I was warned, I didn’t listen, and now I just live with my mistake of daily driving a 22 year old german car with no backup plan.
So, struts. The top of the passenger side strut in front is “floating” about a quarter of an inch. Whenever I hit a small defect in the road (so when I drive in Ohio), there’s a decent volume clunk. I figure I may as well go get the right tool tomorrow and tighten both sides down (driver’s side is less than an eight floating). If that doesn’t fix it, then I’ll take it to an actual mechanic for diagnosis. There’s also an audible creak when I push down on the passenger’s side too, which doesn’t happen on the driver’s side, so I’m almost certain this is a suspension issue.
Oh, also this presented itself 20 miles into a 120 mile round trip.
Update: looking at my Haynes manual, it seems that I have GTI suspension swapped in.