adventures in basic maintenance

March 12, 2020 /// issue no. 72

I took the week off to catch up on life, self, and some much needed track time at Sonoma Raceway. When it comes to what car to take to the track Miata Is Always The Answer. Except when the group you run with is mostly Porsche GT cars, fully-caged dedicated race cars, and open wheel Formula cars. Amongst the carsthencoffee fleet the Spec Corvette won’t be ready for at least another month, the E90 M3 seems to need a new thermostat, which leaves the Miata or the daily driver.

The daily driver is a 2013 VW GTI which has never seen the track. It has stock wheels and decent Pirellis. No suspension mods and stock brakes. There is a Unitronic Stage 1 tune but that’s really it. I’ve had the car for about 6 months and was unsure of what maintenance was done to it. The last oil change was done at Jiffy Lube according to the top driver’s side of the windshield. Not exactly reassuring.

So I went on a trek to change the oil, plugs and coils, brake pads, and brake fluid. These are typically pretty quick jobs. But the first time as a do-it-yourselfer never seems to go that way.

Armed with a Liqui-Moly 5W-40 kit from FCP Euro I got to work. YouTube and random forums are chock full of info so I skimmed a video and an article to make sure I had the tools I needed. I didn’t. In 2013, Volkswagen switched to a T45 torx bit for the oil drain plug. Amazon seems unable to same-day things with COVID-19 so I went off to Home Depot on a hunt and also to get a spark plug socket so I wouldn’t have to jury-rig anything. The rest of the oil change, the plugs, and the coils went off without a hitch. Alright, that’s a lie. I managed to put the tip of my shoe in the oil funnel cover so now it has a permanent stain.

The next task was putting on a set of Ferodo DS2500 brake pads and Centric rotors. I had all the tools for the front, but there was jury-rigging involved. The OEM Volkswagen pads have the brake wear sensor built in to the driver’s side inner pad. If you unplug it you’ll have a warning light on the dash. So I cut the wire as close as possible to the connector, stripped the wires, tied them together, and successfully tricked the car.

I battled two rusty front rotors with my BFH for probably an hour total and when I moved to the rear I realized I didn’t have a 14mm triple square spline bit. Amazon Prime will have that here Friday. I admitted defeat on the rears and moved on to flushing the brake fluid.

WHAT A MESS. I slightly pressurized my speed bleeder, twisted the cap on as tight as possible, and Motul 600 just continued to spill all over the reservoir and on to the transmission. I cranked the cap some more and it stopped so I figured I would continue. I pressurized the bleeder again and the reservoir turned in to Niagara Falls. Clean up on Aisle 6 continued for an hour. It turns out every single speed bleeder sucks, but if you have teflon tape and give it two loops around the reservoir threads you’re golden.

So we are ready for a Happy Thursday in the GTI without really having all that much time to road test the car. The Liqui-Moly quieted down the motor a bit, the Audi R8 coil packs and NGK R plugs seem to have smoothed out things as well. The Ferodo DS2500 were scarily bedded in on side streets and the pedal feel with the new pads and Motul 600 seems good. Let’s hope all goes well tomorrow. At least now we know some future maintenance quirks and have more tools.

Coffee time,

daily automotive addiction.