The V10 Touareg project and adventures (HUGE post)

Some of you might recall my initial post about my Touareg V10 TDI project. I bought it for $2k plus shipping from the other side of the country. Bought it from friends I’ve known for a long time and even briefly lived with one of them when we were in the Mid West a decade ago. I took a road trip last year and one of my stops was their house to take a look at the concerns they had with the way the Touareg was running, end result being a worn camshaft, which you can see in the above linked article when I started on the project.

The job took me about a whole week, and this was way back in March. I was partly delayed because the special tool kit I bought to properly lock down the cam and crank as well as counterhold the cam gears while torquing the bolts that hold it all together, did not actually have the correct crank lock for the V10. Everything else worked great, just not the crank lock. VW had no stock of the tool on their tools website run by Snap On (tools.vw.com). So off to eBay I go... and I find one that’s priced higher than what VW wanted to buy it directly from them... but the guy on eBay, you know, actually has it. So, I ponied up for it and to overnight ship it.

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The other thing that was setting a code and in need of attention was the fact it was setting a code for “turbo control module defective” in bank 2's engine computer (yeah, it has two engine computers. Each bank legitimately has its own separate set of sensors, turbo, intercooler, etc. It really is like two 2.5L 5 cylinder TDIs sharing a crankshaft). Before I took it all apart, I tried a little experiment. I noticed that the turbo control module code came back on after keying the engine on. It wouldn’t come back immediately, only once the key was cycled. Upon further investigation, it turns out the turbo control modules go through a self-check the moment the ignition is turned on. They try to move through their full range of motion, min to max. And if a module can’t move through its full range of motion, it knows. It has a built in position sensor. It sets a “turbo control module defective” code when it sees this, which is a little misleading to diagnose at first based on the code, right?

So, I removed the linkage from the control module on bank 2 and merely attempted to move the linkage through its full range of motion on that side, and it felt jammed. With very little room to move having everything still installed in the vehicle, I couldn’t tell if it was internal to the turbo, i.e. the vane mechanism itself jamming up (variable geometry turbo) or an external linkage corrosion issue. And for further experimentation, I cleared the code while the linkage was disconnected. Turned the key off, turn it back on, noted the module moved through its full range of motion during its initial check as soon as the key came on, recheck for codes and what do you know? The code didn’t come back! So, once the engine was dropped to do the camshafts, I also dove into the linkage hanging up on the bank 2 turbo.

Once apart, I realized the vane mechanism moved very easily, I could pull the arm outward (which there is no space to do with the engine installed) and it goes through its full range of motion. It’s when the linkage is lined up and connected to the control module that corrosion on the external linkage was limiting movement. So, a strip of sand paper and a dremel went to work on knocking corrosion off once the linkage was disassembled, then applied some high temp caliper grease, reassembled and went back to dealing with the camshaft job.

While in there, I also did all the injector seals and replaced the mechanical fuel pumps on the back of both cylinder heads. The passenger side (bank 1) is actually two pumps in one, VW calls it a “tandem pump.” Vacuum pump and fuel pump. Bank 2 just has strictly a fuel pump.

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Looked over the exhaust manifolds carefully, since they are known to crack on these V10s. Found no evidence of it, fortunately, so aside from knocking rust off the turbo linkages and greasing them, I got to leave the turbos alone! Hooray.

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Photo of bank 2 injectors, cam and injector rockers re-installed, clamping tool to counterhold the gear to drive the bank 2 cam in place so I can torque the bolt that holds a lot of things together. Also note the breather tubes on the top of the transmission, they clip up high to the back side of the engine to prevent water ingress into the transmission and transfer case when fording deep-ish water. The breather for the front differential clips to the bank 1/passenger side air box.

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Now looking at the bank 1 side, valve cover reinstalled. Note the big flywheel on the FRONT of the engine. No belts. Alternator is buried in the V of the engine with what looks like a small toothed belt that couples it to a gear. The power steering pump hides behind the bank 2 turbo driven off the gear stack at the rear of the engine, an then a similar coupler goes between power steering pump and AC compressor. No belts, just couplers.

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Plastic cover that goes on over the top of the aluminum valve cover installed, crankcase breather tubes installed and EGR pipe hooked back up. Note the new “tandem pump” on the back side of bank 1 here. Thanks to Cascade German Parts in Gresham, OR for coming through with those at a decent price.

This beast had 169,000 miles and change on it when I did all the work. Work was completed in March. The first decent drive I did with it, still wearing in the camshaft, I was on a back road that got pretty twisty, a Prius was in front of me and was kind enough to pull over and let me go. As I went by, I gave it some throttle, but not full throttle, and it just completely smoked the poor guy out. Combination of things, a lot of built up soot in the exhaust from running poorly with the bad camshaft, may also be that the cylinder with the worst worn lobes had that cylinder wall washed down from the fuel but not having enough air and was likely burning a bit of extra oil until things could clean up and the rings reseat.

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I hammered on it repeatedly, and continued to do so. Changed the break in oil out, put in some Red Line 5w40 and continued to hammer on it. It didn’t quite feel like it had the power it was supposed to at first, either. And I did have to top off the oil more frequently than I’d like at first. But after driving it hard, taking it on long trips and using a good fuel additive, mostly Stanadyne products, with every tank, the oil consumption has reduced, the power level has returned and it just runs so fantastic. I can’t believe how smooth this engine is and how effortlessly it pulls. While driving at 80+ MPH, it’s geared so tall that the engine falls almost virtually silent at that speed, doing just a shade above 2000 RPM. Just some slightly muted wind noise is all you’re aware of at those speeds. It’s really, really nice.

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Here’s the girlfriend helping remove the clear bra that had degraded and left a nasty, sticky mess on the front of the car. This is after removal. You can still get an idea of what it looks like by just looking at the mirror in this photo...

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All back together, still even has the over the top engine bay covers/sound deadening.

Backtracking a bit, just remembering when I first got it back together that I was getting a glow plug code. I had already replaced the main battery under the driver’s seat. But apparently, the glow plug relays are powered by the auxiliary battery that lives under the spare tire. It had gone dead, too. I had charged it before storing it the previous fall, but now it was dead, dead. Would not take a charge. So, back to the dealer and got a battery for the rear too, cleared codes, everything was fine.

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First trouble light I got was an air bag light... and it was coming on because the Passenger Air Bag Off warning light was intermittently not working. Yes, that’s right, a warning light for another warning light not working. It was always oddly dim, even at night, and eventually just stopped working altogether. I take it apart and find these cracked solder joints on these surface mount resistors (at least I assume that’s what they are). Reflowed the solder and added some more, as I was putting it back together, I found another reason why it was appearing dim: there was a piece of theater film to darken lights installed between the bulb and the button itself. My buddy’s that owned it previously said that was them, they didn’t like how bright the Passenger Air Bag Off warning light was.

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I left the film installed. Light works and is brighter than it was when I got it, the film definitely keeps it from being annoyingly bright when no one is detected in the passenger seat. More importantly, no more air bag light.

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Removing the radio was the easier way to get at these without further messing up the already peeling soft touch coating.

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Late in March, the girlfriend had her brother and his girlfriend fly out for a visit, and we took them all over the place with the Touareg. Drove from the Bay Area up to Eureka, had fun showing them the Avenue of the Giants Redwoods.

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In April, we took the Touareg and visited the Carrizo Plain. It was towards the tail end of this year’s superbloom. Saw some pretty great colors on our way into the park on highway 58, approaching from the East from I-5. The Carrizo Plain is also home to one of the most prominent surface expressions of the San Andreas Fault. I wanted to find a good spot to show this, took a side road that lead us through this escarpment that was created by the fault activity and literally drove over it. But didn’t find a good enough spot for a photo that showed the surface expression. We were just kind of blindly trying a couple paths that went through the escarpment. First little bit of off roading it got with us. The path was super uneven from seasonal rains that wash through that path and erode the surface away. Just crept over it slowly, the vehicle absorbing things just fine. Didn’t have to go into low gear with the transfer case or anything.

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Apparently, word got out that I own one of these and am not afraid to do major work on them... I’ve now had a couple other V10 TDIs grace my shop. In front of mine in this photo is a nice 2008 model, last year you could get the V10. Mine is a 2004, which is the first year. One thing I have noticed, the couple of 2008 V10 Touaregs I’ve seen, they don’t have the locking rear differential the 2004, 6 and 7s do (there were no V10s in 2005 as they transitioned to having DPF among other emissions equipment tweaks).

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In May, we took a trip to Oregon in it. I have family in the state, one on the coast, one near Bend. In the photo is one of our favorite places to stop and eat during the trip. It’s a car-themed Drive-In called Johnny’s Drive-In and Diner in Winston, OR. Most of the food has car-themed names like Barracuda, Low Rider, Deuce Coupe. My favorite side are deep fried cheesy jalapeno tater tots that they call ‘Spark Plugs.’ Slightly ironic being a diesel guy... But delicious all the same.

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While we were stopping at a Fred Meyer in Newport, OR, we spotted this rare VW gem from the same period. W8 powered Passat wagon. I keep joking with the girlfriend that one day I’ll have my own personal “Piech Collection” of VWs. Starting with my V10 Touareg, I also want a Passat W8 wagon with a manual and a W12-powered Phaeton. Sounds like a recipe for bankruptcy if I ever heard one, but it will be awesome while it lasts!

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Gotta go for a walk on the beach during super low tide in Oregon at some point. Pretty wild the stuff you see. This was at Strawberry Hill near Yachats.

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Then we popped over near Bend to visit my little sister and she directed us to some forest service roads to see some awesome sights, pictured here is an old lava tube with a couple openings to the surface, certain times of year allowing 3 beams of light down into the cave for this spectacular view. The Touareg feels so at home on dirt roads, it’s kind of nuts.

Also on this trip was a visit to Richardson’s Rock Range, where we dug up a bunch of “thunder egg” agates. That was a lot more dirt roads. Set the dampers to comfort and just put your foot in it. The thing just glides right over the imperfections and feels perfectly controlled. I even turned ESP off and tried to break the tires free on the dirt... it barely does it. It just hooks up and goes!

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We also went back up and visited Oregon again for the 4th of July. No additional pictures to add, but a few more service roads were visited as we were around Bend. Ferried around my sister and her long time boyfriend as well seeing some more unique volcanic stuff.

The story I have to tell there in relation to the Touareg was on the way home. We were on highway 97, angling towards Weed, CA and I-5. Girlfriend looked at Google maps and saw a huge back up for miles and miles whose origin/point where it frees up is in Dunsmuir. We pull over at the Grass Lake rest area off 97, I poke around on maps and find a road that looks like it might get us around the back up, driving on the back side of Mt. Shasta. There was even street view, I poked around at a couple spots on the road and it looked paved pretty far in, sure, let’s try it.

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Yeah, it wasn’t paved for long. But it was just a dirt road. Nothing too crazy about it. Put the dampers in comfort mode and glide right over any little ripple and undulation confidently and comfortably. Then we get to 89 and start heading West towards I-5. The 89/I-5 interchange appeared to be precisely where the traffic starts to clear up. I get near it and there’s a massive line of people on 89 waiting to get onto the on ramp and merge onto 5... crap, exactly what I was trying to avoid. Sitting in traffic for forever.

Since we weren’t moving, I consulted maps again. There was this side road, which I saw a number of people attempting to turn onto left onto WB 89 (our direction) to get onto 5. I turned around and got on that road, wondering what event these people might have gotten out of. Yeah, it turns out they were all people that had the same idea I did but found out that road technically doesn’t go through like Google maps suggests.

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Not long after turning onto the road, there are signs for “residents only” and “no outlet”. That doesn’t seem right. Eventually, we get to a large cul de sac and a big sign that just simply says “END”. To the left of the sign is a small dirt trail... must be what Google maps was referring to. I’m game to try it. In front of me is a Nissan Rogue contemplating the same thing, but then I see another reason why he’s waiting: there’s a Pontiac Grand Prix coming the other way and the trail is only wide enough for one vehicle.

The Pontiac pulls upto the Nissan and the two drivers talk for a bit, the Pontiac takes off, the Nissan decides to forge forward on the trail. I follow.

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Trail got super narrow in parts, had some brush get the side of the Touareg a little. Then we get to a relatively steep and very uneven and rocky section of the trail. The Nissan hesitates, then starts to attempt to angle down the path before thinking the better of it and reversing back up. At least at the top of the decline, the trail had widened just enough for two vehicles, the Nissan driver waves me through. Just thought to myself I don’t want to have to ride the brakes the whole way down on a surface like that. Just to make sure it doesn’t scrape, I knock the air suspension up a level. Put the trans in neutral, switch the transfer case to low, put us back into drive and down we go. I don’t touch a pedal at all, it just easily crawled down the undulating rocky mini slope and then motored on. After a short while, pavement re-appears. Switch air suspension back to normal, trans back to neutral, transfer case out of low and back into ‘auto’ and away we go. Driving alongside the Dunsmuir airport now.

Not long after that, make a right turn and there’s an on ramp onto I-5. Oh wait! It’s closed! Look at maps again, no worries, there’s another ramp South of here that we can get to. Found that ramp a few minutes later, open ramp to merge on the highway, hammer down. No real traffic.

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That was the moment where I really started to appreciate this thing. Just went from sort of off road to torque-monster acceleration upto highway speeds in a large, heavy and tall vehicle that also feels composed at speed and in corners. And there are plenty of twists on that section of I-5 in the mountains between Weed and Redding. There’s very few vehicles that are both capable off roaders and that good on the road. Yes, I know, there are more capable off roaders out there, but this still has respectable capability while still being fantastic in more normal pavement driving situations.

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Had a little visit to lower Blue Lake and Twin Lake in July. There was a small road I was wanting to take to get to Meadow Lake in this area, but due to snow still being on the ground in spots at this elevation in the Sierras, the road was still closed, at the time estimated re-opening in early August. So, no hint of off-roading on this little trip, but the views were stunning.

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The same guys that sold me the Colt cams for the V10 also had this custom made driveshaft that eliminates the center support bearing, which is a notorious failure point on all Touaregs and Cayennes. I gave it a try and promptly took it on another trip. The new driveshaft has a high pitched whine of sorts at speed, which kind of ruins the quietness I’ve been enjoying at speed in this thing. I’ve contacted The Driveshaft Shop, as it seems they have a revised driveshaft for Cayennes that is CV joints on both ends while still forgoing the center support bearing and flex disk. I might give that a try at some point. The V10 shaft is a smidge shorter, so it will have to be a slightly shortened Cayenne shaft (about 61 mm worth).

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We took the truck with new driveshaft into the Sierras once again and this time checked out the Sardine Lakes. There is a short, very rocky and kind of sketchy road that connects the two lakes. You can drive on it, but most choose to walk from the lower lake (it’s not exactly far anyway). But, I wanted to get a small taste of what it’s like to wheel this thing on a challenging surface, so I gave it a shot:

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There were a few moments of 3 wheeling as seen here. I did have it in low and rear diff locked. I tried it without the diff locked, knowing that the clever EDL programming can bail you out, but that momentary wheel slip while the computer figures out which brake to apply and how hard is not anywhere near as confidence inspiring as just having the diff actually locked to begin with. The girlfriend virtually had a panic attack as we started on the trail. She was not happy. She did eventually get out and help spot for me, though. We both have something to learn about picking lines and she seems more willing to help spot than be in the vehicle while I do stuff like this, hopefully I can keep her from wanting to say “hell no” to more adventures like this... especially since I did this today:

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She’s got some oversized A/T tires now. Conti Terraincontact A/Ts, to be more specific. This photo is in the normal ride height mode.

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And this is the X’tra Off Road mode, which is really only meant for clearing large obstacles or fording water. Not meant to be used at speed at all. There is a setting in between these two as well.

At some point, further investment in skid plates and rock sliders/rocker protectors should happen. I don’t anticipate doing, say, the Rubicon or anything, but I do want to find some trails that have some challenges, but mostly just interested in going to places normal cars can’t and seeing some spectacular views all while also being fantastically well-mannered on the highway and twisties, too.

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So, there you have it. I finally got around to making the post I said I would... and it’s absurdly large. I’ve become pretty enamored with this machine... and terrified of it all at the same time. Since I got it back on the road in March, it’s been almost 14,000 miles with no real hiccups. I can scarcely believe I’ve driven it that much, it’s not my daily driver. I occasionally drive it to work, but most days opt for one of my smaller VW diesels so I’m not paying the fuel bill for this thing. But I do seem to take long trips with the Touareg and pile people into it for the adventures. Just... 14,000 miles!! And it’s NOT the daily driver! What the hell?!

It averages 19-20 MPG and on long trips to and from Oregon, it gets real close to 22 MPG... and that’s with me doing 80+ as much as I can on I-5. For something its age that weighs near 6000 lbs and has 550 ft lbs of torque, I’ll take it.

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