My 1998 New Beetle

Copyright © 2002 D.A.Kenney

From an e-mail to a friend...
The following was clipped from an e-mail I sent to one of my co-workers to tell her about my new car:

"When I started working here I was driving a beat up old Subaru wagon. It was broken into two weeks after I started here and my radar detector was stolen. I got it back eventually, but that's another story. The shocks on this wreck were so bad that I had to use four-wheel-drive to get up one of the hills near home because the front wheels skipped so much. Since it's front wheel drive in 2WD when one of the front wheels was off the ground it spun freely and the other wheel didn't drive. Anyway… That finally was costing too much to bother with and I didn't think it would pass inspection so I got a nice older Jeep Grand Wagoneer that I've been driving ever since. My friends said I was nuts, but I'd always wanted one. Then last fall I bought Dave Belangers (another co-worker) 1971 VW Super Beetle. That's Cool! And it's a good thing I have it. The transmission went on the Jeep - for the second time in two years. Last time it cost me over thirteen hundred bucks to have fixed. So I decided "No more." Driving the Beetle daily is not what I'd planned for it especially in the winter. Less than a week after the Jeep was laid to rest the bugs’ brakes (I think) decided to demand attention. At first I thought a wheel might fall off, but we limped home and it's been parked ever since. So I went from two cars to none in a week.

Then a friend was giving me a ride one day a couple of weeks ago when I spotted an interesting car at a used car lot. There was a phone pole blocking my view of the sign on the window. I could see "-blocked-25/mo No money down". I said to my friend "If the first digit of that price is a two I may try to get that car." It was. As it turned out there was a second car of the same model on the lot. The first has an automatic transmission; the second is a five-speed stick. I like that better. What's more is that it has a lower price! So after some finagling with financing I (and the bank…) now own a 1998 Volkswagen New Beetle. This too is cool! And warm - it has heat. The '71 doesn't. As a result I think I've come down with an ailment that's growing more and more common since these came on the market: Beetlemania.

I was walking out of a restaurant Saturday behind a family. When they got around the corner of the building to where they could see my car in the parking lot the father said to his kids "Punch Buggy - no punch back!"

I love it!

I'm also ten thousand dollars poorer. Oh, well. Hopefully it will be more reliable than anything I've driven in a long time. As with all things only time will tell. (Quick! Find me some wood to knock on!)


Oh yes. I picked it up last Wednesday night and I've already put around three hundred miles on it."

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A Compass for Galileo

3-8-02 - Last night I took some of the accessories out of my Jeep to bring them to storage. Mostly my radio gear. I have a rather nice CB and a top of the line mobile scanner. I haven’t figured out how to mount them in Galileo yet so I made the decision to put them away, for the time being.

One thing I decided had to be installed right away is my radar detector. The very same one that was stolen from the Subaru that I used to have before I bought the Jeep. I’ll have to tell you about that some time…

I went off to the local auto parts store and picked up a different type of mount for the radar detector since the window mount puts it half a block down the street from me. That makes reaching it from the drivers’ seat to turn it on and off manually a pain. In the Jeep I could just leave it on since the lighter socket goes dead when you shut off the car. In the beetle the “power sockets” (two of them in my ’98) stay live with the ignition off so you have to manually turn off all of the accessories or you’ll kill the battery.

Anyway - I had decided the radar detector should be mounted on top of the instrument cluster right in front of my face. That way it’s within my line of sight and easily within reach.

Does anyone know how to get an adhesive (such as that used on Velcro) to stick to the dash of a New Beetle? I mounted the detector last night and it’s peeling off already! I would have used the suction cups that came with the mount, but they didn’t stand a chance.

Another accessory I picked up last night is a compass. That was a simple Wal*Mart item that turned into a monster. Mounting a compass in any vehicle can be tricky. If you sail you’ll know what I mean. It has to be mounted where the magnetic field of the vehicle doesn’t interfere with the reading of the instrument. What that means is that you can’t always put the compass where you want it. You have to put it were it will work. That’s easy enough if you have a little time and a large parking lot to drive around in tight circles in. Simply place the compass where you want it - hold it in place, don’t mount it yet - and drive around in a circle while you watch the reading change. It can be helpful to have a friend either drive or hold the compass since parking lots are dangerous enough without the distraction of playing with accessories. You may have to try several locations in the car before you find one that works.

Last night I tried for fifteen minutes and couldn’t find a spot that would work! Finally I got out of the car and walked some distance away from it and turned around in a full circle myself while holding the compass. It insisted I was heading North the whole time. The compass was broken.

Since we were still in the Wal*Mart parking lot I went back in to exchange it for another one. I explained to the clerk at the service desk that the compass I had just purchased was broken and that I’d decided to exchange it for a different model. She looked at my receipt and said ’No problem. Go and get the one you want and bring it back here and we’ll do the exchange.’ So off I went to get my second compass of the evening. I double-checked that this one worked properly before leaving the automotive department. I’m not sure I checked the first one, but I usually do check out things like this. When I got back to the desk she filled out a slip and scanned both compasses and promptly set the new one down on the security tape demagnetizer. I grabbed it up and checked it. Too late - it was ruined. The clerk said ‘Can I help you with anything else?’ I replied “Yes. You can send someone down to automotive to get me another compass. You just killed this one.” After I explained how a compass works and why you don’t put one on the demagnetizer, she sent a co-worker to get another compass from the far corner of the store. I sat on a broken electric shopping scooter and waited. When the other ‘Wal*Mart associate’ returned she had two compasses. One was the one she was supposed to get and the other was another example of the compass that I had just returned. The new compass worked and I made sure it didn’t go anywhere near the demagnetizer. Then I explained why the other compass she had should not be out on the shelf. Now I have no problem with returned items being restocked - if they work and if they are complete. The compass in the package that was crudely stapled back together was missing its mount!

Buyer beware.

Off to the parking lot to find a place to mount my third compass of the evening. After a few minutes experimentation I found that in Galileo my new compass works well centered in the space between the instrument cluster and center console extension about six inches or so forward of the bud vase. Your compass may work better in a different location in your car. I can only report what worked in mine. Buy the way; you should try it with your various electrical accessories turned on since they could affect the compass.

Why is having a dash compass in my car so important to me? After all, I’m not going to be navigating by time on a heading in the fog or out of sight of land as I might in a boat. Well, have you ever gotten turned around in a housing development on a slightly overcast day when you don’t have the angle of the sun as a guide while you’re out chasing down Yard Sales?

While on the subject of accessories (sorry Jeff) I’ve remounted the auxiliary rearview mirror that you may be able to see in some of the interior photographs just below the main inside rearview mirror. It now sits on the dash up forward on the center console’s forward panel. The big suction cup that holds this seems to work - so far… It looks like a little black ET head sticking up from the dash. In this location it actually shows me what’s in all of the blind spots around the back of car. It’s not quite as good as the LaneChangerTM rearview mirror that I have in the Jeep, but it is an improvement. I haven’t worked out what to do with the A-pillar on the drivers’ side yet. I think I’ll either have to develop X-Ray Vision or just learn to live with it.

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3-12-02 - I was out at Wal*Mart this evening looking for shoes to meet the company's new 'dress casual' dress code. I didn't find any. However, there was this really interesting pair of shoes that were marked size 11. I think they must have been taking the rough average of the right one that was a twelve and the left that was an eight or nine. They were actually attached to each other by one of those beaded nylon thingies they use to keep a pair of shoes together. It was really bizarre.

While I was there I stopped by the automotive section to check on their supply of compasses. Sure enough both the compass I had returned and the one that was missing its mount were back out on the shelf waiting for the next unsuspecting shopper. I didn't check, but the other one that the clerk ruined that's like Galileo's is probably there as well. I don't know if it's the help or if it's store policy to restock junk, but I'm getting really sick and tired of Wal*Mart.

The only good thing to come from "Wallyworld" as I call it tonight was an approximately 1:24 scale die-cast Deluxe Micro-Bus towing a 1302 Superbeetle on a duel-axel trailer. Exactly the kind of trailer I wanted to rent to bring Fritz home. I've been collecting die-cast and other toy VW's since I got Fritz. Aside from a few HotWheels and Matchbox cars I've picked up recently I think they have all cost more than the dollar I paid for Fritz. And he's in 12 inches equals a foot scale! One of these days I'll have to put together a page just for the toys.

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Almost as good as a puppy...
June 4, 2002 - I've actually gotten used to having people come up to me to ask about my cars, it happens so often. "How to you like your Beetle?" if I'm out in Galileo, or often "I used to have one of those..." if I'm cruising around in Fritz. It's great fun riding along and seeing someone get punch-buggied as I drive by.

Galileo is a great cruising car. He's got the power to move out on the highway, though I much prefer tooling along on the back roads. I'm much more of a sightseer.

I was going along the Mass. Pike last week while I was on vacation. Mom and I had gone to Springfield to look at some investment property. On the way home I had a very strange experience. I ran over a rather large object in the road that I had completely missed seeing in the road ahead of us. Crunch! I looked in my rear-view mirror to see what the (expletive deleted) that was. I thought it looked like the lower stone guard from a New Beetle. That's the big plastic panel that's under the engine to protect it and especially it's fragile aluminum oil pan. That's odd. How could I possibly have missed something that big? Last night I finally got around to looking under Galileo's nose and sure enough there was no stone guard down there. I didn't see it in the road because it wasn't in the road. It fell off of my poor Galileo himself!


Well that'll have to be fixed ASAP.

The trouble with an oil pan that's made of aluminum is that unlike steel that will dent cast aluminum will crack. It's possible for big chunks to be knocked out of it by stuff that would just bounce off one that was made of steel. If you have an oil pan that fails the next thing to happen is the motor will seize after all of the oil drains out.

That's bad. That's very bad. In fact that's why the engineers at Volkswagen put that stone guard there in the first place. I have no idea why Galileo's fell off, but I do know that he's getting a brand new one as soon as I can get him to the local dealership. I may even drive Fritz to work tomorrow just to reduce the risk of anything (else) happening to Galileo's underside until I can get him fixed.

I'll let you know what happens at the dealership...

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Service with a smile?
6/19/02 - We took poor ailing Galileo to the local Volkswagen dealership the Saturday following the 'Mass. Turnpike Incident.' They did an oil change and - they tell me - replaced the stone guards on Galileo's underside. I remain unconvinced. What is there now looks smaller than what I saw in my rear view mirror. Also, both of the toy New Beetles I have that have detailed undersides have a much larger guard under the engine.

The Car Talk web site has a link to the NHTSA web site where they keep track of problems reported by various people regarding their cars. The single most common problem reported, that I saw, was the guard falling off from under the engine. Naturally the dealership insisted that there isn't a problem. That might incur some liability on their part.

Anyway, the shields that are under Galileo now do not cover his oil pan. I looked under a newer beetle on the lot and they now have a redesigned shield that hugs the shape of the oil pan.

Used to be a big shield. Then the big shields started falling off. Now no shield on cars not under warranty and a smaller redesigned shield on cars that are. Makes you wonder, don't it.

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Latches. Some open too easily, others won't open at all...
12-4-2 What follows was pulled together from an e-mail conversation between myself and a friend that took place over the span of several days. I've tried to pull the various threads together to form a more linear conversation. I'm always amazed at how we so often have three or four sub-plots going on at once within a string of e-mails. For the most part I've only included the bits regarding our cars in this post.

Jeff drives a Honda Civic DelSol . Although it's not as cool as my Beetles (in my humble opinion) it's still a neat little car. Jeff had an ‘incident’ a few weeks ago while out for a ride in his DelSol. Details are on his web site. I'd put a link here, but I'm running a family oriented web site.

To the mail bag:

Herr B.Gone - {regarding a phone call from the night before} Mostly I was calling to say ‘hi’.

So “Hi, Jeff, “

I keep seeing DelSol’s on the road and when I do I say to the driver (who can’t hear me since we’re in separate cars) ‘I know someone who wants your hood!’ How’s it going finding the parts to fix it?

Jeff - {i know a guy} that has a del sol, and he’s tall so he keeps hitting the hood release. he’s also a honda tweaker dude, so he wants to get a new, side- or back-opening hood. he’s just getting up the money to get the one he wants, then ordering it. when it’s installed, i’m getting his old one - cheap.

if i get impatient i might just get a new (non-aftermarket) one, which is ~$300.

either way, i have someone lined up to paint it for non-body shop prices. (yay color codes!) :)

H.B.G. - Good news about the car. I hope he doesn’t take too long, though I would like to see it pre-repair. I’m not sure the picture really shows what happened.

Oh, one last thing fer now – I’ve moved up in the rankings at Yahoo! My Punch Buggy page at the Beetlemania location is now (11-22-2) #5 in the list when you search for ‘punch buggy’. :-)

Jeff - i'm sure your mom is proud of you. :)

H.B.G. - She says she is, though I wonder about her tone of voice… ;-)

{I've since percolated back down some. You know how those things go. At this point in another thread I mentioned trying to save up so we can buy a house.}

Jeff - a particular house?

Yesterday we looked at this place:

[snip huge URL]

Turns out it needs more work than we can do right now. It has great potential though for someone who has the time/money to put into it. Right now we need something we can move right into. Cosmetics are not that important. Things like having a stove that works are. The search goes on...

Jeff - i’m not even going to fight with the URL unless you have a signed P&S.; :)
{P&S;: Purchase and Sale agreement}

H.B.G. - I can’t say I blame you there. Though you won’t get to see the cute pix of the horse poking his head out the side window of the stable…

Jeff - so when (for bul go gi?) {my standard payment fer Jeff's web hosting services}

H.B.G. - Well, this may not be the best week fer it money wise. On Turkey Day I’m taking Mom and {some friends} to diner at The Bull Run. They have an all you can eat Thanksgiving buffet. And they clean up afterwards! ;-)

Also, at some point in the very near future I need to get winter tires for Galileo. It would be nice to get a second set of wheels to mount them on but that will have to wait for another year.

And on top of all of that last night after working fine when we loaded all of the groceries into the way-back the hatch latch wouldn’t release when we got home. I had to fold the back seat down, climb in and hand the stuff out the side door to Mom. That’ll have to be fixed. If I should need the spare the hatch must be opened to get at it. I think the cars money detector went off to trigger that one. What the car doesn’t realize is that what little we have is allocated. We’ve been trying to get at least closing costs put away in the bank so when we do find a house we’ll be able to move on it.

BTW: Do you know anything about New Beetle electric hatch latches?

Jeff - nope, other than it’s more than likely your standard, electrically-triggered hatch latch. therefore, there’s only a few things it could be:
1) is the latch getting power? (do you hear the click?)
2) if so, is the latch triggering?
3) if so, is the hatch frozen for a non-latch-related reason?

1) is the latch getting power? (do you hear the click?)

H.B.G. - Yes

2) if so, is the latch triggering?

H.B.G. - It usually goes “Zzzuuump-thuD”. The “Zzzuuump” being the electrical triggering device (I would presume) and the “thuD” being the hatch opening. It’s going “Zzzuuump- (nothing) ” at the moment.

Jeff - everytime i had that problem with previous cars, it resulted in a cop beating on the latch area with his Mag-lite.

H.B.G. - And the town paying for body work and paint thereafter I should expect!

Jeff - the net value of a 1977 Plymouth Volare station wagon (in the earliest of cases) that’s blue with primer gray polka dots is less than the Mag-lite. i’m lucky they didn’t bill/sue me for any scratches i put in the Mag-lite housing. :)

H.B.G. - ’77 Volare wagon? Why was a cop banging on your bungee chords with his flashlight? :-)

3) if so, is the hatch frozen for a non-latch-related reason?

H.B.G. - I tried pulling and pushing and using heated conversation on it none of which worked. (If the mirrors were ears they would have melted off the car…)

Jeff - you prolly know more about them than i do. i’ll also bet that it’s an intermittent problem, and if you parked it some place warm for awhile, it’d work without issue.

H.B.G. - Could be, though it’s worked on colder days than this in the past and the cabin had been plenty warm.

Jeff - i’ll still go for the “intermittent” thing.

H.B.G. - I’m planning to run the heat* set at “unbearable” on the way home and see if that loosens anything.. I did a visual check last night and didn’t see any evidence of having been ‘tapped’ (ie: backed into) which might have misaligned the latch when it was closed.

* good thing this ain’t Fritz! (Though I can fix almost anything on Fritz myself. (A parenthetical comment in a footnote. Is that allowed?))

Jeff - isn’t there an actual key for this? does that not work? i thought the external VW emblem rotated upward to reveal a pull-handle with a keyhole in it?

H.B.G. - It does. Unfortunately the key is a switch. It activates the electrical unlocking mechanism. I’ve tried the switch on the driver’s door, the remote, the key in the lock, pulling up on the handle with both the remote and/or the key, pushing down with same, pushing up from inside with the remote, swearing…

Nothing worked.

Jeff - so you’ll be using that little plastic tool? the one with the 16 numbers printed on it?

H.B.G. - Looks that way. Hugh. I’ll have to card the door to get in. Hadn’t thought of it that way till just now.

Jeff - the car knows that your warranty has expired. :)

On the way home from work last night I stopped at the garage to get some windshield washer fluid and mentioned the hatch latch to the mechanic there. He listened to my story and to the latch (over the din of a diesel pickup that was idling next to us). He examined the outside of the latch and looked at the hatch. I mentioned the panel inside that you probably have to remove to get at the mechanism. He said I should take the car to Volkswagen. :-(

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