Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Hurricane Related Car Rant

Please bear with me on this one small rant about my 2004 VW New Beetle, which I bought used a few years ago. It's a 1.8 liter turbo gas engine thing that is both zippy and showing its age.

First off, I am aware that VW has announced plans to stop making New Beetles in the near term. To this I say, good.

The basic New Beetle vehicle is a compromised design - in order to have the "Bug" shape they had to cram components into the thing. As consequence, the engine is not easy to access for repairs. It is not the "shade tree mechanic" friendly vehicle that the old Beetles were.

I knew that when I bought it, but I needed a car and the price was good.

I have since spent more on repairs than on the car, but the bleeding has been over years so it could be planned for.

But - it's the quality of construction and the deterioration of little pieces that will make you wonder. The driver side interior door handle plastic broke. The plastic in the interior has not held up well in the Southern clime and in the summer heat. Bought a fix kit on E Bay and repaired the problem. The dash, which is quite large in this car to hold air bags and such is sort of melting and is gummy. Might be due to some chemical used by a prior owner or detail person. Doesn't matter much, the car is not for show, but for driving a dog places and doing shopping runs. The seat material is coming apart - heat, age, misuse - and one thing more.

That thing being that this car leaks in the rain. Not every rain, but usually in heavy rains which have been preceded by event like pollen (our cars and houses get a heavy dose here from the pine trees), pine needle drops, Fall leaves, etc. This debris clogs the already inadequate drain system for the sunroof.

It leaks around the sunroof where the track has four drain holes that clog easily and are difficult to maintain because of their design and construction. If these drains clog - no, make that - when inevitably these drains clog, the interior of the car fills with water sometimes inches deep in the rear area foot well and sometimes in other areas, including the seats and in the trunk area. Even if you regularly try to keep these drains clear, a heavy rain may still cause flooding because the drains are small and the rain of a severe storm like those of a hurricane or tropical storm can overwhelm them.

Now that might be minor thing, except that when the car is "sealed" - windows up, sunroof closed - the damp interior and the warm air outside and inside - are a perfect environment for the growth of fungi -mildew, mold, etc.

I should note that this drainage issue exists not only in VW New Beetles but also in other VWs and some Audi models also equipped with a sunroof. You can learn about the effort needed to repair the problem on YouTube:

You note that this "fix" requires removal of the headliner and other components in the interior. Which, you might also note, is a lot of work, especially since much of the effort goes to simply doing what should have been done at the factory in the first place - properly sealing the connecting pieces with useful goo instead of a slap of "mastic" at the joints, and perhaps installing a small mesh screen at the water entry points to the drains to prevent the movement of tree detritus into the tubes that are the drains.

I am not yet inclined to remove my headliner to make a sort of fix, as it will not solve the recurring problem of debris blocking the drains.

So there's the background.

Here's the current saga.

We were leaving town for a couple of weeks and I knew that there was the possibility that, while we were gone, a storm would hit our area. Florence was headed generally toward us. I could not put the VW in the garage because my MG is parked there along with other material that has turned a nominal two car garage into a functional one car garage. I could have covered the VW with a tarp but thought that might signal people that we were gone. So I spent substantial time cleaning out the drains on the VW in hopes that should we get rains from the storm it wouldn't be enough to cause the car to flood inside.

Upon return home I found my efforts were in vain, the VW had water in it and, in addition, had a flourishing mold/fungi population.

Yes, in that 100% perfection of hindsight, I should have covered the car. Which begs the point that the car shouldn't leak in the first place.

But I didn't and now had to clean up the mess. This involved using my shop vac to suck up the standing water, opening all the possible car openings and spraying white vinegar over everything in the interior to kill the unwelcome mold/fungi, then spreading Borax around to further protect the interior. Gloves and face mask respirator were the uniform of the day.

So far it has worked to kill what was there and prevent a return.

But how to prevent the problem of water entry without doing the work in the above video? And without needing to use a car cover all the time? My first thought was to use some plastic wrap held in place with magnets as a stop gap fix. Then I thought of using something like those magnetic signs people hang on the doors of their cars and trucks to advertise their businesses. A quick Google search revealed that many, many people had the same idea. So I ordered a large roll of that to experiment with.

It ought to be simple - put in on when rain is expected, take it off when I want to use the sunroof.

I'll let you know how the experiment works out.

By the way, my Subaru's sunroof doesn't have this problem. Perhaps VW/Audi should take a look at how they build their cars.

Thus ends this rant.


  1. probably the easiest fix is put the car into the garage😜 but seriously, any kind of covered parking is better than parking under the sun, which eats up seals. a carport. a car shade. or a car cover as you say. also, an advantage to the garage, it is out of sight from light fingered freddie and his stereo stealing friends.
    lots of people use a attached garage as a storage shed because they don't want to smell fuel fumes in their house. even twenty five year old cars have a sealed fuel systems. putting a car into a garage from new will help keep it new looking quite a lot longer than a new car parked in the sun.

  2. or just seal it up with clear rtv and pull the fuse so it will not be opened.

  3. Anonymous7:50 PM

    I hope you find a reasonable solution.

    I realize other cars sunroofs don't have this problem, but it is one reason I never get a sunroof because it is one less thing to go wrong.

    I had a 1988 VW Fox, which was a fun car to drive, but quality wise and the cost of repairs in comparison with Toyota's I have owned made it a one and done VW owner. I have been happy with Toyota's and my friends with Subaru's swear by them.