Well, time for a reality check…

Attempting to replace all 4 calipers, the lines that feed them, the master cylinder, and install a hopefully better fitting right rear ABS sensor. After some minor battles the front and right rear calipers have been fitted. The old front brake lines won’t come off without twisting to destruction the next line going up towards the master cylinder. The rear brake lines fit something, but not this car. The ABS sensor fit after I reduced it’s diameter a bit to fit the hole in the aftermarket stub axle I fitted a couple months back. I’m gonna do the last caliper after a break and attack the master cyclinder tomorrow- No snow and high temps in the 40s here in Southwest Minnesota so I’m going outside this afternoon!

This is par for the course for 10+ year old cars- I’ve got the cab off my ’98 Ranger and the rolling chassis sitting in front of the shop awaiting my attention, and it’s a real horror story of chassis rust and won’t fit parts compared to the VWs. But the damn Ranger has only 92k miles on it, I bought it new, engine uses no oil and cab has no holes so I ain’t scraping’ it yet. With equivalent new Rangers starting at $30k, seems to be worth saving for the times I need a bit more hauling capacity than the Golf TDIs offer. Same thing sees to be happening all over the gearhead world- Historic truck websites that were started by people restoring quarter century and older trucks are turning into repair and even total rebuild virtual clinics for poor folks trying to hopefully make a living with decades old Macks and such. It’s not unusual to hear of rebuilds from new frame rails up and replacing half the cab panels then engine and transmission rebuilds. 

All that sounds heroic and a shot back at the greedy manufacturers and the EPA, but “rust never sleeps” and metal fatigue is real- Just had an axle shaft break on one of my 20+ year old sidecars the other day. Looking at the underside of my ’03 Golf during seconds of much needed distraction I can see all the telltales of rust and have to admit it’s only got a couple, maybe five years left. Then there’s the economics- Cost me $17k with tax 17 years ago, so it’s cost about $1000 a year to keep in my driveway. But the latest parts order was about $600 and it’s ate a couple hundred dollars worth of parts several times and a $500 set of tires in the past few years- So it’s costing as much as a newer car without the peace of mind. I’m seeing this all over- Like the guy who bought a 15 year old Mack for $15k, spent $20K on a rebuilt engine a couple years in, and now it’s sitting in his back yard because the frame is shot and it won’t pass a DOT inspection… Makes $100K for a new truck look like a good deal.

So if you’ve got an unrusted A4 that needs no major work, it makes sense to keep it until it does. But the average A4 here in the rust belt already has at least one wheel in the junkyard, and it’s pretty much the same story for any vehicle of that age. I realize some folks keep the old cars because they can’t get a loan on a new one, but it makes no sense to totally rebuild rusting A4s when newer TDIs have plenty of life in them and an excellent engine and emissions warranty. For me, having driven VW diesels for the last 4 decades I’ve saved enough $$$ that I can splurge on gas hogs every couple years, but old habits die hard. So I’m gonna put my A4 back together the best I can, park it in the driveway in case my Golf 7 TDI breaks down, and shop for a new car… Maybe a Golf 8 R?