Truck Storage = Awesome

Truck Grocery Storage - Nissan Frontier

Seriously, I’ve always hated trucks.  I always thought they were so pointless.  So much space that you’re not using the majority of the time.

However, after keeping our truck post-travel-trailer life, we both absolutely love having this truck.  I still want to line the front doors with Dynamat, but it’s so comfortable, super reliable, and just look at this grocery storage!  Not a single thing in the cab with me!

Truck Grocery Storage - Nissan Frontier

Tesla and Volkswagen

VW Diesel Dupe Scandal

A couple days ago, Elon Musk unveiled the new Tesla Model X.

Needless to say, I am VERY impressed.  I used to be a hatchback-only person, but as of late, I’m really starting to see the appeal and utility of trucks.  Although this Model X is not a truck, it definitely has some of the utility of a truck without the negatives of a truck (mainly bad fuel efficiency).

The Model X can pull a 5,000 lb trailer, to boot.  I mean, come on.  Just incredible.

With the introduction of the Model X, the success of the Model S (all-electric sedan), and the introduction of the Power Wall, it just really looks like Tesla (and Elon Musk, at the helm) are aiming to change the way the world uses and stores energy.

Some people have written off the Power Wall already, stating that there are better solutions out there, and this is only a marketing scheme – but isn’t it a great one?  It’s getting batteries in front of the eyes of people who would not have otherwise seen them, and perhaps now more people will want to add a solar / battery component to their homes.


I had a Mk4 VW Golf Diesel, and I absolutely loved it.  When we had our previous TDI (a newer one), our mechanic said that we should sell it and get a Mk4 (older), because they are the most indestructible cars you can buy.  We bought one and put at least 20k miles on it, and we loved it.

It was easy to work on, it got great fuel efficiency (~40mpg average), and it was very comfortable.  I do quite a bit of work to keep the vehicles I own in tip-top shape, but this car was comfortable even beyond what I did to make it great.

The Scandal

VW Diesel Dupe Scandal

As it turns out, VW has programmed their “clean diesel” cars (since 2009) to cheat on emissions tests.  When not being tested, these cars are emitting up to 40 times the allowed amount of nitrogen oxide into the air.

Almost half a million cars in the US have been found to have this cheat installed, and that doesn’t even count other countries where VW’s are sold.  This is possibly the biggest scandal in the auto industry EVER.

The thing that has me so upset about this (beyond the fact that a major auto maker is contributing HEAVILY to non-necessary pollution), is that if you take a look in the discussion thread on the TDI-Club forums, you’ll read multiple accounts of VW TDI owners stating they will NOT take their vehicles in to be flashed with non-cheating software!

These diesel drivers specifically DO NOT CARE about the excess NOx in the air, and they value their cars’ performance over the health and well-being of other HUMANS.  This just blows my mind.


We have Tesla, aiming to make the world a cleaner place; and then we have VW and it’s fanbase making the world an INCREDIBLY dirtier place, and being just fine with it.

I don’t have the solution for instantly cleaning up the environment, but companies like Tesla are putting us on the right track.  Companies like VW are absolutely taking us down the wrong path.  The fact that some people are perfectly fine with what they’ve done completely baffles me, and I will never understand it.

Yes, getting 50+ mpg and having 180hp to play with is fun; however, possibly shortening other people’s lives in doing so is not fun, nor should it be acceptable by anyone with objective moral values.

* * *

When Tesla’s drop down into an attainable price range, I’d very much like to own one.  After owning two VW’s in my life, I thought I would be a lifelong VW fan, but now, I’m not so sure.

Stereo and Spark Plug Fun

Stereo and Spark Plug Fun - 1

I had some fun with soldering wires and installing a stereo, and Jessica got her hands dirty changing spark plugs.  How about a photo gallery?!

*SOLD* 2002 VW Golf GLS TDI 5spd *PRISTINE* For Sale – $8,750

02 Golf TDI For Sale - San Antonio TX

The car is now sold.

Current Mileage: 187k
Color: Silver
Transmission: Manual
Price: $8,750

Current listing of comparable (Mk4) Golfs on Autotrader
Current listing of comparable (Mk4) Golfs on

This is a spec’d out 2002 Golf GLS TDI.  Gorgeous, comfortable velour seats, Golf ball shifter knob, and that amazing 1.9L ALH motor that is widely accepted as one of the longest-lasting engines ever built.
02 Golf TDI For Sale - Specifications

Special Features of This Car

I have put my personal touch into this car, and it shows in three main areas:

1. Custom Tuned Stereo

I have installed an Alpine CDA-9835 in 3-way mode, with a 10AWG power wire run directly from the battery, providing 27W RMS x 4 to the front Polk DB6501 component speakers.  The rear doors house two 6.5″ Pyramid W64 mid-bass woofers, powered by a Blaupunkt EMA 255 amp in the CD changer cubby in the trunk area.

2002 VW Golf TDI For Sale - San Antonio TX 38

The goal of this install was efficiency with space and power.  The Alpine 9835 head unit provides enough power to the front component set that it needs no external amplifier, and the rear mid-bass woofers provide a sonorous low-end without needing a large subwoofer box in the trunk.  In fact, with the mid-bass amp in the rear cubby, you lose absolutely NO storage space, yet you still have unbelievable sonic fidelity.

This stereo is from 2004, and as such, it currently only has a 30-pin iPod connection.  You can also use a 30-pin to lightning connection for newer iPods/iPhones, or you can convert it to a 3.5mm jack to be used with any MP3 Player.

Full Stereo Build Log Here (TDIClub)

2. Panzer Plate

I have installed a Panzer Plate (with Full Metal Jacket) on the underside of the engine bay.  Whether you’ll be driving through snow/ice, or if you’ve ever seen that random weird object on the highway that you didn’t have time to swerve for, the Panzer Plate will keep your oil pan safe from a $1,000 repair.

The Panzer plate has an aluminum door for the oil-pan drain plug, so you can still change your oil easily without needing to remove the entire plate.

3. Curt Trailer Hitch and Wiring

02 Golf TDI For Sale - Curt Trailer Hitch

One of the best things about a TDI is the large amount of torque it provides.  With the Curt 110662 Trailer Hitch, steel Tube Cover, Locking Pin, and Curt 56175 wiring kit, you’ll be able to easily hook up a 5×7 Uhaul trailer and head to IKEA for a large haul.  You can also just slip in a bike rack or any other 2″ receiver attachment you want.  The Curt hitch is rated up to 2,000 lbs, and up to 200lbs tongue weight.

02 Golf For Sale - LED Brake Lights

I also installed LED lights and load resistors for the brake lights and running lights in the rear housings, so you’ll likely never have to change those again.  This also negates the need to have a powered trailer wiring harness, as the car’s brake lights use very little current.


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Service Records

This car comes with every single service record for every service it received.  That’s right – you won’t find many cars with this extensive of a written paper trail.  I found this invaluable when I purchased the car, as it let me know exactly what time frame things had been done, and helped me decide when to do future maintenance.

Recently Maintained

Recent work on this car includes:

  • Front Driver Wheel Bearing Replaced (was groaning) – December 2014
  • All tires replaced with Yokohama YK580 – December 2014
  • Oil, Filter, Oil Filter, Air Filter, Cabin Filter Changed at 183,000
  • Fuel Filter replaced at 183,000
  • Thermostat replaced at 183,000
  • Brake / Transmission Fluid flushed at 183,000
  • Rear brakes replaced April 2014 (Zimmerman rotors and TRW pads, caliper bolts and clips)
  • Front brakes replaced Dec 2014 (Bosch Quietcast rotors and pads)
  • Engine Oil Cooler seals replaced Dec 2014
  • 1000mL Diesel Purge – Oct 2014

02 Gofl TDI For sale - Diesel Purge

…Comes with the Car

With the sale of the car, I’ll be including a brand new LuK 17-050 clutch.  I initially planned on upgrading this car with a Stage 2 Malone Tune and this clutch, but I never got around to doing it.  The original clutch still performs great, but if you want to add some more power to this car, this LuK clutch will give you the gripping power to do so, while still having comfortable, smooth clutch action.

Some people have driven their original clutches well past 250k miles, so you might not even want to replace the clutch.  Nonetheless, I’ll provide this one with the car.

I’ll also include two extra pairs of Anco Contour windshield wipers with the car.  These wipers are great, and they’re practically silent during operation.

Blackstone Labs Oil Analysis

For extra transparency, here are the two Blackstone Labs Oil Analyses I ran on the car for the two oil changes I did since owning it:

Blackstone Labs Oil Analysis | 01-03-2014
Blackstone Labs Oil Analysis | 12-29-2014

Other Questions?

If you have any other questions, please sound off in the comment section below!  If you don’t want your comment to be public, you can always contact me via my contact form.

If you need to fly into SAT to pick up this car, I’ll be happy to meet you at the SAT airport.  We can then drive to USAA to process the payment for the car, and then it’s all yours!

The Road to 60mpg – VW Golf TDI

VW Golf TDI Mk4

I am so excited about the maintenance I did on my car last week.  I’ve been looking forward to doing it after Jess and I moved into our Tiny House, but an errant vibration coming from the front left side of the car meant that I needed to move that maintenance up in the time frame.  Here’s what I did.

  1. Oil Change (Including oil filter)
  2. Air Filter
  3. Cabin Filter (which has a special carbon lined filter, just like Shreddies! – to block out the farts of the highway)
  4. Fuel Filter (I change this at every oil change)
  5. Oil Cooler O-Rings – top and bottom
  6. Thermostat (old one was reading 76 C max, when it should have gotten up to 90 C)
  7. Front brake rotors and pads (replaced rears 2 months ago)
  8. Yokohama YK580 tires

All this nonsense didn’t fix the vibration, but I took it to the best diesel mechanic in town, and they found that the front left wheel bearing was going bad.  Replaced that puppy, and boom!  No more vibration!

All of teh MPG are teh MINE

I apparently needed new tires pretty badly.  I thought the suspension was going out, because over every pothole and speed bump, the car clanked like crazy.  Well, after getting the tires replaced, it turns out that was the fault of the tires – not the suspension.  So the suspension will be good to go for at least another 50k miles.

With the thermostat only allowing the coolant to get up to 76 C, rather than the 90 C it should operate at – that was holding my MPG back.  I’m expecting to get 3-5 mpg better, now that I have a perfectly working thermostat.  (Good god, it sprayed coolant EVERYWHERE when I took that thing out!)

With new brakes all around, the car feels incredibly different when I use the brakes.  Before the swap, there were clunks, groans, and squeals every time I applied the brakes.  I’m assuming this new setup will result in less drag while driving, which will net at least a 1 mpg gain.

When I did the rear brakes about 2 months ago, I also ran two full cans of Diesel Purge through my car.  That, plus a new style of driving – hypermiling – took me from an average of 35 MPG, to an average of 47 MPG.  My fuel injector nozzles must have been loaded with crap, because HOLY CANNOLI.  12 MPG increase from a simple Diesel Purge.

Now that I’ve done all this additional maintenance, I’m expecting to break 50 MPG on my next tank.  I know I can do it, I’m just super excited to see it happen!

What about the 60 MPG?

I don’t yet know just how much better my fuel efficiency will be after this maintenance – since I just filled up last night – but if I don’t hit 60 MPG with this, my future work planned for the car will certainly get me there.  It is as follows:

  1. Malone Stage 2 Tune
  2. LuK 17-050 Clutch Upgrade (Already purchased)
  3. Bosio DLC 1019 Fuel Injector Nozzles
  4. *Possibly* Fifth Gear Swap

I won’t know if I need the fifth gear swap until we’ve been living in the Tiny House for a while, and I know better how much highway driving we’ll be doing.  If it turns out to be a lot of highway driving, I’ll definitely do the swap!

My mechanic mentioned that a Stage 2 Tune from Malone (with the upgraded clutch and injector nozzles) would result in much better MPG – possibly 5 MPG better, as long as I didn’t drive it like a GTI.  I’m a hypermiler for life, so I would welcome the increased efficiency of the tune, while still driving like a grandpa.

The total cost of the clutch, tune, and injectors is about $800, and you might be thinking, Why the fuck would you spend $800 to get 5 MPG better?  The truthful answer is, if I can afford it, I’m gonna do it.  It’s fun for me to enhance the efficiency of my car, and I don’t expect to make that $800 back in fuel savings any time soon after the work is done.  However, I enjoy getting high MPG, and if my business is doing well enough to put $800 into my car for fun, it’s gonna happen.

Ultimate Goal – Free Fuel

Once all that stuff is done, I’ll be converting the Golf into a GreaseCar.  This will allow it to run on WVO (waste vegetable oil), which I will get for free from local restaurants.  The only thing you have to do is wait for the engine to heat the coolant up to 90 C, and then you can flip the switch to switch over to WVO (instead of diesel).

Once the car is converted, our only cost will be maintenance.  Since this car is the most reliable car in the world, the maintenance will be quite cheap.

Of course, the real ultimate goal is to move somewhere, where we don’t even need a car.  However, I’d definitely like to keep the little BLT around, in case we ever need a car again.  I mean, come on.  This is the best car that exists.  🙂

Five Cars I’d Love to Drive

Nissan GTR

I currently drive an 02 Golf TDI. I really, REALLY like the car, and I flew up to Ohio to drive it back to Texas. It is incredibly comfortable inside, it is ridiculously fuel-efficient (46mpg on the last tank), and I installed and tuned an old-school stereo with transparent sounding speakers that just make me want to listen to music in it all day long. Also, it can carry just about the biggest cargo load you’ve ever seen (just picked up my friend and his wife from an airport with 8 bags, and we made it home.)

Just because I really love this car doesn’t mean I don’t want to drive other amazing cars. This is my first manual transmission car, and I still haven’t gotten over just how fun it is to shift gears with a manual transmission.

Golf R

I would absolutely LOVE to kick the tires on a brand new Golf R. It has all-wheel drive, and the newer models have over 300hp. Until 2014, they were only sold in the US with a stick-shift. They now come with DSG (automatic – which I had in my 06 GTI), which is a fine transmission, but not quite as fun as shifting yourself.

2014 VW Golf R Blue

I love the way the car looks, I love the comfort of the seats (sat in one at the local dealership), and since blue is my favorite color, I LOVE that blue paint job they’ve got going on. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to own a non-diesel car again, but if I were able to (and I had buckets of cash), this is the car I’d get.

2014 Golf R Interior

Nissan GTR

I mean, come on. Just look at that.

Nissan GTR

I’ve loved that car ever since I saw the special Top Gear did on it, where Jeremy Clarkson threw out his back and had to be removed from the car by a team of paramedics. It has enough g-force to have a g-force meter. I would love to drive this car, although I’m sure it’s nowhere near as fuel efficient as my Golf (and why would it be, when you can drive it like a bat out of hell?), but it looks damn fun.

Downside? No stick-shift.

Nissan GTR Interior

Audi RS4 Avant (Wagon)

I’m a wagon guy, through and through. I want either a hatchback or a wagon, so I can cram as much cargo as possible into a car, if needed. Don’t get me wrong, I love performance in cars! But when it comes down to it, a car is made to perform a task, and I want a car that can perform as many utilitarian tasks as necessary. One of the main things I look for in cars is cargo space.

Audi RS4 Avant Wagon

At my last job, I would pull my 06 candy white GTI into the parking space right next to one of these puppies. Yes, I like the older body style RS4’s more than the new. I knew my GTI was cheaper than this car, and for all intents and purposes, it’s basically the same car, since VW owns Audi, and a lot of the parts in my GTI were Audi-labeled parts. Nonetheless, I still like the look of this car and its increased cargo space.

Yamaha R6

I know, this isn’t a car. But I’ve wanted to ride one of these things for a loooong time. I took a motorcycle safety class about a year ago, because although I didn’t have a motorcycle at the time (and still don’t), I wanted the endorsement on my license in case I decided to get one at any point in the future. I also just wanted a crash course (no crashing for me!) on how to ride a motorcycle.

2014 Yamaha R6 black

It turns out, learning to drive stick in my Golf TDI was the best thing I could have done to learn to operate a motorcycle. Getting the clutch / accelerator relationship down is crucial in not stalling on a motorcycle. I’d love to have a bike for taking weekend cruises down curvy countryside roads (which Jess and I will live on soon!), but not for a daily driver.

My Future 02 Golf TDI

That’s right. The last car I want to drive is the one I already have, but in the future. The car has about 175k miles on it, and it’s still running the original clutch. I can tell that the clutch can’t hold the torque first gear has to offer, so replacing the clutch will be something that’ll happen soon. When I do that, I want to replace it with this Luk clutch.

17-050 Luk Clutch VW Golf

Of course I’ll be paying my local TDI mechanic to do this replacement. I do a lot of maintenance on my cars, but this is one job I’m not interested in doing myself.

Once the new clutch is in, I’ll have increased power from the added grip that the new clutch will give me. The next logical step will be a Stage 1 tune from Malone Tuning.

Malone Tuning Stage 1 VW Golf TDI

That will give me a car that still gets 38-48 MPG, as well as having enough power to satisfy my inner race car driver. It’s not a lot of added HP or torque, but it’s enough to make a lovely little difference.

I’d also like to replace a lot of the suspension bits on my car, so it’s quieter over bumps, but that’s a bit less important to me than the clutch / tune combo.

What Car Do You Want to Drive?

Now you know the cars I want to drive. What dream car do you want to drive? You should go out and try to make it happen. I’m contemplating going to the VW dealership and asking to test drive the Golf R, then straight up leaving. 🙂