Advice on a 2002 Beetle TDI

Discussion in 'Diesel powered automobiles' started by rdprice64, Feb 15, 2009.

  1. rdprice64

    rdprice64 Still Learning

    Hoping some of you VW Diesel experts can help me out here.

    We're looking to move out of the minivan stage of life and the wife is willing to go smaller if it's a Beetle. I found this listing on Craig's List and had the following questions:

    1. Just how "dirty" is the exhaust in the older TDIs compared to buying a new one? Or compared to the '01 Honda Odyssey that we would be moving out of?
    2. Is it reasonable to expect a diesel engine to last so much longer that 129k miles is maybe half of it's realistic life expectancy?
    3. What diesel specific maintenance should I ask the owner about?
    4. Does $10K seem like too much for this 7 year old vehicle?

    I appreciate any and all help with this, being a diesel neophyte.
    - Rob
  2. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Rob:

    ___Mike Sefton should be around later to answer your specifics but let me add a few items...

    ___My parents own an 05 New Beetle (non-diesel) and the rear seat room is all but non-existent. If you need utility of large interior or seating for four, the Beetle is the wrong vehicle.

    ___The older TDI’s are about an order of magnitude worse in terms of HC, NOx and PM vs. the new 50-state compliant TDI’s but their FE capability is higher.

    ___Longevity is how many $’s and time you want to spend in repairs on any vehicle. I had better leave this one to Mike as well but older VW’s are not all that reliable. Even my parent’s non-diesel beetle has had a few pretty expensive repairs to the tranny covered under warranty.

    ___My parents will be selling the Beetle and purchasing a 2010 Prius-III when they finally arrive due to the reliability, FE and utility if that helps? They are considering getting rid of the Yukon when the Prius arrives if it can carry what they normally do. I assured them it would :)

    ___Good Luck

  3. rdprice64

    rdprice64 Still Learning

    Thanks Wayne! Reliability is certainly another factor to consider. I just wasn't sure if the Diesel version was more reliable than the Gas version. Hopefully Mike or others will have some experience in that area.

    Wish I had the means to afford a Prius-III, but if the Beetle works out, it seems like it should be good for 50+ mpg.
  4. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    Hi Rob, Wayne did a good job covering the emissions. Compared to the 2001 Odyssey, I would expect just over half the Odyssey's CO2 from of the Beetle, but probably 2-3x the NOx and much more PM. I haven't looked at the market recently, but off the top of my head, $10k does sound high for that car.

    It's reasonable to expect the TDI engine to go 200-300k plus if it's maintained properly. If it was poorly maintained, anything can happen and I personally would not touch the car without being ready for possible repairs.

    Regarding maintenance, there's a long list of what should have been done. The first step is to find out what was used for oil. 5w-40 synthetic oil rated for diesels is what the car asks for. By and large, that is what should have been used. There are a few 5w-30's and 0w-40's that are acceptable, but those are rare. Find out what oil was used in the car and the change intervals. Timing belts are important for the TDI's. Find out when it was last done and when the next change is due. If the seller can't tell you, get it replaced the day you buy the car. A car that was babied its entire life may have some carbon buildup in the intake. The engine was designed for running down highways at 90mph and 3k rpm. Being kept at low rpm's and low boost on our low quality North American diesel often leads to the intake accumulating carbon from the EGR. I wind mine out a couple times per tank and that has been enough to keep my intake clean so far. Coolant should be orange or pink. Brown means the wrong stuff was used and it should be changed.

    Get a manual transmission. Fuel economy is much better and the automatic isn't very reliable. There has been a higher than usual number of injection pumps being replaced recently. American ultra low sulfur diesel lubricity requirements are only at the bare minimum for the car's Bosch VE injection pump. Rebuilding or replacement of the pump can be in the $600-$1k range. If a fuel additive that helps lubricity or small blend of biodiesel was used, the pump should be in good shape. If straight petroleum diesel was used, the pump could be in good shape but there's a possibility that it's not.

    I have a few basic guidelines for VW owners, especially TDI owners:
    • The car is not like most American or Japanese cars. Its maintenance and fluid requirements (especially oil and coolant) can be different. Be prepared.
    • It's a very good idea to find somebody who knows how to work on these cars. Unless you can do everything yourself, the car will need something like a fuel filter or timing belt at some point. Dealers often are not the best choice. Asking at tdiclub for someone in your area would be a good idea.

    Early 2000 VW's have a lot of horror stories floating around the internet. The cars seem to bring love or hate reactions from owners, with few in the middle. Personally, I love mine and do not regret getting it for 1 second. I come from a family that buys nothing but Toyotas and knew what I was getting into when I got my car. I considered a Corolla but it didn't really appeal to me. My brother got a 2002 Jetta a couple years ago, and our experience with our cars is similar to what my parents have had with their 5 Toyotas in the last 10 years. All have had some minor problems. Of course, statistically, you are still more likely to find a VW that is an absolute nightmare than a Toyota. I have found that some of the bad reputation VW's get is from their horrible service shops. VW dealers have some of the lowest ratings for satisfaction with the work they do on cars, and too many times I hear of people taking their car in 2-3 times and spending $1500 replacing turbos and injection pumps before finally asking on tdiclub and discovering that the problem was a $70 MAF. The town I used to live in has a good VW dealer and the proportion of people happy with their cars seems much higher than in Winnipeg, where I personally try to avoid the VW dealers if at all possible.

    That turned into a very long reply. If you feel like doing even more reading, tdiclub is the place to go.
  5. rdprice64

    rdprice64 Still Learning

    Thanks Mike! I will definitely take a look at the tdiclub and ask the seller about all of her maintenance records to see if they match what you describe above. After doing more research I think the price is also too high, so I'm going to ask her what makes it so special.

    Thanks for all the info. I should now be a better informed consumer/potential buyer!
    - Rob
  6. Maxx

    Maxx He who posts articles

    I think Mike said it all. VWs are definitely a labor of passion - ie - you have to love the car to put up with it. But that being said, my GF has had a 2000 Jetta TDI since it was new (130k on the clock), and every few years it goes through "growing pains," meaning every few years I have to fight a skirmish under the hood. A few years of piece and a few months of pain. Not a bad trade, because the car is fun, feels great, and gets killer mileage. But yeah, VW techs don't know their axe from their elbows. If I wasn't doing the work myself, it wouldn't be worth it. Definitely find out when the timing belt was done (should be every 60k miles on that car).
  7. rdprice64

    rdprice64 Still Learning

    Ouch! I do know an axe from an elbow, but not much more than that. So I'll have to take that into consideration, since I won't be able to work on it myself. I did find a local mechanic who calls himself "The Volks Doktor", so I'm checking with some of his reference customers.

    Thanks Maxx!

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