It has been since September since we wrote about this project car. Such is the reality of having a budget and a car that is over fifteen years of age.
The new wheels and tires went on and they made the car look fantastic. The wider rubber also improved the handling and braking – up to a point. With the age and miles that his car carries the improved traction made it clear that suspension maintenance was in order.
We chose H&R’s Sport suspension that replaced both the springs and struts as a package. This would lower the car some, but not in a bad way.
The strut bearings for the front of the car were in dire need of replacing as well as the strut bushings at the rear strut towers. We could have replaced them with some new ones or else installed some performance aftermarket version. Instead we picked up some Corrado versions that bolted right up but provided heavy duty performance at a fraction of the cost of aftermarket.
With the new suspension in place it was time to get it aligned. More bad news to the budget. The ball joints on the front end were worn and the outer tie rod ends were just about shot. We were lucky that the inner tie rod ends didn’t need to be replaced. Since this car has rack and pinion steering that would have meant a special tool to remove them as well as replacing the boots on the rack.
The ball joints on the front end were fairly simple to replace. Three bolts held them to the suspension arm and a single clamping bolt fixed it to the lower strut. Jake picked up some cam-style bolts for the struts so we could adjust the camber with the new struts and springs.
H&R makes a great set up for the street with the springs and struts as a complete solution so it was off to get it aligned. We chose to keep in mind that this was a street vehicle and kept the front negative camber to one degree and the rear to about one and a half degree of negative camber. Toe was set as close to zero as possible for both the front and the rear.
A lot of people get concerned that negative camber will result in unacceptable tire wear. If you keep zero toe it should not be a problem. Non-zero toe will wear your tires fast.
Now everything was all set, right? Well, no, not quite. Again we had to face the reality of age and high mileage. The wheel bearings were irritating every dog in the neighborhood with the squealing. The rears are not hard to do and since the brakes also needed to be replaced it was all part of the deal.
The brakes were not too bad. At least they didn’t seem to be a big problem until we decided to refresh the brake fluid (which looked as dark as coffee). We put the Jetta up on the lift and started our bleeding from the passenger side rear caliper only to find that the bleeder screw broke right off. So we skipped that one and bled all the other calipers. It was clear, though, that we had to budget in new rear calipers, new rotors all around, and fresh pads.
That was a big impact to the budget especially when you figured in the new wheel bearings front and rear. While Jake saved up for the brake parts he shopped around for a good deal on replacement bearings. While the rear bearings would be relatively easy to do as part of the new rear rotors, the front bearings were another animal. Jake found someone with the tool that would press out the old bearings as well as press in the new.
The rear brakes required new calipers, so before they were installed the new ones were cleaned of grease and oil and painted a nice red with VHT caliper paint. Jake also decided to get a set of Speed Bleeders to fit all four calipers. This was a great idea as it meant that he could bleed the brakes even if no one was around to help him.
The rear brakes also needed the emergency brake cable replaced. The original one had stretched. After that was replaced, on went the new rotors with new wheel bearings and nice bright red calipers with new Metal Master brake pads.
The front hubs received the new wheel bearings and those calipers were cleaned and painted with the same red VHT caliper paint. The new rotors were installed, the calipers loaded with the new pads, and Speed Bleeders. Now would have been a great time to replace the flexible brake lines with braided stainless steel lines, but the budget had already grown much larger than planned.
Jake found a bargain on a front strut tower brace and Jim’s Garage threw in a replacement steering wheel. Since the budget was already strained he didn’t opt for slotted or drilled rotors or even rotors that had a cadmium wash applied. So being the resourceful guy that he is Jake cleaned the brake disk hats and painted them with silver VHT caliper paint. It looks good, takes the heat, and doesn’t rust.
This has been a fun project car even though it has meant a huge strain on a budget that never assumed so much maintenance would be required. Something to keep in mind if you start on a car with substancial amount of miles and years under its belt.
Jake is really enjoying this car. The handling is now way above what the new stock Jetta provided. He is contemplating just how far he can take this VW classic.
Another great project at Jim’s Garage.