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Upgrades (non TDI Engine related) The place of handling, lighting and other upgrades that do not relate to the performance or economy of the TDI engine. In other words upgrades to your TDI that don't fit into TDI Fuel Economy & TDI Engine Enhancements.Please note the Performance Disclaimer

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Old March 10th, 2010, 10:13   #1
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Louisiana
Default Suspension Lift 03 Jetta Wagon and Consequences

Hi all, I've got some suspension lift questions and comments, I know there's some other threads on similar subjects, but thought it deserved a fresh thread..

I'm not off-roading my 2003 Jetta Wagon 5-speed much, just an occasional rough dirt road. But I do trailer a 1500-1600lb camper 6-10,000 miles per year, usually with the car also stuffed with heavy equipment, so I had clearance issues and have recently upgraded the springs and shocks. The car has 260,000 miles on it, so the previous OEM suspension was pretty tired.

I installed the Euro heavy duty rear springs (5 green dots part # 1J0 511 115 AN) that you can't get in the states (from Peter), Jetta automatic tranny springs in front (stiffer and longer, 2blue, 2 white dots part # 1J0 411 105 CD), also the 10mm front spacers. Then Koni FSD's all around. Finished this all up about two weeks ago.

I gained a bunch of things, most really nice, one or two not so much.


First, absolutely amazing cornering and handling on winding roads with the car by itself. I drive fast habitually, and I gotta tell ya, this thing now approaches the Mazda Miata I drove for 8 years in handling and cornering. It's incredibly solid. I haven't pushed it all the way to the Miata's cornering speeds in known corners cuz I know the Miata will slide, but I'm not sure the Jetta wagon will slide instead of roll. Particularly with the increased height. (heh...)

Second, when the trailer is hitched up, I'm getting way improved stability and handling. The trailer previously was solid up to maybe 65mph, but above that could sometimes be iffy, any significant sidewinds, turns, bumps, non-smooth roads and it could start to fishtail. Now, it's pretty much solid as a rock at 70. Not planning on testing above that.

Third, I gained an inch and a quarter (maybe a little more) in hitch height on the back with the euro springs alone (I installed them first, about 9 months ago). And, the load carrying capacity was wayyy improved. Far less drop in back for a given added load.

Fourth, however, unexpected things happened on height when I installed the front springs, 10mm spacers, and Koni's all around about two weeks ago. I gained 1-3/4 inches in clearance on the front. That was good (though you gotta be OK with a four inch gap between the top of the front tire and the front fender...). BUT, I somehow *lost* 3/4" of an inch on the rear hitch height. Best I can figure, when the car elevated on the front, it pivoted on the rear axle and dropped at the hitch. I don't think the Koni's added to the rear dropped anything.

Not so much:

Fifth, the steering geometry unexpectedly changed. The steering wheel is now cocked about 43 to 45 degrees counterclockwise when driving straight down the highway. There is no pulling or misbehavior, it's just no longer aligned straight. There are two other consequences to this, one, the turn signals (particularly the right turn) no longer trigger off correctly, and two, if I *do* turn the wheel all the way to the right, the right front tire now rubs against the fender well or something. So I'm guessing the added height changed some geometry in the linkage, some bar or link needs lengthening or shortening?

So now for some questions. Anyone know what's involved in correcting the steering wheel alignment in this situation? I'm sure assuming and hoping it's an adjustable issue, maybe at the worst pulling a splined shaft and re-inserting? I know a couple of guys on the site have done this spring conversion, did they have the same steering issue? I've been assuming that my shop guy, who I trust, didn't do anything to the steering when installing the front struts and springs. Hope to hear from the folks who've been there and done that.

Two, I've kinda checked before, but are there any lift kits of any sort that I could use to get maybe an inch of height back on the rear? I've not heard of anything, so I'm considering taking the 10mm spacers back out of the front, I'd be OK going from height gain of 1-3/4 down to 1-1/4 inches in front if it gets me even a quarter inch back in the rear. But I'd really like a full inch or even and inch and a quarter more in the rear.

For the curious, on a separate subject, a history report. The car has 260,000 on the original engine, clutch, tranny, injection pump, and turbo. I've had it five years, 54K when I bought it. Fuel mileage is down about 9-10% from what it once was, I'm thinking I'm due for injectors for sure. Brakes, tires, and a MAF sensor at 80K have been it for drive train stuff. But a bunch of door latch, door lock, and window issues totaling about $1000 over the last five years, mostly at 125-150k miles. (Ha. '03's were supposed to have all that fixed.) Cabin blower motor at 175k. Battery. Glove compartment doorlatch recently. I get 70-75k consistently on the OEM Michelin XV4's, expect to replace the 4th set at 300k. I run them firmer on air pressure all the time, rotate mebbe every 20-25k. Oil changes, fuel filters, and timing belts religiously. Oil consumption currently is around 6500, maybe 7000 miles per quart. That seems to drop quite a bit when I'm towing, though. With luck and the creek don't rise, I'm hoping for half a million out of the car.

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Old March 10th, 2010, 10:36   #2
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If all the other front suspension bits are in good repair (ball joints, inner and outer tie rods, LCA bushings, sway bar bushings) then an alignment doen correctly will reclock steering wheel. When you installed the struts did you by chance unthread the outer tie rod from its shaft rather then pop the stud from the steering nuckle?
Rear suspension can be raised a couple of ways, air bags in springs, Metalnerd lift kit (best installed as a complete kit though front and rear), or ECS urethane spring isolaters ( will give you another .5 to .75 ")
On the mileage issue, whats the condition of the intake manifold, getting clogged? Cat still installed, getting plugged up maybe? Any compression tests, new and old, to evaluate?
2012 Platinum S-line A3 DSG- bought back by VW
2000 Golf 5spd, 301k, the usual mods, sits forlornly in the backyard.
2006 Jetta DSG- gone
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Old March 10th, 2010, 10:39   #3
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It seems to me that the amount your car was lifted should not have altered the steering at all, let alone as much as you say. Something happened - a tie rod was bent or destroyed, and someone did not repair that correctly.

If you ever want a steering wheel realigned, you have to wonder why it is out. Basically, since it was correctly aligned from the factory, the way it gets out of true is when the toe is adjusted, but the alignment guy doesn't care what happens to the steering wheel.

If you simply pull the wheel and reset it on the shaft, the turn signals will never work right.

It sounds like someone screwed up really badly and thought to hide it from you, but fixed their screw up in an inept manner.

Your fix will require a good alignment from someone who knows what they are doing and will agree to center your steering wheel. You will also have to check to see that the steering wheel itself is correctly centered on the shaft, but I suspect that if it is cockeyed and the turn signals click off incorrectly, then the steering wheel wasn't removed from the shaft and you won't have to do anything there.

Having a rubbing problem in a right turn also should be solved during the alignment. Be sure and tell the alignment guy every detail you can think of.

If you decide to remove spacers, I probably don't have to mention that you should do it before an alignment is done.

To get added height in the rear, you'll probably need spacers, just like for the front. I don't know how this would apply, but is there going to be a suspension travel problem for struts and shocks in these scenarios?
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Old March 10th, 2010, 11:05   #4
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Fuel Economy: 42/46/51 with 5 speed - was 36/40/42 with 01M

Regarding the steering wheel issue, something else is wrong in your front suspension or something happened during the install.

About 16 months and 20k miles ago I installed a Metalnerd 2" lift kit plus VR6 springs for about 2.5" of suspension lift. My steering and alignment stayed spot-on and I have had no issues with abnormal tire wear.
2012 BMW X5 35D 2000 NB with 3 pedal mod, RC3, PP520's, Eurojet SMIC, SBC 3, 2.5" side exit straight pipe, 2" lift.
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Old March 10th, 2010, 13:12   #5
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Louisiana

Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it. I haven't talked to the shop who did the install yet, wanted to get some opinion here first. They're pretty competent over there on most issues (though they're not diesel folks and I don't have them do any powertrain work), I've used them for years on gasser cars. I can't imagine why they might have fiddled with the steering linkage, but maybe they did. I do know they'll absolutely make it right if they screwed up. I'll be talking to them about what might have happened.

Powder Hound, I checked with Koni on the travel issues with the longer and heavier duty springs before I bought them, they didn't think there was an issue with the kinds of lengths I'm working with. Main thing they said was the struts and shocks should not be allowed to bottom out during driving.

Mech644, I haven't done any checking on the fuel mileage issue yet, all your ideas need to be pursued. I'm just kinda arbitrarily assuming for the moment that by 260,000 miles those injectors are a little worn. It's the next big project after the suspension is sorted out.

I'll look into Metalnerd lifts, why is it best done all around? I've got all the lift I need up front now, as I mentioned I wouldn't even object to taking the spacers back out if I had to. I really would just like to get that inch or inch and a half back in the rear for trailering. I cringe when the hitch drags a curb.

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Old March 11th, 2010, 06:14   #6
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Guess I've been lucky with front end alignments, never had an issue with the shop not verifying that steering wheel is clocked correctly.

Installing a Metalnerd lift both front and rear is just my opinion/preference. Also having just looked at his site the lifts are aold/package as a kit for front and rear.

did the shop do a front end alignment after installing struts?
2012 Platinum S-line A3 DSG- bought back by VW
2000 Golf 5spd, 301k, the usual mods, sits forlornly in the backyard.
2006 Jetta DSG- gone
2015 GHB SEL 1.8 tsi
2014 Touareg
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Old March 11th, 2010, 09:04   #7
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Fuel Economy: as good as 58 (over 700 miles) and as low as 30 over the same route

If you buy the metalnerd kit you have to get both from and rear. What you install is up to you. http://www.metalnerd.com/cat09.htm
If you do just the one inch kit then you don't have to install brackets for the shocks. Being a wagon I thought I read about something special on the shock mounts. Does your car have ESP? You could take the front spacers out and install the lift then on both front and rear.
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Old March 11th, 2010, 16:22   #8
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Louisiana

Update, talked to the shop, the owner I deal with is out of town at a funeral, but I'm scheduled to get it fixed next week, I have every confidence they'll make it right. But no clue right now what might have happened.

Yeah, I'm looking into Metalnerd to re-raise the rear. Since the 3/4 inch loss is probably from tilting over the rear axle, the Koni FSD shocks may already be still quite extended from the euro heavy duty springs (I got about an inch and a quarter of height when I put those in independently 8 or 9 months ago). So I'm thinking I need to be sure another inch won't stretch those Konis too much. Thinking I should jack the car carefully by the body and measure how much the rear wheels drop, from fully loaded to hanging free, to get an idea of how much free travel there still is. The Koni folks pretty much said height didn't matter too much as long as the shocks were not bottoming out on downward travel.


Thanks, I really appreciate all you folks!
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Old March 12th, 2010, 14:37   #9
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I just came across this Mk4 FK Rear Adjustable Kit and thought you might be interested: http://www.ecstuning.com/ES1897194/
VCDS, Panzer Skid Plate, Shine Racing Springs, Blauspeed Suspension, cat delete, Aero 2525XL Muffler, CAI with hood scoop, S7 Turbo, KermaTDI Tune.
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Old March 13th, 2010, 03:51   #10
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Default Wagon shocks & struts

I just purchased and '03 wagon and was advised by Peter Noble that FSDs are not suitable for the wagon. He recommended the wagon specific Koni Reds, which I just purchased and will be installing shortly along with the 2" metalnerd lift kit. See this thread:


I have had good success with the metalnerd lift kits on my jetta sedans.
2003 Jetta GL+ (white) many mods
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Old March 13th, 2010, 04:28   #11
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True, FSDs are sedan specific. But I run them in my wagon, and Corey has them in his with the towing springs. No problems. Where sedan dampers in the wagon can be a problem is if you have a 2" lift kit and run empty a lot of the time. Then they'll top out. But with stock ride height they're fine. My favorite damper in the MKIV.
2002 Jetta wagon, 362K, RC3+; 1993 Mercedes-Benz 300D 2.5, 197K; 1997 Passat, 285K; '99.5 Golf, 257K; 2011 335d, 56K; 2015 Golf Sportwagen, 8K. Principal, http://www.idparts.com
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Old March 19th, 2010, 13:10   #12
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Seattle, WA

For your towing, I'd suggest just getting the air lift kit. It's $100, and it works pretty darned well.

I've got an 03 wagon, and I went with towing springs+air lift+bilstein HD's and it works pretty good, just did a cross country trip with the whole Jetta+Trailer combo weighing in at 7000 lbs at the scales.

Don't bother with the spacer.

Oh, here's the kit, seems to work fine (but a PITA to get in)

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Old December 27th, 2012, 08:13   #13
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: portland, oregon

I'm wondering if anyone knows if it's possible to lift a 2009 jettawagen tdi?
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Old December 28th, 2012, 15:58   #14
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Search the mk6 jsw section. It is being worked on...
2011 JSW "$" 2000 Golf "The Burner" 2007 Suzuki DRZ 400 SM "Fart Knocker"
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Old March 1st, 2017, 22:33   #15
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Portland, OR

How did you know that the Air Lift would fit the 2003 vw Jetta Wagon TDI? Looks like it's listed for a Dodge. Also, that looks like it's front.
I am looking for Rear Air bag coil helpers. Maybe stiffer springs as well. May be interested in Larger/performance brakes. I am looking for anything that will increase my towing capacity. (or make it safer) Any help would be appreciated.
I will probably go with an heavy duty clutch, may looking at e brakes for the trailer. I am looking at towing around 2200 Lbs.
I am also in Portland, Or.
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