The Financial Roller-Coaster that my B5.5 has become

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  • 1 Post By Tymwagen
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  • 2 Post By hikererk

Thread: The Financial Roller-Coaster that my B5.5 has become

  1. #1
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    The Financial Roller-Coaster that my B5.5 has become

    I just want to share my hellish suspension adventure with you all.

    First of all, wheel bearings. Holy crap that was a nightmare.
    The passenger front wheel bearing went bad, and I tried to pull the steering knuckle off of the car, and I was going to do the one bearing, and then do the other side when I had the time/money.
    Well the upper control arms sure changed my mind right away.
    50115216_327323324792154_5083412570716078969_n.jpg

    I removed the lower control arms from the knuckle so I had room to work outside the car.
    Anyone here who's ever worked on these things knows how much fun that upper pinch bolt is, right?
    So naturally being new to the Volkswagen world, I tried putting an impact gun on it aaaand sheered the head right off.
    So I tried a sledgehammer... yeah that didn't work either.

    Since I had to replace the control arms on the one side, I found a set for US$200 for upper and lower control arms and sway arm links on both sides.
    I also bought my aftermarket struts for it while I had it torn apart. Roughly US$900.
    When I took the driver side apart, I couldn't get the upper control arms off of the steer knuckle... because of that damned pinch bolt.
    I spent a whole weekend trying to lower the car, only to end the night with it 12 inches higher than factory.
    Also, I don't have a garage.
    20190518_145951.jpg

    Oh, and the city threatened to tow my car mid-project.
    Resized_20190523_184850_3596.jpg

    I ended up breaking down and buying used steer knuckles for both sides. There's another US$200
    Holy mother of God those bearings were a pain... After shoving the center race out of them three times, (thank God the warranty covered them) I finally broke down and sent the knuckles to my local VW dealer and had them press them in for me.
    Totally worth the US$170.

    It was about this time that one of the technicians at the VW dealer informed me that someone actually made a tool specifically for removing that pinch bolt. (God damnit.)

    Also I feel like this is an appropriate point to mention the single most unfortunate bearing company name that I have ever seen.
    20190604_183818.jpg(whyisitsideways)

    After that, it started nickel-and-dime-ing the hell out of me. Broken bolts, missing nuts...
    Wound up needing a new CV Axle, too... Fun... US$90, plus like $3 for a new axle bolt, since I striped one out thinking it was an Allen bolt. (Also wtf is a "triple-square" bolt?! (I actually know... now.))
    I finally got the front-end done, with the new suspension and everything.
    20190627_190852.jpg

    Drove it around for a week like that, then just finished up the suspension work on it this evening.
    20190701_185348.jpg

    I finally have my car back, and that drop kit looks amazing on it.

    So let's see here...
    Control arms: $200
    Coilovers: $900
    Bearings: $270
    Steer Knuckles: $200
    Bearing Installation: $170
    Axle: $93
    Nuts, Bolts, Etc.: $30(ish)
    Total: $1,863
    Guys. I've put almost as much money into this car as I paid for it initially.
    If it were literally any other car, I'd be hauling it to the scrap yard.

    All I have to say right now:
    Sie lebt.
    Hirnbeiss likes this.

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  3. #2
    Motel Room Moderator VAGguy's Avatar
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    That's actually not a bad cost for everything. Just daunting because it was all at once. I hear ya on the frustrating removals. It gets just about all of us at one time or another. make sure you keep those pinch bolts nice and lubed with anti-seize.

    Drop looks good. Any plans for wheels?
    Hirnbeiss and benzivr6 like this.
    Glutton for Punishment: 16 A4 S-line Sport pkg Prem+, 04 Passat 1.8T GLS Variant Manual swapped, 2017 Q5 Prem+

  4. #3
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    Oh the advice I could give...

    I'll leave it at this; you have 2 things going for you with this Passat:

    1 - You are a DIY-er. Unless you have significant money to throw at cars, this is the only way you will be able to keep a B5.5 on the road without going broke.
    2 - You are young. IF you do get to the point that the money you have spent on "mods", repairs and regular maintenance on the car has overwhelmed you and it goes to the scrap yard, you have plenty of time in your life to recover.

    It could be much worse. You could be a foolish older person, who doesn't know cars, needs cheap transportation and thinks that means buying a used German car for not much money. (The last cheap and easy to fix German car was probably produced by VW in the early 1970's. After that, they don't exist.) So go for it, enjoy while you use it and learn about the car.

    ICE cars won't be the norm for too much longer but underneath the new EVs, the basic mechanics of the rolling, suspension, and steering parts should be similar, at least for the foreseeable future.
    benzivr6 likes this.

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  6. #4
    in dire need of an organic chemistry lesson
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tymwagen View Post
    Guys. I've put almost as much money into this car as I paid for it initially.
    If it were literally any other car, I'd be hauling it to the scrap yard.
    You are suffering from this syndrome:

    https://www.passatworld.com/forums/v...so-suffer.html

  7. #5
    PZ
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    Just wait until you have to replace the oil pan after the 1st dip you hit at speed

  8. #6
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    I went over all my paperwork, I payed a grand total of $5,556.00 for my b5.5 variant from a used dealership in NC. That's the financed price. Rebuilding the front end, sway bar bushings, motor mounts, snub mount, coolant reservoir, vacuum lines, valve cover gasket, cat-back exhaust, O2 sensors, wheel bearings, front axles and coilovers I just bought;haven't installed. Everything totaled is $6,032.00; every part was installed in my driveway so labor costs were avoided but I really love my car, it feel less like a money pit and more like an investment. I did not include the stereo system, upholstery cleaning, rear wiper delete, window wash delete, heater core delete, LED headlights and interior lights, side marker lights and other miscellaneous upgrades. I have quite a few other mods I want to do, including air ride, fifteen52 wheels, possibly a 2.7tt swap and upgrades that go along with the swap. I may just find an awd audi wagon with the 2.7tt.

  9. #7
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    I hear ya.
    This past weekend I went to replace the outer CV boots on both sides. Watched a couple videos, I've replaced drive axles on other VWs in the past, and the boot kits were only $8 each. Plus I had a long weekend.
    What could possibly go wrong?
    I spent Friday picking up a few tools I'd need - big (14mm) hex drive sockets, new triple-square driver for the flange bolts, and a CV boot strap crimped. Still less than $100 all in.
    Put the car in the garage and loosened the drive axle nuts and called it a day.
    Next day I removed the axles - the passenger side just squeaked past the hub, but the driver side was no problem.
    Took the axles to the basement to do battle with the outer CV joints after reading horror stories, but the advice I found on PW paid off and I got everything apart and back together with a reasonable amount of effort.
    Called it a night again and crawled back under the car on Sunday.
    I started on the driver side since that's where I left all the tools and the axle fit right in. This is too easy, I thought. Well, enjoy it, the passenger side will be trickier.
    It was.
    Now, the axle wouldn't fit behind the hub no matter where I positioned it, or where the steering wheel was turned. And not just by a millimeter or two, but by an inch.
    I thought maybe the joint wasn't seated all the way on the axle, so I dropped it down on a 2 x 4 I had used to keep the wheel from turning when I broke the flange bolts loose the day before.
    I chose unwisely.
    The metal plate that seals the inner CV joint at the end of the axle popped off.
    I tried to clamp it back on, and managed to get it back in place, but the inner CV boot was starting to crack. This combined with the knowledge I was going to have to drop the lower control arms to get the axle in, made me decide to replace the inner boot. The local Advance Auto could get me a GKN boot kit by Monday.
    I also had a cabinet full of control arms ready to be installed, so I figured I might as well put them on, at least on the passenger side.
    After separating the ball joints, I removed the front lower control arm. I figured it was more work since it has the sway bar link and strut attached to it.
    The rear lower arm only has one bolt - almost done!
    No.
    The bolt won't come past the floor pan as it bumps down near there. I loosened the rear cradle bolt, knowing I'd need to replace it since it's a stretch bolt.
    Well, I got it to clear the floor pan, but now the fuel lines were in the way. I didn't want to crack one of those, and even with the bolt out, I couldn't pry the subframe down enough to get the clearance I needed.
    I was gonna need to drop the driver side, too. If I was going to do that, then I might as well replace the control arms on the driver side, since I would need to replace the bolt anyway.
    With the driver side loose, I got the rear control arm bolt out. Then it was back to the driver side. Once the control arms were out, I started installing the new ones. With the driver side assembled, but not tightened, and the rear passenger arm on, I stopped for another night.
    I got the boot the next day and things started going downhill. The tripod joint came off easily, and I started putting everything back together.
    No where could I find tips for installing the metal back plate, and my intuition failed. Multiple attempts only managed to mangle the new cover further.
    I tried the old cover, and managed to get it stuck in place until I could mount it to the transmission flange, hoping that would keep everything in place.
    I got everything back together and dropped the car on the ground. I torqued the axle bolts, then rolled the car out of the garage so I could make the final 180 degree twist to the bolts.
    I pulled the car back in the garage and lined it up with a pair of ramps so I'd have access to torque the control arm bolts.
    I got in the car to pull it up the ramps.
    I let out the clutch.
    The engine revved.
    The car ... didn't move.
    I jacked up the passenger side and gave the front wheel a spin. I reached under the car and felt the inner boot twist.
    I checked to be sure the car was in gear.
    It was.
    I let the car down.
    I kicked one of the ramps across the garage, turned out the lights, an closed the door.
    Figuring the axle was toast, I ordered a replacement. It should arrive in a week or so. A simple sub-$100 repair has topped $500 and it ain't done yet.
    But who wants an Accord or Camry.

  10. #8
    in dire need of an organic chemistry lesson
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikererk View Post
    Figuring the axle was toast, I ordered a replacement. It should arrive in a week or so. A simple sub-$100 repair has topped $500 and it ain't done yet.
    After spending $520 to replace the CV boots on both wheels at the shop I learned replacing the entire axle is not only easier but it is much cheaper. The caveat is that nothing is easy to replace on a Passat. It is deliberately designed that way to generate revenue for the stealerships.

    Quote Originally Posted by hikererk View Post
    But who wants an Accord or Camry.
    I do

  11. #9
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    Remember that it was Audi's suspension. Maybe great on on the track, but overkill for a daily driver. And honestly, I much prefer the handling on my CC's simple Macpherson strut design.

  12. #10
    PZ
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    The multi-link front was for a much better ride and handling. McPherson struts back then were fine on small cars, but tended to be harsh over impacts, especially on turns as the side load led to binding on the strut. My wife's 05 Golf rides worse than my modified wagon. While it is a pita to replace (worse if you have rust), with good parts and a proper install, they should last 100K or more.
    benzivr6 likes this.

  13. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by PZ View Post
    The multi-link front was for a much better ride and handling.
    The benefit, I think, of the multi-link is that the tire's contact patch swivels about it's center, as if a ball joint is exactly over it, when in fact that's impractical with a single ball joint (Audi called it virtual steering axis). It's really a slick design; the big rear arms handle the drive and braking forces to the body, while the car's weight rests on the front arms.
    PZ likes this.

  14. #12
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    And when you build the car by attaching everything to the subframe, then marrying it to the body shell, it's simple and straightforward.
    If only I had a lift, a pit, and a hydraulic table, engine and front-end repairs would be a piece of cake.
    PZ and Hirnbeiss like this.

  15. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by VAGguy View Post
    Drop looks good. Any plans for wheels?
    Thanks! I plan on buying some ESR wheels for it as soon as I get the money for it. I intended to get them right after I did the shocks, then everything else broke... I am also broke.

    Quote Originally Posted by 4zfed View Post
    Oh the advice I could give...

    I'll leave it at this; you have 2 things going for you with this Passat:

    1 - You are a DIY-er. Unless you have significant money to throw at cars, this is the only way you will be able to keep a B5.5 on the road without going broke.
    2 - You are young. IF you do get to the point that the money you have spent on "mods", repairs and regular maintenance on the car has overwhelmed you and it goes to the scrap yard, you have plenty of time in your life to recover.

    It could be much worse. You could be a foolish older person, who doesn't know cars, needs cheap transportation and thinks that means buying a used German car for not much money. (The last cheap and easy to fix German car was probably produced by VW in the early 1970's. After that, they don't exist.) So go for it, enjoy while you use it and learn about the car.

    ICE cars won't be the norm for too much longer but underneath the new EVs, the basic mechanics of the rolling, suspension, and steering parts should be similar, at least for the foreseeable future.
    Trust me, as much money as I've invested in this thing, I'll never sell it or scrap it. Like I said in my original post, if it were any other vehicle it would be scrap by now. I own 5 vehicles: 1972 Chevrolet P30 motorhome conversion, 1994 Ford F-150, 1998 Buick LeSabre, 2002 Buick Century, 2003 VW Passat, and they've all become projects.

    Context:
    P30: blown engine
    F-150: steering, possibly broken frame
    LeSabre: Eh, paid $100 for it, sat for 4 years, runs and drives, but it'll need something soon, I'm sure
    Century: Bodywork, lots and lots of bodywork. Also, bad intake gasket
    Passat: (see original post)

    My B5.5 is the only one I truly see being worth the effort I've put into it.

    Also, if I live to see the day that petrol cars are killed off, I'll never drive again.

  16. #14
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    I just completed a similar repair to yours this spring, in addition to a complete rebuild of the braking system, front and rear. ANNNNNND....I rebuild the engine head after a timing belt failure. I'm in for about $3000 so far this year on a car that's worth about $3500 rolling down the road. But knowing everything I've done underneath, there's no way I'd sell this car now. It currently handles better than it did when I bought it used in 2004. I fully expect to get another 75,000 miles out of this car now, pushing it well past 350,000.

  17. #15
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    Oh yeah, I'm definitely not selling mine anytime soon. If someone comes by and offers the right price for it then yeah I'll sell it but I'm definitely not going to push it.

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