Volkswagen Tuning 101 How to Mod the Engine on Your Golf

If you’re just getting interested in car tuning but are a VW fan, it’s probably no secret to you anymore that the Volkswagen Golf is perhaps the most popular car produced by the German automotive giant. Not only is it efficient and comes with a good price to efficiency ratio, but it’s also a great little car to approach as a first Volkswagen tuning project.

That’s because there’s a ton of tuning projects you can apply to it, especially thanks to the plethora of VW parts available for such projects. So, how has the VW Golf evolved throughout the years? And what are the best 5 ideas, complete with suggestions for necessary Volkswagen parts, that you can employ? Check out today’s article.

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VW Golf: A brief history

The MK1 Golf

This was a highly versatile and efficient little car. Even though the model has been around for several decades, it remains highly popular to this day. As a matter of fact, fans of the MK1 Golf say that, much like fine wine, their car has gotten better with time. Their explanation for this phenomenon is that the V-8 engines become looser with time and hence are easier to use.

The MK2 Golf

This version of the Golf emerged right as Volkswagen tuning was becoming a popular hobby. Nowadays, modding an MK2 Golf is usually all about turning the 1.8T MK2 engine to a new standard. Some owners choose to equip their cars with V6 engines, which is, in fact, what the initial MK1 GTi was all about.

The MK3 Golf

At the time of their launch, the MK3 Golfs were a bit underwhelming. The GTi trend had passed, but luckily the aftermarket part trend was quick to emerge in its tow. This gave rise to an interesting Volkswagen tuning trend, in which numerous MK3 owners tuned their MK3s to recapture the spirit of the ideal GTi.

The MK4 and MKV Golfs

Alternatively called the MKIV and MKV, these cars brought back the usual VW standard of quality, while also providing tuning enthusiasts with two golden opportunities for tuning over the years. Nowadays, there is an ample array of VW and Audi parts manufacturers that can help you tune your MK4 and MK5. APR tuning, for instance, has got a dedicated line of parts for the Golf, Rabbit and GTI. Autotech, which specializes in sport tuning, also carries VW parts for all Golf marks.

The MK6 and MK7 Golfs

Now resolutely back on track, Volkswagen came out with two fun new cars, which proved a delight to drive and a pleasure to mod.

All in all, throughout the years Volkswagen has proven that it is committed to putting out great quality cars, which not only come out with outstanding market value, but are a great base for tuning projects. That’s because the Golf is a relatively small and lightweight car, with a body that doesn’t tip the scales over, and a constantly improving chassis. Add a rather powerful engine into the mix and you are on your way to understanding the basics of engine tuning on a Volkswagen Golf.

How to tune your VW Golf engine

The evolution of VW Golf engines

As mentioned above, the first mark of VW Golf, which came out during the 1980s, had amazing engines for the standards of the era. Many Volkswagen tuning enthusiasts will note that the 8 and 16 valve engines on these cars get better with time – and this particularly bears out in the case of the V-8. Numerous VW tuning forum members who own Golfs are charting their journey in swapping the engines from a VR6 to 8 or 16 valve heads.

Unfortunately, Volkswagen strayed from its path of excellence with the less than stellar VW Golf MK3 and MK4. What was once an absolutely delightful GTi to drive and tune had become just your average family car, with dulled down handling and less responsiveness than the earlier models had demonstrated.

Many former VW enthusiasts turned their back away from the brand, as they felt it was simply trying to extend its profit margins, rather than actually investing in a good quality car. But while some took this as an opportunity to explore other brands, a handful of Volkswagen tuning enthusiasts saw the silver lining and decided that such cars were perfect for their tuning projects. Even DIY projects, like installing adjustable coil overs and low profile tires could make a big difference.

Typically, when first embarking upon a VW golf tuning project, you will start by modifying the suspensions on the car. A set of tougher spring coils will go a long way toward improving the general performance of the Golf. By lowering its chassis some 30 to 40 millimeters closer to the ground, the drive becomes sharper and more enjoyable for both driver and passenger.

Then comes a more powerful engine, Those who took the VW tuning initiative one step further even managed to successfully convert their cars into 1.8T and VR6 engine equipped vehicles. Some Golf tuning aficionados actually manage to fit in Japanese engines, which has caused some chagrin in the VW parts community.

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Hands-on tips for adding a new engine to your Volkswagen Golf

  • Got the VAG 1.8T 2000 engine? Then you can get cracking with the tuning. You can get as much as 300hp in torque out of it, without having to do any inner strengthening work. However, do bear in mind that you will have to upgrade to a larger Turbo or injector and would also need a remap to successfully complete this operation.
  • The vast majority of engines can have their power band peak upped with the aid of a fast road cam. With a remapped Turbo-charged Golf model, this is one of the most highly recommended mods you can implement.
  • If you choose a bigger engine (i.e. a 1.8 or anything beyond that), or a turbo-charged one, it would be wise to also have a cold air-fed full induction kit. Smaller engines and Diesel-fueled ones work very well with cotton gauze panel air filters.
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