Still Married

When I got my new car a couple of years ago I didn't get rid of my old car right away, so I had to add the new one on to my existing car insurance policy. A couple weeks later I went to remove my old car from the policy, but the insurance salesperson said that there was "something wrong with the computer," because my new premium would be much higher after taking off the second car.

After I waited on hold for a while, she came back on and said she had found the problem: "With two cars, you're getting the married rate, but if you go down to only one car on your policy, then you're a single male so you would get a much higher rate." I found that sort of amusing, and decided not to take the car off of my policy. Ever since then, I've been insuring two cars.

Last week I turned 25, so today I went to the office to see if I could get a lower car insurance rate. Supposedly 25 is the "magical" age when you suddenly become much less likely to get in a car accident.

I inquired about removing my old car from the policy, but again discovered that this would increase my rate. This time I was able to get some specific numbers:

Cost to insure '84 Buick + '06 GTI: $277 + $560 = $837

Cost to insure just '06 GTI: $945

It's interesting to see that insuring a 2006 GTI costs 68% more if you're single than if you're "married." Apparently getting married is yet another way to instantly transform yourself into someone much less likely to get into an accident. The best part is that you don't even have to bother with the hassle of a wife: you just have to buy another car.

Now I'm wondering: could I reduce my insurance costs even further by adding a third car? I suspect not: clearly if I had three cars then I must have had a kid, and we all know how dangerous kids are..

Posted on May 27, 2008
Filed under: Car, General, Humor, Random Comments

10,000 miles

2006 VW GTI  10000 miles

My car recently hit 10,000 miles, so I took it into the dealer for a service checkup. I took it to the dealer where I bought it, which unfortunately is on the complete other side of Seattle, and it can take about an hour to get there during rush hour, which is a huge pain.

When I dropped it off in the morning, the service guys were extremely friendly, but almost suspiciously so, which was kind of weird. They told me it would be ready by 5:00 PM. I arrived right at 5:00 expecting to pick up the car, but they didn't have it ready. My suspicion is that they hadn't even started on it until I showed up, because I had to wait another two hours to get it, and it certainly doesn't take two hours to change the oil, rotate the tires, and check a few things.

While I was waiting they tried to be extremely nice about it, apologizing profusely for the delays. At the end I finally learned why - they offered to give me a "free oil change" coupon as long as I "said good things" about them when Volkswagen Corporate called me to ask how the service went. I muttered some sort of "OK" and went on my way. I think it's the first time somebody has tried to bribe me in a real-world situation, which is sort of interesting (I don't count homework-bribes in school under this category).

When Volkswagen called I told them what happened, and the guy on the phone sounded displeased and insisted that they would "rectify the situation". My guess is that this dealership has been getting bad reviews (apparently for good reason), and Volkswagen has been getting on their case. I'm not sure if my complaint was anonymous or if they can trace it back to me, but I probably won't be going back to that dealership again anyway, mainly since it is so far away and inconvenient. I honestly expect to get bad service pretty much wherever I go, so I'm honestly not too displeased about that.

Posted on February 25, 2008
Filed under: Car, General Comments

Car recalled, again

This week: Volkswagen recalls 340,000 vehicles because of head lights

And in February: VW recalls 790,000 vehicles because of brake lights

Recalled twice in one year.. this could be a bad sign.

Posted on September 29, 2007
Filed under: Car, General Comments

New Bulb #2

So fortunately it ends up that the brake lights on the 2006 GTI are actually user-serviceable, but it requires a few more steps than on a 1984 Buick. First, the molding behind the the light must be peeled back and the light enclosure unscrewed:

GTI brake light replacement

Then the entire enclosure can be removed:

GTI brake light replacement

And the bulb holder can be extracted:

GTI brake light replacement

Finally we can replace the actual bulb and notice a tiny break in the filament of the broken one:

GTI brake light replacement

Posted on July 7, 2007
Filed under: Car, General Comments

Dead Bulb #2

Fortunately this one is in my car instead of in my projector.

Dead brake light

I like how the car knows exactly which bulb is dead and can even tell me about it. On my old car I had no way to tell that something was dead other than manually checking out all the lights.

Of course, on the old Buick, I could go out there with a normal screwdriver and replace the stupid $1 bulb myself. On the new car the lights are all hermetically sealed into the back of the car and I'll probably have to pay Volkswagen $75 to fix it.. grr.

I wonder if this is related to this story from February which I seemed to have missed: VW recalls 790,000 vehicles because of brake lights

Posted on July 3, 2007
Filed under: Car, General Comments

Discovery

I just discovered that after the gas pedal on my car is depressed all the way, it can still be pushed one "click" further, to accelerate even faster. Sweet.

Gas Pedal

Posted on April 28, 2007
Filed under: Car, General Comments

Signs you might be a Seattle yuppie

  • #17: Your car has both high-performance racing tires and a ski rack, and you don't see anything wrong with that.

GTI ski rack

Posted on January 28, 2007
Filed under: Car, General, Humor Comments

Picture of iPod adapter

I forgot to include a picture of the iPod actually hooked up to the adapter!

Here it is, sporting the VW logo:

iPod

Posted on August 6, 2006
Filed under: Car, General Comments

GTI iPod adapter install

Unfortunately the 2006 GTI does not come with an integrated iPod adapter (unlike the '07 model, grr). But, VW does make an adapter that connects the iPod to the stereo system and pretends to be an external CD changer. It's not the best solution, but at least it powers the iPod and I can control it and switch tracks from the steering wheel.

I was already pissed that I would have to pay $150 for the dumb little cable, and I refused to pay the dealer another $150 to install it, so I got one off eBay and did it myself. Unfortunately the instructions were in German and assumed that I already knew how to take apart the dashboard to get to the radio, with VW-specific tools that I didn't have.

So if anybody else is trying to do the same thing, here are pictures of how I did it:

Top vent

First pry off the top dash vent with an "ausdruckwerkzeug" (whatever that is - I used a credit card)

Front vents

Remove the front vents and the screws holding the radio in

Radio

Pull the radio out and disconnect the wires in the back

Audio wires

Move the audio wires from the satellite radio connector to your iPod adapter cable

Ground wire

Splice the ground wire to the iPod adapter cable

Glove box

Stick the other end of the cable in through the glove box

CD-EXT

When it's all done, the iPod shows up as an external CD changer. The first 5 playlists on the iPod show up as CDs 1-5. Unfortunately the track/artist/album names don't show up on the radio or the in-dash LCD, and you can only use 5 playlists, which kind of sucks. Oh well.

Posted on August 5, 2006
Filed under: Car, Electronics, General Comments

Car mods

One nice feature of modern Volkswagen (and Audi) cars is that their electronics systems are wired up using the Controller Area Network (CAN) protocol. This makes it very easy for the VW dealers and technicians to hook up their diagnostic computers to the cars and run tests and change car settings using simple PC software. Fortunately for us, it also makes it easy for enthusiasts and hobbyists to plug into their cars, tweak settings, and re-enable features that VW 'forgot' to enable (and to disable annoying features).

The first thing I needed was a USB-CAN cable so that I could hook my laptop up to my car:

VAG-COM cable

Once I got that (thank you, internet), I hooked it up to the car:

Laptop in car

It attaches underneath the steering wheel:

CAN cable attached to GTI

Naturally Volkswagen does not give away its diagnostic software for free (they would lose money if people could diagnose cryptic "Service Needed." messages by themselves), so I used the "VAG-COM" software made by the enthusiasts over at Ross-Tech. It's actually pretty good software (even though it looks a bit amateurish). Here are some screenshots:

VAG-COM
The main screen
Locking settings
Modifying the car's auto-locking settings

There were literally hundreds and hundreds of options that could be modified. I was afraid to modify most of them without doing more research (especially ones dealing with things like engine timings and the air-fuel mixture). But, I was able to find and fix most of the settings that had been annoying me:

  • Disable the annoying "Beep!" whenever I lock the car (I switched it to flash the tail-lights instead).
  • Re-enable the Daytime Running Lights (DRLs). For some reason the VW dealer had disabled this feature without telling me. Now that I have had the DRLs on for a while, I think I see why they did that. It does get rather annoying that it's essentially impossible to ever turn off the headlights.
  • Switch the DRLs to use the fog lights instead of the main beams (I eventually switched this back)
  • Enable the option to open and close the windows from the remote.
  • Enable the option to open/close the sunroof from the remote and the keyhole in the door.
  • Force the 'unlock' button on the remote to unlock the passenger side door as well (by default you have to push it twice and hold it)
  • Stop the car from automatically locking itself when the trunk door is closed.

Most of these "convenience" options are disabled on purpose (or not made available in the in-dash menu system) by Volkswagen in order to cripple the car. The GTI is essentially the same car as the Audi A3 (VW owns Audi), so they needed to create artificial reasons for people to pay thousands of extra dollars for the A3, even though it has exactly the same engine, transmission, chassis, and in-car computer.

I wasn't able to fix a couple of things I wanted (such as the option to have the passenger-side mirror automatically tilt down when going in reverse), but overall I am pretty happy with how it turned out

Posted on June 7, 2006
Filed under: Car, General Comments

Fast pictures

After my previous post I realized that I forgot to include pictures of the 'fast', which is (arguably) one of the best features of the GTI.

Volkswagen ads claim "A 'fast' comes standard on every GTI," so when I got the car I was expecting the fast to come inside of it. Needless to say, I was disappointed to learn that I would get it in the mail in "4 to 6 weeks". Luckily I got mine a bit 'fast'er than that. Here is a picture:

Fast

It's made of very shiny plastic, which seems to be different from the more matte-looking material used in the TV ads. Its arms and legs rotate and it has a set of interchangeable tails:

Fast Tails

Overall it's pretty cool. Every car should come with tiny plastic representation of its Freudian id. 🙂

Posted on June 2, 2006
Filed under: Car, General, Random Comments

New Car

In April I got my tax refund back and found that I had enough money to buy a new car.  I had been planning to do this for a while, since my current car was getting a little old (OK, maybe more than a little).  If you aren't familiar with it, my old car was a 1984 Buick Century:

 Old Car

It was a good car, but it had recently started to show its age.  The brakes were getting sticky, the engine would often putter out when going in reverse, and I was a bit worried about the safety (no airbags, untested seat belts, very old body designed before strict side-impact test requirements, etc..).  Ultimately I was worried that if I had any problems with it, I might have to pay far more than the car was actually worth in order to repair it.  So it was time to get a new car.

If I had infinite money, I might have liked to get a new BMW M6, but that was a little bit out of my price range.  I narrowed my search down to these criteria:

  • Fast
  • Small
  • Good gas mileage (for a non-hybrid)
  • Not too expensive

Ultimately I decided on the new 2006 Volkswagen GTI.  The GTI is basically a high-performance version of the VW Golf (like the GLI is a high-perf Jetta).  The newest model has a new 2.0L turbocharged engine, and  the "Direct-Shift Gearbox" (DSG), which is a dual-clutch automatic transmission that can be used in manual mode with the shifters on the steering wheel.

You might recognize the new GTI from the "fast" commericals on TV, in which an evil little rabbit coaxes drivers to drive with the windows down, kick their girlfriends out of the car, and disobey police officers (the symbolism of the little rabbit is that the GTI is the 'evil' version of the VW Rabbit (aka Golf)).  Here are Google Video links so you can view them in all their glory:

There are also some other ads with Peter Stormare (of Fargo Seinfeld fame) as a German engineer ("in da house") who smashes up riced-out economy cars and replaces them with GTIs.  I didn't like those ads as much.

So far the GTI has been pretty awesome.  Here's a picture (with a reflection of me thrown in for free):

New Car

And some more:

IMG_0131.JPG   IMG_0133.JPG   IMG_0134.JPG

IMG_0135.JPG   IMG_0137.JPG   IMG_0142.JPG

 

Posted on May 31, 2006
Filed under: Car, General Comments
   

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