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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone :)
Well my name's Mark. I'm a 17 year old farm boy, professional photographer and college student(long story short, I'm doing a dual credit high school diploma/A.A. degree program at a local community college. 'Nuff said.)
I don't have an extensive list of mods or upcoming mods to fill up the space like most everyone else does, so I figured a little yarn about how my family came to enter the prestigious realm of VW ownership and how we use our Variant would suffice.:lol:

Back in January of 2006 we decided it was time to replace our family/commuter car, a bronze 2000 Chevy Malibu LS of dubious quality and uncertain reliability. The car had 79,000 miles, and having heard personal horror stories of catastrophic GM transmission/electronics failure after 80,000 miles from reliable sources, we ditched it in February, selling it to the kid of one of my dad's former high school classmates for $5k. We lost $5500 on that POS in two and a half years and 43,000 miles. Damned American cars and their non-existent resale:banghead:

I talked my parents into looking for a fuel efficient mid-size wagon, since our family hauls around A LOT of stuff and I'm an avid fan of wagons. Our budget was limited to between $8k and $12k. So while we searched for a replacement, we drove my 1990 Mercedes 300TE 4MATIC wagon (remember how I said I like wagons?)
I'm the auto expert in the family, so I immediately crossed Tauruses/Sables off our list, because their styling frightens me and build quality, while not quite as bad as GM's, still leaves a lot to be desired. BMW's 5 series wagons proved a serious tempation- we seriously thought about buying a gorgeous dark blue 2000 528iT Sport with manual tranny and 59k one owner miles, but at $17k, we unfortunately couldn't swing the price. :(
Prices also proved to be a problem with Subaru Outback's and Saab 9-5's, we looked long and hard at them, but eventually decided against either primarily because the ones that had the miles we wanted (less than 70k) were considerably outside of our price range (14k and up.)

That left one car on the list... you guessed it, the Passat. Several of them came and went on Autotrader and, but in early April I found a particularly attractive example at a small used Audi dealership in Boulder called Go Motors.

It was a 2001.5 Passat GLS 1.8T Variant, Anthracite Blue exterior with Charcoal interior and Tiptronic transmission. It had 61,900 one owner miles, a clean Carfax, complete maintenance logs and all the receipts. It was just under 2,000 miles past it's 60k service, in which the previous owner had also opted to replaced the troublesome timing belt which has given many a 1.8T owner fits. The only defect on this otherwise flawless gem was the top of the rear bumper cover was peaked and cracked from a minor rear end collison.
Best of all, the asking price was $12k, 1k below book value.
My parents wanted to go up and look at it right away, but I had a gut feeling that we should wait, so we did. I reasoned that not very many people were likely to be in the market for a 6 year old VW station wagon, and I was right. In mid May, we were going up to Denver for an event, and I decided to check the ad again to see if it was still for sale. Happily, I discovered that not only was it still available they had shaved a grand off the price, to an even $11k. After we went to event in the late afternoon, we drove up to Boulder and took it on a test drive in the evening. My parents were sold on it, and because the car had been on the lot for five weeks and the owner of the dealership wanted to get rid of it to make room for new inventory, we negotiated the price down to $10,750, a full $2,250 under blue book.:D To top it off, we persuaded them to roll their $295 d&h fee into the asking price. It was one heckuva deal. We drove it home the same night.

It has earned the affectionate nickname of 'Das Staubwagen'; translated, that literally means 'The Dustwagon'. We call it this because there is almost 4 miles of dirt roads between our farm and the highway, so the Vee-dub is usually coated in dirt, mud or both depending on the time of year. I try to wash it thouroughly every two weeks, but it's almost pointless unless the roads are settled.

Since then, we've basically done nothing to it other than swap out the stock air filter for a K&N air filter and put 15,000 miles on it in 7 months. We've had to replace a few things, however:
- the entire front bumper cover; two months after we brought it home, the family was out for a Sunday picnic at the park. I was parking at one of the local parks, and accidentally pulled too far forward and the bumper scraped against the curb. Out of habit I backed up, and as I did I heard a horrible noise. I threw the car in park and jumped out and what I found made me nauseous.:puke: The bumper cover was facing skywards, the black plastic lower air dam broken, the whole shebang only held in place by the grille. What I didn't realize was that as I had pulled forward, the air dam had slid up and over the curb. When I backed up, it got hung up and as I continued to back up, tore out the plastic rivets that hold the cover in place and forced it to it's near horizontal posistion. We got it fixed to the tune of $425.90; thank god my dad was understanding and didn't make me pay for it.:cool:
- in September, the CEL started going off and on intermittently. It would come on for a few days, then be off for a couple more, then back on again, and so on and so forth. This went on for two weeks before we were able to get an appointment at the local import repair shop. A leaky vacuum hose proved to be the culprit. $50 for a new hose and labor.
- in October, the right front CV joint went out, to the tune of $256.71.

Otherwise, this car has been absolutely fantastic. It's definitely a hoot to drive; our daily commute has 17 miles of highway in addition to the 4 miles of gravel. State Highway 52 is definitely one of the most intersting roads to drive in eastern Colorado, with a well balanced mix of curves, hills, and straightaways. The Passat gets a good daily workout from it, mostly because I'm almost always in the driver's seat (my mom hates driving, and is thankful that I have my license.) The Tiptronic is my favorite transmission ever; it has spoiled me so much I don't know how I could drive a vehicle without a similar setup. I enjoy utilizing the Tiptronic on the hills and curves to fully tap into the meaty mid-range powerband for maximum driving pleasure, while also just being able to leave it in Drive while tooling around town and not have to constantly worry about shifting. It's truly the best of both worlds. The 1.8T is a good engine, the only issue I had with it was the turbo lag, and while increasing our gas consumption by one mpg, the K&N air filter obliterated the turbo lag and made the car mor sporting than it was before. I wish she was easier on gas though; we average 23 mpg running it on 87 octane and with 90% highway mileage. The best mileage it's gotten so far was on a 600 mile one day marathon road trip to Kansas and back, on that trip it averaged 28 mpg. That's the first and last time it's cracked 25 mpg. If I could figure out someway to bump up the mileage to 25 mpg average, my folks would be thrilled, as money's tight and gas, while much cheaper than it has been in the recent past, isn't exactly cheap either.
The list of stuff we've hauled in this car could fill up an entire 8 x 10 sheet of paper. Major highlights include groceries, landscaping materials, lumber, musical instruments, camping gear, hunting gear, boxes of household goods, sacks of to be donated clothing, furniture (we hauled an antique wing back chair back from Denver once, with the larger half of the rear seat folded it fit perfectly), photography equipment, the list goes on... the cargo room in this car is amazing. My best friend has a mid 90's Jeep Grand Cherokee and I think it has maybe half the cargo space of the VeeDub behind the second row. I think the Passat Variant puts every cute ute and some midsize utes to shame in terms of cargo capacity, and is a strong alternative to a minivan unless you need the extra passenger capacity. But for a family of four like mine, it's the perfect vehicle. It swallows cargo like a minivan or mid-size suv while having the driving characteristics and fuel economy of a midsize sedan. Again this car manages to be the best of both worlds.

So about upgrades... a few big mods coming.
Wheels - now the car is rolling on 15 inch steelies with chintzy ass plastic covers that have gotten torn all to hell by curbs, rocks, and road debris. The tires are some all season variety, I don't remember the brand attm. They're almost worn out, I think they've got 25,000 or so miles on them, so yeah it's time to replace them. So in the spring, once the snow melts (that might take a while, lol) we're going to upgrade to 17" wheels and Michelin HydroEdge's. We'll keep the steelies, and next fall we'll slap some good snow tires and new wheel covers on them and use that set during the winter.
Shocks - this is going to sound absolutely crazy to y'all, but if we possibly can, we want to RAISE the suspension in our Passat, rather than lower it, as 99.9%of the rest of Passat owners seem to be intersted in doing. Personally I think everyone else is crazy to be lowering a car that already has one of the lowest ground clearances in any passenger vehicle sold in North America. I hope you have fat wallets to pay for all the damage those high curbs, deep driveways and small animals are going to cause. Not very sure how we're going to do this... maybe swap in the springs/shocks from an Allroad, since they share the same platform?:confused:
Trim - continuing the OEM chrome trim theme, I've installed matching chrome front and rear license plate surrounds. Next on the list is chrome door handle covers.
Hatch Spoiler - Just because I think it would look freakin' awesome.
APR chip- dependent on whether it'll give us better gas mileage in addition to transforming it into a sleeper. Would love the increased power, but if it hurts our gas mileage, we'll have to pass, as this IS primarily a commuter/family vehicle.
Interior- If there's one thing I truly hate about this car, it's the interior color scheme. The interior itself is great; the quality is top notch, the fabric is durable and stylish, the surfaces have fantastic detail, and the overall feel is very modern and upscale. I wonder if the VW interior designers were bored one day, and one of them said "Hey, let's see just how much black we can put in an interior and get away with!" The result of this notion was the Charcoal interior scheme. I have so many issues with it. First off, it shows EVERYTHING; hair, dirt, sunlight fade, etc. And the dust is much more prominent on the black dash in the Passat than it was on the beige dash in our Malibu. The headliner, which is a pleasant washed stone color, is the only life presever in the sea of black that makes up the rest of the interior. Not much we can do about the dash, but we're looking to get some seatcovers for both the front and rear seats. I'm thinking sand colored Neoprene. Also, the black plastic trim is a little austere, and the peeling rubberized trim on the door handles/arm rest just bugs the hell out of me; we're looking a buying an aftermarket woodgrain dash and door handle kit to warm the interior up a bit.
Whew, that's a long ass post if I've ever saw one. For those of you who've had a long enough attention span to reach this point, good job!

I have pics, I will post them at a later time.

till then, peace out, my VeeDubya bruthas!:rolleyes: :bowdown: :rolleyes:

Mark Farnik

5,404 Posts
1st: STOP RUNNING 87 octane
Your car has a small high compression turbo engine that NEEDs 91 or better.
Running lower will destroy for milage and will slowely damage your engine.
FWIW, HWy most people with 1.8Ts report over 30mpg with 91 or better. Even with city you should be north fo 25mpg avg with 91 and mixed driving. As you can see, that 10-20 cents is actually costing you money.
Similarly, you car absolutley NEEDs synthetic oil if byou didn't know already. Otherwise, it will coke up in the turbo, choke the oil pump and cause a starvation issue that will destroy the engine.
Also, I know money is tight but if its an Auto, you really wnat to change the ATF now to avoid costs in teh future. Similarly, if the coolant has no records, that should be changed. Both of those should use the VW fluids, unless you like risks.
Passats have arather nasty reliablity reputation. This is not relaly deserved. If you keep up on mainence and treat it right, it will be extremely reliable. My car has been more reliable than my old camry, which is saying something.
I'd recommend getting a net-optic trim set and stripping it down to brushed aluminum. Looks really sharp, mutch better than cheap wood kits and more durable with peeling plastics.
A good quality matte interor cleaner (not armor all and its ilk, Einszett would be good) will help clean the dash and repel dust.
As for tires, if you're going to run snows, there's no point in A/s. plus the hydro-edges aren't really a good match for the passat (low speed rating and not that stable at speeds over ~80). Look at say general Excliam UHPs. Cheaper and much better in non-snow conditions. I've owned both tires. Very long lasting as well. Further, they literally will not hydroplane. I've tried. :)
As for suspension, you can try to import the 1BB suspension from europe There's a good chance you can actually order from your local dealer). It's a rough road suspension for eastern europe and 3rd world. Also, you can get aluminum skidplates from a few suppliers if you're worried. ~$200-300.
Welcome! :beer:
6 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi nm+
YIKES!:Yikes: Now that I think about it, that makes sense. I guess having owned only American cars up to this point, you get used to getting away with using 87 octane. I feel like a total tard now:banghead: That's never happening again; from now on she's getting fed the recommended 91 octane! Enormous thanks for waking me up to that!
Yes, I'm aware of the sludge problems with the 1.8T and have been using only synthetic; actually thankfully for us the original owner used synthetic from day one, according to his extensive records. I'll go back tonight and check them to see if the ATF fluid and or the coolant have ever been changed. He also had a lot of preventitive maintenance done at the 60k service in addition to the reccomended maintenance, so they might have changed them out. If not, we'll be going up to Fort Collins during Spring Break, which is where our dealership (Ed Carroll VW) is located, so we could get them changed then.
While we're there, we'll look into the rough road suspension for sure. We need it around here. These gravel roads aren't always the most well maintained...
As for tires, good point. We'll go with dedicated summers on the nice wheels and the winters on the steelies. I'll check into those Excliam's you recommended when we go to get our new tires/wheels.
Hmm, if this was a 4Motion, and you added the rough road suspension and skidplates, you'd basically have a Passat Allroad, sans the tacky plastic cladding. Interesting concept...
Anway, thanks for all the advice. Mucho gracias.

5,404 Posts
Likely they haven't.
VW claims the fluid is lifetime.
However, ZF(the tranny maker) claims 60k
Pentosin (the fluid maker) says 75k
I'd go with the shorter, as the passat AT is very expensive.
If you go to an indy, the tranny fluid change should be under $300 (I paid $225) incl fluid.
They say the same about the coolant, but most dealerships in cold areas know better. A 4 year change is recommended for most and 2 years for severe (very low temps), which you might qualify for.
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