Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Close Effort...

It was that time again to replace the rear brakes on my 2004 Golf TDI. With the car up on jack stands I discovered that only 5% of my rear pads remained while the fronts still had 80% remaining. How odd is that?

Armed with my brand new Mastercraft Impact Gun and Socket Set, I was going to complete the brake change completely myself. I admit that I felt nervous, but also excited that I was going to try this on my own. Replacing brake pads isn't exactly rocket science. It was just wierd not having my friend Alexi directly standing over me for supervision throughout the whole process.

Normally, I would always make an effort to help out when it came to servicing my car. Time after time, he would step in at any signs of me needing help and end up completing the whole job by himself. Unknowingly, he became my teacher as I would attentively watch and ask questions.

Dispite all my built up confidence, I still needed to call him for assistance in removing my seized 20 mm spacers from both hubs.

This Caliper Resetting Tool made the brake install so much easier! I was able to rent this for free from my local Canadian Tire. It saved us alot of time and hassles of using a C-clamp to reset the piston! I definately need to pick up one of these for myself the next time I am at Princess Auto.

On a side note, I've been running B40 fuel in my TDI for the past three weeks. Despite a barely noticable loss in fuel economy of 50 kms per tank, I've found the car running alot more quieter and smoother. The motor seems a lot more peppier while and feels like it was fueled by gasoline! I'll continuely update my progress while running B40.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Andrew, His Hotwheels and XBox 360

It's been nearly three months since my last entry and my son Andrew has now reached 8 weeks old. It would be an understatement to say that he has kept me extremely busy. Even when I do get some free time, I find myself wanting to spend it all with him.

Luckily, he and I have discovered many similar special interests which I consider important in father & son bonding which include:

1. Collecting Hot Wheels (we have reached over 250 cars);
2. Collecting Pampers "Gift to Grow" ponts (130 pts so far);
3. Watching the Golf Channel.

Yesterday, we won the ultimate jack pot! I recieved a telephone call from a friend offered Andrew and I the opportunity of a lifetime to purchase an unopened XBox 360 Premium Console at an absurd price of $125 CAN. Needless to say, we immediately jumped at the chance.

According to my friend, he had brought his orginal XBox 360 back to Futureshop for an immediate exchange due to some sort of manufacturer's defect. Three weeks later, his doorbell rang. Microsoft had sent him a new console via UPS in error without realizing that Futureshop had already provided him with a replacement.

Talk about perfect timing as it was a nice birthday gift to myself! Andrew and I are really enjoying Tiger Woods 2006!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Hang Time

Work in Progress... Check back soon!

Monday, May 22, 2006

My Hectic Life & Boost Valve!

After two weeks of anticipation, my boost valve finally arrived by UPS courier services! I immediately ripped open the shipping package and verified that all the parts were accounted for. I'll probably install the valve sometime at the end of this week once my car's warranty service is completed by Westminster Volkswagen.

With 76,000 kms and three days in their service bay, they discovered that my car's acceleration problems were caused by the premature death of my turbocharger. Good thing that the charger died while during the warranty period. According to the dealer, the diagnostic fee and replacement woudl have set me back approximately $2000. While probing around, they also found a leak in the EGR Cooler which has now been replaced. While the car was in their shop, I had them change the oil and perform the 74,000 km preventative minor servicing.

On another note, it's been really hectic period in my life. With four and a half weeks left before the birth of my son/daughter, I've been really busy making sure everything is ready. I've also been swamped with an increased flow of patients through my ER department.

Alike every other typical weekend, my wife and I spent it shopping in Seattle. I swear that one day we may just decide to permamently move south of the 49th. Despite my proud Canadian-ism, I've been pestered by a fellow colleague (George) about employment opportunities in Bishop and San Francisco, California. He keeps reminding me that the pay is significantly higher, and that flyfishing and golfing is year round. I keep telling him that I'm one of those people who love the Pacific Northwest and the cool climate. Hot weather and I do not mix well.

My Decision: Heat Pumps vs. Air Conditioning

With the recent heatwave and temperatures reaching up to 30 degree celcius, we were simply not enjoying our dream home. For the sake of comfort, my wife's soon approaching maternity leave, and the arrival of our baby, we began our search for a central air conditioning system for our home. Our original plan was to bare through the summer without it and make our purchase sometime in spring 2007. Of course, nothing in life ever happens as planned.

After a few weeks of internet research, I learned that there were two different systems available. The first is a traditional air conditioning system and the second was the addition of a heat pump. Although both systems were designed for cooling, both work very differently. The Air conditioning units cool refrigerants like Puron Refrigerant and Freon and delivers them to evaporator coils, which dissipate the refrigerant and blow cool air into ducts for delivery throughout the home. The heat pump is a central air conditioner which can also heat your whole home.

According to the my builder, he had had installed a heat pump into his 5000 sq-ft home with the identical furnace system from Carrier. With the heat pump, his total monthly gas bills are now $80-100 per month. His electrical use has increased, however minimally.

My first estimate came from Jim from Vancouver Furnance Express. They were the company which I orginally hired to install the heating and duct work during the construction of my home. Jim informed me that the heat pump was the best option due to it's high energy efficiency. The unforunate news was that the Carrier heat pumps were on short supply throughout the Lower Mainland and that it would be a 2-3 week wait for one.

My second call was to my neighbour Tony who works for Executive Air. He immediately recommended that I run a traditional air conditioning system as he warned that heat pump technologies are still new. He explained that although a heat pump would pay itself off within 4-5 years, they have a higher chance of costly malfunctionings.

None the less, I had both parties come and calculate the system that would best fit my needs. Fortunate for us, we had a concrete pad pre-poured for an outdoor condensor, roughed in all the necessary electrical lines, and ducting to keep the cost for this upgrade minimal.

Friday, May 19, 2006

My Redeeming Satisfaction

After a stressful week in the ER, I was reminded of why I love my job so much. It began last Friday when I popped in for one of my after hours 'rounds' in the department.

I noticed a patient, Mr. Cox (not the patient's real name) had came in looking for a psychiatric evaluation and assistance to link up with community services. Unfortunately, he had been sitting in our waiting room for 3-4 hours and was then told to go home as he did not present with a primary medical concern. To make a long story short, I picked up his chart and my clip board and volunteered 30 minutes of my time off to do a quick assessment.

Mr. Cox had been suffering from an untreated acute clinical depression/adjustment disorder, suicidal and had been attempting to cope with the symptoms through suggested cocaine use by his less ideal friends. Mr. Cox was a well educated individual who struck me as a go-getter and someone who had just made one bad decision which began a spiralling tumble in life. Although prior to this he had been coping well in life, his depression was precipitated by the recent loss (laid off) of employment, and break-up with his long-time fiancee.

This afternoon, I decided to visit Mr. Cox at home to check in on his progress. He was doing well and was following my discharge recommendations. As I was walking back to my car, his mother ran out of the house to express gratitude because I cared for her son. I simply told her that it's just a part of my job. As we shook hands, she leaned in to give me a hug. She stated that if was not for me donating my time during after hours, she believed that he would not be alive today.

In this day and age, modern medicine and psychiatry has become such a thankless line of work. Today I was left feeling satisfied as someone reminded me that we make differences in people's lives.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Transitioning Emotions

After spending most of today day in a complete chaos with my conscious, I came to realize how low people can be.

I view friends as an intergal part of my life, they are like family to me. Today, I learned first hand how people can take that kindness and respect and turn it against you in the heat of the moment. No matter who I have been friends with, I've always held all our friendships in the highest regards and respect.

As I sit here still feeling extremely guilty, everyone who I know from under the sun and moon have left near threatening messages or hostilities towards me. I thought my friends were going to be a little more mature about dealing with my immature actions. No, they responded with immaturity right back at me.

Funny how accusations and blame were flying everywhere before either Alexi and myself had the opportunity to speak to each other.

While I was at work this morning, I decided to check in on my VW Club Forum for new discussion topics. Low and behold, I find this:


Individuals who I deem as my close friends were posting crap about what had occurred or attempting to defame my character. This just compounded on top of my pre-existing upset feelings which just turned into anger. It was friends admitting that they have been talking smack behind your back. Name calling, racist remarks and also labelling me as having a split personality disorder.

Just for my records, I've decided to cut and paste some of these quotes so I never forget that it happened.

"Alexi, remeber those conversations we've been having about the "double personality" wow!"

"However, it sucks that you are impressionable and cannot clue in to the fact that 'Hey, maybe I shouldn't push this car into the middle of the road because the fat china man thinks it'll be funny.' Be it known, if you or Rob ever fucked with my shit, I'd rip your balls off and if Alexi asked me to, I'd do the same for him."

"What did you and your clan of followers do to Alexi's car? Completely uncool Rob. I think you have split personalities, you go from a good friend to doing something like this. Alexi was VERY upset and after hearing about it and that you had a role in this made me upset. Come on Rob.....get a grip."

After speaking to other individuals who were present during the incident, I've gotten to know the real story.

I guess friendshipis not comparable to family. Family does not intentionally make highly offensive statements re: race, and humourously labelling mental health diagnosis directly to hurt someone's feelings. I guess some of my friendships are as thin as water.

Funnier yet, Alexi came over to my home this afternoon to work on our friend Dejan's car. He agreed with me that there was no hostilities between us, he never was directly upset at me as I didn't mastermind the incident. He had already blown it off. Apparently our mutual friends decided upon themselves without knowing the full story and place full responsibilty on me.

This absolutely disgusted me. However, I now know where I stand with these so called "close friends".

My Lack of Judgement

Upon arriving for work today, I could not even pull my level of focus together to see patients in the ER because of horrible feelings of guilt and irresponsibility continued to plague my conscience. Midway through the morning, I decided to take the remainder of the day off on stress leave for some time of self-reflection. Questions began rumminating in my mind as I asked myself:

1. What kind of friend am I?
2. Am I that irresponsible?
3. Am I that horrible of a person to others?
4. Am I fit for parenthood?
5. Am I over reacting?

Last evening, a few friends and I gathered at the local coffee shop for some gelato dessert. The evening began quite well as I was greeted upon arriving and informed that they didn’t think that I would show up tonight.

During the gathering, my friend Alexi went out for a drive in Brandon's recently completed MK1 Cabriolet Turbocharged G60 conversion. This is where the evening began heading downhill. While he was out driving, someone made the suggestion that we pull a prank on Alexi, and push his parked MK3 VR6 a few stalls forward. After his car was moved, everyone returned to the coffee shop and waited for his return. I knew at that moment that this wasn't going to be good

Honestly, nobody in the group intended to upset Alexi. In the past, I've had numerous tricks and pranks played on me from my friends and fellow Volkswagen enthuisiast. In the past, my friends have hidden my antenna; moved & kicked my car, gently rear ended with a friend's car at stop lights, windshield wiper completely removed, messages fingered in my dirty paint, and stickers placed all over my vehicle. All of which were done for humour and laughs.

Throughout the whole process, I was surprised at myself that I did not think twice about how upset Alexi would become. He had recently repainted approximately 1/4 of his car it was freshly washed prior to coming out tonight. If it was my car, I understand how he would not want people draping her with fingerprints and risk denting a quarter panel.

When Alexi returned, he immediately jumped out of the cabriolet and was very upset. As expected, the blame was squared onto myself. Although I did not suggest the idea, I did participate in the act which makes me fully accountable. As well, I really showed a serious lack of judgement. As on of his closest friend present, I should have made the right decision and stopped it from happening.

As Alexi became increasingly angry, he made a sudden 180 degree turn, got into his car and drove off. Ten minutes later, Brandon received a telephone call from Alexi stating that he left because he was extremely upset. I followed up with Brandon's suggestion and later called him back to privately apologize and take responsibility for everything that happened tonight. Even after the call ended and I returned home, I still felt an overwhelming sense of guilt in which I should have made a more mature decision.

Midway through this morning, I recieved a telephone message from our mutual friends informing me that when they found out of the incident, they were extremely disappointed in my actions. I totally deserve the statement below:

"What did you and your clan of followers do to Alexi's car? Completely uncool Rob. I think you have split personalities, you go from a good friend to doing something like this. Alexi was VERY upset and after hearing about it and that you had a role in this made me upset. Come on Rob.....get a grip."

I've already attempted to contact Alexi by phone this morning to offer a physical apology, but he did not answer his phone. I don't blame him for not wanting to speak to me.

This incident really made me realize that my guilty feelings are prompted by the level that I respect I have for Alexi and our friendship. Hopefully I can get a hold of him later today to apologise and share my guilty feelings.

Once again, I will take full responsibility for this incident as I should have thought twice and stopped it from happening. I continue to feel horrible about the incident and that no words of apology can explain my guilt.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Driveway Fixed!

After a long battle, the City of Port Coquitlam finally agreed to re-pave and bridge the road to our driveway. This was a welcome sight as for the past 8 months, I've been carefully navigating my car in and out along a narrow gravel patch to avoid dropping my car into the ditch at the end of the driveway.

Funny how it took six city crew members and 8 hours of wasted taxpayer's money to complete this relatively simple task. As I played supervisor from my front windows, I only observed two of the crew members actually working. The other four had pulled out lawnchairs out of their trucks and watched while sitting under a shady tree from across the road. Go figure eh? Must be unionized workers.

Even after the job was completed, I continue to naturally back out of the driveway thinking that the ditch was still there. Dam'n Pavlov's classical conditioning theory!

Friday, May 12, 2006

My Incredibly Busy Week

Unfortunately, I have not been able to post much this week due to an incredibly busy week. For some strange reason, the flow of psychiatric patients in my ER department significantly increased. Of the five work days this week, I found myself staying late until around 8 pm for catch up work or requests for consultations near the end of the day.

Last evening, I made a frantic last minute run to the Costco in Bellingham to look for a birthday present for my wife. I had initially intended to purchase her a new digital camcorder. However, the price for the Panasonic 3CCD model was more expensive in the United States. After shopping around, I decided to purchase her an 11-cup Cuisinart Food Processor for $149.99 USD. The MSRP for the same model here in Canada was $389.99! Even after the currency exchange, it puzzles me how there is such a huge price difference.

In celebration of my wife's 26th birthday, we had lunch at White Spot, and out to Lougheed Wonton for chinese dinner with her parents.

I better sign off now, as I've got a pre-natal class tomorrow at Douglas College and a barbeque with some friends in the evening. Check back tomorrow for my next entry and some photos!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My Letter To Westminster Volkswagen

The following is a letter which I wrote reflecting today's experience with the service department at Westminster Volkswagen:

To: Management of Westminster Volkswagen,

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to your service team, in most particular Robbie (my service advisor). I had called your service department and reported having vehicle difficulties on May 8, 2006. The folks in your service department quickly validated my frustrations and expressed concerns regarding the safety of the vehicle and it's drivability. Within minutes of calling, I was scheduled for a service appointment for the next day.

Upon arriving for my service appointment,I informed Robbie that it was extremely important that I have the service completed before noon or be issues a courtesy vehicle. I needed a source of dependable transportation to as I work at several hospital sites within the Lower Mainland. Despite only having partially completed the diagnosis of the problem, the car was promptly returned to me washed and vaccumed at 11:00 am. Inside the car, I found a complimentary newspaper and a bottle of spring water. She apologized for not being able to complete the service due to parts needing special ordering and had been well aware of my time restraints with work. I was also informed that all of the car's problems would be fully covered under warranty. I was rescheduled for a second service appointment next week to have all the remaining repairs completed.

I have brought my car into many different dealerships since first owning a Volkswagen in 1996. I have to say that the service I received today was absolutely exceptional and deserved recognition. Please share my thanks to your service team and especially Robbie for all her help.

Once again, thank you very much for knowing how to deliver exceptional customer service. It was a wonderful reminder why I came back in 2004 to purchase another Volkswagen.

Sincerely, Robert Tang

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Continued CEL Woes

Since driving down to Seattle last weekend, my Check Enging Light has continued to cause problems. While driving along the Interstate 5, I suddenly felt a significant decrease in the car's motor and became restricted to a top speed of 85 km/hrs.

Once pulled over, I immediately removed the Diesel Tuning Box and resetted the car's ECU. I did this to see if I could isolate the problem. Was it the tuning box or the motor? Once back on the highway, the CEL remained illuminated. I was forced to drive the remainder of the trip using tiptronic while never exceeding 3000 RPM. The car like it was running without it's turbocharger. I knew right there that my woes were motor related.

Upon returning home, I met with my godbrother Gary over lunch to explain the situation. Gary was recently employed for Kinetic Motorsports/Advanced Tuning Products, Inc. (ATP Turbo), a company dedicated solely to turbocharging. I informed him that my car had been mysteriously leaking coolant (up to 1-2 litres per day) with no evidence of leaking; massive horsepower losses at higher rpms; and continued intermittent CEL signals. He believed that the seals in the turbocharger may have failed, which consequently led to my overboosting problems.

As lunch progressed, what Gary said started to make a lot of sense. Turbochargers use coolant to cool itself. If the seals fail, that would be where the coolant was leaking and why the car felt under powered. I immediately made a service appointment for tomorrow at Westminster Volkswagen. I am hoping that the problem can be verified and repaired.

While on the phone with my Volkswagen Service Technician, he informed me that the failure of the turbocharger seal was common with the MK4 1.9L TDI motor. With less than 4000 kms before the expirations of my 80,000 km factory warranty, I'm glad my car problems are occurring now rather than later.

I am still planning to install the boost valve when it arrives and purchase a boost guage for preventative measures. Hopefully, this problem will never happen again.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My New Boost Valve

Following the recommendations from my tuner box distributer, I decided to purchase a boost valve today from the folks at boostvalve.com. Since placing the order 12 hours ago, the UPS tracking number reports that my new valve is already enroute from Florida and will arrive this Monday or Tuesday.

The valve should help reduce the boost spikes when I am driving at higher RPMs and allow me to run the tuner box at the maximum power settings without any problems. Joe from Diesel Tuning informed me that the combination of back pressure and excessive fuel have caused my car's boost to rise faster than the turbo's vanes can react. The turbo spikes ended up causing my ECU to react by pulling out timing from the motor. The result is lower torgue output.

According to the boostvalve.com, the component will not raise max boost but control the spikes/surges and effectively give better control of the turbo's wastegate. It prevents boost pressure from opening the turbo's waste gate until the desired preset boost level is reached. Inside the valve is a precision stainless steel ball that is held in place by spring tension. During the turbo's spool-up (as pressure is building) spring tension in the valve is greater than the boost pressure pushing against the ball, so the ball prevents the air from flowing to the wastegate actuator.

This maximizes the efficiency of the turbo during the spool-up by using the greatest amount of air possible to spin the turbo charger. Most boost control systems waste air by venting much of the air out, even many factory boost control systems waste available exhaust energy during this crucial spool-up period. Once the turbo spools up to the desired boost, the Boostvalve opens, quickly opening the waste gate. Boost pressure is held at this level with accuracy unmatched by even more expensive methods of boost control.

Below is the installation diagram for the boost valve from their website:

Saturday, May 06, 2006

My Recurring Check Engine Light

After running the VAG-COM diagnostic tool and clearing an "overboosting" fault code, my Check Engine Light (CEL) illuminated again today. The CEL occurred during my drive into work this morning. Hoping that my ECU needed a simple restart,I pulled over and turned off the ignition and restarted the car. Of course with my luck, the CEL light didn't turn off on it's own.

Accompanied by my friend Dejan and his father's brand new MK5 GTI, we made a short noticed visit to see my friends at PG Performance for some help. Althought the shop was extremely busy with other customers, and non-stop telephone calls, they were kind enough run my TDI through a free VAG-COM diagnostic. The readings indicated that it was the same "overboosting" fault code from the day before.

Once we erased the code, I offered Paul the opportunity to drive my TDI on their unofficial test track. After 15 minutes, he returned stating that the CEL had illuminated again. A telephone call was made to Joe Heffner, the representative of Diesel Tuning (the manufacturer of my tuning box. He encouraged us to turn down the power setting to the recommended powerband: C-mode. Furthermore, he recommended me to purchase and install a boost guage, boost pressure valve to help control and monitor my turbo.

Once the tuning box was adjusted to the new settings, Dejan and I drove out to Mission Raceway. Throughout the 45 minute long drive, the CEL never returned. Thanks Paul! We ended up meeting our usual circle of friends at the raceway and spent the remainder of the evening watching the street-legal drag races.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fender Rolling & Vag Com Madness!

Last evening, I was visited by a few friends asking to use my garage to roll out the fenders of Dejan's MK4 Jetta GLI and Harrison's MK4 GTI. Nothing too spectacular happened.

While working on the fenders, Darren popped by with his lap top computer and VAG diagnostic tool. During my drive home, a check engine light in my car illuminated after spanking the living daylight out of a riced out 2004 Honda Civic Coupe. While waiting at a red light, one of the four Indo-Canadian guys in the car yelled, "Your car is all show and no go!" When the light turned green, I just hammered the gas peddle of my 165 hp, 265 ft-lb of torque TDI and left them behind in a nasty cloud of diesel smoke.

Luckily for me, the VAG scan revealed that a simple warning that I had overboosted my turbocharged motor. With the error code erased, the car was good as new!

It wasn't after Darren's arrival in which I noticed that we had seven tastefully modified Volkswagens parked in front of my house. As we worked on the cars, I noticed many of the passing cars slowed down to take a closer look. At one point, another Volkswagen owner made 8 separate passes in his lowered MK2 1.8L Golf.

Hmmm... I wonder if my neighbours have figured out that I have an addiction to Volkswagens?