It’s happened again!
When last we left our hero, he was but a few miles from work when this illumination of ill appeared on his instrument panel. With seconds to react to avert disaster he…. He did nothing, because he noticed that the temp gauge was still stuck dead in the middle of normal and wasn’t budging. Oil temp reading, same thing. Nothing appeared ready to fail imminently. With those bits of reassurance I continued on with my drive. I pressed on. I’ll be honest with you, even though the temp and oil gauges readings didn’t appear to change, there is something unsettling about having a red lighted symbol lit up on your instrument panel. It’s sort of like knowing you’re breaking the law, and staring at the peace officer’s face while you’re committing whatever transgression it happens to be. Well, not exactly, but you or at least I feel strange when I’m not in the jungles of Bolivia in a 2nd hand bought sight unseen 4WD truck, and expect that a certain amount of glitches or failures to occur. But when you’re in suburbia in a current year model on a regular commute home, and a warning light pops on it leaves me with a sense of unease.
You probably know this has happened to me twice before, December 2015, and then again in August 2016, when it happened then I freaked out even more. Probably more so that time because I was headed to work, and stuck in traffic in the city. Anyway, I made it in to my building, parked, and left the R to cool. Came back a few hours later, and noticed that the level in the reservoir was slightly below the minimum line, like this.
With this discovery, I then turned to the best first source for Volkswagen, the owner’s manual. In that tome of knowledge I discovered I needed these two components.
Now, back in December I had neither of these components. So I had to buy some distilled water at a CVS, and coolant at the local VW dealer. And boom! Just like that I was on my way to fixing the problem! One wrinkle, VW recommends a 40-60 ratio of coolant to distilled water. Ratios? Math again, argh! Ok, after composing myself I set to adjust the ratio for 4 ounces of coolant-water. Pour the resulting mixture into the reservoir, the light disappears, skies part, champagne flows down from the heavens, and now I have a Golf R without a coolant warning light all up in my grill. That weekend finds me calling the VW dealer to give the cooling system a once over while I have the oil changed. They pressure test the system and find no leaks. Oh well, I now had the components for any future coolant loss condition. Fast forward to today, and bam! Same issue again, but with me headed home. I make it home let is sit undisturbed for 60-90 minutes. After which I take a temperature reading just for the heck of it before I open a potentially pressurized vessel.
Once I see the readout, I have what many people describe as a moment of pause before proceeding with a potentially life threatening act say like sticking one’s head inside a lion’s mouth, cuddling with a wolverine or say like opening a pressure vessel. Now, I’m fairly confident that the reservoir is under some pressure, but not the same as the radiator. Still, with the engine’s operating range typically between 205-220 degrees do you really want a piece of that in liquid form on you? Me either. Ok, opened the cap gingerly while exposing just my hand to the cap, and standing in a position so as to not have my chest and head directly over the bowl in case there’s any surprises. Cap is unscrewed. Nothing, but a hiss of pressure escaping. Perfect. Steam-peeling averted. I add the 40-60 mixture, and fire the R back up. What’s missing? Oh, I’ll tell you, it’s that red coolant warning indicator. Thank you VW owner’s manual! The last thing I have to contend with is the remaining batch of coolant mix I made, so I’ll put it into a sealed container, mark the date on it, and put it into my tool bag in the hatch area. One lingering question, why did I lose coolant in a sealed system? Is this normal for VW’s or unique to the R? I’ll check periodically, and see if happens in another 8-9 months.