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It is no secret that VW has a huge share of the diesel market for passenger cars. As we push for better and better fuel mileage, I have seen TDIs become much more common. It is not just “those diesel people” anymore. With the expanded range of customers that are now in our TDIs, we see issues that we never seen before.

The TDI that was in the 2002 Jetta was a GREAT engine. We refer to is as the “ALH”. That is the code that VW uses to identify that engine. If a customer were to mis-fuel that engine the repair was simple.

  1. Pump out the gas(it’s a diesel remember)
  2. Change the fuel filter
  3. Add fresh diesel fuel
  4. purge and gas left
  5. Drive home happy

I have only seen 1 “ALH” that was mis-fueled. BTW, if this happens to you, and there is damage, don’t blame me. Just Sayin

Enter the next generation TDIs. Here is where we get more customers buying diesels. Now we have the average driver buying TDIs, not just the TDI folks that usually are INSANE about their cars. I use the word insane in a positive way. 😉

This is when I started to see more and more cars that were filled with GAS, instead of diesel. The Pumpe Duse engine was still mostly forgiving when it came to mis-fuel. The car would just stop running. The repair was very similar to the “ALH”, just something we did more often.

In 2009 we got the “Common Rail”. A highly advanced very complicated TDI setup. The high power, and great fuel mileage were a huge draw. Especially since we had just seen gas prices over $4 for the first time ever. With improved sales came more mis-fuel issues. Unlike the last two generations, this TDI is not forgiving what so ever. When someone puts gas in the Common Rail (CR for short), all that is takes is cranking the engine to do damage.

If the car is started, usually it will be driven until it stops running. What that means is gas is in the entire fuel system. Due to diesel and gas having totally different lubrication properties, this makes the fuel pumps fussy. They start doing bad things like coming apart on the inside, and spraying metal throughout the fuel system. The resulting repair is fuel system replacement. Every part that fuel touches gets replaced, from fuel take to fuel injector! This repair costs about $7800 for parts and labor. OUCH!

 

Not really a fun time for anyone is it? This is one of the reasons that I am not ALL IN on diesel. I don’t trust myself to properly fill the car. I love the technology, but you MUST be the right person for it.

It does bring up a really good question. Is this the fault of VW, the customer, or the company that made the parts? Yes if you put gas in your car it’s YOUR fault. BUT, shouldn’t the parts be designed with some type of fail safe? Should the fill neck be different so you CAN’T mis-fuel?

~To prevent anyone from ever mis-fueling a car again, just share this post.(ok, that wont happen, but it might be a ‘Humble’ reminder 😉

VW has been a strong diesel supporter for many years.  In 2009 they released the Common Rail engine.  This new Common Rail (CR) engine is very powerful, fuel efficient and ultra clean.  VW dealers have a hard time keeping them on the lot, because everyone wants them.

I have been asked a couple of times over the past week or so, “Should I buy a Jetta TDI?”  My answer usually surprises people.  I almost always say “NO”.  That is always followed up by, “Charles, they get 40+ MPG”.  I know they get great mileage, but a TDI is not for everyone.  Here are some reasons why I would give a TDI real consideration before jumping right in.

They cost more initally

The Jetta for example, is about $2550 more for a TDI than a similarly equiped Jetta with a 2.5L engine.  That means you are down about $2500 from day 1

Fuel is more expensive

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, I know that sounds fake!  Regular unleaded fuel is about $0.20 cheaper a gallon than diesel.  Yeah, I know its only a couple of bucks for each fill up, but remember in 2008 when diesel was $0.40 more per gallon?

The new TDI is super fuel sensitive

As little as 1% of gas in the fuel will cause catastrophic damage to the fuel system.  At this point, I dont think that the diesel quality in the USA is high enough.  I have replaced, or have seen several fuel systems replaced because of bad fuel, algee in the fuel, or because gas was put in the tank.  A few gas in the tank issues were the customers fault, some were proven that the station had the wrong fuel in their tank, and some are still unknown. Its a much higher risk than having bad gasoline

Maintenance costs are higher over the life of the vehicle

The current TDI needs a fuel filter at least every 20,000 miles.  This will run you about $80 at the dealer.  At 80,000 miles, your car will need a timing belt.  Get ready to spend $1200 or so on that.  The other common VW engines are chain driven and do not have a maintenance interval for replacement.

Based on all that, I dont think that a TDI is right for a lot of the people that buy them. They need more love than other VWs do.  I will say that I really do like diesel technology.  I think for the person that burns up the road, a TDI is perfect.  It bothers me that people will buy a TDI without the proper research.

I do support our TDIs.  I think its a great engine. In heavy traffic, the air coming out of the tail pipe is cleaner than whats coming into the engine.  So before you buy a TDI, make sure its right for you and it fits your vehicle needs.

 

Post what you think in the comments.  I know there are lots of hardcore diesel folks that would not trade a TDI for anything, but thats not most people.