Not actually an engine problem

Thank goodness for the FAQ at TDiClub. Last week-ish the glowplug light in my 2003 VW Golf TDi started flashing but performance didn’t seem to be effected at all and the car was starting fine and everything seemed kosher so I figured it could wait to get taken care of. Last night on the way home I had a fairly close call in traffic (Funny how bad traffic during rush hour on the first night of Daylight Savings Time almost always is) and noticed something odd while staring at my rear-view mirror hoping that the person behind me was going to miss: I didn’t see a reflection of my brake lights on the other car.

After getting home safely with the garage door closed I was able to verify that except for the roof light the brake lights were totally DOA. Went inside and checked the TDiClub FAQ and sure enough there was entry (8.d. third item down) Brake lights!

The irritating thing? Why was there no helpful police people to tell me my brake lights weren’t functional all week long until I was on the three and a half block drive up to the auto parts store? Thankfully they believed me when I said I was literally on my way up the street to get new bulbs (and followed me just to make sure). Gr.

Adding it all up

When I got my new (to me) 2003 Golf TDI in April, I decided that it was high time to actually keep a fuel mileage log to keep track of how things were going. Having tried all sorts of electronic versions in the past, I decided to go old school and got a notepad and pen to keep in the car for each fill up. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been keeping up very well and only drove off once without getting all the details, most of which were recoverable from the receipt and reseting the trip counter immediately when I realized my mistake just a few blocks down the road.

Not too long after I got started with the mileage journal, Google released their Spreadsheets beta and I have been using that to calculate actual mpg and all sorts of other neat statistics from data provided by the journal. For example, as of today my Averages section reads as follows:

Averages

Gallons Price $pg Trip Mpg Mi Per Day Days $pMi
11.92 $35.01 $2.93 522 44 77 11 $0.07

As I was reading through the morning haul in my feed reader I ran across a link to a new wiki called WikiCars and ran across their list of the top high mileage cars and noticed that they didn’t have the VW TDI vehicles listed, and went ahead and did what any good wiki browser should do and added them after creating an account.

That site howerver led me on to http://fueleconomy.gov site, which I seem to end up browsing through an awful lot where I found something I hadn’t seen before: a pretty decent online mileage tracking application! My only complaint with it so far is that it doesn’t allow nearly as much customization as my spreadsheet, but the big advantage is that you can share your data with other users on the site so that on the next update cycle, you should see a “MN” in the current shared mileage info for 2003 VW Golf TDI (manual trans) on the site.

Ideally I think it would be interesting to share mileage information with friends directly but I think the biggest problem is that I just don’t know how many people keep detailed information and would be willing and fastidious about entering it online.

Found in the wild…

So while I was filling up the fuel tank for the first time on my new-to-me 2003 VW Golf GLS TDI, I ended up having to go into the store to pay for the gas. Looks like the modern convenience of the card reader hasn’t made it to the diesel pumps yet.

Anyway, while in the store I figured that I’d take a look for anything new and lo and behold they had bottles of Berries & Cream Dr Pepper.

So how is it? Well, it’s a lot like Dr Pepper. Seriously. The base flavor is very strongly the classic Dr Pepper flavor, it’s just that they’ve added a bit of something else in there. That something else comes off as a relatively light but additional sweetness and a fairly soft vanilla finish. The Vanilla Coke and Pepsi people could learn something from the vanilla flavor Cadbury Shweppes and Co are using in this. Certainly worth a try, but nothing astonishing and new as far as I’m concerned.

Unfortunately they did not have bottles of the new “100% Natural” 7-Up. That’s something that I’m actually looking forward to trying.

New cars…

I went out and drove cars last night. I hadn’t done this before now for exactly the reasons I’m feeling right now: Want. There is always a bug in the back of my head to have something new and shiny, but that can often be alleviated somewhat by not playing around with what ever it is.

It was fun. I drove a 2005 Scion xA, a 2006 Honda Civic EX, and a 2005/6 VW Golf GLS and had a pretty good time with all of them.

The Scion xA was fun, but I’m really thinking it’s maybe not quite the car for me. The automatic transmission was kind of doggy (not a surprise, it’s a tiny engine) and I’m not sure how much a manual would fix that. I did leave my name and number so that if a manual does come through I can go drive it and see what I think. The big issue though was that I think it’s designed for people 3-4 inches shorter than I am. There was plenty of head room, but the roof line was really low AND the seat does not have a vertical adjustment. It drove really well, was fairly responsive, and had surprisingly good suspension but I always felt like I was driving under a bridge because of the roof line. The mileage though is very good (32-38 on a manual), but only aftermarket sunroofs are available. Oh, and price: $14,000 base, plus accessories.

2 big problems with the Civic: 1. No more hatchbacks. 2. I’ve never met a Honda sales person I would stop for in a crosswalk. As soon as I mentioned that I might be buying as late as the end of december, the guy switched OFF. The “test drive” was a euphamism for a spin around the block. I talked him into letting me do the strech of 494 between 2 exits, but mostly I think that was because I was driving and he wouldn’t be able to stop me. That said, it’s a nice car. Really very pretty to look at and it has all the options I would like at about $21,000. Mileage is very good at 30-38, though a hybrid will be available sometime this fall and add 5-10mpg on top of that, but will be more expensive as well. It really is sort of tempting in a lot of ways even without the hatchback, if only I could find someone that I would like to give money to.

The Golf GLS was like liking walking in new shoes that I knew perfectly. The controls were basically identical, but improved. The responsiveness and handling was basically identical, but improved. The
interior was basically identical, but improved. The mileage was, well, still horrible at 24-31. It’s also still based on the old A4 platform (that Sig’s Beetle is based on) and the new A5 based Golf is due out in ~6-8 months and is a big change. Except for the mileage. But it’s an excellent car. A really, really excellent car at a very good price. If I came in next week I could probably walk out with the exact car I drove for just about $19,000 plus a good financing discount for being an existing VW owner (Though if things go to plan, I’ll be paying cash with the proceeds from the sale of my house). But the A4 has a kind of iffy reputation, and there’s the gas mileage, and there’s the problems
I had with service after my warranty expired on my existing Golf. Oh, and the sales guy was great. Had answers to questions, didn’t shut down when I told him I was thinking about waiting maybe till year end, and even gossiped a bit about “fringe” stuff like converting VW’s to use E85 and fun things like that. Or maybe I’ll look into getting a
TDI.

I think I want to drive a few other cars too. There’s the Toyota Matrix, Echo, and Prius and the Mazda 3 (Similar performance to the Golf, better mileage), and maybe the Subaru Impreza.