Test it again. My shift rod only made noise around 2-3K RPMs, but YMMV.
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I also ordered a valve cover gasket, intake manifold gaskets (4) and four new lifters. If the shift rod bushings don't remedy the ticking, I'll dig into the motor and test the lifters (found some factory info on testing). I figure four was a safe bet to address any bad ones. If I have more than four bad ones, then it will be worthwhile to order the rest and pull the top off the motor again later.
I'm still on the optimistic/positive side of a decision to not give up on this and ditch the car. That will be very sad as I love driving my old GTI. However, I can't afford to miss work because of one of these issues blowing up on me.
Wish me luck!
So I installed the Gruvenparts shift rod bushings, and no effect on the tick, so that's definitively ruled out.
I then started into the top of the motor to get to removing the valve cover. All went well, including those PITA bolts in the front of the intake manifold, but I wasn't able to remove it, it wouldn't budge. I couldn't separate the intake manifold at the front of the car. All bolts were removed, and the rear of the manifold (cabin end) would move a bit. but it was locked solid to the motor in front. I put a lot of effort into moving it, even leveraging it with a long metal bar and, at one point, tried hammering a small flat-head screwdriver in between the manifold and motor where it should separate, to no avail. I couldn't separate them. After four hours trying everything I could think of, I gave up and reassembled everything. I reviewed other DIY's again and there's no mention of any force required to separate the manifold. The couple of videos I watched didn't seem to have any such issues. I'm thinking perhaps the PO made a gasket from a tube and not it's glued together...? Now what?
It shouldn't require any real force to remove. Did you remove all 8? 6mm? cap screws in front?
Thank you so much, that clarifies everything. I certainly did miss those two lower bolts. I hope I didn't do any damage in my attempts to separate the manifold. I'm out of town for the next week and a half, but once back I'll tackle this again and get all the bolts off this time. I've had the front end off before for an alternator swap, so will do that again.
Regarding oil pressure, I'm not sure what it is, is there an OBD reading for that? I seem to have good oil flow to the top end and can see a nice covering of fresh oil when I look in the filler cap. I'll run Torque with my ELM OBD reader and see if I can ascertain oil pressure values.
Yesterday my info display started showing crazy fluctuating MPG readings, but that's for another post.... What next <sigh> ?