Friday, June 28, 2013

Jetta TDI

Forgive me for I have sinned, again...

Its a 1998 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, 177,000 miles at a used car lot in New Hampshire. Considering the ongoing problems with my 240D and the rising price of fuel (28mpg is about the best to expect of the 240D) I thought it might be wise to look around for something newer and more efficient. As much as I appreciate the 240D it'll never be all that fast or efficient, it is a big heavy car after all.

The Jetta Mark III (or A3) was made from '92-'99.5 in some fair numbers. The later TDI pictured above has a 1.9l 90hp 4cyl turbocharged diesel. The numbers thus far really don't tell the engine, its the one that comes after 90hp, 149 lb/ft of torque, compare this to the 72hp, 96 lb/ft for my '84 190D which is also a longer and probably heavier. The TDI is quick, the turbo spools right up and its quite fun to drive.

This particular unit has issues though, theres typical New England type rust, along the hood at the grill, in the wheel arches, at the bottom of the trunk lid, nothing too scary but theres probably more underneath. The central locking doesn't work, it seems to be a pneumatic system with an electric pump like on my 190D so it shouldn't be too hard to fix. Check engine light comes on about 30 seconds after starting the car and it started hard cold which make me think the glow plugs don't work. The radio and parking brake both don't work, I think the radio is asking for a code but its generally beat and would get replaced if I were to buy the car.

At this point my iPhone decides that I want to delete all my notes about this car. Well thanks iPhone, just another reason to hate you.

Heres the thing though, around the used car lot this all seems to me to be no big deal. In fact later on I did a cost analysis and figured the car would need around $700 in parts to fix everything I've found so far plus some missing badging and a missing engine cover. Then I took it out for a ride on the road.

Again, zippy little car but I kept hearing this whine not unlike the noise in this video: which bothered me. Upon further inspection this probably means the bearings in the turbo are bad. If I were to guess I'd say this is from using oil not up to the standard VW requires for this engine. There was a bundle of documentation in the back seat which I took a few minutes to look through. Looks like the last owner lived in Watertown and had the car serviced wherever she was nearest to at that moment so I suspect somebody has put conventional oil in it and its cooked the bearings in the turbo.

Surprisingly a bad turbo is not the end of the road, apparently the swap is actually pretty easy, the problem is that a new turbo is expensive. Fortunately used aren't so bad. I decided if I could get the guy to come down $1000 from his asking price, which was $1300 above "excellent" blue book value, I'd buy the car. In the end I got him down $500, which considering I'm a pretty lousy negotiator I was reasonably pleased with. Not good enough for me to buy the car but enough to make me feel like it wasn't a Saturday wasted, I definitely need the practice in negotiating.

Anyway its not all bad news, after I put out on the OkieBenz list that I'd looked at a TDI a friend responded that he has one he might want to sell. Same year although its white, its been sitting in a garage for a year and a half. He runs a charity for kids and this was a donated car so I should be able to get a bit of a deal on it, we'll see.

No comments: