Tire Pressure Low, Right Rear (message)

Dreading taking the Alltrack back to the dealer 3 months after buying it new, I lived with this message and low tire pressure idiot light for a week. Naturally I checked the pressure with a gauge when it was triggered, and finding it to be within spec, I decided the car’s right rear tire pressure sensor was bad.

Then yesterday I remembered something in the menus: tire pressure calibration. I did it, and the message is of course gone. Whew.

Ok, I Love My Golf Alltrack’s Backup Camera

What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.

It took me a while, but I’ve begun to love my Alltrack’s backup camera. It’s really good at showing me what’s down the alley — is a car coming? — while reversing out of my garage.

It’s useful for seeing what’s to the sides, not just what’s directly behind, because it uses a wide-angle lens. I’d estimate it’s roughly a 15mm lens viewing angle equivalent in 35mm photography.

Volkswagen calls it a rear view camera.

The Rear View camera helps the driver when he is reversing. The camera image in the display of the radio or radio/navigation system shows the area behind the vehicle.

Rear View helps with parking by superimposing guidelines over the camera image. These show the path the vehicle will take with the current steering wheel setting, and when the steering wheel has to be turned.

This allows the vehicle to be backed up to any obstacle, regardless of whether it is a bumper or a kerbstone. And coupling up a trailer is no longer a problem.

And of course it’s great for simply knowing when you’re close enough to the parked car behind you while you’re parking.

On my Golf Alltrack, I like how the camera is hidden inside the VW logo/liftgate handle. The VW disc flips up automatically when reverse is engaged, and the video from the camera is sent to the infotainment display screen on the dash.

Everything is automatic. I do nothing except put the car in reverse.
What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.
What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.
What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.
What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.
What my Alltrack's screen shows behind me -- AND DOWN THE ALLEY.
What my Alltrack’s screen shows behind me — AND DOWN THE ALLEY.

Backup cameras will be required for all new cars sold starting in 11 months, in the United States. Naturally, this is not applicable to cars made before May, 2018, so if you have a car made up to then you do not need to install a backup camera. It’s not retroactive in other words.

How to Install JB4 on a Golf Alltrack


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Why Burger Tuning JB4 for a Alltrack?

As promised in my VW forum post, here’s my JB4 install guide…

So I wanted a little more power delivered safely — well within the VW 2.0 4-cylinder’s happy place. And I didn’t want even “bolt-on” level of mods. This Burger Tuning JB4 isn’t even bolt-on level because it’s so easily reversed and removed. And at $429 it’s not cheap but it won’t break the bank either.

Additionally, if I didn’t like it I could remove it and sell it fairly easily.

On a new car, that’s the level of commitment I’m comfortable with.

JB4 Install on a 2017 Golf Alltrack – Overview

  • The install took about 2 hours. It’s one of those where the next time you do it it takes 1/2 the time.
  • I removed the battery to get the OBDII wire through the firewall. It makes it so much easier with the battery gone.
  • Some people say they can get the lowest connector done without jacking the car or using ramps. I have no idea how. I didn’t even try without jacking and removing the belly pan/splash guard. Wrong! I tried this last night, a week after the install, and I could get my hand down there. Undid the clip even.
  • Some of the connection clips are difficult to undo. A very small flat blade screwdriver helps, and IMHO is the best tool.
  • Battery terminals: 10mm socket.
  • Belly pan torx: T25.
  • Belly pan bolts: 13mm socket.

I used these sources for reference

  1. Burger Tuning’s JB4 install PDF
  2. JB4 install video
  3. For jacking points, I found this, but it’s really the same as any modern car: use the strong points on the subframe, when raising the front of the car.

JB4 Install Notes and Tips

Plugs B, C and D are pass-throughs. That means they go in-between the female and male connection that are already there. Unplug what’s there, insert the JB4 connector, then put what’s left into the JB4 connector. Of course, the blue AFR wire and OBDII connections you don’t do this with.

JB4 driving and power impressions coming soon in a post here. Also look for a post about the effect of the JB4 on my Alltrack’s MPG.

Spotted VW: Scirocco

In the States, we only got the first generation Scirocco, up to 1981. My friend had a 1979 the same color as this one. I rode in it a million times back in the late 1980s. It was fun and reliable. Not fast compared to cars today with its eye-watering 78 HP, but decent power for what it was back then.  Plus it weighed a fairly-light 2800 lbs, so it didn’t have a lot of mass to move.

Anyway, on this pictured Scirocco, the body looks straight and the paint looks good. Good job, first generation Scirocco owner in the University of Denver area.

My Alltrack Got 41.3 MPG Highway

Measuring Alltrack Highway MPG – Background

This may be overdoing a simple Alltrack highway MPG report, but here it is anyway. This route I’ve driven well over a hundred times. The outbound (from Denver) leg is always worse on fuel economy than the inbound leg.

Summary: my new Golf Alltrack got 41.3 MPG on a 54-mile highway run.

It’s almost certainly the elevation change: Denver is 5280 feet above sea level, Castle Rock is 6224 feet above sea level. That’s a 147:1 ratio when computing the angle, given distance (28 miles on I-25) and height (1000 feet) = .34° incline.

There might be prevailing winds working on this also, I don’t know. It’s routine to get worse economy going to Castle Rock, whatever the case. In my Volvo 850 T5, I’d typically get 27 mpg going out, and 34 mpg coming back.

Golf Alltrack Highway MPG – Route and Distance

Here’s the Denver-Castle Rock route in Google Maps. It’s 57 miles round trip.

Alltrack Highway Economy – Methodology

  • I press the MPG reset button after my Alltrack has gotten up to speed on the highway, after the entrance ramp. This cuts out variables.
  • I don’t hypermile – no drafting, no turning the engine off (which to me has always seemed incredibly dangerous). Just normal driving. I kept the Alltrack in 6th gear the entire trip.
  • My average speed is a few ticks over the posted limit… which ranges from 60 to 75 MPH. I didn’t do a speed run, nor was I a right-lane squatter.
  • The weather was mild. There was no precipitation or strong winds.
  • The load was just me, plus around 20 pounds of miscellaneous stuff in the car. Zero passengers.
  • Fuel octane was premium, 91 octane.

I’m very pleased! I thought I could flirt with 40 MPG before I bought my Alltrack. Then the first week brought fairly dismal fuel economy numbers, and my 40 MPG dream faded. But it turns out those early numbers were engine break-in numbers, and now that I’ve crossed 1000 miles, fuel economy is rising.

Alltrack Ownership Impressions & MPG – One Month Into It

After exactly four weeks of 2017 Golf Alltrack ownership,  here are my fuel economy metrics and overall Alltrack ownership impressions

  • 23 MPG
  • 772 miles driven
  • 43 hours 13 minutes of driving
  • 18 MPH average speed

As you can see, it’s 99% city driving in my manual 6-speed Alltrack. Eighteen MPH average is painful, yes, but it is what it is. I drive often in rush hour city traffic to get my son to and from school, and to take him to various team sports practices and games.

Twenty-three miles per gallon is one MPG better than the EPA city rating, so there’s that. And it’s not off Fuelly’s broad, combined MPG 25.2 average for Alltracks. Therefore I suspect my highway fuel economy will be pretty damn good when I get to see it.

Alltrack Ownership, Alltrack Comfort, Alltrack Impressions

The driver’s seat comfort has improved, or rather, my body has adapted to the car. The first few days my right leg and ankle would feel uncomfortable — the angle of my foot vs. my leg using the gas pedal was greater than that of my prior car, so that initially was a problem. Now my muscles have adapted to the angle and nothing is fatigued any longer.

The seat is fine, and I’ve settled in to my driving position — medium seat bottom height, nearly all the way back on fore-aft track, upright-ish seatback angle.

I’ve washed her once and filled up on 87 octane (US measure) twice.

My Alltrack’s fuel economy is steadily improving.

I ordered a JB4 piggyback tune after declining the VW dealer APR tune at a wallet-crushing $2400.

First Carwash for my 2017 Golf Alltrack – How to Avoid Swirl Marks


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Back to Black Paint (And Other Dark Hues)

Swirl marks are super fine scratches on the surface of your car’s paint. They are most commonly caused by wiping your car with a dry towel when it’s dusty, or by improper washing and drying techniques. Every time you wash and dry your car, you mar the paint surface with microscopic scratches (micro marring). source

swirl marks
swirl marks ugh

Having owned a black car for 17 years, I know about dark colors like black and dark blue, and how they are affected by different washing techniques.

Job #1 is avoiding swirl marks. Job #2 is making the car look pretty.

Trust me, swirl marks kill your soul, and you should do everything you can from the first day to avoid them.

My Volvo came with swirl marks, so I never had a chance with her. They’re Satan’s revenge on dark-colored car enthusiasts for having fun. This time it’s different.

Avoiding Swirl Marks — Tips

This Cars.com article on washing and paint care has some good advice:

  • remove as much dirt as you can with a hose* before you touch the car with anything else
  • use two buckets — one for clean, soapy water and the other as a rinse to get dirt off your washing mitt or towel
  • keep dirt out of the washing process at every step — swirl marks are from contaminants in your washing mitt/towel
  • use car-washing soap, not dish soap
  • use the softest materials you can find
  • pat and dab to dry, don’t rub
  • blow away water with air if possible
  • avoid car washes

Drying a black car incorrectly can be dangerous territory too, so use the right products. “If you are going to use a towel, use a proper scratch-free microfiber drying towel, often in the form of a waffle-weave microfiber drying tower. These are nice because they have less friction points and wick away water,” said Jim Dvorak, product specialist at Mothers Polish.

Technique is important, too. Lay the microfiber towel over a spot and pat it so you’re not dragging the towel across the surface. This blotting technique prevents the towel from dragging across the paint and reduces potential scratches. It’s a technique Phillips uses for black cars.

I just bought Chemical Guys brand Mircofiber Towels from Amazon because what I had (clean cotton rags from a hoodie) wasn’t good enough.

Fluffer Miracle Supra Mircofiber Towel, Blue
Chemical Guys Fluffer Miracle Supra Mircofiber Towel, Blue (24 in. x 16 in.) (Pack of 3)

My 2017 Alltrack’s First Wash

*Beware cold water from the hose hitting hot glass. I cracked a windshield once doing this.

APR Tune at VW Dealer: $2400 – Declined – Maybe a JB1

Aftermarket tunes available from several vendors are $500-$750, and this APR tune specifically is $599 without the labor of installing it, so when my sales guy told me a dealer-approved/installed APR tune for the Golf Alltrack would be 4X as much, I almost fell out of my chair.

A tune is a product that re-writes some or all of the programming on a car’s computer. The goal is more power.

Factory programming usually leaves a great deal of headroom for engine longevity, so getting more power — especially from a turbocharged engine — isn’t difficult. Getting more power out of a non-turbo (“normally aspirated”) engine is very expensive compared to a turbocharged engine.

So why get the tune at the dealer in the first place? The upside of getting the tune at time of delivery is that it’s a dealer-approved modification that doesn’t void your warranty. I was expecting to pay more at the dealer. Keeping the VW warranty intact while enjoying the extra horsepower of a tune is a win-win. But the “lose” in all this is the price.

$2400 is a steep price to pay for 35 HP.

At $2400 it wasn’t even close. At 1-2X, I’d have gone for it. But two-and-a-half grand is absurd.

Alltrack Tune Plan B

Alltrack tune plan B isn't actually a tune, it's a "piggyback".
Alltrack tune plan B isn’t actually a tune, it’s a “piggyback”.

I’ll probably pick up a $379 “JB1” piggyback module for my new Golf Alltrack [very lengthy forum discussion here]. It’s not a tune in the traditional sense, but runs alongside the factory tune on the car’s ECU.

The JB1 is a true user adjustable plug and play solution for all MQB based models in the VW Audi Group range. Power Gains: Starting at 35whp and 35ft lb with 91 octane with + 4.80psi boost over stock on the default setting. Engine estimates are 50bhp gained and 45ft lb.

It’s a configurable device that boosts boost. I might see more MPG if I can keep my foot out of it. And therein lies the paradox: it gives VW 1.8 and 2.0 liter EA888 engines a nice kick to the midrange power. So it’ll be difficult to keep my right foot light. Let’s be honest. I’m not getting this for fuel economy.

Ooops — TDI Models Listed in My Local Dealer’s Site

While shopping for splash guards for my 2017 Alltrack, I was rooting around the Web site of my local VW dealer where I bought my Alltrack almost a month ago, and ran across this. Ooops! 

Not a huge mistake…

Actually, it’s not a mistake at all. VW has been cleared by the EPA to sell 2015  TDI models they’ve fixed. Before research, I thought that page had slipped through Emich VW’s staff, a relic from two years ago.

Here is background on VW’s diesel catastrophe which forced them to stop selling diesels in the US in 2016.

 

Lifetime MPG Improves to 22.9 MPG – Golf Alltrack

… and by lifetime, I mean three weeks and 623 miles. After the first week of exploring the Alltrack’s power, I’ve moved to the Gentle Zone of Fuel Economy Zen, where I short shift to keep the RPMs down.

Dictating Notes via CarPlay Works

For the fun of it — not expecting much in terms of success  — I used CarPlay to create a note. Like most others out there, I think of things while I’m driving.

I didn’t know any keywords or how to go about it. I just said “Create new note” and Siri responded by asking what I want the note to say, and we went from there.

Notes land in the iCloud section
Notes land in the iCloud section. As good a place as any… maybe better, because right off they’re available not only on my phone, but on my Mac laptop and iPad also. Plus, they’re backed up more reliably than my home backup system allows.

Not only did it work straight up, I found the notes pretty much where I’d expect them — in my iPhone 7’s Note app. Very cool.

After not having any trouble with the voice command “Create new note” and dictating my thought, I did another. This makes driving “productive” in that I can dictate thoughts as they come to me and save them in a format (Notes app) that makes it easy to share and edit. I’m happy.

For what it’s worth, I’ve found iOS to be near 100% at transcribing my voice. I can’t remember the last time I had to repeat something.

Don’t Lose Those Two Keyfobs You Get

The first note I made was because of a bit of a revelation. There are no keyholes on the Alltrack doors. There is nowhere to insert a key on the outside of the car. There’s the ignition, and that’s it.

If the keyfob doesn’t unlock the doors, you’re not getting in your Alltrack. Well, you’re not getting in that moment… there’s always Car-Net. See my Car-Net posts.  With Car-Net, you can (supposedly — haven’t tried) unlock your VW from the Car-Net app, or call them and they’ll do it remotely.

Infotainment/Carplay Sometimes Forgets What It’s Doing

The second note I made while driving was that the infotainment system sometimes has glitches. For instance today I did the usual CarPlay directions command (hold down the driver talk button on the steering wheel) to get the best route to my destination. Siri read back my command which was correct, then the system glitched and the Sirius XM station resumed playing. No route, no error message, no explanation.

Press the talking head button on the steering wheel
Press the talking head button on the steering wheel to trigger all this stuff. It’s how you begin any CarPlay interaction.