My T1 Front Differential Rebuild - Club Touareg Forums
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post #1 of 14 Old 04-22-2019 Thread Starter
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My T1 Front Differential Rebuild

Hi guys! I wanted to share my rebuild process on the front differential in my 2004 T1 V8 with locking diff. I've seen a lot of the "crush sleeve" dilemma and not being able to obtain one through VW or ZF. I decided to take a little different approach to the whole thing. Now some may agree or disagree with this method and that's up to you, but I assume no responsibility or liability if you try this.

First and foremost I want to thank @dragline1570 for his help and contribution as well as a local buddy of mine, Tim, that builds drag cars and my father for doing the machine work. None of this would have been remotely possible without them, so THANK YOU!!

Now to the fun stuff!

I won't go into how to remove the front differential since there's plenty of tutorials out there to do that. If you need some assistance, look at these:
So check those videos out if you need some guidance on that.

I had previously "rebuilt" the differential about 2yrs ago following Terry Hightower's videos on youtube. Terry's videos were good but he has since taken those videos down and offers a rebuild service. So if you aren't comfortable rebuilding the diff, send it to Terry for a rebuild. My differential was giving the typical groaning noise so I knew it had to be rebuilt the first time. After rebuilding it and driving it for some time I would hear a knock on acceleration/deceleration with a slight groan. So it was time to take it back out and rebuild it before it was ruined indefinitely. What I had determined after removing the diff was that the backlash was incorrect (too much backlash.)

With putting in new carrier bearings/races and new pinion bearings but no new races on the previous rebuild, I inspected them and decided to leave the carrier bearings/races in place but replace the pinion races and bearings, even though they looked fine.

There are some basic things you'll need:
Dial indicator with magnetic base or some base to mount and be able to measure backlash. It also helps if you have a long reach stem for the indicator.
Digital calipers
A flat edge for measuring (long enough to span the width of the differential casing)
Torque wrench that can measure up to 30in/lbs either beam or dial, no clicker styles
Gear marking compound (prussian blue by permatex or GM gear marking compound GM#1052351-what I used) and acid brush for applying compound
Hydraulic press or access to one with a bearing separator
Bearing puller (loan-a-tool)
A Lathe and machining skills or a machine shop
A 1" inner diameter steel nut used for making a solid sleeve or whatever you can use to make the sleeve
Shim stock for making pinion shims
Steel washers big enough to make a new pinion shim undersized if needed
Brake cleaner and mineral spirits along with a brush for cleaning
RTV sealant for differentials and gear oil
Blue Locktite
Paint pen
Pans for cleaning the differential and internals
Drift for knocking pinion out
Race driver kit (loan-a-tool at the local auto parts suppliers)
3M green scouring pad and razor blade
Basic tools such as breaker bar, torx sockets, metric allen sockets, metric sockets, hammers, impact gun, and 32mm 6pt socket for pinion nut (If you don't have common hand tools, you may not want to attempt rebuilding the diff)

Parts List:
Pinion seal: VW 0AA409189 (I recommend purchasing 2 in case one gets messed up on install) source Parts for VW and Audi Cars Cylinder Heads Injector Pumps Engine Gasket
Axle seals x2: VW 0AA409189A (corteco 1643370159) source
Carrier bearings x2: Timken LM503349
Carrier races x2: Timken LM503310
Pinion bearings: Timken HM88542 & Timken HM89448
Pinion races: Timken HM88510 & Timken HM89410
Carrier Shims: VW 02b498210 (note: I did not use these nor bought them, however I discovered that this shim set is used in a Golf limited slip diff with the same carrier bearing number, so they might could be used) Here is a cross reference with Timken
Lucas Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer (I use this to prelube the bearings, it's great stuff but not necessary)
Full synthetic 75w-90 GL5 spec gear oil (2qts)
Axle needle bearing for driver side axle tube: VW 311401301 I didn't replace it as nearly no one does, they just don't seem to wear, but if it is, you'll need this and also a slide hammer)
Before we do anything to the diff, clean the outside of it thoroughly. I like to use purple power.

The first thing to do is measure the current preload on your differential. Take the 32mm socket and torque wrench (you may have to use adapters as mine was a 1/4" beam torque wrench) and rotate the driveshaft flange in both directions and note the value. I did not do this so I conversed with dragline1570 and he came up with 14in/lbs-18in/lbs of rotational force for proper pinion preload.

Now drain the oil from the case using the proper sized allen socket. You'll probably notice the pretty shimmer in the oil. Next I used a soft faced hammer and knocked out the axle stubs, they're just held in place with circlips. Note the condition of the flanges where the axle seals ride. If there is a significant groove a redi-sleeve may be needed. If the grooves are too deep the new axle seals may not seal properly. Mine did have a groove but I did not feel that they were so deep that the seals would leak. So far I haven't seen any leakage.

Next I would remove the differential cover bolts and separate the cover (I had to use the soft faced hammer again to knock the cover loose to break the seal.) Now setup the dial indicator and base so you can measure the current backlash. Set the indicator's stem as close to the edge of a tooth and as perpendicular as you can to get a good reading. Zero the indicator and record the backlash by gently moving the crown wheel back and forth. I did not do this, not that it would have mattered because my backlash was incorrect from the previous rebuild. I consulted with dragline1570 on this and he advised that backlash tolerance should be .004"-.008". If you wanted to, at this point you could clean a few teeth of the crown wheel, apply the marking compound, install the cover with the torx bolts and rotate the pinion a few times back and forth at the pinion nut; take the cover back off and see what kind of gear pattern you're getting and make notes plus pictures. Note: one thing that is important to do in order to get a good pattern is to apply some friction to the drive flange. I did this by applying pressure to the drive flange with my hand creating the friction.

At this point we can remove the driver side axle tube. Remove the torx bolt (one was in the cover) and use the soft faced hammer to separate it from the case gently. You should see a carrier shim on that side. Clean it then measure it with the digital calipers and record its thickness and also mark it with the paint pen. I like to do one dot on the shim and one dot on the tube. Now pull out the carrier. There is also a shim on the passenger side. Do the same with the calipers as you did with the drivers side and record it's thickness. The reason for measuring the thickness is to put these shims back in the same side they came out of and to know what the carrier bearing preload should be. Take the thickness of both shims and add them together, this is the total thickness to obtain the proper carrier bearing preload. Mine measured .130". This is important to know if you have to add or subtract the shim thicknesses to obtain proper backlash tolerances. Now that the carrier is out of the way, it's time to measure the pinion depth. Set a flat edge across the width of casing face and take the digital calipers, set them on the flat edge, and measure down to the top of the pinion and record the depth.

It's time to get that impact gun out now. To remove the pinion nut, I take two of the drive shaft xzn bolts and screw them into the flange and take a long beefy flat blade screw driver and run it between them while the shaft of the screwdriver is in contact with the bushing mount to counter-hold the drive flange. After the pinion nut is removed, the pinion seal is visible. Take the digital caliper and measure the depth of the seal. You should see somewhat of a "ledge" above the seal to reference to. I like to take 3 measurements in 3 different spots, now record the pinion seal depth. Ok, so now let's remove the pinion. Just so everyone knows, I was working on a wooden benchtop so nothing will get damaged. I set the differential case face flat on the benchtop so that the unit is vertical. Next I place a steel drift, that can fit into the recess of the pinion shaft end, and use a small 5lb hammer to drive out the pinion. Never hit on the pinion directly as it can be damaged easily.

So now that the pinion is out, set it and the crush sleeve aside somewhere safe for now. You'll now notice the inner pinion bearing floating inside the diff case behind the pinion seal. Take the diff case and flip it 180 degrees. I had a wooden block that I used to set the diff case on to somewhat keep it level and upright while I knocked out the bearing and pinion seal. The block somewhat fit into where the drive flange sits. I used a long cold chisel and knocked on the bearing from inside the case which also moves the pinion seal at the same time (the bearing is up against the pinion seal). So now, all we should have to do is knock out the pinion races. Using the same block, I set the diff case down on a cement floor(the case never made contact with the cement floor). Trying to knock out the inner race on the benchtop wouldn't work because it flexed too much. Using that long cold chisel I knocked on the edges of the race until it came out; note the race part number. Take your time with this. Now I took two 2x4s and placed them on the cement floor to support the diff case and so the facing would't get damaged. Using the cold chisel again, I used the same method to remove the outer bearing race from the housing. Now that we have a bare housing, clean it thoroughly with the mineral spirits the use the brake cleaner to dry out the case.

On this rebuild, like I said earlier, I reused the carrier bearings and races but I'll go over how I removed the bearings from before to the best of my memory. I cut the bearing cages and removed them along with the rollers. Make sure all of them are removed, the rollers like to fall into the spider gears. Next with the bearing puller there's a recess to get the arms of the puller under the bearing. I believe I used a deep socket just undersized of the bearing to push against the carrier. Save that old bearing housing. Clean up the flanges after the bearings are removed. Now take the new bearing and place it onto the carrier as square as you can. Take the old bearing housing and flip it over and place it on top of the new bearing to use as a driver. Take a hammer and knock on the new bearings until they bottom out.

Now it's time to remove the outer pinion bearing. Make sure the bearing separator's edges are sharp for this. Place the bearing separator as close and square to the bearing taking care not to hit the pinion teeth. After that's setup, place it in the hydraulic press and press off the bearing and pinion shim. She'll pop when she releases so don't freak out too much haha. Set the pinion shim aside after cleaning it thoroughly. If all went well, there shouldn't be an damage to the pinion or pinion shim.

So this is where the fun begins! Clean up the pinion with the mineral spirits. After it's cleaned, it was suggested by my buddy that builds drag cars, to grind down the pinion shaft just enough to slip the pinion bearings on and off. The purpose of this is so that when/if you have to change the shims on the pinion to change pinion depth, you aren't having to press on/off the bearing; that's a pain in the ass! I wasn't too keen on that method but decided to go with it. So, I chucked up the pinion in the lathe and used 100grit sandpaper to grind down the pinion shaft. I did a little at a time, taking the pinion out of the lathe and checking to see when the bearings would slip on/off of the shaft with slight friction. The other method would be to slightly grind out the inner diameter of both pinion bearings to accomplish the same thing, but then you'll have to sacrifice two new bearings (more money). The advantage to this method is the pinion stays in an original condition and the outer bearing will have to be pressed back on. So pick your poison here. I was a little worried about centrifugal force causing the bearings to spin on the pinion shaft, but so far, I haven't had any problems (I've run about 600mi or so on the new rebuild thus far). My buddy said, in his experience, the oil would heat up between the shaft and the bearings locking them into place and that if I had to remove them for another rebuild in the future, they probably would still need to be pressed off. Only time will tell with that, but I hope I never have to rebuild it again!

Now to address the crush sleeve problem. I had seen where dragline1570 reused the old crush washer by cutting it a few mm short and making a spacer to bring the length back to 22mm, which he calculated to be factory length. So I did this as well with my original crush washer. This will work just fine as long as the pinion depth is correct and the gear contact pattern and backlash is within tolerance. When I consulted that solution with Tim, he suggested going with a solid sleeve. His reasoning was that for one, the solid sleeve can be reused whereas the crush sleeve is a one shot deal, not to mention that if you over torqued the pinion nut the sleeve will be crushed too far and now you can't back off the pinion nut for less preload; and we all know about the availability of ZF's crush sleeve. Could you keep making spacers to bring it back? Well yes, to a certain extent, however you're limited to how many times it can be done before the crush sleeve is completely trashed. Another reason to go solid is the force it takes to tighten the crush sleeve versus the solid. With a crush sleeve it takes a LOT of torque to crush that sleeve to get proper preload whereas with the solid, if the length of the sleeve is setup to give proper preload, you could use an impact gun to put it on and no matter how tight you get that nut, that sleeve will not crush, at least it shouldn't. As long as that nut is tight, the preload will stay the same. The final reason that Tim gave is that he's seen crush sleeves actually crush slightly more from high torque applications, although I don't think there's enough in the Touareg for that to happen, but I guess that could still be possible. According to Tim, crush sleeves are a poor design and I have to agree. There is a drawback to a solid sleeve though, not all bearings are the same, not even from the same company. There is variance in the bearings, even though Timken, NTN, etc try to keep it at a minimum it's still there and that can possibly change the preload enough to be out of tolerance. To address that issue, shims may have to be used with a solid sleeve, so it isn't perfect either. So choose which method you want to go with and I applaud and thank dragline1570 for his work! I decided to go with the solid sleeve method.
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post #2 of 14 Old 04-22-2019 Thread Starter
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Continuation of write-up

So how did we make the solid sleeve? Using the old crush sleeve, I got the inner diameter measurement, the o.d. isn't that important as long as there's no interference anywhere. The measurement on the i.d. of my original sleeve was approximately 1.275". The length of the sleeve I can't recall. We started out at .866" (22mm) and there was a lot of slack after the nut was tightened with that length, no bearing preload at all. So to save some time, I measured the play of the pinion with the dial indicator to get a baseline length. So there was a trial and error method of shortening the sleeve .005" at a time, reassembling the pinion, tightening the pinion nut and checking rotational force for preload until it was within tolerance. The material used was an old steel nut my dad had that was 1" i.d. He put it onto a threaded spindle he had, chucked it in the lathe and turned down the o.d. of the nut, removed it from the spindle, then chucked it in the lathe and bored out the i.d. to 1.275". Use whatever will work to make the sleeve, just use a good hard steel. My pinion preload was at the minimum of 14in/lbs. All of this was done after installing the new races into the diff housing.

Now back to the differential housing. Make absolute sure that where the races are to be seated is clean and free of any debris. Using the race installer tool, use an appropriate driver plate for the pinion races and drive the new races in until they bottom out. You'll hear a difference in sound when they are fully seated. The wooden block and two 2x4s were used again on cement floor to support the case while driving in the races. Now that the races are installed, the pinion can be installed. Leave the pinion seal out until final assembly! Assemble the pinion with original pinion shim, new outer bearing, solid sleeve and inner bearing into the housing. Slide the drive flange on to the pinion and tighten down the pinion nut. Check rotational force again for proper preload. Now, if the original gear pattern looked good and centered, we can now check the pinion depth like we did in the begining and if it's the same, we should be good, if not the pinion depth will have to change to achieve an acceptable wear pattern. This is where it can get tricky and a lot of patience and understanding what's going on is needed.

If the original wear pattern was good or not, the next thing to do is install the carrier, races with shims, driver side axle tube and cover with bolts to check it. When installing the carrier races, mark one for a particular side, whether driver or pass, and always put it back on that side (remember tolerances with the bearings? it's the same with the races). Get the gear marking compound and paint 3 to 4 teeth on the crown wheel of the carrier. Install the carrier into the diff casing with the races and respective shims, dr axle tube, diff cover with the torx bolts and tighten the bolts. Now rotate the drive flange with the 32mm socket for several rotations both directions and like before, use your hand to create some drag. The drag helps with the teeth rubbing the compound off the gear teeth to reveal a pattern that's easier to identify. Now, carefully remove the diff cover but leave the axle tube in place. This is when backlash should be checked again, so make note of it. Now rotate the carrier so the pattern can be seen and observe the wear pattern on both drive side and coast side. If you don't understand wear patterns, watch this video:
Look in the comments section as there is a pdf which shows gear contact patterns and how to correct them. Understanding how gear meshing works with pinion depth vs backlash is important so you know whether to add or subtract pinion depth, as it correlates with backlash, and whether or not to bring the carrier further in towards the pinion (decreasing backlash) or further away from the pinion (increasing backlash). What's important to get accurate backlash measurements and gear contact patterns is to install the diff cover. The cover acts as pinion bearing caps and when installed actually presses down on the carrier which will affect the gear pattern and backlash. That was something I didn't realize until a few days of custom pinion shims and carrier shims being made. I kept looking at the backlash and gear patterns. When I thought I finally had it right, I installed the cover and low and behold the pinion wouldn't even turn from where I had shimmed up the pinion so much to get the "perfect pattern". So don't make that mistake.

Going back to the original shims first, paint a few gear teeth with the compound, mock it up and check pattern and backlash and go from there. In my case, the pattern dictated that the pinion depth needed to decrease (add pinion shims). Typically decreasing the pinion depth will decrease the backlash (tighter gear mesh). The shim that Tim gave me was .010" thick which gave me a decent but not "perfect" gear contact pattern and brought my backlash to about .0035"-.0040" which is a little on the tight side but within tolerance. Without the pinion shim, the backlash was around .014", way too loose. Now, let's say our gear pattern depth looked ok as far as center height on the tooth but the pattern is too far out ( to the heel of the crown tooth) and the backlash is too much. We would increase the thickness of the pass side carrier shim and decrease the dr side shim. Remember that the shims combined thickness should equal around .130" for the proper carrier bearing preload. So if say you had to increase one side .005" the other side will have to have .005" decreased. Reading gear contact patterns and adding or subtracting shim thickness is an art for sure! If pinion depth needed to increase (subtracting pinion shim thickness) that's where the washers come into play. It's tricky but can be done on a lathe. At one time I thought I needed to have a thinner pinion shim so I bought washers bigger and thicker than the pinion shim to be turned down, bored to size and machined to the desired thickness. If I had needed to add to the thickness of the pinion shim and didn't have the shim Tim gave me, I would have had to buy shim stock and cut out a shim to fit. Shim stock can be bought from dealers such as McMaster Carr online and there are different thicknesses in which you can purchase. I'd recommend purchasing the thinnest you can buy. This whole process is tedious since there are no known pre-made shims like for say Dana Spicer. However for the carrier shims, VW does have that shim kit I discovered and I believe one could use that if need be, but they're quite pricey, but it is an option. If someone ends up purchasing that kit, let me know how many of each size are included as my buddy, that's the local VW parts manager, didn't know and also couldn't believe I'm rebuilding the differential.

Now that the gear contact pattern is acceptable and backlash is in tolerance, it's time for final assembly. Make sure everything is clean. Go ahead and clean the mating surfaces of the housing, cover and dr side axle tube. I used a razor blade and a 3M green scouring pad to get off all the old sealant, finished up with brake cleaner. Next install the inner pinion bearing and pinion seal to the depth as noted originally. Install the pinion (with shim, outer bearing and sleeve installed), drive stub flange and pinion nut. I used a little blue locktite on the pinion threads just for extra insurance. Recheck rotational force for pinion preload and make sure it's still in tolerance. Install the dr axle tube (with one torx bolt), carrier shims, races and carrier. Now RTV the cover mating surface and install(follow directions of the RTV that was purchased). I torqued all of the cover bolts to 35ft/lbs. Now install the pass side and dr side axle seals to the depth as measured before disassembly. Install the axle stubs and and fill the diff with the 2qts of gear oil. If premature wear to the carrier bearings is because the recommended amount of oil is not enough to properly lubricate the bearings add the extra .9qts, it won't hurt a thing. That should wrap things up. Also, I used the lucas oil stabilizer to pre-lube the bearings before final assembly. Reinstall the differential and drive it. Check for leaks or any problems. Don't have the truck aligned right away in case it has to come out again to correct a problem. Once everything is good to go on the diff and no problems, don't forget to get it aligned. One thing I did before removing the subframe is measure where it's located from several points. Doing so will get it close to the original alignment before disassembly and the alignment won't be way off, but still get it aligned.

Hopefully, if you decide to rebuild your front diff, my write-up and experience will help you. I think I have written everything sequentially and it all makes sense but I'm pretty tired (started writing this around 6pm and now it's 3:30a!). I may have to come back later and edit this post to clarify some things or add more content. This rebuild took me about a whole month because I wanted and needed for everything to be right. If anyone has anything to add/correct please do so.

Videos of the pinion after grinding.

I have photos to upload but it won't let me. Says there's a security token problem.
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-22-2019 Thread Starter
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Here's the pictures
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Bloody hell, this is a stonking write-up!


VW Touareg models are as follows:
Generation 1: T1 is model 7LA & facelift T2 is model 7L6
Generation 2: T3 is model 7P5 & facelift T4 is model 7P6
Generation 3: T5 is model CR7 [Not available in "VW Atlas" North America!]
Read Wikipedia:
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Pilot, Thank you for your reply and for this outstanding write-up.
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Great writeup, even though I hope I'll never need it
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post #7 of 14 Old 04-22-2019 Thread Starter
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One tip I want to mention is when installing the carrier into the housing, install the driver side axle tube first with the one torx bolt but leave it slightly loose. That allows the carrier to be supported enough to keep it from falling out of the housing and enough room that you won't have to force anything into the housing. Another thing I forgot to add is Dorman has an axle nut that will work for the pinion nut if it gets messed up by using the impact gun. Dorman part # 615-091.1 is a 22mm x 1.5 axle nut at a very good price. Autozone sells it for $3.99.

If someone ends up having to get some things made at a machine shop, you're going to spend some money for it. However, I guarantee after paying for everything, you'll still be well under the cost of a re-manufactured unit from VW. I know if that was my only option, I'd sell the Treg as the value of it is not worth purchasing a unit from VW. I wish I took more pictures but I hadn't originally planned on posting all of this.

I've read so many posts about rebuilding the front diff where folks got frustrated and only carrier bearings are replaced etc etc. I figured this might help everyone that wants to rebuild or have the diff rebuilt completely and give them an option. When there's a will, there's a way! If the admins feel so inclined, sticky this as a DIY. I am, however, no expert on diffs but doing as much research as I have I feel confident on my procedure. Like I said before, none of this would have even been possible without Dragline1570. Thanks Mark!
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post #8 of 14 Old 04-25-2019
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Pilot what a superb write up. and thank you for your kind words about by conversation with you.

I would be there for a week to write half that.

Pilot has shamed me and from now on i will be using a fixed spacer instead of modifying the factory spacer.

As and addition to those who would like to go down the fixed spacer route (collapsible spacers are really only used for ease of mass production assembly) i put forward this drawing.

It will be my method for calculating the fixed spacer length on future rebuilds.

A pain to make for a one off build but Pilot went to such great lengths to ensure he had the best setup diff possible and thought this may or may not have made it easier.

Polishing down the pinion so the bearings slip on and off easily is a great idea but only really needs to be done on the pinion end journal.
The tail shaft end bearing on the pinion can be pressed apart after checking setup easily and it is not that tight.
On final assembly for the bearing on the polished journal i would use some loctite to ensure it doesn't spin on the shaft. This can be done easily.

Again Pilot kudos

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post #9 of 14 Old 04-26-2019 Thread Starter
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Thanks for the kind words Dragline! Looking back on it I think it would've been better to get the extra pinion bearings and grind the i.d. on those to slip on the pinion rather than grind the pinion itself. However I haven't had any problems thus far which I'm happy about. If someone is worried about having to go to a shop again to press the outer pinion bearing on, don't sweat it, I have an "old school" trick for you.

The first time I rebuilt the diff I didn't press the outer bearing on. Instead, take the pinion and put it in the freezer for a few hours. Next heat up your oven to around 250-300F. Tell the wife you're making VW cookies lol. Put the bearing in the oven for about 30mins. Don't worry, the heat won't hurt the bearing at all at that temperature. Get an oven mitt to hold the bearing and in the proper orientation. Make sure the pinion shims are in place on the shaft first!! Now take that pinion out of the freezer and slip that bearing on. There's enough expansion on the bearing and enough contraction on the pinion shaft for the bearing to just fall in place. Voila! No press needed! Just remember, it's a "one shot" deal.

Now to deal with a bad center support bearing on the driveshaft!
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post #10 of 14 Old 05-07-2019
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Like Nooby said BLOODY HELL
Thanks for sharing.
I have a 2004 bought at 128.000km, is now 136.000km and no signs of any diff issues. Hope I won't need to follow your steps anytime soon
TRespect is offline  

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