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11GTCS HalfDork
4/28/21 7:01 p.m.

In reply to infinitenexus :

Now “stanced”?  That’s more than a bad steering rack.  

brad131a4 (Forum Supporter)
brad131a4 (Forum Supporter) Reader
4/28/21 11:57 p.m.

Yeah that's not looking to promising there. That is a darn good buy even with the rattle can paint job. Even on a cheap car it's not worth it. Just looks like crap. On the other note it's nice to see you cleaning it up and making it respectable looking again. If you can I'd bump up the rims to a 15" as there seems to be a little bit better choice of tires. Mind you it's not huge by any stretch but better than the 14". They also seem to go a little bit better proportion wise as well. A simple header, cam and intake will wake it up some but don't expect to win any stoplight races and anything in the past ten years will kick it's ass. 600lb springs up front is nut's on the street. 350 if not 300 would be firm but not punishing. Running I think 250 in back was what I had and with a 28mm rear swaybar  that was a fun corner carver. On the street I liked having a 22mm front bar hooked up as it made the car more neutral handling. The H&R cup kit for those were also a great handling ride as well. I was running Koni Sports with ground control collars and springs. Found the best ride and handling with about 1 finger width between the fender lip and tire. Low but not slammed. For a daily mine never let me down for 5 years. Other than a dead battery, but it was old and needed replacing, it was fine. If that is a true Helios Blue car it would have come with 14" P slots with the same color accent in the P. Good luck on the paint and keep posting the upgrades.

infinitenexus Dork
4/29/21 7:11 a.m.

In reply to brad131a4 (Forum Supporter) :

Using the online tire size calculator, I learned that if I went to a 205/50R15 I would have the same sidewall height that I do now, since the previous owner put the wrong size tires on.  So no degradation in ride quality.  Once I get an opportunity to work on the car again, I'm going to raise it up some - especially the back, which was sitting a bit lower than the front.  Once I fix these issues with the car I think it'll do well as a daily driver.

As for the springs, I think this is definitely a case of where cheap coilovers end up with insanely high rates instead of something proper.  I've read online where guys bought $200 Chinese coilovers and tested them and found them to have shockingly high spring rates - like 500+.  Before it broke, this car had precisely zero body roll, and handled like it had very high rate springs.  Bumpy roads are awful, but it's not bouncing like the shocks are bad, so that's a plus.  I'm hoping raising it a little bit well help the ride quality a little bit.  Ultimately I may have to find some softer springs down the road.  Hopefully these coilovers use a common size spring.

I was planning on jacking the car up today after work and seeing what's wrong, but it's raining all day today, so that'll have to wait.  Tomorrow, fingers crossed, I'll be able to post some pictures of glorious broken suspension components!


infinitenexus Dork
5/1/21 6:20 a.m.

So yesterday morning before I left for work I stuck my phone under the car, hoping I would just see something blatantly broken in there 

Looks fine, other than the photo upload tool for this site flipping my picture upside down.  Couldn't see anything wrong. Hmm. So after work, I came home and started jacking the car up. I also popped the hood and immediately saw part of the problem 

strut mounts on both sides were torn all the way around. That would explain it sitting a bit lower and having some movement, but not the passenger side moving that much. I pulled the wheel off and grabbed things and pulled but nothing moved except for the broken shock mount. The new ones are supposed to come in the mail today so hopefully when I replace them I'll be able to figure out what's broken. I also decided while I had the car up to rotate the tires and raise it some. The back was sitting lower than the front, and I hate that so I raised the front about 1/4" and the back about 3/4". As I grabbed the coilover wrench, I see an awesome logo:

it's our old friends at Max Pee Dingrods!  Also why does the photo upload tool for this site keep rotating my photos?

1SlowVW HalfDork
5/1/21 8:05 a.m.

I would have a good look at the strut mount and the spring hat. Shouldn't punch through like that. 

infinitenexus Dork
5/1/21 8:23 a.m.

Yeah they're wrecked. New ones are coming in the mail today. 

GTwannaB HalfDork
5/1/21 8:47 p.m.

Re: 2k Clear. Isn't that the stuff that is more dangerous than other rattle can paints in terms of safety requirements. Like you need a real respirator when spraying due to its chemical makeup?

infinitenexus Dork
5/2/21 11:36 a.m.

In reply to GTwannaB :

I will look into that. Thanks for bringing it up!


My parts didn't come in yesterday so I spent some time drinking beer and rubbing off the spray paint with lacquer thinner. It works pretty well but it takes a lot of rags and time. Slowly but steadily getting there!

there's a few spots where it looks like there was a rust bubble as the prior owner sanded it down to bare metal, so I will need to get some touch up paint. The hood is pretty much a wreck - I'm not sure if I want to try respraying it blue or painting it black. I'm trying to keep this on a challenge budget so it might wind up black. We'll see. 

infinitenexus Dork
5/9/21 11:04 a.m.

So I figured out what's wrong. My car had an, uhhhhh, dislocation. Pictures ahead. 

So I knew the strut mounts were dead, you could tell by looking. So I jacked the car up, removed the wheel, and lowered the coilover all the way so I could get it out. A bit of a pain but overall not bad. Here's the old mount:

GRM's photo uploaded strikes again, and my picture is sideways. Well, you can see that the top of the strut mount is torn, and the strut bearing was rusted and didn't work. The new one went in pretty painlessly and actually lifted the front of the car by probably 3/4". It'll be a nice improvement. Then I looked down and saw exactly what the problem was. This thing, uhhh, steering knuckle?  The thing the steering/brakes/control arm/shock all bolt to. It has a ball on the bottom. That ball is supposed to sit in a socket in the control arm. It had slipped out. A dislocation!  So with some effort I popped it back in. Now I'm guessing something needs to be replaced, but I couldn't find anything that looked actually broken. I would appreciate some advice from the mk2 guys. 

okay, another sideways picture. This is getting old.  But hopefully you can see that the part is definitely not in the right place. 

I didn't do the strut mount on the other side as it was cold and I wanted to take The Wife out to eat for Mother's Day. Her first one!  We had Lebanese food and it was amazing. 

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
5/9/21 12:00 p.m.

You need new ball joints. They are not designed to dislocate. And remove that control arm and clean the 12.74 pounds of oil, dirt, and gunk off.

infinitenexus Dork
5/9/21 1:28 p.m.

In reply to vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) :

I was thinking it seemed rather odd that it would come out, and had a strong suspicion that something was broken. Google tells me that new control arms and ball joints are cheap for this car, so I guess time for a nice front end refresh. 

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
5/9/21 2:24 p.m.

In reply to infinitenexus :

The VW community recommends using Corrado strut mounts to replace the Jetta/Golf units. Apparently they're stronger, if you can find them readily.

infinitenexus Dork
5/13/21 7:55 a.m.

I googled how to replace the ball joint on this car and found a forum post that made it look pretty easy.  Pretty much just 4 bolts and the new one goes right now.  Very excite.  The weather was nice enough yesterday that I set out to fix it after work.  I jacked up that side, removed the wheel, lowered the coilover all the way and unbolted it from the uh, steering knuckle?  hub thingy?  I don't know what that part is called.  I need to google it. (edit: I googled it and it's the steering knuckle).  Since the ball joint had simply popped out earlier, I was hoping it would be an easy removal.  Ha!  All the bolts were pretty much rusted solid, and I made the foolish mistake of not having any liquid wrench.  I unbolted the sway bar to drop it a bit more and tried to loosen the 3 bolts that held the ball joint on.  They didn't move, not even remotely.  Any attempts just resulted in them rounding off.  Well, let me attack something else then.  I tried to loosen the bolt that holds the top of the ball joint to the steering knuckle.  Nope.  Well, let me at least remove this brake caliper since it's right in my way.  Nope.  In fact, I couldn't even find the bolts to remove the caliper - I think they might be allen head bolts but I couldn't find anything that fit.  Frustrated, I put everything back on and went over to the other side and installed the new strut mount, which was easy.  The new strut mounts raised the front end nearly 3/4" so I lowered the coilovers a touch.  I think I have it at a nice ride height now.  I turned the car on and twisted the wheel each way to test it, and thankfully there was no popping sounds or binding!  Holy cow, it's almost like having new strut mounts and strut bearings actually makes a difference!  Haha!  So yeah then I backed the car up 10 feet, put it in 1st and gently pulled forward and bang!  The balljoint slipped out again.  Lol.  So I limped forward 10 feet back into the parking spot.

Looks like what needs to be done isn't incredibly difficult, however all the bolts I need to get to are rusted solid.  Instead of trying to install just the ball joint, I might need to install a new control arm/ball joint/steering knuckle/caliper.  

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/13/21 8:09 a.m.

Welcome to Cleveland! 

Standard operating procedure here is on day #1 you inspect the job at hand. But, while inspecting, you hit everything you might need (and even things you might not need) with PB Blaster (a Cleveland company.) 

If you have to wait 2 days for parts to arrive you might also go out each one of those days and re-hit with the PB. 


infinitenexus Dork
5/13/21 8:39 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Yeah I will definitely need an entire bottle of that stuff (PB Blaster, for some reason I could only think of Liquid Wrench earlier).  I'm still concerned about the 4 bolts that hold the ball joint on.  I'll start saturating them with PB Blaster tonight and every night until the weekend, when I'll try again.  If it still won't work with me, it'll likely be a good time to just start replacing things.  

I also noticed that the driver's side control arm/steering knuckle look like dry, dirty, slightly rusty parts.  Basically, normal.  The passenger side is much more rusted and it's all covered in a thick oil/dirt sludge.  That could be grease from the torn steering boot and/or old ball joint, or it could be from the motor.  I'll make sure to keep an eye on my oil levels once it's moving again.  

Brett_Murphy MegaDork
5/13/21 2:02 p.m.

When you get this sorted out, you may not lose money on it if you decide to sell it.

infinitenexus Dork
5/14/21 7:20 a.m.

In reply to Brett_Murphy :

I certainly hope not.  It seems to be a pretty decent little car that was just riced up by an idiot.  It's got some wear and tear typical of a 30 year old car but no hard rust that I can find, which is rare in Ohio.  I'm probably going to easy button the paint and restore the sides to the original blue and paint the trashed hood/roof/trunk in gloss black.  It'll cost me around $20 total, and I'd like to keep this on a challenge budget.  If I can somehow find some nice looking wheels for dirt cheap I think it would really look quite nice.  In a perfect world, some 15" mesh wheels.  I can hopefully get the stereo/speakers working properly also.  Oh, and if I could find some slightly softer springs for the front coilovers, that would be amazing.

I ordered a new control arm yesterday and a few other little bits.  Fortunately on this car the ball joint just bolts on, so it'll be easy to install on a new control arm.  Hopefully taking the old one off isn't too difficult!  Over the next two days I'll be saturating everything with PB Blaster.

infinitenexus Dork
5/14/21 7:40 a.m.

Also I checked the Max Pee Dingrods website and they list the springs on these coilovers as 392 lbs/in for both front and rear.  Pretty stiff for a Chinesium shocks on a 2200 pound car daily driven on bumpy roads.  The car has absolutely zero body roll, even with 14" wheels and stock sway bars.  I'm hoping I can find a 300lb/in spring that'll fit in there.  Should still provide great handling but make it a little less punishing on Cleveland roads.

infinitenexus Dork
5/14/21 8:41 p.m.

Small update. Came home after work, pulled the wheel off, and soaked every bolt in PB Blaster several times. I decided to break out the lacquer thinner and remove more of the crappy flat black spray paint. One square inch at a time!  I have most of the drivers side done 

as you can see, I pulled off the front bumper and the trim to get to the paint behind it. The good news is the underside of the car is still nicely coated, without any real rust. The downside is what was under that drivers side fender flare 

some pretty hefty rust. Enough that the fender flare can't clip on, which explains why the previous owner zip tied it on. I'll have to look around and see if I can find a cheap replacement somewhere. Fingers crossed. 

I might paint the wheels this weekend. That white spray paint looks like e36 m3 and it's driving me nuts 

infinitenexus Dork
5/16/21 4:41 p.m.

First, a quick update on the car:  I'm waiting on a new control arm and some bolts to come in the mail, so I just bought a big jug of lacquer thinner and two packs of rags and continued rubbing off the awful flat black spray paint.  Driver's side is basically done, as is the back and the passenger's side front fender.  There's a few rust spots that I had to sand and hit with primer, so I'll have to pick up a can of touch up paint for this.  I also painted the trunk lid gloss black - the stock paint really was trashed, and there was no saving it.  But a $0.99 can of home depot black spray paint looks okay.  I also found the Wolfsburg Edition badges in the trunk in a box - prior owner popped them off when he painted everything flat black.  Idiot.  I think next weekend I might be able to finish removing all of the flat black paint from the front/back/sides of the car.  


Great news!  I spoke with The Wife today about how I've been following the $2000 challenge since 1999 when it was the $1500 challenge and how it's always been a dream to do it, and the Jetta would be a great challenge car, and she agreed.  Just not this year, because we'll have a 2 month old.  So 2022 challenge, here I come!  I'll drive down and she'll fly down with the baby.  If there's a gastropods class that year, I'll likely run it in there, as I intend on keeping this a decent daily driver, meaning full interior and working stereo.  So that being said, my list of improvements I'd like to make to the car is as follows:

15" wheels, preferably 7" wide.  Hopefully I can make a 225/45R15 fit

Slightly softer front springs

A muffler

Fix the stereo wiring so all the speakers work again.  It's got Alpine speakers all over, but the wires are dangling.  

As budget permits, a header if the install isn't too bad.

Now I have to sit down and do the budget.  I should be around $1350 total right now.

Stampie MegaDork
5/16/21 4:49 p.m.

In reply to infinitenexus :

Nitrous ... all daily drivers should have it.

infinitenexus Dork
5/24/21 8:19 a.m.

After repeatedly soaking bolts with PB Blaster for a week, I put my longest breaker bar on the control arm bolt and put all my body weight on it. Nothing. So I went to Home Depot and bought a 2 foot pipe. Problem solved. 

I crossed my fingers, hoping that much torque wouldn't just twist the bolt in half, but it broke loose easily and came out. And it was an ugly bolt. 

man, I just can't win. This photo uploader really likes rotating my photos. Anyways, armed with lots of leverage, I broke all the bolts loose and finally pulled out the grimy old control arm. Here it is next to the new one:

Pulling the top half of the old ball joint out of the steering knuckle was tough. I removed the bolt that clamps it in there but still nothing. I finally got a pry bar in there and was able to pry it open a little and the top half of the old ball joint came out. Installation was pretty simple, once I got everything lined up. 

I only have one thing left to do to finish this, and it's proving difficult. With the new control arm+ball joint installed, I need to insert the top of the new ball joint into the bottom of the steering knuckle. On this car, that's easier said that done. I just need to get a pry bar in there again and open up the clamp so the top of the ball joint can go it, then install the one bolt that holds in it and I'll be done. Fingers crossed, maybe today after work. After that it needs a new rack and pinion installed to fix the power steering and then it'll be autocross ready!


After replacing the control arm, we celebrated by feeding some deer 

Thats the pregnant wife feeding them. Then we went to a winery and I tried a few while petting the winery doggo

(I was wine tasting, not the wife)

all in all, a pretty solid weekend. 

infinitenexus Dork
5/25/21 8:33 p.m.

After work today I pulled the wheel back and went back to work. I put a pry bar in the bottom of the steering knuckle and pulled as hard as I could and banged on the control arm with a hammer and it finally slipped right in!  I bolted the wheel back on and did a quick test - backing up in my parking spot, turning the wheel both ways, and pulling back up. Everything felt fine. Then I set myself to installing real seatbelts front a GTI, instead of those weird ones on the lower models. Took me a minute to figure it out but that's in as well. Went ahead and reinstalled the oh e36 m3 handles as well, and took the car for a spin around the block. With the new strut mounts and bearings it turns better and the ride quality is massively improved. Tomorrow I'll drive it to work and see how it handles the bumpy roads. But it's finally fixed and back on the road!  Now it's just time to finish getting this spray paint off. 

Rocambolesque Reader
5/25/21 8:54 p.m.

You're lucky that the captive nut for the rear bushing didn't break loose! Happens sometimes, you need to cut the floor to reach it and weld it back...

infinitenexus Dork
5/26/21 7:16 a.m.

Small update:


Drove to work this morning. It felt great to drive with a real seatbelt. The car did fine - previous owner had told me that the rear speakers were blown. They weren't. The wires had come off. 10 seconds and that was fixed so I could listen to NPR on my commute. I need to check the wiring of the radio but I'm a bit scared - considering how the rest of the car is, I'm sure it's a mess. The radio seems to fully reset each time I turn the car off. 

The ride quality is much improved with the new shock mounts and bearings, but with Cleveland roads it's still a bit too much, so I'm going to splurge on some slightly softer front springs.

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