TDI Tech: Life After 100 (Thousand) — Part One

As time goes on, our TDIs that were once shiny new cars are now beginning to age and accumulate miles. Many of our customers have over 100,000 miles on their TDIs, quite a few have over 200,000, and a handful are even pushing 300,000! TDIs can continue to be dependable, safe, efficient, and great to drive as they rack up the years and miles, but there are a number of important items to keep on your radar for the long haul. In the coming weeks we will be putting up a series of posts related to helping your TDI stay healthy, efficient and reliable as the odometer climbs towards six digits and beyond. Read on!

Timing belt intervals.
In Part One of this series, we are covering timing belt replacement interval for TDIs. This can be a complicated subject, since VW’s recommended interval has changed many times over the course of TDI production. There is a different interval for almost every year of TDI, and sometimes even within the same year depending on transmission type! To make matters worse, in the case of some models Volkswagen updated the interval after the cars were produced, so even your owner’s manual may not give you the current correct information.

All of this can make it difficult to know exactly when your car needs its belt done — including for VW dealers themselves, who we have known to commonly replace belts too early or too late. Fortunately, we have made this part easy for you. To find the most up-to-date interval for your particular car, just check out the handy PDF table we have compiled here, and look up your year and model.

Not all timing belt jobs are equal.
A proper timing belt replacement on a TDI involves more than just changing the timing belt. In addition to the belt itself, the belt tensioner roller, all idler rollers, the water pump, and the serpentine belt should be replaced, as well as a handful of seals and hardware bits. Installing the new belt correctly is a complex task that involves a large number of special tools and procedures, including a computerized injection timing adjustment. Cutting corners on any of these steps can result in the car running poorly, having difficulty starting, getting worse mileage, or in extreme cases experiencing internal engine damage.

Many mechanics and most VW dealers tend to replace only some of the required timing belt components or skip steps in the installation process, compromising the car’s operation or longevity. We have repaired many incorrectly or incompletely done timing belt jobs, some of which were on the brink of a major failure! The timing belt and its associated parts are critical components that can cause serious damage if they malfunction or break, so skimping on parts or procedure in this area is not a smart idea.

An opportunity for savings.
In addition to being one of the most important parts of maintaining your TDI, timing belt changes are also an opportunity to perform other work that involves labor that is duplicated during the timing belt job. If your 1996-2003 TDI has a leaking injection pump, or if your 2004-2006 PD TDI needs work on the camshaft and lifters, timing belt time is the ideal time to do those repairs, since much of the labor involved with injection pump or camshaft work overlaps with the timing belt replacement. This allows for significant savings if they are done at the same time.

A tip for the long term.
A broken timing belt is one of the few things that can bring a TDI (or older VW/Audi/Volvo diesel) to a sudden early demise. Repairs after a broken belt on a TDI can range from $2500 to $5000 or more depending on the extent of the damage… this is not an experience you want to go through! The trick to economical long-term ownership is avoiding surprises and taking preventive action. If your car is due for a belt, or you don’t know when the belt was last done, don’t wait until a routine service turns into an expensive repair — get it done, and get it done correctly.

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4 Responses to TDI Tech: Life After 100 (Thousand) — Part One

  1. mario says:

    When buying a used car timing belt replacement is the first step you should do. Timing belt should be a good company because if you break the engine overhaul.

  2. brian says:

    What is the interval for the 2009 Jetta TDI?
    I have two dealers close by; one says 120000; the other 100000. I’m at 103000 and the est cost is $1200 (replacing all equipment mentioned above).
    I don’t know any private Diesel mechanics in the Baltimore area, so have to trust a dealer.

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