I purchased the TT nearly three years ago, shortly after my son was born. Since then, it has gone to an actual shop once, and that was to do an oil change as we were mid move, and I didn’t have any of my stuff. When I bought it, the A/C blew cold air on a very hot day, which I was surprised and impressed with for a 165+k mile car. Unfortunately, by the next summer, it was gone.
I’ve tried a recharge kit, but the gas blew right out, leading me to believe there’s a leak somewhere. I bought a kit with dye, but the nozzle was too shallow for the low pressure port, so I got dye all around the port. Fine. I lack the tools or knowledge to do much of anything useful with air conditioning, so I brought it to a local shop to see if they could track down the issue.
They charge me $50 for the inspection, which I pay whether it gets repaired or not. I did not. Here’s what they found.
a) There’s a “big leak”, and they don’t know yet what’s doing it. My guess is that it’s the dye from my kit that they’re looking at, because if you listen to the noise of the gas leaving, it’s from the back of the engine, not the front. But, no dye at the back.
b) Even though they don’t know what’s leaking, they’re very sure I need a “freon temp sensor”, which will cost $108.57 for the part, and $96.60 in labor. Two issues. One, there’s no such thing as a refrigerant temperature sensor in the TT, only an ambient temperature sensor. There’s a coolant temperature sensor, but that has nothing to do with the HVAC. Chances are, they’re talking about the high pressure sensor which is in a static open state, which could be due to the leak *or* because the system is empty. Second issue, and this is minor, but stop calling it freon, as no car since about 1994 uses freon.
c) After they replace that, then they can evaculate and recharge the system for $172.62, and recheck to see where the leak is from.
In the end, they wanted $475.44 to diagnose, repair, and recharge, but no guarantees it’d work after.
I’ll just keep the top down, and worry about the switch later.
A little over a year ago, I decided it’d be neat to replace the intake on the TT, and while research brought me to the Modshack VTDA, they didn’t sell it anymore. I did find a K&N unit for a price I could afford, and made the switch. It completely replaced the stock airbox with a cone filter, a mini breather filter, and a big holder for the whole unit. It looked great, and sounded pretty awesome (extra woosh is better woosh), but there were two problems. First, it exacerbated a random CEL I was experiencing, and on longer trips, the wooshing got annoying, as I’m old.
Fast forward to today, and someone was selling a used VTDA on quattroworld.com. I jumped on it, and he shipped it super quickly. In a box, I got the VTDA… cylinder with a K&N filter inside, a mini breather filter, and some packing material. Browsed Google a bit until I found someone else who had installed it, and did the installation. Since the airbox already came out in the K&N install, the installation took me about 15 minutes, including a quick clean of the MAF sensor and devane of the MAF.
I’m super happy with how it looks, though the whole engine bay could use a cleaning, along with the VTDA. The best part, though, was the drive. It gave me the same level of breathing as the K&N did, but the sensor clean seems to have resolved my CEL and my hesitation, and the sound is still gently enhanced, but muffled a bit more so it’s not in my face when the top is down.
Highly recommended easy modification.
In the meantime, I never really finished project Audi Audio on the above, though I did take pictures. I may create a summary post, may not. Nevertheless, when I did the installation originally, I installed two amps to drive the speakers and the 8″ subwoofer. The sub was driven by an Alpine MRV-T320, and the speakers were driven by an Alpine MRP-F300. They both provided ample power for the installation, but I was always bothered by having two amps throwing off heat in the cramped shelf of a trunk of a roadster. I replaced those two with a Precision Power P900.5 five channel amplifier this weekend, and what a great replacement. The sound quality is great, the unit is super compact but still throws out the power I need, and it doesn’t give off more heat than one single of those Alpine amps.
I’ve also been working on cutting and moving things to make the TT head unit a double DIN unit. I started with a Nexus 7 install, but got frustrated with how finicky it was in terms of powering on and resetting, so I grabbed one of those inexpensive Chinese Android-based head units, since I have to custom cut anyway. I’ve completed the wiring, and cut the radio frame appropriately so that it’s mounted, stays there, and works well. I’m in the process now of altering the bezel to make it look like it belongs, and I’ll post progress there later.
My current car, a 2013 Chrysler 200 Limited, is under a lease that will be up in June. I loved this car far more than I expected to, given the reviews on it, but I can provide more color to that later. The end story is that the residual value of my car (the amount I’d have to pay to purchase it) is going to be about $5,000 more than what it blue books for, so it makes precisely zero sense to purchase it. I have to find a new car.
I thought it’d be interesting, maybe only for my own historical purposes, to talk about the vehicles as I drive them and come to a conclusion. I managed to hit the local auto show a few weekends ago to pull my list under ten cars, but I’m still all over the place in terms of size, power, and price. Currently, in the running, I have:
2016 Chrysler 200C – I liked mine so much, and the new one apparently looks/feels/performs so much better.
2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier – The concept of mostly electric driving sounds great, with a little bit of fuel to back it up. The second generation actually looks like a car.
2016 Fiat 500x Lounge – Not much for SUVs, but this looks classy while still being small enough to whip around.
2016 Buick Regal Premium II or GS – Buick wasn’t on my list until the auto show, these looked nicer than I ever expected.
2016 Volkswagen GTI SE 4-Door – I love the idea of a small car with a nice turbo.
2016 Nissan Maxima SL or Platinum – I can’t stop staring at these — the design is funky but approachable, the interior looks amazing, and it has the big Nissan V6.
2016 Kia Optima SX or SXL – Kia wasn’t originally on my list, but a good friend of mine has one and likes it a lot.
2016 Audi A4 – With the introduction of the 2017s, these actually become reasonable. I had a 2008 that I really liked, except for what the previous owner did to it.
What do I want? I want something that is comfortable to commute in, with a great stereo system with navigation and/or Android Auto, comfortable seats with heat, and enough performance to let me smile once in a while. I already have a project car, so it doesn’t have to be insane, but I don’t want a dog. Naturally, I err on the side of more interesting gadgets, so I’d love to have things like adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings. I’d also love to have ventilated seats. Bonus points if I can get a brown leather interior.
The 200 I have now has an incredible sound system, by Boston Acoustics, of all people, navigation, heated leather seats, a sunroof, and the Pentastar V6, a 283hp beast that was ill-suited for this car’s platform, but puts a big grin on my face regardless. It seems you can get it to 60 in 6 seconds, but that implies you have traction.
It’s getting pretty easy to see that I should start finishing some entries for this blog if it’s going to be at all relevant or useful, but I’ll take a moment to introduce another “thing”.
This past weekend, while working on a web project in Ambition, I started wishing I could control logging in a better way than what was already provided. Specifically, I wanted to be able to amp up logging in one controller while keeping another one quiet. In a horrific turn of events, I found myself longing for something like log4j/log4perl/log4net so I could use a configuration file to handle that.
A few days go by, and here we are.
Introducing Log4Vala, available on GitHub. Available as a shared library to integrate into your Vala application or library, Log4Vala provides most of the core concepts available in the other logging frameworks, without a lot of overhead. Yes, there are still a few method calls for each logging pass, but it’s quiet a bit tighter than a VM environment. I’m pretty happy with the result.
I always felt that the head unit was the easiest component of most vehicles to replace. Modern vehicles have hugely custom setups, some controlling HVAC and car preferences, which makes it a pain. Luckily, in this case, the only sin is that Audi uses a slightly wider faceplate on their head units. I actually replaced my head unit last fall as the original Concert unit was failing, so there’s going to be some stuff from memory here. I grabbed parts as required for the first installation, however, since I’m bypassing the Bose amplifier now, it’s possible that we can go for a cheaper wiring harness.
Metra 70-1787 Radio Wiring Harness for VW/Audi – Bose
Metra 40-VW54 Amplified Antenna Adapter
Wiring Harness and Power
I had to modify the wiring harness before as the pinouts didn’t match what the TT was bringing out at all. The yellow power lead didn’t connect to anything, and it required me to pull pins out and replace them elsewhere. For this install, I yanked everything else out. So, you’ll only need the black harness, providing power, as everything else is for either audio output or the amp remote wire, which isn’t necessary, as I’m disconnecting the Bose amp. To be clear: You’re getting constant 12V power via the yellow line, and ground via the black line. Switched power has to be tapped.
To tap switched power, I went under the driver’s side again, and ran a wire from the 30X terminal on the far left side of the power bar directly under the steering wheel. It does what it needs to do — it’s on when the key is on, it’s off when the key is off, and it provides 12V. I wouldn’t power anything more intense than a head unit off that line, but it works really well for this purpose.
For FM radio to work, the 40-VW54 adapter is just connected to the separate antenna connector in the TT, and the blue line is connected to either the amp remote or antenna remote of your head unit. The Sony head unit I purchased had two separate leads, so I could connect the amp remote to one, and the antenna remote to my adapter. If the head unit doesn’t have separate leads, connect both the amp remote and the 40-VW54 to the amp remote lead of the head unit. If one were using the original Audi head unit, you could wire it into the amp remote line on the red wiring harness in the above Metra kit.
I’ve installed amps in vehicles all of twice, and both of those cars were not German. One was a 1997 Dodge Intrepid, and one was a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. The Intrepid was fairly easy because it was huge and had a lot of open spaces, so finding a place to drill wasn’t terrible. That said, I made someone else do the drilling, as I was 18 and stupid, but not stupid enough to ruin my only car. The Eclipse was easy because the thing was a tin can and you could route wires through any of the wide open, uninsulated spaces in the whole car. I hated that car. Anyway, since the Audi is getting a whole build, I elected to start taking stuff out of the car first, to make the process (theoretically) easier. First, I yanked out the head unit, and then pulled out the seats. Well, first first, I disconnected the battery. Let’s not be ridiculous.
Audi recommends the use of an adapter of sorts when removing the seats from the car, to prevent the airbags from going off. Dr. Google seems to have the opinion that this isn’t required if you’re doing this in a space where static electricity isn’t much of an issue. I ran with that, pulled four bolts from the bottom of each seat with an allen wrench, disconnected the three wire harnesses underneath, and put the seats aside. This gave me plenty of room to work in the car. Note that there isn’t a lot of room under those seats to remove those clips, and they fasten on the top and bottom. I ended up using a flathead screwdriver to lift one clip while wiggling it out. It helps to unbolt first and then rock the seat back to get more room to work.
After that was complete, I pulled out the lower dash panel under the steering wheel. To do that, remove the cover of the fuse box, which you’ll see if you open the driver’s side door, and look on the left side of the dashboard. Those are just push clips, so it’ll pull off if you slide a flathead under and pull outward gently. There are two hex screws on the lower curve, and then one nearly dead center, that is inset somewhat, as it’s bolting in the dash cover and not the outside of the fuse box. Then, underneath the steering wheel, there are two hex screws on the bottom that need to be pulled out. The dash cover can then be pulled straight toward you from the steering wheel, and then downward. You’ll want to pull the wiring from the headlight switch and from down below, and then you can pull the whole thing out, if you want.
Once you’re done, you’re left with this:
I started with the guide on Waks Wide Web, the defacto source of garage how-to for the TT, to run the amp power cable. The guides on that site assume a RHD UK TT, so when he mentions “glove box”, it’s under the driver’s side for the US. I also ignored everything about the remote wire, since this is being controlled by an aftermarket head unit with a dedicated remote lead. I was stumped with what I saw there. First, the box that can “easily be unclipped and moved to the side” is either the thing on the left or on the right. The thing on the left provided no more visibility or ease to me when it was unclipped and moved. The thing on the right wasn’t going to budge for anyone or anything. So, I tried from the inside. He talks about the big loom, so I found that above the dead pedal, taped my 4-gauge power cable to a wire hanger, and tried to push it through.
Nope. Not going anywhere.
So, I’m shining a flashlight behind the engine. I pulled out the airbox entirely (which came in handy later), to see if I could see another hole with more room. I’m shining a flashlight all around under the driver’s side, and I’m starting to get ready to find a place to drill, or try to remove the white covering that is all along the firewall on the inside of the car, thinking maybe something is covered on my car that isn’t covered on others. Then, as usual, it was actually staring at me all along. There’s a dime to nickel size rubber grommet almost directly above the gas pedal. I pushed on it, it came out, and I could see the light from the open hood of the car. Success! I took my taped cable and ran it through that hole until it it something.
It comes out somewhere around that box that Waks Wide Web was talking about. Mine poked through the heat shield behind the engine, but I pushed it back and routed it to the right hand side. In a perfect world, this would run along the wire track that you see on the right, but as I mentioned before, I have no idea how to gain access to it. I successfully unclipped it from the bottom, but without getting to it from the top, that’s useless.
I kept the cable below the airbox, covered the cable, and put the airbox back into the car. I’m not attaching it to anything yet, but now I know my cable length, and I know where it’s going. Insert a new grommet so the metal is not rubbing against the cable, and put some sealant on there so water doesn’t get in the cabin.
So, last fall, I picked up a 2002 Audi TT 225 Roadster with a little over 160,000 miles. It’s super high mileage, but drives super well, and I figure it’s a great little car to learn on. Luckily, nothing terrible has happened yet, but I can guarantee you that this car will be featured more than once on this blog in the near future. Once winter came, the convertible was in the garage quite a bit, and I noticed that after a couple of weeks, the car needed a jump start.
After some considerable trial and error using the fuse box, turns out that it’s the Bose amplifier that is causing a pretty big power drain while the car is off. Not a big deal if it’s driven every few days, but significant enough that it’s dead after about a week and a half. Well, go big or go home, right? Instead of picking up a new amp to provide the same lackluster sound, why not spend a little more and redo all of the audio? I have the Bentley manual, how hard could it be?
I love bad ideas!
So far, on the build list:
Sony DSX-S310BTX for the head unit
Alpine MRP-F300 4-channel amplifier to drive speakers
Alpine MRV-T320 2-channel amplifier to drive subwoofer
Alpine SPR-60C 6.5″ Component speakers for the doors
Infinity Reference 4032cf 4″ 2-way speakers for the rears
JL-Audio 8W1v2-4 8″ Subwoofer for the rear
A boatload of Dynamat, cabling, and fuses
I’ve already started the project, slowly but surely, as I have an infant and a job, so I’ll be updating with some of the ridiculous crap I’ve dealt with so far, and continuing from there.
I keep finding myself in situations where I say, “Yeah, I could totally do that myself.” Honestly, I have no freaking idea what I’m doing, but at least I can share the knowledge after I’ve broken everything.
You may also find instances where my wife and I have both not had any idea what we were doing at At Our Own Risk.
I’m pleased to announce that there is a reasonable Couchbase library coming along for Vala, and it is semi-functional at this point. Sure, an announcement seems weird at “semi-functional”, but considering the absence of a library up to this point, I’m calling it good.
GCouchbase is a combination of a fully functional vapi wrapper around the C libcouchbase library and a pleasant GObject layer on top of it. The libcouchbase functionality is available to the end user via GCouchbase or on its own, but GCouchbase makes the library work more like how one would expect out of a higher level language. The structure is loosely based off of the .NET library, but does not rely on libmemcached or any other proxy layer.
For those who may not be aware of what Couchbase is, it is (in my humble opinion) NoSQL done right. While similar in functionality to other offerings like MongoDB or CouchDB, Couchbase combines a persistence layer with a memory layer to provide fast, scalable JSON blob storage and retrieval that scales evenly with memory and CPU. In other words, you don’t need to have a cache layer, a data layer, and a replication layer, Couchbase handles it for you. The built in view functionality is powerful, but can directly connect to an ElasticSearch instance for advanced queries.
It’s very neat, and blends in nicely with the speed of Vala.
I will be presenting the Ambition MVC Framework at TCCC15. Twin Cities Code Camp is a free event that occurs twice a year at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN, and it caters to novice to advanced developers using multiple languages and devices. TCCC15 will be held on October 19th, 2013, starting at 8:00am, and you can register here.
The synopsis of my talk:
There are tons of great MVC web frameworks out in the wild, for most major compiled and dynamic languages. They’re great tools to get projects prototyped and quickly into production. The Ambition MVC framework is a hobby that turned into a reasonable web framework. Written using Vala, the Ambition framework allows a developer or team of developers to create web applications or RESTful services using a static-typed object oriented language without relying on a VM or a garbage collection cycle. Plus, being compiled, it allows cloud deployment to be easy and inexpensive, as memory and CPU requirements can be a fraction of PHP, Ruby, Python, or Perl sites. While it’s not “officially” released, it’s available on GitHub, and being actively developed. Patches, help, and end users are very welcome, and I’d like to show you more.