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Politely requesting collective knowledge

2617 Views 12 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  rmchambers
I've been scouring these forums trying to learn as much as I can about these fine cars before taking a small plunge in the VW TDI world.

A little about my needs:

I have a run-about-town car (a 20 year old dodge shadow) which although has been a pretty reliable car with the minimum of expenses over the years it's at a point in its life where it's going to start costing me some real money to keep on the road (like more than it is worth). It gets 20 mpg on a good day. Most of my commute is back and forth to the train station 3 miles each way, with weekend trips all over the place and some highway driving when needs warrant it.

I have always been a fan of compression ignition engines from the original Lister D stationary engines to the replacement aircraft engines that are Diesel but run on Jet-A kerosene - so I thought it would be a good time to replace my gasoline "station car" with a Jetta TDI.

Obviously I'm not looking to buy a new one and leave it in a parking lot for most of the day so getting a decent used one is what I'm trying to do.

I currently drive a 5-speed standard and that is a requirement for the TDI I want. My daughter will be learning to drive in a couple of years and I want her to learn how to drive in a standard the same way I did.

There's a VW dealership in my town that has two TDI's on the lot, one is a 2006 5-speed, 88,000 miles for around $15k and a 2003 with 91k automatic for $9900 - both cars look in good shape body wise, engine compartment clean. If the 2003 had the 5 speed I'd be on it pretty quick I think however learning about the differences between these year cars I'm wondering what would be best in the long run.

The EPA mileage on the 2003 is 8 mpg more than the 2006 5-speed which I'm wondering if it's because of the extra diesel that gets wasted going into the downpipe before the cat to keep it hot and emissions low or is there more to it? Are these EPA numbers even accurate?

I've been looking in Craigslist too and there are quite a few out there but you never know the full story from cars and at least the dealer in town has been there a long time and hopefully would stand behind something they sold for a little bit.

So my question is this, should I hold out to find a 1999-2003 5-speed Jetta TDI with decent condition and mileage and get the belt and water pump changed and go from there or is there any sense in buying something newer with pumpe-duse and tweak that for mileage?

Thanks for any advice you can offer a newbie to the TDI arena.

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I would avoid the auto in pre 2003. They are not as reliable as the manual. 2004 and later autos are pretty reliable.

The 2006 is a very nice car. However, many have camshaft issues. Replacement with a new timing belt is about $1000.

Having owned both, I like the 2006 because it's bigger and mine is loaded with features not available on the 2003. It also has standard stability control/yaw control, and is a little better in crash testing. You will get much better mpg on the 2003, everything else being equal.

Look through the buying checklists in the FAQ and see what the common problems are, too long to list here. Since you're going to bring all maintenance up to date, I wouldn't be scared of buying any used car as long as it's not been in any major accidents. In some states used cars from a dealer come with warranties, you could use that time to check for camshaft wear - make sure you know if they will actually cover it under a warranty or not first because I don't think a worn camshaft will directly cause failure until it's already shed major metal bits.
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EPA mileage is way lower than what is achieveable if you don't have a lead foot. 91k is pretty low but I would avoid the autos too because there are always complaints - you never hear complaints about the manual transmission although some have had bad flywheels. Also check out crazedlist to search multiple craigslists.
Forget the auto. The 2003 and earlier have more parts, cheaper parts, and can be purchased cheaper. Other than some bad flywheels they are extremely reliable. I read about bad flywheels and camshafts on the later cars and it turns me off. The 2003 and earlier will also get better mileage because they're lighter and the engines a little more efficient.

If you're keeping both cars for 10 years they'll both depreciate so that's a wash. This wasn't mentioned by the previous posters but you're confused on the DPF and post combustion system, the 2006 don't have it. Only the 2009 and newer have it.
Thanks for the responses so far.

I wasn't considering an automatic, this car has to be a 5 speed standard.

I guess I was confused about the afterburner attachment and the years they were used.

If they aren't putting diesel pre-catalyst in 2006 how can the EPA mileage for the 2006 5-speed manual be 8 miles per gallon less than the 2003 automatic?

The more I read the more confusing it is.


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The "afterburner" was only used in 2009+ Jetta/Golf/Audi A3 TDI. I believe that there is a DPF on some earlier Touareg TDI V10 but no post combustion injection.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

Here is what I have done:

I purchased from a private party a 2003 Jetta GLS TDI 5-speed. It has 90,000 miles and has had the timing belt/water pump done already as verified by the receipts from the VW dealership that did the work. The guy who owned it had bought 4 spare steel rims and had Pirelli snow tires mounted so I get a spare set of wheels too.

We went for a 40 mile test drive and the car was impressive, we took it on some twisty roads, some steep hills and some downhill grades (I used that to pop it in neutral and see how she rolled) and lastly some highway where I got it up to around 80 and she still wanted to pull.

The car is very clean, there's really only a couple of cosmetic issues I'll deal with (couple of scratches).

I've been comprising a list of all the fluids and such I'll be replacing when I get all the stuff together. I didn't see anything quite like that in the forum so I'll post what I have so far.

I figure if I drain/flush/replace all the fluids and hit the air filter and such I will start from a known good point with that stuff and will go from there.

I'll be on the forums more with questions I'm sure if I can't find what I'm looking for by browsing.

Thanks again for the clues, looking forward to being a "productive member" of the TDI society :D


Fuel Tank: 14.5 Gallons
Engine: CG-4/5, CH-4/5 oil 5W-40 10,000 mile changes (or 1 year) 4.5 Liters
Transmission: 75W90 GL-4 synthetic 2.1 Liters (royal purple max gear)
Power Steering: Pentosin CHF 11 - 2 cans while flushing
Oil Filter: Mann or Mahle pn?
Air Filter: Change every 30,000 miles, or 2 years.
Fuel Filter: Drain every 10,000, change every 20,000 miles.
Brake Fluid: DOT-4 flush every 2 years
Clutch Fluid: DOT-4 flush every 2 years
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Once you really start to appreciate the fun qualities of your TDI, I bet that you will find a longer way home from the station .....just for the extra drive time. :D
It's here!

The seller dropped off the car and I have it in my garage. I've already drained the gearbox oil and that's sitting with the plug out dripping overnight. I took the covers off the engine and scoped it out.

I have noticed that the PCV system has dumped oil into the intake so an intercooler cleaning session is in the works, I found the vacuum hose that activates the anti shudder valve was worn and possibly cracked. I'll get a length of vacuum hose and replace those that are questionable one at a time of course.

The snow screen was full of what looked like insect legs, and grit and stuff so that's clean now.

I'm going to be busy for a while getting to know my new car.

I'll be back, thanks everyone. :D
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The PVC system is called the CCV system crankcase vent. Diesels have high compression and piston blowby that has to vent somewhere. This oil mist settles in the intercooler. A hard run will blow it out. If you try to clean the insides it's like cleaning the dipstick. More than a small handful of oil could be from a leaky turbo oil seal - see the post in General which talks about a runaway engine from leaky oil seals.

Yep, insect legs. I wouldn't cut the snowscreen or else that stuff will just clog the air filter. I wouldn't open the air filter housing top and break the seal just to look. The MAF sensors are sensitive and unless you're replacing the paper filter there's nothing to see anyways.
The real question is: where is the rest of the bug???
I have no idea where the rest went, may have fallen out. the legs were fine enough that they seemed to lodge in the snow screen. I blew them out with compressed air and then water.

Now I have the EGR valve off and it's closed down to about an inch diameter hole :(

so I suppose an intake cleaning is next on the agenda.

Found lots of brittle and chafed vacuum lines too so they are all going to be replaced with silicone.

The transmission oil change went well, only spilled a little.
Intake manifold is clean! My method was similar to the ones mentioned in the section on manifold cleaning but I combined the hill billy method too and one of my own invention.

1. Scraped out as much crud as I could with whatever tools I had.
2. soaked the manifold in engine de-greaser and kerosene, left it for a couple of hours.
3. cleaned it again using screwdrivers, wire brushes in the drill chuck, a 12 gauge shotgun cleaning brush (wouldn't recommend it, it broke off the rod)

I bent an open hose clamp so it curved upwards and used that through the cylinder head ports on the manifold and got a lot more out.

I took my propane torch and heated it up, the kerosene burned off and I hit it with the compressed air like the red-neck video, there's a good reason for doing it which I found out. Once the crud is burning in there hitting it with the air hose makes it burn faster and blows out the bits that fall off. After it stopped responding to flame I let it cool down.

Next I used that hose clamp to knock loose the crusty ashy bits which came apart very easily. I put some nuts and bolts and things in the manifold and shook it for a while then dumped everything out, more crud but not as much.

I washed it out with water and then tried something new. I raided the kitchen cabinet and got some easy off oven spray and sprayed that in there and let it sit. I kept an eye on it and when it had stopped bubbling I stuck my finger in the holes (with nitrile gloves) and felt around. it had dissolved and bubbled out some more stuff. I rinsed it off and dried it out and now it looks pretty clean inside.

If one were to disable the EGR would it be better to put a blocking plate on the exhaust side of the coolant heat exchanger? The EGR could still open and close but nothing would come in. I'm also toying with the idea of venting the crank case out to a standalone filter. I think the combination of these two things would keep the manifold clean for a long time.

Exciting stuff!
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