Tech Tips: 1999-2005 VW Golf GTI

[Editor's Note: This story ran in our April 2017 issue. Some information may be slightly different.]

Meet our expert:
Collin Gyenes 
Techtonics Tuning
 (503) 843-2700

Collin Gyenes has been servicing and building fast Volkswagens with Techtonics Tuning since the early 1980s. He’s very familiar with the MkIV GTI and has some tips for our readers.

All of the MkIV cars are good, but the cream of the crop are the ones armed with the 1.8-liter turbocharged drivetrain and the 2.8-liter naturally aspirated VR6.

If you’re shopping for a MkIV GTI, you may want to focus on the state of the interior. For the first few years of that generation, the interiors are their weakest link. They don’t tend to hold up well to constant wear and tear.

For the 1.8T cars, the ones made in 2002 and later have the more desirable 180-horsepower engine. Likewise, the late-2002 VR6 cars will come with the 201-horsepower, 24-valve engine rather than the 12-valve engine. Both turbo and naturally aspirated engines are good. The turbo makes more power with modifications, but the VR6 is a very smooth, high-revving engine. You can decide between the two simply based on preference.

The 1.8T is a very good engine, but to ensure dependability it must have regular oil and timing belt changes. The timing belt is best changed between 80,000 and 100,000 miles. The plastic cooling flanges need to be changed and checked, too.

The VR6, whether 12-valve or 24-valve, needs new timing chains about every 130,000 miles. This can be an expensive endeavor for a shop to complete. The transmission has to be pulled to get to the chains.

Some of our favorite hop-ups for the turbocharged engines include an aftermarket down-pipe and exhaust. Those two pieces can get you up to 20 more horsepower. Add an aftermarket ECU and you can see another 40 to 60 horsepower. An aftermarket diverter valve is another popular upgrade.

The VR6 engine also benefits from an aftermarket exhaust (7 to 10 horsepower). Cams are another good upgrade. Both the 12-valve and 24-valve cars benefit from a cam setup of either 264/260 degrees or 268 degrees. This upgrade can net a 12-valve car 10 to 16 horsepower, and a 24-valve car can see about a 17-horsepower bump. The 24-valve cars get the most out of a 264/260 setup. A software upgrade is also good for about 11 to 16 horsepower.

If you want to upgrade your suspension, consider A-arm bushings from an R32 as well as new HD shocks and springs.

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View comments on the GRM forums
TR7 New Reader
5/11/17 11:14 p.m.

On the suspension side you can put in the Audi TT spindle to get some better geometry, just flip the tie rod around. Partsgeek also has TT lower control arms ($88 each!) loaded with the above mentioned bushings and moog balljoints. That will gain some camber adjustability. And if you are doing all this, it's likely that changing the struts is in the plans anyway, and surprise! TT struts will fit, and also provide a convenient mounting point for the swaybar mount lost swapping to the updated control arms. Just add a universal 18" ball end sway bar endlink from white line. (No need to swap to a TT sway bar). If lowering is in the plans, be aware that there is a short and long version of the bumpstops for the standard and sport cars. All GTI brake gear will fit, and fit under 15" wheels. Larger rotors will fit with TT caliper bracket, but larger wheels are needed. The rear end can be stiffened up on the cheap with some springs from the Jetta sedan or wagon.

smokindav Reader
5/12/17 5:37 a.m.

The MkV and newer are much better cars - please do a write up on them.

jonnyd330 Reader
5/14/17 7:46 a.m.
smokindav wrote: The MkV and newer are much better cars - please do a write up on them.

But thr mk4 is better looking

einy Reader
5/14/17 7:20 p.m.
smokindav wrote: The MkV and newer are much better cars - please do a write up on them.

I second this request ... MkVI please!

Dootz Reader
10/18/19 12:38 a.m.

Guys, the Mk6 writeup is literally on the sidebar of this page:

10/18/19 1:52 a.m.

I have an 04, automatic, 4dr, 2.0! Timing belt busted on me. I am looking for some options. I may go new motor, but uncertain. I am looking for some ideas/options! 

aw614 Reader
10/18/19 7:22 a.m.
jonnyd330 said:
smokindav wrote: The MkV and newer are much better cars - please do a write up on them.

But thr mk4 is better looking

It brought us a generation of paint eating stance bro VW owners lol.

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