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October 29, 2001 - Fuel system problems
Last weekend I put lots of miles on my Cabriolet. That lowered the total cost of ownership per mile by two cents.... but I was busy worrying about the engine which started giving me trouble after the first hour of driving. I was on the freeway going 70 mph, and the car started shaking a little and I had very little acceleration. I got off the freeway and limped to Wal-Mart where I bought some dry gas. I had filled up shortly before leaving for the trip, and I was suspecting I got some water along with the gas. The car ran fine for the first five minutes after putting the additive in, but then the problem came back. I decided to deal with it and drove the remaining 45 minutes with the problem. I discovered that if I floored it, the acceleration was still bad, but the shaking stopped.

I still had problems the next day. I tried gas treatment and premium gas, but there were no noticeable changes. All the gauges (e.g. engine temp, coolant temp, oil pressure, and voltage) were normal. I bought a new fuel pump relay a month ago that seems to be defective (i.e. the car shuts off randomly with the relay in). I put that relay in, and the car ran the same, but it didn't shut off. I drove more than an hour and the relay never shut off.

The day after that, I started the car up, and it ran normally again! I was starting to be happy when the car shut off unexpectently. hmmph. I replaced the relay with the old one. The car started, ran fine, and didn't shut off. I was letting the car warm up, and the idle got rough.... it seemed like the problem was back. I disconnected the wiring harness on the frequency valve (part of the fuel system) and the problem stayed the same. I reconnected it, and I think that fixed the problem. But I really don't know if that was truly the problem. *sigh*

October 16, 2001 - Heat!
For almost 2 weeks now, I've been enjoy a warm ride when I drive.... almost as if I had a normal car. I removed the heater core only to learn that the heater valve was broken. Not having a new valve immediately available, I left the valve open and reassembled the cooling system. I have heat now... I just can't turn it off.

New Exhaust

Once again, I had exhaust work done. This time I got a new downpipe and catalytic converter.... $$$! Fortunately, the car is somewhat quieter and the smell went away. I don't have to worry about passing out from the fumes when the top is up anymore.


August 26, 2001 - New belts!
I replaced the V-belts this Saturday. My belts have been noisy for the last few weeks. Also, since they came with the car, I have no idea how old they are. So I bought 3 new belts, and replaced the old ones. Simple job, right? I remember reading that replacing and rebuilding a strut should take about an hour. If that's true, then replacing the belts on my Cabriolet should take between 15 and 30 minutes. Well, it took me about 4 days to rebuild the strut. It only follows that replacing the belts took me from 11:00am to 7:00pm. However, that includes time for two meals, two trips to Sears to buy tools, and one trip back to AutoZone to make sure I had the right belts. It all worked though, and my car no longer squeaks. I'm sure I could do it a lot faster now that I know where all the mouting bolts are located.
I also bought a timing light this weekend. I'm looking forward to correctly adjusting the timing.
August 14, 2001
Just a collection of small events...
  • The rear view mirror fell off in the heat last week. I glued it back on with some special adhesive from AutoZone.
  • I successfully drove my Cabriolet to and from the Toledo Zoo last Saturday. I started to rain just before we left, so I turned on the wipers when I got in the car. The passenger-side wiper went up and down, but the driver-side one just sat there. Then they both went up the next time. And the third time, they hit each other! From that point, the driver-side wiper didn't go at all, and the passenger-side wiper went back and forth but part of the bracket that holds the blade had broken off. Fortunately, I had a new wiper in the back seat. I put the new blade on, and tightened the nut on the driver's side. There was much rejoicing.
  • The fuel pump doesn't buzz before the starter engages. It never has. My friend (who also owns a 1987 Cabriolet) fixed this problem with a new relay. I'm now looking for one myself...
August 3, 2001 - Overheating problem fixed?
My Cabriolet has had a problem with the cooling system ever since I got it. First I replaced the fan switch. But the fan still never turned on. I took it to my mechanic, and he replaced some wiring by the fan, and it worked. However, it would still run hot in heavy traffic. While the engine temperature would never really get that hot, the coolant gauge would go all the way hot. However, if the car was sitting still, it would eventually cool off. My poor Cabriolet! But I think I fixed it this Tuesday. What did I do? I reversed the direction of the fan. It's now much quieter! And when it starts up, it cools the car down much faster. Since it's only been a few days, I'm not sure that it's really all fixed. I hope I haven't damaged the motor...


July 28, 2001 - The exhaust mystery...
Last week on Saturday, I took the Cabriolet to Muffler Man in Jackson. Back in April, I had the exhaust replaced from behind the catalytic converter. It improved the situation, but the exhaust still leaked: it was still a little loud, and you could smell it after sitting in one spot (with the top up.) I brought it back there, and they noticed that the downpipe was held on with a C-clamp. I replaced that with the appropriate spring clamp. Then they told me that I needed a new catalytic converter. I decided not to get one. Then in July, I took the car to Lentz. They told me that the downpipe and its gaskets were bad. In fact, the downpipe seemed to leak from a spot in the middle. They also didn't like the job Muffler Man did, but they didn't think it really leaked. I asked about the exhaust manifold, and they said it looked alright.

I took my Cabriolet to Muffler Man in Jackson, because Lentz thought they might redo the job. I told the "Muffler Men" that my exhaust was leaking, and they took a look at it. They lifted it right when I got out, so I watched them. They looked it over without running the car. The pointed out a spot where oil was leaking, but after a minute or two, they told me I didn't have a leak! I started to question this, but they were quite firm about it. This really ticked me off, because it's quite obvious that there is a problem with the exhaust.

I drove down the street to get a second opinion at Meineke. They drove the car away from me, so I didn't stick around and watch. After five minutes or so, they informed me that the manifold was cracked. While I might be able to find someone to weld it, they told me I would probably have to get it replaced at the dealer!

So after getting 4 different opinions on my Cabriolet's exhaust, I have just that: four different opinions. This reminds me of those news stories on Dateline. Let's review:

Muffler Man - FlintRusted catalytic converter
Lentz - JacksonBad downpipe, gaskets
Muffler Man - JacksonNo leak
Meineke - JacksonCracked manifold
July 20, 2001 - The Cabriolet starts reliably!
For the last 2 weeks, the car randomly wouldn't start. Charging the battery would usually fix it, but sometimes it wouldn't start the next day. Sometimes jiggling the starter wires would fix it. Sometimes waiting 30 minutes would fix it. I had Autozone test the battery, and it was good. Then I had the alternator tested on the car at Autozone. The employee told me the alternator was charging the battery, but he didn't like the look of the wiring. So I bought 2 new battery cables and a new terminal for another connecting wire. (There was one bare wire end jammed between the battery clamp and the post.) I replaced the starter-battery cable. I put the terminal on the bare wire, which is probably from the alternator. I've left the negative battery cable alone. Since the The old and new voltage regulators replacement, my Cabriolet has started every time. (Well, at least the starter has run each time.) The electrical system usually runs between 13V and 13.5V. I also replaced the voltage regulator.

The CD player has been installed, and the sound isn't bad. I believe the passenger-side (2-way) speaker is half broken, but it seems like I can live with it. There stereo definitely helps cover the engine noise. Even with the sound off, it's quieter without the hole in the dash.

July 9, 2001 - Many changes...
A lot has changed on the car in the last month. I had the exhaust system inspected at Lentz. They told me that whoever had done the work on it (Muffler Man in Flint) had done a horrible job. They used different metals, the wrong size gaskets, and more importantly, it leaked all over. That's funny, when I complained to Muffler Man that the exhaust leaked, they told me I needed a new catalytic converter. Hopefully Muffler Man in Jackson can fix me up. I'm also considering replacing the downpipe myself.

I have done work on the sound system. The front speakers have been replaced. I've jammed my subwoofer in the tiny trunk along with my 1000 watt amplifier. I wired the stereo to turn on with the load relay, since VW doesn't understand the concept of "accessories." Just a little work remains before mounting the CD player in the dash. (It's currently sitting on the passenger seat.

The worst offender of the suspension has been replaced. The driver-side shock had seized, yielding a very unforgiving ride. Over 5 days of fiddling with the car, the strut was removing, disassembled, reassembled, and reinstalled. It works quite well, and it seems to be holding up.


June 5, 2001 - Exhaust cont.
Muffler Man told me I needed to replace the C-clamp that held half of my downpipe and exhaust manifold together with the appropriate C-shaped metal clip. I got a clip and the special tool to put it on. With enough elbow grease, I was able to accomplish this. (Without even lifting the car.) After test driving it, I couldn't notice a difference. Hmmph...
Hopefully, when I take it back to Muffler Man to fix the two other leaks, I will see an improvement.


May 31, 2001 - More exhaust woes
I took my car to Muffler Man today to see why it's so loud. They put it up on the lift and checked the pipes. After a while, they noticed a hole where the front pipe connects to the catalytic converter. We started the car to confirm it. Then they noticed that most of the sound was coming from in front of that spot. That's when they noticed that the downpipe was held on to exhaust manifold with C-shaped clip on one side and a regular, old C-clamp on the other side. They found that kinda funny. (That's the interesting part.)
To finish the story, they said I had to go to a dealership to get the correct clip put on. I called my regular mechanic, and he happens to have some clips and the special tool to put them on. :) And it's debatable whether it's okay to have a C-clamp there. Muffler Man said that the clip needed to be done first. I know they'll fix the weld that they screwed up; hopefully they'll do the other one for free while they're at it.


April 30 - New exhaust
After a trip to Muffler Man in Flint, the Cabriolet has new exhaust. Rather that using the expensive VW part, they were kind enough to produce a custom pipe. I actually a tailpipe now! The car is now quieter (with less rattles), and doesn't smell as much at red lights.
April 27 - It's back!
I picked up my Cabriolet on Friday night. I've driven it 150 miles without any significant problems. Pictures with the new top will be coming soon.
April 1 - April 26
The Cabriolet spent most of the month at the mechanic. Work was done on the shifting, cooling, and speedometer.


Cabriolet meets mechanic
I drove the car about 30 miles to a mechanic. (He owns a 1987 Cabriolet too.) I'm going to have work done on the linkage, the exhaust, and the cooling. I got new tires before I drove up there. I'm thinking I can probably afford this...


February 25 - It runs once again
Autozone said that the battery didn't hold charge, so I bought a new battery. After putting the new battery in, I tried starting the car. It didn't crank. :( I tried again; it didn't crank. After a few more times, it finally did crank.... but it didn't start. Then it wouldn't crank some more, then it started! ...and stalled immediately. I eventually got it started and running, though. The engine hadn't been run for 3 weeks.
February 18 - Went shopping
Picked up a new starter at AutoZone and ordered a speedometer cable from Rocky Mountain Motorworks.
February 11 - It won't start!
I tried starting the car after sitting for 2 weeks to no avail. The starter just goes, "rrrrrruummmmmmm....." or sometimes, "rrrrrruummmmmmm......rrrmmm...... rrm.." I think it froze to death.
February 10 - Driver-side wiper works
Tightened the nut. It still moves slowly; I suspect the motor needs oil. There is a slow leak by the lower radiator hose.
February 9 - Got insurance
PL/PD for $788/year, with Libery Mutual.
February 8 - Ordered top
Tan vinyl top from CabrioWorld. $140 + $13 S/H.


January 28 - Worked on cooling system
Over the last week, I replaced the thermoswitch. This involved removing the radiator which required cutting off the lower radiator hose. I suspect it was the original hose, and there is a slow leak somewhere in that area. The car actually started when I put it back together, although I'm not sure if the new switch works; the radiator fan hasn't turned on yet.
January 14, 2001 - It drives!
I drove the car around the parking lot. It idles smoothly. However, many more problems were discovered.
January 7, 2001 - It starts!
After correctly hooking up a new ignition coil, it started on the second try! Unfortunately, it stalled immediately.


December 21, 2000
I finally got the hood open. The end of the release cable was not connected to the latch. I discovered that the key to my Aerostar is the right size to fit between the grill and trigger the latch. While it took me 30 minutes to discover this, I should be able to unlatch it now in a matter of seconds.

Work completed

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