VW Golf 5 GTI - Essential Buyer's Guide

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VW Golf 5 GTI - Essential Buyer's Guide

Post by kingr » Thu Nov 01, 2018 5:44 pm

VW Golf 5 GTI - Essential Buyer's Guide

MK5 GTI Model Years:
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

If you’re in the market for a second hand Volkswagen Mk5 GTI and looking for some buying advice, you’ve come to the right place. This article aims to be your essential buyer’s guide and highlight issues with the Golf Mk5 GTi that you need to be aware of. GTI’s are supposed to be fun cars, but sometimes their recipe can be a hit and miss. The Golf Mk3 & Mk4 GTI were misses, then Volkswagen made a comeback with the Mk5 GTI. This car captures the essence of the Mk1 GTI and lives up to the expectations of a GTI. Today these cars make a great purchase if you want to get your foot into a performance hatchback. Prices have bottomed out really low and bargains can be had, but you must still do your homework and know what you are getting yourself into. Buying this car blindly can cost you a fortune, or leave you with a non-running Mk5 GTI.

The turbocharged 2.0-litre FSI engine produces 147kW, respectable for its era, and can easily be tuned with software updates should you require more. Gearbox options are 6-speed manual or a 6-speed Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG). We recommend the Manual. Overall the car is a great package. It’s practical with 5 doors, handling is agile, the drive is comfortable and the interior classy, with those Recaro bucket seats.


Is It The Right Car For You?
The Mk5 GTI is considered an old car today, and with older cars come higher maintenance costs. The Mk5 GTI was the range-topper when released and expensive to buy new. Although you can buy these cars cheaply today, they can become really expensive to maintain outside of normal servicing costs. It’s a good idea to have some cash available to fix issues that may arise after your purchase.

This a high performance car, so naturally all parts will be more expensive than the bread and butter models. You do have many sources besides Volkswagen to buy parts from, but you need to have a relatively large budget to maintain this car. Buying a aftermarket extended warranty is also a good option to consider, just make sure that the warranty will cover large amounts of the big ticket items like the engine and gearbox. Regular servicing costs can be budgeted for accordingly.

Golf 5 GTI Known Issues
These are common issues you to need be aware of when shopping for a used Volkswagen Golf Mk5 GTI. This list excludes normal wear and tear items like tyres, wipers, brake discs and pads. You can have all these issues fixed by a VW dealership, or save a couple of rands and have it done by a competent independent workshop. Many of the fail parts also have improved revised parts available today. You can replace them with better quality parts to prevent future failure, so do your homework when shopping for parts. These engine issues are also applicable to other vehicles from Volkswagen and Audi that are fitted with the 2.0T FSI engine, like the Audi A3 (8P) for example.

#1 Camshaft Follower - Premature wear

A cam follower is a specialized type of roller or needle bearing, designed to follow cam lobe profiles while the camshaft rotates inside the engine. The 2.0T FSI engines uses a flat faced follower.

Symptoms of failure:
The camshaft follower wear prematurely and can cause your car to sound like a diesel. Sometimes you might have no symptoms, and everything operates as normal. This is a wear and tear part and should be inspected at least every 10,000km or every oil change. And if excessive wear is noticed, these should be replaced immediately to avoid future expenses. If the follower wears completely, it can also damage the camshaft lobes and High Pressure Fuel Pump (HPFP), leading to not only replacement of the follower, but also the camshafts and the HPFP. Big ticket expenses are the kind you want to avoid, so keep your eye on these buggers. Total wear of the follower can also cause the car to go into limp mode, due to low fuel pressure.

Repair cost: +- R1,000 (part only)


#2 PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation Valve) - Failure

The PCV system routes the pressurized vapours from the crankcase to the intake manifold, where it can be burned in the combustion process.

Symptoms of failure:
Different smaller parts inside the PCV can fail, like the rubber diaphragm which can tear, or the smaller orange valve can get stuck. This causes loss of boost pressure, poor idling and misfires. Oil being pushed out of the oil cap and random oil leaks like, for example, around the rear main seal, are other symptoms to watch out for. The Malfunction Indicator lamp on the instrument cluster may also illuminate, triggered by fault codes. A high pitch whistling noise is also a common symptom of failure. Pull the dipstick while the car is idling to relieve the pressure. If the idling remains the same, the PCV is still fine and working as it should. If, however, idling rpm drops, then the PCV needs replacement.

Repair cost: +- R1,200 (part only)

Image - https://changegears.wordpress.com

#3 Diverter Valve (Turbocharger recirculation valve)

When you accelerate, compressed air is forced into the engine by the turbo. When you decelerate and take your foot off the pedal, the Diverter Valve takes the compressed air that’s still inside the engine and recycles it via the intake system.

Symptoms of failure:
Loss of turbo boost, extended turbo lag or a sluggish throttle response.

Repair cost: +- R1,200 (part only)


#4 Air Conditioning Compressor
The Mk5 GTI AC compressor runs permanently, as amusing at that may sound, there’s really no on/off switch, so this compressor is running all the time even when you not blowing cold air inside the car.

The air conditioning compressor failing is quite a common issue and rather expensive to fix on the Golf Mk5 GTI, should you end up replacing the compressor unit. You might get away with a company competent to fix this for you, so do some research with this issue. Fully inspect the air conditioning system when out shopping, and make sure it’s functioning correctly to avoid surprise expenses.

Repair cost: varies on repair type

#5 DSG Transmission (Dual Clutch Transmission)

The DSG semi-automatic gearbox should feel smooth and shift effortlessly, and a complete service history is crucial on the gearbox. If it hasn’t been serviced properly, repairs can become expensive really quickly.

Symptoms of failure:
Delayed gear shifts, hunting, and jerky changes are all bad signs. You should test that the car change gears with the paddle shifters and with the gearbox in manual mode. Also test gear changes at low and high speed. Go from 2nd to 3rd and then down again from 3rd to 2nd, looking out for notchy changes. The Mechatronics unit is generally the culprit that packs up. Clutches can also wear and need replacing. Any fix on this gearbox will be very expensive (R20,000 plus), so opt for a manual car if you don’t want to risk it. Check that the DSG gearbox has the latest VW software, as a dealership may charge an hour’s labour to update the software. This update will optimise DSG adoption and gearbox basic settings.

Repair cost: +- R34,800 (part only)

#6 High Pressure Fuel Pump (HPFP)
The HPFP, is a camshaft-driven pump that pressurizes fuel received from the fuel and then sprays the fuel directly into the combustion chamber.

Symptoms of failure:
The fuel supply to the engine will cut out, especially under wide open throttle (WOT). The car may also go into hard-limp mode with no boost if the failure of the HPFP is extreme. Causes of failure can also be the piston inside the pump seizing, as this pump works hard and pressurizes fuel up to 130bar!

Repair cost: +- R5,000 (part only)

Image - http://www.vwgticlub.co.za

#7 High Oil Usage
The Mk5 GTI is thirsty for oil, you will need to keep your eye on the oil level. Don’t wait for the low oil pressure light to remind you to top up. These cars require a 500ml top-up every 1,000km.

#8 Coil Packs

Coil packs are responsible for supplying your engine with spark, and if the spark is weak, power will decrease and misfires appear.

Intermittent misfires under wide open throttle (WOT) and constant misfires on idle are symptoms of your coil packs on their way out. Audi R8 coil packs are a common direct replacement part, an alternative you should look at before replacing with OEM Mk5 GTI coil packs. The Audi R8 coil packs are also strongly recommended when upgrading to a bigger K04 turbo.

Repair cost: +- R2,700 (part only)


#9 Door/Boot locks
These seem to fail randomly and this is a common issue across the Volkswagen range. Inspect all the door and boot locks for normal operation. All doors should be able to lock with the central locking system and also unlock with the remote. Fixing these can be expensive, so fully inspect the lock operation of all the doors and boot.

Repair cost: +- R3,200 (part only)

#10 Oil Pump failure
The oil pump failing is not very common, but it does happen. Replacing the oil pump itself with a new OEM one will be very expensive, costs will be R20 000 plus. There's a known conversion to save you money on this repair by using the 1.8T oil pump, from our research you will need the 1.8T oil pump, chain and chain tensioner to do the conversion. Along with a competent mechanic to do the installation and a appetite for risk, as this can go south.

If the oil pickup is fine and you get the low pressure warning, then normally the oil pump needs replacing.

#11 Carbon Build-up
The engine design of the 2.0T FSI uses direct injection to get the fuel inside the combustion chamber. This means there are no injectors on the intake manifold. Direct injection is an improvement over multi-port fuel injection, but causes excessive carbon build up over time around the valves, hindering performance. It’s advisable to get a carbon clean soonest after taking ownership of a car fitted with a direct injection engine. The fuel injector tips can also be affected with carbon build-up, so keep your eye on this, as replacing them will be expensive.

There have also been a few cases of carbon build-up blocking the oil pickup. If the “low oil pressure” light goes on, then the oil pickup is a good place to start diagnosing the issue. You can remove the sump and clean it, and also clean the oil pickup and see if this dismisses the “low oil pressure” light. Poor oil can also cause engine sludge and block the pick up, so always ensure you’re using the recommended 5w40 oil and have enough oil in the engine.

Image - http://www.carbondoctor.co.za

#12 Camshaft wear and tear (AXX engines)
The camshafts run directly in contact with the cylinder head. There’s no bearing journal between the two components. This causes excessive wear on both the cylinder head and camshaft over time, with complete failure of the camshaft causing the cams to seize. This issue is mostly present in AXX code engines, but using incorrect oil or protracted driving with low oil levels can also cause this to happen on BWA engines.

  • Minor service @ 15,000km/12 Months
  • Major Service @ 60,000km/4 Years
  • Spark Plugs - Every 90,000km/6 Years
  • Cambelt change - Every 120,000km/6 Years, and it’s recommended to do the waterpump as well. We also recommend doing the cambelt service every 90,000km as preventative maintenance, if you can afford it.
  • DSG Service @ 60 000km/4 Years - Oil change & DSG oil filter
  • Inspect the cam follower with every service
  • Recommended Oil 5w40
  • Brake fluid replacement every 2/3 years
  • 180,000km fuel filter replacement

Maintenance Costs
The servicing costs below are based on OEM VW parts and VW labour rates. You should easily be able to find an independent workshop that can also carry out the maintenance work on a VW Golf 5 GTI, for a reduced cost, so shop around for the best price on parts and labour.

Minor Service (Lube Service)
Parts & labour: R2,300

Parts Only:
Oil 5w40 - R469 for 5 Liters 5w40
Oil Filter - R185
Sump Washer - R23

Major Service (*includes minor service)
Parts & labour: R4,500
Parts & labour (DSG): R8,500

Parts Only:
Oil Filter - R185
Spark Plugs - R800
Pollen filter - R271
Oil 5w40 (5 Liters) - R469
Sump Washer - R23
DSG Oil - R2,700
DSG Filter - R400

Cambelt Change
Parts & labour: R6,800 - R10,000

Parts Only:
Cambelt Kit - R3,875
Water pump - R799.25
Coolant - R328

Brake pads x2
Parts Only: R1,100

Brake discs x 2 replacement
Parts only: R3,175

DSG Mechatronics unit
Part Only: R34,800

DSG Clutch Kit
Part Only: R7,800

Manual Clutch Kit
Part Only: R8,400

Manual dual-mass flywheel
Part Only: R13,000

DSG dual-mass flywheel
Part Only: R16,620

Pirelli 225/40/18 - R1,500 per tyre
Velocity 225/45/17 - R1,100 per tyre

Engine Types
The Volkswagen Golf 5 GTI came with two engines. The AXX (2005 - 2006) was the first generation engine, and then the BWA (2006 - 2009) was the revised engine. You can easily spot the engine type of the car by simply taking a glance at the license disk on the windscreen. The engine code will start with AXX or BWA. We recommend getting the BWA engine if you can, as it’s fitted with revised parts to improve engine longevity.

BWA improved parts:
  • Upgraded oil pump
  • Upgraded cylinder head
  • Upgraded pistons
* note: more differences may exist

Uneven Engine Noises
Uneven engine noise can mask many problems with the car and a step by step examination is the best way to diagnose the exact issue. For example, a rattle that disappears soon after start-up but reappears shorty after a couple of kilometers could indicate a problem with the camshaft-driven high pressure fuel pump. Do an OBD port scan on the car and review the errors returned to start your diagnosis.

Problems due to lack of use
Start by checking the battery if the car you are interested in buying was not used frequently. All interval-based services will still need to have been carried out on the Mk5 GTI and be up to date, even if the car has low mileage. If you do pick up a low mileage car, you still have to do the expensive cambelt service every six years, so keep this in mind when buying your Volkswagen Golf 5 GTI.

Edition 30 Model
Volkswagen marked the GTI's 30th anniversary by producing the Mk5 GTI Edition 30. Unfortunately this car was never available in South Africa. Changes over the standard model included a modified engine bumping the power up to 170 kW, thanks to a bigger K04 turbo being fitted. On the outside, the car also came standard with the Mk5 R32 tail lights and 18-inch multi-spoke wheels. Body styling changes were minimal, with only a colour-coded rear bumper, coloured side skirts and a Vortex front spoiler. Inside the interior was part leather-fitted, with the all-famous golf ball gear knob.

Photos - http://www.performance-car-guide.co.uk

What To Pay?
This really comes down to the condition of the car you are looking at. Early 2005 cars can be picked up for R100,000, and low mileage 2009’s are still going for R189 000. Many Golf Mk5 GTI’s on the market have not been properly maintained after they started going out of the OEM service plan and warranty, so finding a well cared for car with decent mileage will be your first challenge. We recommend going for a car fitted with a manual gearbox and BWA engine.

Check for full service history and also enquire about all the known Golf 5 GTI issues highlighted above. It’s also a good idea to first do a online vehicle valuation to see the trade-in/retail values, then do a history check to make sure you’re not buying a stolen car.

The Volkswagen Golf Mk5 GTI is a car we highly recommend. It’s now an old car, but still very deserving of being called a hot hatch. Also pay for a multipoint check at Volkswagen. With this check the dealership will go over the entire car with a basic checklist, include a diagnostic check and also take it for a short drive. This check is good enough to highlight a lemon, so we strongly recommend it. Doing this could save you tens of thousand of rands in repair costs.

Car Specifications
The South African Volkswagen Golf Mk5 GTI came standard as pretty well specced, although we do recommend getting a car fitted with the factory extras below:
  • Xenon headlights
  • Multifunction steering wheel
  • Heated Seats

The Community
The Volkswagen Golf Mk5 GTI is a car that has a big following and community worldwide. Online forums should be used to do more research about this car and to talk to other owners, and www.vwclub.co.za is a great resource for South Africans to explore.

There’s also a plethora of aftermarket parts and tuners to choose from, should you desire more performance from your Mk5 GTI. You have the option to do bolt on modifications and software tuning, and the brave can also opt to do a full-on K04 turbo upgrade conversion. This is a big performance upgrade, and will require upgrading the fuel injectors to Audi S3 parts, amongst other supporting modifications required for a successful conversion.

  • Ford Focus ST 2.5 non-facelift (2006 - 2008)
  • Audi A3 2.0T 8P non-facelift (2003 - 2008)
  • Honda Civic Type-R (2007 - 2010)

Disclaimer: This is a buyers guide only. Any problem with the car should be diagnosed by a competent and professional technician. All information provided is for information only and is not designed to replace a service manual or professional help. Use at your own risk.
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