Reader Question: Mk5 GTI?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Jon asks: I have the chance to purchase a Mk5 GTI, a 2009. Manual transmission, of course. The car has fewer than 100k miles on it and appears to be in good shape. Clean Carfax. My concern is this: Words that have probably never been uttered are . . . “thank goodness I have an 11 year old Volkswagen….” What are your thoughts on the reliability of the Golf/GTI of that time period. Other than being stressed by having a turbo, it is a fairly basic car; no intrusive driver aids other than traction control and perhaps a mild stability control. Thanks, Eric, for any advice that you can offer me.

My reply: There is one rule – the same rule – when considering the purchase of any used performance car. It is to assume the car was driven as performance cars almost always are. You are not dealing with a used Corolla, driven by a middle-aged hausfrau.

Given the hard use most performance cars are subjected to,  extra diligence should be brought to bear in ascertaining the condition of the clutch and transmission especially – if it’s a manual car, as in the case of the one you are looking at. A Corolla’s clutch can be expected to have at least 50 percent of its life left at 100k. But a GTI’s…? And the GTI’s box has no doubt been rowed eagerly. Has the lube/fluid been changed since the car was new?

Very important!

I would also want to know the same as regards the engine. The life of a turbo’d engine – and its turbo – can depend hugely on the oil it is given and how often it is changed. Hopefully, this car has service records showing that the oil was changed per the VW severe use service schedule and with the correct synthetic oil and a high quality filter.

Check the cooling system, too – another Big Deal with turbo’d cars. Hopefully it has been serviced at least once since 2009.

How about the struts? The GTI was probably exercised in the corners and may need new struts to exercise in them again. Not a deal-killer but struts can be pricey.

I would not worry much about things like brakes and tires; expect them to be worn and if they are, use the wear as a haggling point. It is relatively easy/inexpensive to buy a set of new tires and have pads replaced. But watch for toasted calipers and warped discs.

The rest involves all the usual rules about general condition, dings and dents, seat tears – and so on. If the car checks out as mechanically sound and if you can establish that it was serviced properly – and the price is right – I would not hesitate. These GTIs are great fun and also surprisingly practical cars that can be commuted in every day, like a Miata – but with back seats and probably five times as much cargo capacity, too!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Jon,
    I have been working on VW’s as a profession for 40 years, so I’ve seen the changes through the years. The Mk.5 GTI’s. They handle great. They are very comfortable. Good power. As long as you don’t mind working on it. That car you’re interested in is at that mileage where everything starts to go. Where do I start?

    1) Water pump, (it’s actually the housing) made out of plastic, buried under the intake manifold. I include de-carbonizing of the intake valves and ports due to the direct injection problem when I do that job, since I have to take the intake off anyway. There is an aluminum water pump housing from the aftermarket.

    2) The intake manifold itself. There is a lever for the intake flap inside the plastic intake manifold that breaks. The OEM one has been updated or you can go with an aftermarket repair kit. Google fault code P2015.

    3) 6 speed manual, that’s cool, except… the brass shift forks have a tendency to break. The aftermarket has come out with steel shift forks. If I were going to update the clutch I would have the shift forks replaced while the trans was out. The original clutch is a dual mass flywheel setup, convert it to a single mass setup.

    4) The turbo’s aren’t that problematic. I see more failures on Tiguan’s and Passat’s, not the GTI’s and Jetta’s, I think it has to do with the Tig and the Passat being heavier. There is a recirculation valve that fails but it’s probably been replaced by now.

    5) Last (but not least) The dreaded fault code, P0016. Late 2008 thru 2012 VW used a piece of crap timing chain tensioner on these engines. It has been updated 4 times. If the tensioner has not been updated you have a ticking time bomb. When it goes it will bend every valve in the head. If I were to pull the chain covers on this engine I would replace EVERYTHING! Here’s some links.

    In my opinion (just like assholes, everyone has one) the Mk4 is the pinnacle of VW!

    • Thanks, William, for this detailed info about the VW! Being a weirdo, I have occasional thoughts about owning an old Rabbit diesel. What could be better than rolling coal on your way to from zero to 60 in 30 seconds?

  2. Beautiful thing about the VW is there’s OEM+ and aftermarket

    Stock turbo is on it’s way out? Upgrade to a K04
    Need a new clutch? PLENTY of st1/2/3’s out there

    I’ve been to plenty of car shows and see lots of Mk4’s still daily driven, the infamous gen, so you’ll be fine w/5, when they started turning around

    ECS Tuning, Black Forest Industries, GO APR, AWE Tuning, Integrated Engineering (For internals) etc.. Just make sure to find a VW Shop in the area that tunes them if you ever wanna go that route, they’ll help ya built it just right


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