With that 12 second line of thought complete, I closed the hood, hopped back in, and gently drove the remaining 850 km home without further incident.

On the Monday following the long weekend I called HPA and described in detail where I determined the leak was coming from. They pointed me in the direction of the fuel level sending unit which is accessible under the back seat on the left-hand side. Within a few minutes I was putting the rear seats back together as I had reseated the sending unit seal that was not properly set when originally installed. With the leak easily repaired, I needed to visit a VW dealer to read and confirm the engine code that tripped the engine malfunction light.

I must admit I was definitely not looking forward to taking my insanely modded project car to the Dealer.It was best I thought to tell the Dealer (let's call them Dealer X)what had been done the car and what I believed the problem to be. They were quite apprehensive, but after some begging, they agreed to download the ECU for me. I was quite surprised when two faults popped out:

* Fuel tank breather system fault - vacuum too low (Error Code: 17884 P1476 035).

* Variable camshaft timing fault - timing incorrect (Error Code: 16395 P0011 035).

They cleared the codes and reflashed the ECU with the updated software, but still both codes would pop back up. These two codes were to haunt me for the next 4 months. Dealer X in the meantime, beautifully demonstrated poor communication, poor organization skills, and just plain inattentive service during my six week experience with them. I had had it, so I politely and professionally let the Service Manager know it by telephone after deciding I was not going to use Dealer X's services again. I was "rewarded" the following day with a "Black List" bulletin from VW of Canada when I arrived at Dealer Y, courtesy of the Service Manager at Dealer X, signed the day before. "Hey thanks", I thought in disgust, although I was not surprised by his action. Dealer Y did do their best to solve the problems, but the engine codes/malfunction light continued to persist. However, the fact that all work and parts were now completely on my tab, due to my car being "Black Listed" by Dealer X, well, I was definitely not enjoying spending my hard earned money without any results. My slow fuse had begun to burn.

This project car experience was not at all what I expected, a bright engine light glaring in my face each time I went for a drive, even though my R28's superb handling prowess, grip, and power were quite apparent. Anyway, it was HPA Motorsports to the rescue when they stepped up and offered to solve the problems I was having. All I had to do was drive the 950 km back to Vancouver! This was a four day commitment: one there, two days planned at HPA, and one day back, a small price to pay if my problems were to be solved. Optimistically, I drove out to the Vancouver area the next week so HPA could have a look. I was just beginning to sweat late in the morning of the second day at the shop when the HPA technicians solved the problem with the cam fault code (faulty seals on the cams inside the variable valve timing unit). Back home to Calgary I went with a big smile, a touch more power, and noticeably better drivability to boot, and , no engine light glaring in my face!

However, a week after my return from HPA, it happened...... The engine light popped on and was glaring in my face again. Dealer confirmed that it was the dreaded fuel tank breather system fault error code. Now I was really annoyed. I'd wished that never taken on this project and that all of my hard earned cash was safely back in my bank account. Unfortunately, I couldn't seem to find "Harry Potter's" magic wand to change everything back to the way it was before.I was beginning to think that either myself or my car was "cursed", or I had really pissed someone off in another life. Then things got even worse.

The parts dealer whom I sold the take off GTI rear axle assembly accused me of selling him a bent axle. Remember, this axle assembly was from a car I had never driven and purchased from a reputable VW dealer with 293 km on it. Trying to have an honest open mind, I did conduct my own investigation to follow up on this and found that the axle was now installed on a previously crunched TDI (the correct rear axle assembly has a different part number) and the parts dealer was far too belligerent to deal with. So that was more than enough for me, case closed! Then while backing out of the garage with my precious R28 at 6 am one fine summer morning (obviously still half asleep), I bumped it into my mother-in-law's car that was perfectly parked in my blind spot in my own driveway. My fault totally, but certainly adding to the boil of my extremely foul state. My rear bumper skin required a complete re-spray due to my glancing blow, while I was able to repair her car surprisingly well with some rubbing compound and a fresh coat of wax. Next up was the power steering line that blew while I was parking at a local bodyshop for an estimate to repair the paint damage to my bumper. Needless to say, this lucky bodyshop got the job since they also had a mechanical bay to repair my immobilized car. I also had some unlucky experience with poor quality "performance" brake pads. A bad set up front that had what seemed like zero coefficient of friction, even once properly seated, and a very squeaky set in the rear. I solved this problem myself by replacing all pads with some OEM sets I just happened to have kicking around the garage.

Meanwhile, I was beginning to think HPA was getting very tried of my continuous whining, as they were now more difficult to get a hold of due to their summer "road show" schedule, but Marcel assured me that they would solve the problem of troublesome the fuel tank breather system code. Just when I had given up all hope and had exhausted my own ideas to properly solve the problem (a square piece of black electrical tape on the instrument cluster wasn't going to work for me), Marcel phoned with the solution. The fault code was caused by my North American Spec ECU reading the fuel tank breather system sensor on the European Spec tank that was used in the 4Motion conversion. The solution was simple, all I had to do was remove my ECU and ship it to HPA. They could then re-flash it with a custom European Spec program for a 2.8 VR6 24V with variable valve timing. Well, this solved the problem and then some, as the additional positive side effects of this solution were: better throttle response, virtually no drive by wire delay, silky smooth drivability, and a definite increase in HP. Wow, what a nice surprise!

My ordeal was finally over. It had taken almost six months to work through all of the problems. Only then could I really begin to enjoy my new "R". In an ideal world, I would have taken delivery of a completely trouble-free vehicle, allowing more free time, causing no dirty hands, creating no conflict, or removal of additional cash from my wallet. Unfortunately, this time I drew the short straw. Sure there were a lot hassles and bad luck, but with this came plenty of learning and even more character building. It wasn't the bittersweet ending to "My R32 Blues" I had imagined, but I did feel a great sense of accomplishment. I am now truly proud to be the only legal "R" owner in Canada. However, I really did pay "My R28 Dues".

SOURCE
HPA Motorsports Inc.
7561 134A St. Surrey
B.C.
Ca  V3W 7B3
By Doug Neilson
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