Snowbank Extraction and Inspection Preparation for the VW Jetta Smyth Ute

Winter has not been kind to the Jetta Ute, nor to making progress on the project.

byJustin Hughes| PUBLISHED Mar 23, 2018 4:47 PM
Snowbank Extraction and Inspection Preparation for the VW Jetta Smyth Ute

No sooner than the Volkswagen Jetta Smyth Ute project returned from the shop after an extended stay, New England received nearly all of the snow it will get this winter during a period of just two weeks. With my and my wife's daily drivers getting priority parking in the garage, the Jetta soon found itself buried under three feet of snow and behind an even larger pile that the snow plow left behind. 

There's a Jetta Ute somewhere under this snowbank., Justin Hughes

I adopted a new strategy for extracting the Ute from its wintery doom: wait until spring. But the one good thing about March snowstorms is that it doesn't take long for the snow to melt when the temperature gets above freezing most days. With some digging and a little fancy maneuvering, I finally got the Jetta out of a snowbank that was much smaller than it had once been.

This fiberglass piece was a minor but repairable casualty from the Ute's snowbank extraction., Justin Hughes

The process of backing the Ute out from its wintery tomb caused one of the rivets holding the fiberglass trim panel below the driver's door to pop out, exposing a little bit of minor surface rust on the metal rocker panel underneath. Both of these will be easily repaired. Though I had planned to lift the car slightly as my next project, the snow delay is making me change my next priority to getting it ready for state inspection, which is due in April. My Subaru WRX just passed a stricter than ever inspection, so I'll need to get the Ute squeaky clean to pass in its significantly altered state. Fortunately, it now qualifies for the Massachusetts exemption on emissions testing for vehicles 15 or more years old, so I don't need to worry about the Check Engine light that is constantly on in nearly every older Volkswagen, including this one.

Smyth Performance's fiberglass body panels held up well to the tortures of winter., Justin Hughes

"Operation: Get an Inspection Sticker" will consist of the following steps:

  • Reattach the driver's rocker panel trim after addressing the surface rust.
  • Replace the two front wheels with two of my 15-inch wheels that have tires in better condition. Though mismatched, all four of these tires on the car at once have more than enough tread to pass. I plan to upgrade the tires later, but this method will get by for now until the tire budget is there.
  • Replace the leaky gasket between the exhaust manifold and the turbo. Inspectors hate exhaust leaks. Fortunately, the rest of the exhaust is brand new.
  • Get the cracked windshield replaced. I'll have this done by an auto glass shop.

I also plan to amend my registration to officially change the car's color from grey to black as far as the state is concerned. Although I intend to Plastidip it a different color later, I don't want to get kicked out of inspection because the color doesn't match, particularly because the inspection involves still and video cameras to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. 

The parts that I painted, however, haven't held up so well., Justin Hughes

I didn't do a very good job painting the front of the car last fall. The black primer, which matches the fiberglass in the rear, hasn't stuck to the factory paint well, likely as a result of improper preparation. That's what I get for rushing the job. But this shouldn't be a problem for inspection, and will be easily fixed with another can of paint once temperatures warm up enough for painting. Plus, this Mad Max look is only temporary until we Plastidip the car later this year.

But for now, the priority is getting the car ready for state inspection. All of the work the Ute needs, except the windshield, should be able to get done in one fell swoop. Basically, I'll bring it into the garage for the exhaust manifold gasket, then swap the front wheels and reattach the trim panel while I'm in there. Then I'll get the windshield replaced, take it to my trusted inspection station, and cross all of my fingers and toes that it'll actually pass.