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VW MKIV-A4 TDIs (VE and PD) This is a general discussion about A4/MkIV Jetta (99.5-~2005), Golf(99.5-2006), and New Beetle(98-2006). Both VE and PD engines are covered here.

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Old March 30th, 2018, 06:33   #1
JBjunior
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Default 2003 Wagon Dilemma

I have two 2003 wagons that are both daily drive capable.

Wagon 1 - Indigo Blue, 5-speed, 310K miles. New AHF engine off the shelf 60K miles ago I installed myself with clutch, etc. at the same time. Suspension redone 60K miles ago, basically everything mechanical redone 60K miles ago. Typical fender rust, front seats torn, headliner destroyed, carpet torn. Slight front left suspension knock, I have a raxle to put in but I haven't verified it as the problem yet.

Wagon 2 - Black, 5-speed, 260K miles. Needs a timing belt (I have all of the tools/parts and will do it myself), sunroof operates sporadically, seats torn, headliner destroyed, typical fender rust, fender/kick panel rot out, goes into limp mode after stopping the car/restarting too quickly but is easily fixed by turning the car off and back on again. Strangely, this car feels firmer in almost every way even though suspension/steering components are older. Just feels better made, even before I knew it was a German made car.

I just got orders to move back to the west coast from the east coast again, so while I can leave the cars on my property here I am contemplating making one really great wagon, putting them both in storage, doing all repairs to both, etc. Just want to get some thoughts. I also have a 2005 Passat I have torn apart in my yard mid timing belt change that I haven't finished yet because I plan on doing the oil pump/chain mod (have the parts, just haven't had the time to finish it yet).

Historically I have loved working on cars (done engine swaps, diesel swap/builds) and have done all of my own work but have gotten to the point I am too busy to maintain all of them and all of my tools are about 1.5 hours away due to my current home rental/work location. My wife is also at the point she is tired of driving less than stellar cars that increasingly require more maintenance. I can't think of another car I would prefer today than an ALH wagon though. Now with the orders back to the west coast, it puts me in a position to do something.

Last edited by JBjunior; April 3rd, 2018 at 04:58.
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Old March 30th, 2018, 06:38   #2
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Oh, the ol' gun-to-the-head syndrome. Good luck! Take photos and post them occasionally to show what you're up to!

Cheers,

PH
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Old March 30th, 2018, 06:41   #3
JBjunior
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Originally Posted by Powder Hound View Post
Oh, the ol' gun-to-the-head syndrome. Good luck! Take photos and post them occasionally to show what you're up to!

Cheers,

PH
Well, it isn't quite to that point... I have 40+ acres to store them on and have had several more cars sitting around recently and my wife never complains; only that I "make" her drive them. The issue is with my job I can be gone days - months at a time and I have selfishly left her with only aging wagons/diesel swap projects to drive that are easy for me to fix but leave her stranded. Luckily, other than the engine detonating on wagon 1 and a flat tire, the wagons have never stranded her but unless I do a 100% restore on one I want to find her something a little more upscale to drive.

Last edited by JBjunior; March 30th, 2018 at 06:44.
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Old March 30th, 2018, 06:44   #4
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Buy something that always starts and runs *now* for her to drive, or fix one of them to that standard.

IMO of course. The first, given your current time situation, is easier.
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Old March 30th, 2018, 07:03   #5
JBjunior
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Buy something that always starts and runs *now* for her to drive, or fix one of them to that standard.

IMO of course. The first, given your current time situation, is easier.
I have been looking for a "newer" car for her the last few days so if I find something that will probably be where I start.

They both do always start and run, just seem to be crumbling on the cosmetic side I guess. I have gotten quotes for headliner replacement, but what are options for seats these days?

Maybe getting the Passat up and running, it is cosmetically great with the exception of rust on the front left fender, should be a priority. I bought it decently cheap with a bad water pump, just have to finish the engine mods and get it back together. She will like the automatic as well even though I know it won't last forever.

I have about 3 months to figure it out.
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Old March 30th, 2018, 09:36   #6
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Oh the seats are easy and so is the headliner, really.

I redid the headliner in my '03 and it took half a day. It's not that hard on a wagon since you can remove the headliner out the rear hatch, so the contortions getting it out are not bad at all.

Once out it's a function of having the fabric you want to use, spray headliner adhesive, scraping the old off and then going at it. It's really quite easy and while you may not do a PERFECT job of recovering it'll be a LOT better than what you have now.

For the seats, that's simple too -- Wet Okole. Custom-made covers, reasonably priced, indestructible and they look REAL good. I have them on my Mazda and my kid liked them enough to get a set for the Jetta. Done, and a hell of a lot cheaper than buying Katzkin recovers (which is the other sane option, IMHO, but it's VERY expensive.)

BTW 91% rubbing alcohol will strip the "sticky plastic overcover" from interior plastics that have gotten that nasty tacky feel to them. It takes a while but that on a cloth absolutely does work and is non-destructive to the plastic under the overcoat and a couple of bottles of it at the local pharmacy or WallyWorld are cheap.

If it's interior cosmetics that are the issue you can take care of that for reasonably cheap money and a day's worth of effort.

Last edited by Genesis; March 30th, 2018 at 09:39.
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Old March 31st, 2018, 08:47   #7
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So, just throwing this out there: how long are you going to be away from home, maximum? Might it make sense to lease a car for a year or so? New, supposedly reliable, whatever bells and whistles current cars come with, and when you're done with it, back it goes and you've bought some time to get the current field (ahem) up to where you want them.
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Old March 31st, 2018, 10:43   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBjunior View Post
I have two 2003 wagons that are both daily drive capable.

Wagon 1 - Indigo Blue, 5-speed, 310K miles. Mexico made car. New AHF engine off the shelf 60K miles ago I installed myself with clutch, etc. at the same time. Suspension redone 60K miles ago, basically everything mechanical redone 60K miles ago. Typical fender rust, front seats torn, headliner destroyed, carpet torn. Slight front left suspension knock, I have a raxle to put in but I haven't verified it as the problem yet.

Wagon 2 - Black, 5-speed, 260K miles. German made car. Needs a timing belt (I have all of the tools/parts and will do it myself), sunroof operates sporadically, seats torn, headliner destroyed, typical fender rust, fender/kick panel rot out, goes into limp mode after stopping the car/restarting too quickly but is easily fixed by turning the car off and back on again. Strangely, this car feels firmer in almost every way even though suspension/steering components are older. Just feels better made, even before I knew it was a German made car.


I've never seen Vw Jetta Tdi ALH WAGON with Mexico VIN # here in the states.


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Old March 31st, 2018, 10:57   #9
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Mine was ordered from Wolfsburg and I had to wait for it as I wanted a stick and all in the US at the time were automatics; I was told at the time there was no other way to get an '03 Wagon, as there were zero made in Mexico.
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Old March 31st, 2018, 19:04   #10
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hey jnb.. you by any chance at lejeune? i would fix one up absolutely and let her drive that. My option would be to sink money into getting one of those awesome wagons up if you have the time rather than putting money in a different car, unless you’re not planning on fixing both wagons up ever. But it doesn’t sound like you’re plan is to have two perpetually broken down wagons.
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Old March 31st, 2018, 19:41   #11
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I love Jetta Wagons, but perhaps it's time to sell both of them and buy one better car with the proceeds. And trust me and the other posts above, they were both assembled in Germany.
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Old March 31st, 2018, 20:39   #12
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Just check your vin #- begins w/ W, made in Germany. Begins w/ 3, made in Mexico.....
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Old April 3rd, 2018, 04:58   #13
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You guys are right, both are made in Germany. I have owned that car for 7+ years and not sure where I had thought it was made in Mexico along the way.
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Old April 22nd, 2018, 19:51   #14
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I realize this isn't exactly continuing on the thread. Just hoping somebody might have a good idea.

Have lots of good 2000 to 2003 transmissions, engines / donor vehicles. Wondering how much of a big deal it is to drop an older engine and tranny into a 2004 or 2005 Golf.
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Old April 22nd, 2018, 22:34   #15
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OP, sell them both locally and get a rust free one on the west coast. Neither sounds like a great keeper car and they are at least still worth something now.
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