A guilty pleasure of mine is finding out just how cheap certain Volkswagen models get, and then, for some odd reason, I go out and buy them. Unsurprisingly, these cars are often piles of junk, yet I keep doing it, anyway. Thankfully, I’m not alone in these ill-fated endeavors. Charles Sanville the Humble Mechanic, perhaps best known around here for fixing Jason’s wife’s terrible Tiguan, just picked up the cheapest MK5 VW GTI he could find, and it is full of entertaining sadness. Who needs working headlights, anyway?
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Today, we have a video that is equal parts entertaining and will probably be used as ample evidence against buying old Volkswagen products. Charles, who goes by the moniker the Humble Mechanic, is a Volkswagen enthusiast and technician. This is a combination that leads to some incredible content about what goes wrong with Volkswagens, how to fix them, and why people love these cars in the first place. I’ve personally learned a lot from Charles’ content and admittedly, was pretty starstruck when I got to meet him at last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. Jason got to meet him, too, when his wife’s Tiguan’s timing chain tensioner took a dump, resulting in some engine internals getting all touchy-feely with each other.
A couple of days ago, Charles uploaded a video showing off his latest purchase. Charles flew to Southern Indiana to pick up a Volkswagen Golf GTI MK5 Fahrenheit Edition. He picked this car up sight unseen, then drove it over 700 miles back to North Carolina. As with any dirt-cheap Volkswagen, shenanigans ensued.
Why would you do such a thing? Well, the GTI is one of those cars that people who aren’t even Volkswagen fans will recommend. The GTI is an affordable performance hatch that retains plenty of practicality. It’s a car that gets you to work, takes the kid to school, and can be your weekend toy in one attractive package. Each generation has its fans and the MK5 brought some measurable improvements. Volkswagen says the MK5 brought on sharper looks, new wheels, a new 200 HP turbo four, and the introduction of Volkswagen’s direct-shift gearbox, or DSG.
Volkswagen also describes the Fahrenheit Edition:
The Fahrenheit GTI distinguishes itself from others in the lineup with its electrifying orange exterior color that is sure to turn heads. Each distinctive vehicle includes “Fahrenheit” badging and a unique vehicle number displayed on a three-spoke perforated leather steering wheel. This special edition also boasts a European sport-tuned suspension; 18-inch alloy wheels; leather top sport heated seats; a sunroof; Fahrenheit orange interior accent trim; Fahrenheit orange stitching on the floor mats, DSG boot, brake handle and steering wheel; and optional Sirius Satellite Radio.
Anyway, what do you get with a GTI showing 222,000 miles on its odometer? Charles started on the inside, where there was a lot of dirt and grime along with torn surfaces. Someone even managed to get a coin into the 12V socket, shorting that out. But more importantly, both of the door windows did not work. Charles had to force the driver window down with a scan tool.
Now, the window is stuck down, which is an improvement. Apparently, nothing electric-powered in the passenger door worked at all. The wiring in both doors looked fine and the fuse was fine, so Charles figures there may be something sinister going on causing these doors to be inoperative. His list of interior faults continues with a non-functional sunroof, a radio that doesn’t turn off with the key, broken interior bits, and of course, the requisite falling headliner. I know how you feel there, Charles!
Moving to the instrument cluster, the car shows it’s definitely getting into that holiday spirit a little early this year. There’s a flashing TPMS light, an airbag light, a light fault light, what appears to be the traction control light, and the check engine light just for good measure.
We’re now finally done with the interior and Charles shows us what’s going wrong with the exterior. Starting right away, the rear wiper has left the chat and the tailgate does not open from the outside due to some iffy wiring repairs. The formerly fantastic orange paint is fading and falling apart while the front end is just knackered after an encounter with a deer.
In addition to the smoked front bumper, the poor car has broken fog lights and quite possibly the worst headlights I’ve ever seen.
The left one was barely held in and not even working. The right headlight worked but was internally broken, so also useless. Poor Charles was guided only by the light of the sole functional fog light.
Other sad and hilarious exterior problems include poor sunroof alignment, a door lock that just spins, and the car didn’t even have a gas cap. The seller of the vehicle was kind enough to provide replacement aftermarket headlights. Unfortunately, the new lights were halogen units while the car uses Xenon lights, so they weren’t quite correct.
Under the hood, Charles tells us all of the common faults with the 2.0-liter turbo four BPY engine. These include high-pressure fuel pump issues, oil leaks, intake manifold faults, turbo faults, and so much more. Ah, Piech era Volkswagen. Amazingly, this BPY looked surprisingly good. The engine had a recent timing belt job and there are relatively minor problems. The plastic on the high-pressure fuel pump is snapped and the fuel sensor’s pin is getting pulled out.
Under the car, Charles explains that this GTI’s DSG was replaced at one point. There’s a lot of broken plastic under there, which isn’t surprising given the mileage. Oil leaks are present from the turbo’s boost pipe and from the engine oil filter. Charles shows us split tie rod and CV boots as well as rusty aftermarket axles. There’s also oil all over the underside of the vehicle, either indicating a current leak or repairs from a previous problem. The suspension is also likely to be original. Despite all of that, Charles says the underbody isn’t that bad.
With the car back on the ground, Charles notes beat-up wheels and worn tires before hopping in and showing us a quirk with the replaced DSG unit. Apparently, the Park position does nothing and the car just rolls.
Next, Charles scans the car for faults and the result was 37 fault codes. The list includes a system lean fault, EVAP leak, and misfires, plus a whole host of airbag problems, a non-functional air-conditioner, and more. Add all of this together, and Charles says the car drives like it’s severely down on power. The suspension also has a lot of creaks. But, most of the mechanical faults could probably be fixed by going through the engine and transmission.
Charles admits the MK5 isn’t his favorite generation of GTI, but explains that these cars can be cheap, and thanks to expansive knowledge, you could successfully have one as a project car. He goes on to explain that he paid $2,000 for this disaster, a far cry from its $27,665 base price. Most of the value in this car is in the fact it’s a 1 of 1,200 Fahrenheit Edition. Otherwise, it would probably be worth closer to $500.
Charles reminds us that while the car needs a lot of work, it still drove over 700 miles back home. So, it’s bad, but it could have been worse. This video makes me want to take a chance on a dirt-cheap GTI. No, that’s probably bad for me. If you’re interested in following this car’s journey, watch more of Charles’ shenanigans on the Humble Mechanic YouTube channel. It’s good fun and if you’re even slightly interested in Volkswagens, you’re bound to learn something new!
(Screenshots: Charles Sanville)
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