Saturday, November 23, 2019

Aerofabb V2 Spoiler Extension

I'm a big fan of spoilers and ducktails (as evidenced by ducktail on the Cayman) and while I'm happy with the general shape and lines of the GTi, I always thought it needed a little extra on the rear spoiler. The little black ones that stick on the top look out of place and some of the other aftermarket options are just too big. I decided that the Aerofabb V2 spoiler extension fit the bill quite nicely. It's not too noticeable but adds a little extra hint of black in the rear that gives it a bit more of a defined shape.

Aerofabb v2 spoiler extension - 11-23-2019
The actual installation instructions call for heating up and cutting the glue that holds the OEM spoiler to the side pieces then removing it completely so you can drill holes to mount the spoiler extension. I personally didn't like the idea of having to drill the OEM spoiler so I decided to just use more automotive grade 3M tape as well as 3M adhesion promoter to make sure I'd get a nice bond between the tape and the painted surface and not drill any holes at all.

3M adhesion promoter
It's getting pretty cold right now so using tape and the promoter is not really a great idea since this is supposed to be used when it's warm out. Not wanting to wait until the Spring, I stood there with my wife's old hair dryer heating up both the extension, the spoiler and the tape so they'd all be nice and warm before proceeding with the installation.

Aerofabb spoiler extension installed - 11-23-2019
Aerofabb spoiler extension installed - 11-23-2019
Aerofabb spoiler extension installed - 11-23-2019
I think it came out quite nicely. I applied constant pressure on the spoiler extension while continuously applying heat with the blow dryer (not heat gun as that'd probably be too hot) and left it in the sun for an hour. A few spirited test runs later and there was no sign of movement or loss of adhesion so I think I'll leave it like this. I'm sure it'll only get better as it stays on longer. Overall I'm happy with the product. The gloss black finish matches the other black sides of the hatch quite well but I suspect it's going to attract quite a bit of dust over time but perhaps a nice polish and ceramic coating will take care of that after the Winter.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

GTi Exterior Mods and Putting the Toys Away

One thing I always thought was peculiar about the styling of the MK7 GTi was that it has black side skirts and rear valence but the lower front of the bumper is all mostly body-colored. I wanted to complete the black outline look in the front as well so I picked up a textured black plastic Maxton Designs V2 lip.

Maxton V2 Lip Installed - 11/16/19
It doesn't really make the front much lower but it does extend out the sides an inch or two more so I will have to be a little more careful when going up steep inclines. The upside is that this is plastic and relatively cheap so it's mostly a sacrificial lip.

Prepping the lip for install
It came very nicely packaged from ECS Tuning and included a slew of bolts and nuts to secure it to the bumper. I felt that was unnecessarily complex so I grabbed a pack of self-tapping screwed instead and just used the included washers to help spread the force a little. You're supposed to install this with two people but it's a light enough piece that, with the car on the QuickJack, I was able to hold it in place with one hand while getting the first screws in then I went to town putting in around 16 screws to make sure it doesn't fall off at high speed.

It's even TUV certified
bolts securing the lip
The fitment is really good. It follows the various contours of the stock bumper so it's actually easy to align. Overall I'm happy with it and I'm actually glad it's not too rigid so it'll have some give in case I scrape it on something. The car's only lowered an inch so I don't foresee there being too many problems.

deAutoLED brake/tail/turn LED set - 11/16/19
A lot of people retrofit the Euro LED tail lights or the MK7.5 lights but I'm personally quite happy with the rear lights. I do wish they were LED because I hate dealing with burnt-out bulbs and I like that they're brighter and redder. I picked up a set of LED brake/tail/turn bulbs to replace the factory incandescent ones and more importantly, I also replaced the reverse bulbs with very bright LED bulbs so that I have great visibility even when reversing in dimly lit places.

Tail lights removed to swap bulbs - 11/16/19
It's a pretty simple process. Just had to remove the rear lights to access the bulbs and also open up a panel on the hatch to replace the rear bulbs and reverse LED there too.

LEDs swapped in

deAutoKey LEDs installed - 11/16/19

I also spent the better part of the morning enjoying driving the Cayman out one last time through Bear Mountain. With the temps constantly dipping into freezing and salt being laid on the roads, it was time to put her away for the winter. I forgot how amazing this car is to drive. It's just so visceral and it truly is a different driving experience from my other cars.

Final drive for 2019
Getting her clean before being put way
She was also pretty dirty so before putting her away, I got her washed and put the cover on to mark the official end of her 2019 driving season. Lots of fun adventures and looking forward to taking her to track next year.

Tucked away for winter - 11/16/19

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Better Airflow - Racingline R600 Intake

We're going to be putting in an IS38 Turbo for more top end boost shortly but for now, I wanted to improve the air intake. The stock intake is actually pretty efficient but not as good as it can be. The air comes in through inlets on the front passenger side only and then is routed to the driver's side via a plastic duct where the actual intake is.

Stock intake removed - 11/9/2019
I wanted a stock looking intake that would pull air from the entire front, be sealed to avoid heat soak and have proper inlets for secondary air which the car is equipped with. The obvious choice was the Racingline R600 intake. Stock, there's a small coolant line that routes on top of the intake that I wanted to replace so that it routes under the intake instead for a cleaner look. Thankfully, Racingline also makes a coolant underhose with an OEM check valve for a straightforward fit.

Stock coolant line - 11/9/2019
Racingline coolant hose - 11/9/2019
I was a bit annoyed to find out I had to drill my own hole to fit the secondary air fitting. For the price of this thing, I feel that's something they should've done for me but they probably did it so they can just make one mold and have people cut it as needed for secondary air. What should've been a 20 minute intake install took much longer while we carefully cut the holes to mount the fitting.

Bottom part of intake and filter installed - 11/9/2019
The filter that the R600 comes with is made of black foam and there've been quite a few reports of it just disintegrating over time which is no good since I don't want foam pieces getting sucked into the turbo. Thankfully, a company called MST Performance makes a replacement filter (VW-R6) that uses more normal cone filters which I'm much more comfortable with. The cover just needed to be bolted on and it was all set. I'll have to say that while the intake is quite nice and performs well, fitment could've been better. Things were a bit fiddly but manageable

Intake installed and coolant hose rerouted - 11/9/2019
Air pulling from all the front openings now
It doesn't really change the induction noise much which is what I wanted and it looks like it came from the factory so it stays low key. I noticed a bit of an improvement in throttle response but I wasn't expecting this to do anything major for now. What I want is to maximize the amount of fresh cool air entering the turbo which will be helpful once we slap the IS38 on.

Racingline R600 Intake - 11/9/2019
Overall I'm still pretty happy with it and it's one of the few aftermarket intakes for the GTi that has a proper solution for the secondary air hose rather than just sticking a mini cone filter on it like all the other ones do. Thanks to Alex for helping me today.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Stage 2 + Winter Prep

I dropped my car off with Dion at Drive Auto Works  (DAW) in Mountainside, NJ before going away on vacation so they could load the APR Stage 2 high torque tune. The previous owner already did all the Stage 2 pre-requisites with the CTS downpipe and Sachs ZF Performance Clutch kit but decided to keep it Stage 1 low torque for reliability since he drove almost 20,000 miles per year. I do want reliability but I will probably only put on 1/3 of those miles in a year so I wanted to see what the Stage 2 high torque tune would feel like. It's a nice bump in torque over stock and honestly feels amazing. If anything, this is what I feel a hot hatch should have in terms of stock power. The power delivery is smoother and with all that torque down low, you don't need to downshift as much to get into boost. As you can see from the graph though, it does lose breath after 4500 rpms quite noticeably and we'll fix that very shorty with a nice upgrade but for now I'm very happy with this tune.

Advertised power to the wheel on Stage 2 APR Tune
Since the car was going to be there for almost a week, I figured I'd have other maintenance items taken care of. A previous inspection by the dealership during my NYS inspection indicated that the thermostat housing/water pump would need replacement in the near future. It wasn't leaking yet but it had started to melt a little (it's mostly plastic) so I was advised to plan for it. Well, I'm not one to wait for failure so I ordered one from FCP Euro so in the future if I need to replace it again, I can use their lifetime warranty to simply get a new one. I had DAW take care of that as well.

New OEM water pump/thermostat assembly
Of course, while they were in there, I thought at 50k miles it'd be a good time to have them clean out the intake valves. The problem with direct injection is carbon buildup on on the intake valves since they don't get washed with fuel like they do with port injection. Over time this results in poor engine performance and we don't like that. They use the walnut blasting method and it's very effective. Unfortunately, they were very busy and didn't have time to take pictures but it looks something like this (although mine weren't quite that bad yet).

Intake valve cleaning before and after (before not actual)
Last week when we were aligning the car, we had to jump start it after just leaving the car on but not running for half an hour. Since the battery is over 3 years old now I figured it was time for a change and had them replace it since I was worried it might die during the flashing process and brick the ECU.

New battery - 11/5/2019
One thing I didn't like after we did the lowering springs last week was the length of the stock front sway bar end links. They were a tad too long and causing unnecessary pre-load to the front sway bar so today we put on a fresh set of SuperPro Adjustable end links. The can be shortened to more suit the geometry of the lower suspension setup.

Superpro Adjustable Endlinks - 11/5/2019
Also, with Winter around the corner, I wanted to finally install some protection for the plastic oil pan. VW makes an OEM skid plate for the Golf Alltrack that fits perfectly on the GTi. The front brackets were supposed to be annoying to install but it turns out just removing the 5 bolts on each side holding the lower half of the splash shield was all that was needed to get your hands behind the frame to insert the bolt that secures the brackets.

Passenger side skid plate bracket installed
Driver side skid plate bracket installed
Once those were in place it's pretty easy to secure the skid plate itself, just 4 bolts up front, 3 bolts in the back and 6 little screws on each side. It's very secure and will do the job of deflecting road debris from damaging the oil plan. It even has a nice opening on the transmission side to help with cooling. Yes, you will need to drop this panel in order to do an oil change but the bolts are easily accessible and maybe add a mere 10 minutes to the process.

Rear part of skid plate lowered to show the protection.
Kevlar lined plastic and padding for the oil pan itself
Front view of skid plate
Rear view of skid plate
Finally, to make her fully winter ready, it was time to slap on the OZ Superleggera wheels wrapped in Pirelli Sottozero 3 performance winter tires. So far I'm very happy with how they feel in the dry. Usually when I swap to winter tires everything feels sloppy but no, these feel great even in the dry. I'll give a verdict for how they feel in the snow once that time comes but so far I'm quite impressed especially since I was, um, "testing", the new power unleashed via the tune.

OZ Superleggera + Pirelli Sottozero 3 - Winter Setup - 11/5/2019
She's coming along quite nicely. We have a few nice upgrades left before I call her "done for now" but that'll be for a future post. For now, Chili is starting to feel like a proper Steguis-spec car and it's really living up to my expectations for how a hot hatch ownership experience should feel like.

Maintenance Updates:

Mileage: 51,288

- New water pump/thermostat
- New battery (Bosch)
- Intake valves cleaned

Sunday, October 27, 2019

An Inch Matters - Lowering, fixing swaybar, prepping for Stage 2

The stock GTi suspension especially when DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) equipped is actually quite good even for spirited driving. However, one thing that bothers me is the slightly large wheel gap that detracts a bit from its otherwise sporty hot hatch stance.

Lowered on Eibach Prokit - 10/28/19
Rather than go overkill by installing fancy coilovers, all I really needed was a mild 25mm drop and perhaps adding a bit more front camber for better handling. To achieve this without affecting the stock dynamics too much, I decided to get Eibach Prokit springs and 034 Motorsports Dynamic+ camber mount.

034 Motorsports Dynamic+ camber mounts - 10/28/19
The 034 Motorsports Dynamic+ camber mounts offer stiffer rubber bushings than factory and moves the top of the strut in to add 1.4 degrees of negative camber. Combining this with Eibach Prokit springs that lower the car 25mm all around increases the front camber to around -2.5 degrees, probably the upper limit of negative camber I'd want to run on a primarily street driven car.

Eibach ProKit - 10/28/19
Of course, if you're going through the effort to install new springs and camber mounts on a car, might as well replace the strut bearing and rear spring pads.

New strut mount bearings - 10/28/19
New rear spring pads - 10/28/19
I went to SJF Performance today to get everything installed since I had to get the car aligned after installing the new springs anyway. The fronts were a bit tricky but once Steve figured out the best sequence to get the strut out on the driver side, the passenger side was much easier.

Front strut reinstalled with new spring and camber plate - 10/28/19
Rear springs in and sway bar fixed - 10/28/19
The rear springs should've been an easy affair with just three bolts holding the lower arm in place but as we were replacing the springs, we noticed how badly the rear sway bar was binding. It was so stiff that even disconnected on both ends it took a fair amount of force just to get the bar moving at all. This was installed by the previous owner and it simply wasn't done right. The grease in the bushing was wrong and the sway bar bushing bracket was too tight. We disconnected the rear bar and new grease applied to the bushing. A thing washer was added to the bracket to space it out just enough and now there's no more binding. It moves smoothly like butter. No wonder I was hearing some noise in the rear during more extreme cornering. Now the rear handles like it should.

RS7 (Beru 06K905601M) spark plugs
RS3 (06H905110G-RED) Coil Packs
Finally, since the car already has a CTS downpipe and an upgraded clutch, I'm planning on putting the APR Stage 2 High Torque tune. The previous owner commuted daily in the car so kept it pretty conservative with a Stage 1 low torque tune since he was putting almost 17K miles per year on the car but since I will probably only do a third of that, I figure why not. To prep for this, I decided to pop in RS7 spark plugs which are one step colder than the OEM plugs and are a great OEM option for tuned cars. The previous owner already upgraded to RS3 coil packs but that was 25k miles ago and I just wanted to make sure everything was in good order before upping the boost so a new set of RS3 coil packs were also put in.

RS7 plugs and RS3 coils installed - 10/28/19
I'm so glad we did this because it turns out the previous owner did not torque the plugs properly. They came out with very little effort, almost as if they were hand tight. Checking the torque on the plugs was already on my checklist when I bought the car since I knew the owner was kind enough to put in fresh plugs for me before handing the car over but didn't own a torque wrench. Anyway, with the new plugs installed and properly torqued to spec, the engine is running so much smoother. Idle feels great and power feels spot on.

Alignment Specs - 10/28/19
Finally, after driving the car a bit to let the suspension settle, we put the car up on the alignment rack. The front camber and caster is not adjustable but with me in the car, the camber is pretty sweet at -2.3 and -2.6 and the caster a perfect 7.7 degrees. I had Steve zero out the front toe. For the rear, the car ended up around -2.5 degrees after lowering. That's a bit too much on a FWD car. I wanted a one degree differential front to rear so Steve dialed the rear camber back to -1.5 and put a tiny bit of rear toe in to keep the car stable.  The car feels phenomenal now. It corners a lot better and the new spring setup is perfectly European...firm yet compliant. Visually, it's a subtle change that makes a big difference.

Maintenance Updates:

Mileage: 51,263

- New RS7 Spark Plugs
- New RS3 Coil pack

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Exhausted..Install, fixes and Winter wheels and tires

The stock exhaust on the GTi is actually pretty efficient so with the downpipe already on the car, there really wasn't much to gain performance-wise from adding an exhaust but one of the most important parts of having an engaging car is having it make all the right noises. I've been wanting an excuse to buy an Akrapovic exhaust since I saw one at the Porsche tech day in real life so when I found out they made one for the GTi, I simply had to get one.

Akrapovic Titanium Slip-on Installed - 10-20-2019
Although this all Titanium and carbon fiber axle-back exhaust cuts the weight by a good 15lbs, it's really all about having the right exhaust note and how they look. It's such an expertly hand-crafted piece that's just a nice subtle touch to the rear of the car. Below 2500rpm it's pretty quiet and under the radar but as you go up the revs it starts to sing in a very distinct exhaust note. Unfortunately, it was raining most of the way home so having the windows up muffled most of it, but when I had a chance to put the windows down especially going under overpasses, wow, it really sings but not in an obnoxiously loud way.

Cutting off the stock muffler - SJF Performance - 10-20-2019
Installation was pretty straight forward with the right tools. SJF just hacked off the rear muffler where the instructions indicated (2nd dimple) and then a couple was attached to connect the new axle back with the OEM pipe. The exhaust hangers are held on by only one bolt each so it was a pretty quick install even with us taking our time to make sure we didn't scratch or dirty anything up.

Even the flange is titanium - 10-20-2019
Such a gorgeous tip
We also worked on Kay today. She's developed a bad exhaust leak that unfortunately continues to prevent me from setting ODB2 readiness to pass NYS inspection. One of the biggest sources of the leaks is the coupler going from the pipe to to header and the muffler itself. It looks deformed probably from installing and reinstalling many times with an impact gun.

Leaky exhaust coupler - 10-20-2019
We needed a new one with a 2" inner diameter and didn't think we'd find any. We went to the local Napa and were shocked they had it. That was relatively easy enough to swap in and that took care of that leak.

New 2" ID couplers - 10-20-2019
New coupler installed - 10-20-2019
Unfortunately when we ran the car on the lift, we could definitely feel another leak coming from the flange after the header on both banks. The gaskets that Soul Performance provided just aren't holding up so I've gone ahead and ordered new OEM Porsche gaskets but will have to wait for it to arrive to attempt to fix that leak.

Stud conversion removed - 10-20-2019
Much to some people's dismay, I got sick of the stud conversion from Rennline that we installed back when Kay was getting prepped for B-Street. For starters, I really don't change wheels that often so putting on wheel hangers isn't that big of a deal and most annoying for me was how badly the nuts they provided rusted up. I simply got sick of seeing rusty wheel nuts on nice wheels so I replaced them with Titanium wheel bolts from Acer Racing (specific length designed for 5mm spacers which I run).

New Titanium Wheel Bolts - 10-20-2019
Hooray for clean bolts that will never rust - 10-20-2019
After the big Nationals road trip, I didn't want to leave the car with potentially contaminated oil over the winter so we put in  a fresh 8.5 quarts of Driven DT-40.

If you own a Cayman, be religious about oil - 10-20-2019
Finally, I picked up a set of used 17x8 +35 OZ Superleggera wheels and had SJF mount a fresh set of 225/45/17 Pirelli Sottozero 3 performance winter tires. These are nice and strong and will do quite nicely as my winter setup once the temps regularly drop below the 40s.

OZ Racing 17x8 +35 Superleggera
225/45/17 Pirelli Sottozero 3
Gotta love these old school OZs
All four mounted up and ready to go - 10-20-2019
SJF Performance
Maintenance Update:

Miles: 39,650
- 8.5qt Drive DT-40
- New Napa Gold filter