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Volkswagen Golf - Cam And Chip Upgrades

In Search Of More Power For Our Project Mk3 Golf 2.0, We Test Cam & Chip Upgrades.

Alex Rogan
Apr 28, 2010
Photographer: Josh Brown

Parts used:
Techtonics Tuning EPROM - $135
Techtonics Tuning 266° camshaft - $130
Techtonics Tuning adjustable cam gear - $70

Eurp_1005_01_o+vw_golf_cam_and_chip_upgrades+front_view Photo 2/30   |   Volkswagen Golf - Cam And Chip Upgrades

NGP Racing

Techtonics Tuning

There were many areas in need of serious improvement when we introduced our 228000-mile '95 Golf Sport 2.0. But with so much to do, we could only tackle them one at a time.

Last month, we overhauled worn parts and added some ponies to the old girl with a Techtonics Tuning exhaust and Euro Sport Accessories intake. In combination, we gained 8whp and as much as 7wtq, but we weren't finished. This month we look for more horsepower with more complex tuning. For starters, we have a more aggressive camshaft and adjustable pulley, plus a performance EPROM all thanks to Techtonics Tuning again.

The easier of the two installs is the EPROM, or chip, as they're more commonly known. A lot of people get antsy about working on sensitive electronics, but with some basic precautions it's not too difficult. It's also the easiest way to make power on a modern car.

Techtonics has two off-the-shelf options for the 2.0 engine; a standard chip, and one for engines with a performance cam. The big difference is the idle speed setting, with the cam chip having a faster idle to compensate for the increased valve overlap of a performance cam. Naturally, we went for the cam-specific version.

For those unfamiliar with the oily bits, the camshaft dictates when the intake and exhaust valves open and close, affecting the engine's power delivery. The standard camshaft is optimized for a smooth idle, good low-speed torque and other emissions concerns. Since we have different goals, we were willing to trade idle quality and some torque for better top-end power.

It's always temping to go overboard and pick a really aggressive cam that screams at the top end. But remember, the more power you make up there, the less you are making down low. And without head work to make the most of a higher rev limit, it won't provide much benefit.

With that in mind, we went for a 266° sport camshaft. The moderate duration compliments the 8v engine and it should boost midrange power and provide a healthy does of power up top.

All of Techtonics cams are ground from chill-hardened billets, so you won't need any assembly lube or a break-in period. Just install and go!

For the cam install we headed to the wonderful facility at Lufteknic LLC, a Porsche specialist in Richmond, VA, and they knocked it out in a few short hours. Although the 2.0 8v was never going to compete with a VR6 for high RPM power, the 266° cam certainly woke things up.

The pant dyno said we were making more power up top, with a new found urgency at the north end of the tachometer. While NGP Racing's actual dyno confirmed it.

Our exhaust and intake had left the motor with 102 wheel horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. With the TT cam we reached 108.1whp at peak, but saw substantial gains above and below peak output. There was a slight loss of torque, down to 111.4wtq - but this was to be expected.

Once we slapped the chip into the ECU, output jumped to 114.9whp and 119.2wtq - giving us more than 20% gain over stock, which is substantial for these simple bolt-on parts.

The torque curve is as flat as a billiard table, and once again we're seeing great gains just below peak rpm. Results like these are why peak power numbers are only part of the picture when looking at dyno results - always look at the bigger picture.

But numbers can't tell the whole story. From behind the wheel, engine response (whether at part throttle, rev-matching on downshifts, or during full throttle acceleration) has improved immensely. We won't be breaking the sound barrier, but it's enough to have fun and is far more willing to run through the gears.

We didn't have a chance to adjust the Techtonics cam gear on the dyno, but it should bump us up into the higher 'teens' with the right settings.

Eurp_1005_14_o+vw_golf_cam_and_chip_upgrades+driveshaft_shot Photo 15/30   |   Remove the cam. On a high mile engine, new lifters are recommended. It's easy to remove the old lifters with a magnet

On a single cam engine like our 2.0 ABA, advancing or retarding the cam timing will move the power curve up or down in a fairly consistent manner. If we retarded the cam timing for more top end power, we'd likely lose a bit of torque, and vice versa. The key is finding the best balance by starting with small changes, noting the results, and finalizing the settings.

If you follow our cam install guide, we must warn you, this isn't recommended for a novice. If the camshaft is installed incorrectly it will very likely result in damage to the valves, head, pistons or worse. If you're unsure about what you're doing, it's always best to contact a professional, since some specialized tools are required. When changing the cam, you'll also need a valve cover gasket, upper intake manifold gasket, camshaft seal and we'd recommended new cam followers (lifters) as well.

Now we've increased the power, Project 2.slow is in serious need of chassis upgrades. Frankly, it's rather dangerous as it is, and we can't wait to get the EBC brake rotors and pads, FK Automotive coilovers, Drag wheels and Falken tires on the car. Next month we'll tell you all about it, assuming we actually managed to keep 2.slow on the road in the meantime!

By Alex Rogan
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