Matt Robinson profile picture Matt Robinson 7 months ago 124
DIY

Working On A Modern(ish) Car For The First Time Was An Utterly Infuriating Experience

My MkV VW Golf GTI may not be that new, but it’s the most modern car I’ve ever worked on. And my, does it make DIY mechanics tricky…

Remind me later
Working On A Modern(ish) Car For The First Time Was An Utterly Infuriating Experience - DIY

I’ve never been much of a home mechanic, but I’ve always tried to do simple jobs like oil changes and general servicing myself. It’s always been on older cars, though, like a 1986 Mercedes 190E 2.3-16, a 1992 VW Corrado and a 1990 BMW E30 318iS; 80s and 90s legends that are all easy peasy to spanner yourself. So, although my current car - a 2005 MkV VW Golf GTI - isn’t exactly a new motor, it’s by far the most modern I’ve worked on. And my god, was it a ridiculous faff to service.

Let’s start with the oil change. When shopping for all the necessary bits online, I was overjoyed to see the oil filter was an internal one. “Ah,” I thought; “it’ll take just a couple of minutes to change that, like the internal filter on my old Merc”. But no. The filter lives in a housing right underneath the engine, and you have to take off the sump guard just to get to it.

Then, you have to remove a drain plug cover - which was as good as seized after being overtightened, by the way - find that the drain plug is hopeless without the special VW tool you’re supposed to use, at which point you’ll probably just accept there’s going to be a slight mess as the remaining undrained oil in the filter housing splashes out. Drain plug cover out of the way, and you have to whip out a 36mm socket to remove the filter housing. Who has a 36mm socket? I certainly don’t, and had to buy one especially for the job.

Everything you have to take off to get to the air filter. And yes, I know my front offside wheel is in dire need of a refurb...
Everything you have to take off to get to the air filter. And yes, I know my front offside wheel is in dire need of a refurb...

Traumatised by what was one of the most needlessly tricky oil changes I’ve ever had to do, I put off changing the air filter for another few weeks. The last time I changed an air filter it took about two minutes and involved popping open a little box, swapping the filter to a nice fresh one, and sticking the lid back on. Not so here. The filter is sealed within the engine cover, so you have to take the whole damn thing off, removing various plugs and pipes and carefully lift the assembly off a quartet of rubber grommets.

Then, you have to undo something like 12 screws and remove a heat shield thing to take the engine cover apart. When I reached this stage, I realised two things: one, the new air filter I’d been sent was the wrong shape, and two, the half-wit who’d last taken the engine cover off had broken it in several places, stripped several screw threads and tried to glue it all back together. The only way there would have been more swearing at that point is if Gordon Ramsey was walking past on a carpet made entirely of Lego bricks, while eating a disappointing soufflé.

Working On A Modern(ish) Car For The First Time Was An Utterly Infuriating Experience - DIY

Removing the engine cover is not easy, so I can see why it had been broken, but bodging it together and sticking it back in the engine bay rather than replacing it makes he or she a cretin of the highest order. Wherever you are, I hate you. Very much.

The engine cover being removed at least meant I could do something productive and change the spark plugs, but I’m now faced with doing the whole job again with a replacement airbox and the right filter.

I (mostly) enjoyed working on my older cars, but there was nothing fun about the work I had to do on my Golf. I’m sure not all modern-ish cars are as painful for the home mechanic, but with the amount of plastic tat you see under the bonnets of cars these days, they just aren’t going to be as easy to spanner as older motors.

What hellishly tricky modern-ish cars have you had the displeasure of working on?