This past week we had the opportunity to work on a rare Volkswagen Jetta. “Huh, what do you mean rare, like stunt car from the Fast & Furious rare?” Okay, maybe rare is a bit of a stretch, but unique would be fair. The reason being – 2005 was the only year the MK4 Jetta came with R-line trim, suspension, wheels, body kit, & the like from factory. This eleven year old Volkswagen had less than 70,000 miles on board to boot.
The customer brought us the vehicle the same day as purchase due to the exhaust firing like an automatic rifle. The previous owner had cut out the catalytic converter, resonator, and muffler from the exhaust – although it would need a catalytic converter to legally pass a VA State Emissions Test. There are a handful of car enthusiasts that sport this aftermarket setup (albeit illegal in Virginia), but this customer was not one of them. He was more interested in having it legally pass all the DMV tests to avoid any hassles during the annual state inspections.
He was also planning to run performance tuning down the line, so we opted for a performance exhaust. We turned to the professionals at 42 Draft Designs, in Millersville MD for their knowledge in the performance world. For this vehicle, they recommended a 3inch diameter downpipe from the turbo, and 2.5inch diameter pipe for the remaining exhaust. To pacify the exhaust noise down to a tolerable level, they paired a resonator downstream from the catalytic converter, and finished it off with a magnaflow muffler. This custom exhaust order would take several days to fill but the customer was willing to wait for it to be done right!
It wasn’t until the new exhaust arrived that we noticed a potential “wrench in the works.” While the previous owner had modified the exhaust, the original exhaust was never actually removed – only certain pieces cut out. The eleven-year-old bolts securing the downpipe to the back of the turbo had collected a large amount of rust, and these particular bolts are notorious for stress breaking on removal. If one of the studs were to shear, the turbo would have to be entirely removed in order to drill out the remainder of that broken stud. This was a major concern because the labor needed for this simple exhaust install would triple. So after a few prayers to the car gods – we went to work on those suspect downpipe bolts.
Per the course for rusted hardware, we rolled out the torch. Evenly distributing the heat until the nut glows bright red causes it to expand and takes stress off the stud it’s being removed from. So, with torch and ratchet in hand we carefully worked our way around the downpipe hardware. To our amazement, were able to take off all four bolts with minimal damage! Of the four, only one bolt dragged and minorly cross threaded its stud. After cleaning up all the threads and ordering new nuts we were ready to move on. A few more bolts removed and some extra leverage from a prybar, we dropped the remainder of the exhaust from the car.
With the worst behind us, we began unpackaging the new exhaust. Assembling it was like opening presents Christmas morning – the pipes had perfect clearance, sensor wells were accurately placed, hangar brackets were in OEM locations, and the elbows were mandrel bent like factory. Although, our favorite part of the kit were the welds – each joint had the classic appearance of a ‘stack of dimes,’ and gave off a prism-like shine that reflected bright colors. With the fresh mounting hardware supplied, the install took no time at all, and was the fastest part of the entire process. It had a great stainless steel look once it was installed on the car – and hey did we mention those welds?? With a quality bolt on package like this, our customer should not have to worry about replacing the exhaust for the life of the car!