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2014, May - Jun

New Beetle milestone: Though this 1999 model has shown it's flaws over 15 years and 90,000 miles, it's been a blast to drive 

By Don Capestrain

May 25 marks the 15th anniversary of my family's New Beetle ownership experience. It was on that day in 1999 that we took delivery of a brand new red GLS model from Kempthorn Volkswagen in Canton, Ohio. How the time has flown! I wish I could say the car was as perfect today as the day we brought it home from the dealership, but alas it now has many flaws. With only 90,000 miles logged, most of the issues are cosmetic, but it has a few mechanical maladies as well.

But wait; please don't think I'm disappointed! The car has been very enjoyable, fun and satisfying to own. It rides and handles as solidly and comfortably as the day we brought it home, with its smooth-running 2-liter engine still eager to power the car to imprudent speeds. I still enjoy looking at it, too. Despite its supposed lack of macho, I find the styling superior to the current Beetle, with cleaner, simpler lines that better connect it with its ancestor. It's still my daily driver too, not (yet) relegated to being a "kids car" for one of my daughters (both now college students)!

 

Mechanically, very few issues have arisen over the life of the car. In 15 years, it has only failed to start once (due to a dead battery caused by a defective CD changer). One check-engine light incident required a dealer repair to install new vacuum hoses. Both rear brake calipers and the ignition coil were recently replaced.

The parking brake cables stretched and were also replaced. A few years back, the catalytic converter core began rattling inside the case. This was actually a common problem that caused VW to extend the catalytic converter warranty to 10 years or 100,000 miles. Although I was under the mileage, I was over 10 years and was not covered.

I installed an aftermarket unit at a much lower cost but now have a louder exhaust. The resonator between the catalytic converter and the muffler rusted away and was also replaced. As a preventive measure, I replaced the timing belt and water pump at 85,000 miles. I did this job myself and found it far easier than I expected.

Two mechanical issues remain. The air-conditioning stopped working last summer. The diagnosis is a leaking condenser and accumulator. The repair cost estimate is high because of the need to remove the entire front of the car to gain access. I may try this repair myself (!). The second issue is the clutch. Although it is not slipping, it has significant chatter that seems to get worse as the ambient temperature rises. Oil on the clutch lining perhaps? I've not yet decided when that will be addressed, or who will do the addressing!

There you have it. Fifteen years of ownership in a little more than 500 words. But perhaps the best summary is even shorter: 15 years later, I still love our New Beetle! VWCA

Don Capestrain | vwlover77@hotmail.com

NOTE: Don Capestrain's New Beetle Beat column appeared in the Autoist for nearly 10 years, starting in the spring of 2000.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

* RACING STRIPES: At Chicago, VW boosts its association with Andretti Motorsports.
* CONVENTION 2014: For the late-comers, this is you last chance to join the big show.
* 2015 JETTA: New and improved models go center-stage.
* BOOK REVIEW: The Dune Buggy Handbook covers U. S. and U.K. models since 1964.
* BOOK REVIEW: Automotive Bodywork and Rust Repair will put you on the right track.

PLUS OUR REGULAR COLUMNS AND FEATURES:

* Driver's Seat - VW news & views by Cliff Leppke
* Frontdriver - Richard G. Van Treuren
* VolksWoman - Lois Grace
* Small Talk - VW and Audi news - quickly
* Retro Autoist - From the archives
* Parting Shot - Photo feature
* VW Toon-ups - Cartoon feature by Tom Janiszewski

 

 

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