Need help with purchase decision - 1999 VW Golf

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Hello everyone,

I apologize in advance for this newbie question....

I am helping a single mother (4 kids!) purchase a car for her oldest child, who is 18. Finances are VERY tight and she's pretty much limited to about $4,000 or less.

She has found a 1999 VW Golf with 128,000 miles on it. It's got an automatic transmission and sun roof. It's being offered by a used car dealer "as-is" for $3,000. She asked me to look it over. I know that on *any* car with that number of miles on it will have some issues, and that how well it was maintained is the major factor, but I do not have access to any of the maintenance records. I am unfamiliar with VWs, and really need input from the perspective of an experienced VW enthusiast who knows the weak points and what to look for. Here is what I can find:

1) Car pulls to the right significantly. This might be because the left front tire is the spare, which has lots of tread on it, whereas the right front is nearly completely worn. Dealer claims this is why it is pulling right. I do believe this *could* be a cause, or it might simply be an excuse to cover up a more significant problem. Do VW Golfs of that vintage have any alignment problems?

2) Plenty of rear brake pad left, but fronts are almost gone, although not touching rotors yet. How expensive are Golf brake jobs? Can you resurface Golf rotors, or does VW automatically replace rotors when front pads need replacing?

3) Perhaps most significant: I opened the oil fill cap, and there appears to be a light coating of gritty sludge. The oil on the dipstick is pretty dirty. Do Golfs of this vintage have any sludging problems?

4) Do Golfs have timing belts, or chains? If a belt, how much does it cost to replace the

posted by  btanchors

While I wouldn't call myself a VW enthusiast, I'll try and help you a bit.

I guess it could be for the reason you described, but assuming you're in the US or Canada (given the currency), it could also be the camber on the road....It depends on just how 'significant' the pull is.

In an ideal world one would replace the discs at the same time as the pads, trouble is that pads wear out quicker than discs, so this isn't always necessary (unless the discs are worn/damaged in other ways such as being corroded due to the pads not covering them thoroughly, or being warped etc.). The expence varies a bit, but regardless of where you go, a simple brake pad replacement shouldn't set you back much. Discs are slightly more expensive, but either way it shouldn't break the bank!

Depends on the severity and colour of the sludge really. I doubt a little sludge will amount to much, especially being just on the filler cap. As long as the oil itself is 'oily' in colour and at the right level, lol. Oil gets dirty very quickly, it won't hurt to change it though, unless of course you have documents that suggest it's been changed recently. I don't know if Golfs of that era are known for any problems though, someone else might be able to shed light!

Yes, I believe all Golf's of that era do have timing belts. I'm not sure on the exact cost where you live, but if you're not sure when it was replaced, I strongly suggest it's changed ASAP to save any excess cost and inconvenience!

Hope that helped. Good luck! :thumbs:

posted by  Cliffy

I dont think so...alignment off or frame damage to the car...is the steering wheel straight? Is tire pressure the same on both sides?


On a 99 golf, if you do it yourself, expect 100 or so, if a shop does 150~. I believe you can resurface any rotor as long as it still has enough thickness (im not sure how they measure this) to have them safely grind away at it without shaving it so thin that the integrity of the part diminishes, but when my mechanic told me 40 for the pair and I saw new ones for 22 a piece, there was no decision to be made...I decided to pay 44 per rotor and get Brembo ones, just because they have a good name to them, and a good reputation to boot.


VWs generally have many problems. My buddy has a 2000 golf GLS 5-speed and hasnt had many problems aside from dash lights going out, windows not working, doors not opening, motor mounts, not being able to get into gear, grinds, clutch slippage in the cold, etc...you get what I mean. If money is an issue, the car may be affordable, but you gotta think whats going to happen later down the road


No answer here, but belts would be my guess...for my civic I got a quote of 400 installed, so for the golf about 500+ since euro cars=^money for parts

In general, I dont recomend this car for this situation:2cents:

EDIT: here is a great site for advice. It is car owners basically writing their own reviews of the cars, and giving lists and things of what went wrong and when.

www.carsurvey.org I recomend this site to everyone that is looking to buy a used car. Also, check out cars.com research page for JD Power ratings, recall information, and general marks in reliability, build quality, integrity, etc. Good luck, and I suggest staying away from this particular VW

posted by  newyorker

With a Micrometer...:wink2:

I wouldn't even bother resurafacing discs myself. If they are that lipped that they would require it, chances are they are on or close to the minimum thickness anyway. You can put new pads on old(ish) discs, but it's not recommended if they are too lipped as the brake pedal will never really feel right and I guess braking efficiency would suffer.

posted by  Cliffy

and the pads will wear out faster...i usually feel the rotor with my finger if it feels mostly flat with minor things, i keep it on, if it feels wavy and all, replace

posted by  newyorker

The pads will eventually wear to the lip on the discs (within reason). They'll only wear out excessively faster if the old pads reached the metal and have scored the discs. In which case there's no alternative than to replace the discs and the pads.

posted by  Cliffy

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