Home » Here’s What Happened When A Mechanic Bought One Of The Cheapest Running MK5 Volkswagen Golf GTIs In America

Here’s What Happened When A Mechanic Bought One Of The Cheapest Running MK5 Volkswagen Golf GTIs In America

Gti Dumpsterfire 2
ADVERTISEMENT

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?

Welcome to a new daily series here at the Autopian! Like many car enthusiasts, we watch a lot of videos from perhaps countless creators across YouTube. Some of these folks test tools, others produce high-quality motorcycle reviews, and some YouTubers make us feel a bit better about our own car decisions.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

And who can forget legends that are always a good watch? Looking at you, John Davis from MotorWeek! There are so many awesome creators out there, big and small, and we want to shine a light on their great work.

So, kick back, watch a video or a few, and maybe subscribe to the folks you like who show up here.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Screenshot (413)

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:

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Screenshot (420)

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!

Screenshot (417)

Screenshot (416)

ADVERTISEMENT

Screenshot (419)

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.

Screenshot (421)

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Screenshot (408)

Screenshot (414)

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.

Screenshot (424)

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Screenshot (425)

Screenshot (426)

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Screenshot (429)

Screenshot (432)

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.

Screenshot (412)

ADVERTISEMENT

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)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

Relatedbar

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
47 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Swedish Jeep
Swedish Jeep
7 months ago

I was on that jalopy website for years and now this one and If I’ve learned anything it’s never buy any Volkswagen (or Rover) product that isn’t under warranty- or if it does have one, it will always be broke and you’ll hate every minute you own it except when you’re actually driving it (which is rare because they are POSs).

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru
7 months ago

There’s a 2007 Fahrenheit GTI for sale in Pontiac right now for $5k, if there was more of a description than “Car works great, looking to sell it”, and I hadn’t just bought a high-mileage BMW 335d, I’d be tempted to buy it. Looks like it’s at least in better shape than this one.

Clark B
Clark B
7 months ago

I loved my MKV GTI. Never had many issues with it, but that’s probably because someone hit me and totaled it shortly after hitting 60k miles. It was a perfect car–a sensible daily driver with room for passengers or cargo. Comfortable on the road, even with aftermarket suspension. And on weekends, a blast at track days.

My 2014 Sportwagen rides on the same platform as the MKV Golfs, despite cosmetic tweaks on the exterior and interior. After driving a 2012 CC for several years, it was wonderful to get behind the wheel of the Sportwagen for the first time and be reminded of my GTI. The wagon is just a tune away from being comparable in performance to my old GTI as well, but I’m holding out till my Dieselgate warranty expires.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

$2k for the car, $2k in parts, $40k in shop hours.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
7 months ago

Just a couple of days ago I saw a mint Fahrenheit edition in the parking lot at my local library. It was beautiful.

Even so, I think $500 would have been a fair price for one in this state.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
7 months ago

I’m wary of any VW newer than 1984 so I’m not resurrect an A5 GTI material.
For an incredibly in depth niche check out Squatch253 and his Playlist of an epic multi-year restoration of a 1930s Caterpillar D2 complete with rebuilding three starting engines and building a track press out of scrap I beams and a 50 ton hydraulic ram

Phuzz
Phuzz
7 months ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

It’s weird, here in Europe VW’s have a reputation for reliability. Maybe not up to Japanese standards, but better than Opel/Vauxhall or Ford (of Europe). Probably on par with BMW, but cheaper.
I’ve owned a lot of VW’s, and I know plenty of other people who have as well (plus Skodas etc.) and while they’ve not been perfect, they have been generally less trouble than some other brands. (Between them, my brothers have owned at least three Ford Focus’s, and they’ve regretted all of them).
The only explanation I can think of for their terrible reputation in North America, is that you must have to pay a lot more for parts, and I suppose mechanics are more familiar with them over here.

I drive a boring SUV
I drive a boring SUV
7 months ago
Reply to  Phuzz

I live in Europe and that is something that completely mystifies me. All VWs have endless lists of well-known problems, and people STILL buy them and think they’re reliably because gErMaNcaRsss.
They have been living off the reputation they built in the 90s, but that is loooong gone now. I would not put my hard-earned moneny into ANY German car today.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
7 months ago

VW’s rep in the US is variable. We had 4 A1 platform cars, and they were basically reliable because the bugs were worked out by 1980. The A2 cars also had a decent reputation but the A4 generation were simultaneously sold in large numbers and suffered a lot of minor failures, electrical, leaks etc. plus more major issues than earlier models. The more complex models like the Touareg, Phaeton, B5 Passat etc.

GertVAG
GertVAG
7 months ago

While my caddy 1.4tsi have been faultless up to 150k kms right now … other vag products I owned were of the same cloth. Would buy again.

R Rr
R Rr
7 months ago
Reply to  Phuzz

On this side of the pond we have some issues not present in Europe (or not to the same extent), like
a). crap quality fluids (gasoline – used to eat away the Nikasil cylinder coating in BMW engines, diesel – causing high-pressure fuel pump failures for decades, oil – thanks to Castrol’s win in the trade dispute with Exxon “full synthetic” was deemed just a ‘marketing term’, so gr.3 oils)
b). we are used to low-compression lazy V8s invented in the 50’s for which most ‘maintenance’ is optional or ‘delayed indefinitely’, that’s not the case with any performance, high-strung modern engine (or DSG trans)
c). I’ve seen some dishonest & incompetent mechanics in Europe, but they’re the exception there, while here they are the rule, and that includes dealerships

Last edited 7 months ago by R Rr
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago

Isn’t orange one of nature’s colors that signify danger?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
7 months ago

Well what have we learned here:
1. No matter how good a mechanic you are you are a moron to buy any car site unseen.
2. If you buy a car site unseen you are more of a clown to follow as opposed to a mechanic because it is stupid to buy a car unseen except for internet content.
3. Even good car sites are going away from quality content to a Look how stupid I am and follow.
Now I love the writers here because they write what they know, admit there mistakes, and risk embarrassing mistakes. But this guy a VW Mechanic with VW contacts? Yeah it is fake. I bet he knew everything about the car and everything he was going to do like most fake reality shows.

Last edited 7 months ago by Mr Sarcastic
Martin English
Martin English
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Just a visual of the car (the headlights, the lack of a park function) let alone an ODB scan (airbags etc) show that the car was unsafe to drive.

But he drove it over 700 miles, risking not just his life, but other road users.
Don’t be irresponsible.
Don’t encourage irresponsible people.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
7 months ago

I’d be all about picking up one of these too Mercedes if I was an ex VW tech with a full home garage, lifts, tools, and fixing it could be my job as I churned out all that sweet content…but given none of that is try I’ll leave it to Mr. Humble.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
7 months ago

“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.”
Ha, a bit of synchronicity here, as seeing how this article was posted around the same time:
https://www.theautopian.com/a-look-at-the-first-automatic-transmission-that-you-could-put-into-park/#comments

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
7 months ago

Not strictly germane to the story, but have to say I’ve always enjoyed Mercedes’ quirky fondness for John Davis and Motorweek.

Having watched it back in its heyday, I always found it this weird mix of vehicle enthusiasm on valium with surprisingly useful real-world info, delivered by an implausible middle-aged guy in a golf windbreaker. It was the kinda show you could snooze to on a lazy Saturday afternoon but that you’d also remember when shopping for a new car yourself (“yeah, a 6 ft person *can* fit back there, I’ve seen it done!”)

They’d test everything from econo cars to exotics, and even motorcycles (fun fact: one of their test riders was none other than flat track legend Gary Nixon!)

Myk El
Myk El
7 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I used to watch it religiously just because it was clearly made by enthusiasts but wasn’t made for enthusiasts. Now they show it on the local PBS on Sunday mornings, usually around when I have breakfast. I’m enjoying it.

Torque
Torque
7 months ago
Reply to  Myk El

In the 80s/90s there really weren’t that many auto shows. John’s shouting presentation style always seemed weird to me though clearly it was effective given his success (being the show presenter for decades)

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
7 months ago

Well, it’s orange!

Enker
Enker
7 months ago

I remember when my buddy scrimped and saved for a year to be able to buy a car, walked over to the used car lot, and bought one of these. I remember riding in it with him, he was driving a little scared because it was new to him and a huge investment for him. We stopped at a dirt lot and I showed him how to do handbrake turns in it. Buddy was absolutely enamored with it.

7 months later, we are gonna go hang out, and he asks for a ride. Turns out that everything in the car stopped working a second time in 6 months, and he couldn’t afford to fix it again. Off to the junkyard it went and back to walking to work he went.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago
Reply to  Enker

That’s sad 🙁

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
7 months ago

Looks perfect for shoving in a Maxspeedingrods K04 and a 28 psi two-step tune. Add Rub-V-Dub banner to lower windshield and your set!

ShouldaboughtaHonda
ShouldaboughtaHonda
7 months ago

I had a 2007 GTI and had many of the same issues this one has. When the car ran right, it was great. Something was always wrong. It was about to turn 200K, and I managed to sell it while it was running fine and no CEL. Two days after I sold it the new owner emailed me asking if I had any idea why the CEL had just come on.

Last edited 7 months ago by ShouldaboughtaHonda
Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
7 months ago

Two days after I sold it the new owner emailed me asking if I had any idea why the CEL had just come on.”

https://media.tenor.com/25Hi28SAcCgAAAAd/i-dont-know-compilation-dont-know.gif

Steve Balistreri
Steve Balistreri
7 months ago

I’ve always just accepted that if you own a VW, the CEL will probably be on. I used to have a Mk3 with a permanent CEL. One day it turned off by itself and I started worrying 😀

John Beef
John Beef
7 months ago

If I had a beard that long and was a mechanic, I’d always have scissors in my pocket just in case the beard got too close to a running serpentine belt or something.

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
7 months ago
Reply to  John Beef

You get used to it. I usually just tuck mine into my t-shirt. Its mostly a problem when I’m using a drill to get out broken hardware.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
7 months ago

This just makes me sad. I’m glad Charles got it and will do it right.

In other news, I would like to wholeheartedly nominate Sarah-N-Tuned for this column. I’m sure (or I hope) quite a few have seen her videos, but she does a truly phenomenal job on her builds, refuses to shove sponsorships down peoples’ throats and is a breath of fresh air from all the dude bros and screaming at the camera that’s so common across YouTube now (and especially automotive YouTube). She does lots of reviews and builds on cars I don’t really have any interest in, but I eat every video up like a 7 year old in front of a chocolate fountain because she’s so refreshing and the quality of her work is genuinely stunning.

Bearddevil
Bearddevil
7 months ago

Seconds on the Sarah-N-Tuned rec. She does really good work, and the videos are very honest about the good and bad parts of wrenching on cars. I’ll nominate the two-english-guys-in-a-french-barn channel that is Oliver Pickard, who is building a mid-engine sports car from scratch with his dad. Great long-form videos that go into ridiculous detail on the engineering choices that go into making a car.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
7 months ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

I have new things to watch now. Sweet! Thanks! Sounds vaguely like bad obsessions and their mini, lovely.

Mannish
Mannish
7 months ago

Thirding for Sarah! I loved her series where she completely restored her grandma’s old Ranger. :3

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
7 months ago
Reply to  Mannish

That series was so amazing! Such attention to detail, and you could tell the love she was pouring into it because of her personal connection.

Staffma
Staffma
7 months ago

The mere sight of the check engine light in this era VW sends chills down my spine. My moms’ Passat had all of the listed faults of the 2.0L.

Fredzy
Fredzy
7 months ago

I can’t help but think if it weren’t for a YouTube content creator wanting to make some suffer porn, the only possible next stop for this thing would be the crusher.

Speaking of that, has Autopian ever done an article about when/how cars eventually get sent for scrap? From my understanding it can be pretty surprising how “nice” of a car typically get sent to The End.

Lightning
Lightning
7 months ago
Reply to  Fredzy

Yes, there are a couple articles in the new series “Gossin’s Gold: Graveyard Garbage & Grievance”. Search under Stephen Walter Gossin.

Otter
Otter
7 months ago
Reply to  Fredzy

I wouldn’t call it suffer porn. If you’re a VW expert who needs content, this is a great car, and could be very profitable as a flip. Watching it on YouTube is as close as the rest of us should get.

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
7 months ago

I sold my Mk5 in similar condition to the junkyard for $1k. I still feel like I won that deal. My wife didn’t want me to sell it, but I couldn’t take constantly buying new parts.

Steve Balistreri
Steve Balistreri
7 months ago

I had a Mk5 GTI and it was a great car. Props to Charles for doing what no other sane person would dare to do and fix this pile. Its a fairly rare special edition so its nice its being saved.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
7 months ago

While any generation of Golf makes a great GTI, I would suggest that the Mk V is the least desirable. This is because I absolutely LOVE the 5-banger in the stock Mk V Golf. With a manual, of course.

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
7 months ago

I always preferred the round, bubbly look of the Mk5 over the newer ones. My boss said it looked like a shoe and that always stuck with me.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
7 months ago

I daily a MkV with a stage 1 tune and love it (when it isn’t telling me to fix something). I can’t imagine the stock engine being better.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
7 months ago

The Mk5 GTI was also the beneficiary of one of the best ad campaigns of all time.

“Time … to unpimp … ze auto!”

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
7 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

“Oh, snap!”

Jacob Rippey
Jacob Rippey
7 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

These still live rent free in my head. “Looks like it could fly!”

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
7 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

“You get a F.”

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
7 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Yes, unpimp ze auto is still a valid comment on many things, especially Toyota Tacomas.

47
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x