13, 2006 -- Progress report on the remaining issues.

To help diagnose my boost creep issue, I disconnected the electronic boost controller from the system, as the additional vacuum lines can introduce a little creep into the system. That didn't seem to improve anything, as I could still see boost creeping up to/above .55 bar. (EIP recommends averaging .40 bar for 91 octane cars.)

EIP sent some more updates, including a new/modified FPR, low temperature thermostat, green top coolant temperature sensor, and a modified 7psi wastegate spring. I recently had ImagineAuto install these goodies (as well as reconnect the boost controller vacuum lines I disconnected earlier).

When I picked Dieter up, they informed me that oil was weeping from the turbo's bearing housing internally through the turbine and compressor sides. EIP tells me this is "normal" and that "all turbos leak a little oil". Needless to say, the guys at ImagineAuto disagree.

They also faught with the exhaust some more, and still could not get it to align correctly. More work to be done there, it seems...

The weather was really nice Saturday, so I got my R32 out to swap the summer wheels on. Afterward, I went for a spin to test whether or not boost creep had been eliminated. Unfortunately, it looks like it's still creeping up to/above .45 bar at higher RPMs, even though boost is initially limited to .31 bar at lower RPMs. :\

February 19, 2006 -- I made a trip to the Ozarks this weekend to visit friends and have a romp on the back roads.  I drove down Friday night...but when I got to my friend's house in northern Arkansas, snow flurries began to float down from the sky.  We made a quick dash to his brother's gas station & convenience store, where I filled Dieter up with some yummy 93 octane gas.   Booyah!  You can tell EIP's software is tuned for 93 octane, because it felt awesome.   The onset of boost was smooth and strong, and we laughed maniacally as we went tearing up and down the twisty roads at speeds well above what was possible in the past.   Oh yeah, I can get myself into trouble really quick if I'm not careful.  Of course, I had to pull back the reigns a few times thanks to that blasted boost creep.   :\

And nearly a foot of snow accumulated later that night.  Gah!  That pretty much put the end to any further plans of "testing".  Fortunately, my friend was generous enough to let Dieter sleep inside his recently-constructed shop.

We hung out at his house Saturday.  The roads weren't too bad when I left this morning, but I was very fortunate to leave just before a round of freezing rain moved into the area to ice things up.  That could've been ugly.  Good ol' 4Motion got me over the snow-packed roads in the Ozarks and back home safe and sound, though.  :)

February 4, 2006 -- Argh.   Once again overdue for an update.  (Work has been extremely hectic for some time now...)

The updates have been installed!  Here are the parts EIP sent me:

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Since they wanted us to do some testing before turning up the boost, I opted to have an electronic boost controller installed, for easy tweaking.  I got the HKS EVC controller:

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And the results are very good! 

There's still some work to be done with the exhaust alignment, though.  Overall, it's worlds better than it was...although the tips are now a bit crooked and are recessed too far into the bumper cover.  I was told this was necessary to prevent physical interference between the exhaust and the car.  Like I said, we'll work on it a bit more.  If we can't get it to align right without interfering, I'll petition Rich at EIP to send me new parts that fit better (like the pipe exiting the intercooler).

The narrow-band AFR gauge has been replaced by an oil temp gauge, which is far more useful to me, and the 42 Draft Designs "Perfect Match" LED back lights have been installed in the gauges.  For some reason, the oil temp gauge's back light isn't as bright as the boost gauge.  In fact, it isn't even bright enough to see the needle, so I'll take a look at that and see if I can tweak the LED's position to resolve that.

The new software is more aggressive than the old stuff.  Boost builds faster than before, and power delivery is still nice and smooth.   That said, it's still tuned for 93 octane, and the ECU still pulls back timing when under heavy loads.  Rich @ EIP requested I take some VAG-COM logs and send him the results.  With 92 octane (oxygenated here for winter), I logged timing retard as high as 15 degrees under heavy loads.  Even Rich agrees that's too high, and he said that they'll start working on a 91 octane-specific program ASAP.  (Hallelujah!)  On the other hand, the air/fuel ratio logs look MUCH better to me:

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That's what I was expecting to see, as that's how nearly every other FI air/fuel curve looks like.  Sweet!

I'm getting a little boost creep in the upper RPMs in higher gears with the boost controller off.  (That's why the AFR log shown above was terminated before redline.)  Rich @ EIP suggested we re-visit the boost controller installation to see if we can shorten the vacuum lines, as that's generally what causes this phenomenon.  He looked into sourcing me a lower-PSI wastegate spring, but he said the performance/response when they tested that was not acceptible.  

After reviewing my VAG-COM logs, Rich said that in addition to the 91 octane-specific software, high altitude/low octane customers will use the lower 5psi boost level instead of the new 7psi boost they have on the east coast (where sea level altitued & non-oxygenated higher octane fuel allow such antics with a greater margin of safety).  Between the higher altitude and lower octane gas (which is even worse when oxygenated during the winter), pushing higher levels of boost just isn't safe unless a higher quality race gas is involved (which may still be an option for me when I "play").  Rich said that they would cook up some new software for me to test very soon.  I also plan to re-test in March or April, when the KC area should be done using oxygenated "winter gas".

EIP also sent me a lower-temp thermostat to help keep things cool.  We'll get that installed when the new software arrives, and hopefully get that exhaust squared away at the same time.

January 5, 2006 -- Okay, time for a LONG overdue update.  The winter holiday season kept me too busy to keep this page updated.  Let's see if I can re-cap everything worth mentioning...

An owner of HPA's FT360 turbo recently posted some VAG-COM logs on Vortex, and the knock values he's getting for his car (lowered compression, higher boost, non-intercooled, on 92 octane) are actually similar to what I was seeing with my car.  His air/fuel ratios are also similar to mine, but tend to richen up more at higher RPMs.  At any rate, seeing those logs from a comparable product give me confidence in the way my car is performing by comparison.

Rich at EIP tells me that the limit of adaptation for R32 ECUs is 25 of timing retard, so the peak values of 12.8 retard I logged earlier with 92 octane are indeed well within the "safe" range.  I can definitely feel the difference in power when running less than the tuned 93 octane (or above), though.  One exciting development is that Rich said that once the 93 octane program is squared away, they will also develop a 91 octane-specific program for those of us who can't readily get 93 octane.  Sweet.

In other news, EIP should be sending me a nice update package any day now.  The updates will include:

Reports of the updated power/performance sound extremely promising, and it looks like all these updates should eliminate nearly all of my issues.  Excellent.  :)

I also bought a Stewart Warner oil temperature gauge, that I intend to replace the current narrow-band air/fuel gauge.  I think I'll get better daily use out of oil temp information.