TDI Service: Keep your TDI Reliable and Healthy at Dr. Dan’s

We have noticed that many VW TDI’s are not getting the maintenance they require, leading to expensive repairs and breakdowns.

Timing belt intervals:  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.

If you bought your car used and don’t know if the timing belt has been replaced or what maintenance has been done we are happy to check it out for you.

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.  For Instance, we have seen repair shops who just change the belt, only to have the water pump fail just 20K miles later, resulting in the work needing to be done all over again.

Regular Maintenance Saves $$$!:  We provide expert, biodiesel-friendly auto repair and service for TDI’s and all diesels from Benzes, Volvos, and older VWs to Jeeps, Sprinters, and Powerstrokes. We like to save our customers from unnecessary or inadequate repairs recommended by other shops and we work on many TDI’s and older diesels; there is little we haven’t seen.

Biodiesel is wrongly blamed for emission testing failures, injection pump failures, plugged intake manifolds and turbos, leaking hoses and seals, and more. We can prevent and repair most of these problems with the care and thoroughness required to keep you car running as long as possible.

TDIs can be fantastic vehicles and great for biodiesel, and they are not expensive to own as long as you stay on top of the recommended maintenance and fix problems before they can cause additional harm. However, time is going by and these cars are getting older, and as they age we have been starting to see more frequent issues with a number of components.  Some examples of this are mass airflow and coolant temp sensors going bad on 1998-2003 cars, fuel pickup valves sticking, electric fuel pumps dying on 2004-2005 Golfs and Jettas, and several other common issues.  We have seen injector pumps go bad because of a simple clogged fuel filter; a regular maintenance item costing a few dozen $$’s becoming a major repair which is $1500+!

The onset of symptoms of these problems is often gradual, so they can sneak up on you. When you are driving the car every day it is difficult to notice subtle changes in its operation. It is important to pay attention and have the car checked out occasionally in order to keep your TDI happy and avoid big repair bills. If you catch these issues early on when they first arise, the repairs are quick and cheap — but if you let them go too long, they can cause damage to other components and then the repairs start to get expensive. If your car doesn’t have as much pep as it used to, is getting harder to start, has a check engine light on, or is showing any other sign of needing help, be sure to have it checked out sooner rather than later so we can address the problem before it becomes more serious.  We have had people bring their cars in because they failed an emission test and discover a whole host of problems that could have been easily avoided with regular and proper maintenance.

The two keys to being a happy biodiesel user are good, local, sustainable fuel and a healthy car! Awareness and prevention are your main tools. Give us a call or stop in next time you fill up if you need to schedule an appointment for service.

For additional information, take a look at our new Youtube Channel:
There are several videos which explain many of the common TDI maintenance issues and how to deal with them. We also encourage you to share some of your own stories about biodiesel, maintenance and your TDI on our Dr. Dan’s Facebook page.

Have a great Spring and thanks for supporting sustainable biodiesel!

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3 Responses to TDI Service: Keep your TDI Reliable and Healthy at Dr. Dan’s

  1. ray says:

    Well done for such good advise . What seems to be the problem in the last couple years is that
    a) lack of the True knowledge of completely unconventional -engine design and the engine management systems which varies with every model !! The workshop dealing with the car has got to know exactly the operating system of the car model in question and the actual person carrying the work has to follow and do as instructed with proper experience in the job .
    b) further more the owners are never self aware that they posses a delicate and sofisticated machine compared to what they perceive in seeing / hearing of gone by legends of just filling with gas and zoom away hardly changing the engine oil but just add oil when the dipstick shows low ! AND the type of engine oil is a Great issue here . Oil Change Intervals are completely missleading for a sustainabile engine lifespan
    No real proper field testing by realy experienced down to earth personel is being done with cars’ performance and reliability issues AND
    Governing body seems to have different weights and measures in recalls for rectifying any flaws in cars’ systems .!
    Eg. Why should in such computerised systems employed say by V.W.and Audi SINCE 2000 at least in their TDI powered cars have A GRAVE flaw that easily results in A RUNAWAY ENGINE ???with dire costs !!!! with availabile technology during the period in question and material technology also at the manufecturers disposal a foolproof Air Shut OFF to the engine could easily prevent such very unjustified engine damage situation
    personally i would not let any manufecturer sell a single car to the public with such a huge flaw in the whole design when it is AVOIDABILE fullstop !!!
    Please do not state lack of maitenance there should always be a foolproof system to CHOKE the engine in any instance whatsoever when Runaway happens ! and mainly runaway should be prevented from ever happining in the first place by better overall design

  2. Nick says:

    Im not sure if I missed the information, but can you simply use biodiesel in a VW TDI? I have had my vehicle for a couple of years and I have always used standard low sulphar diesel – does this make a difference? Will my factory warranty remain intact when using Biodiesel? Please let me know, thank you!

    • It depends on which TDI you’re talking about. In our experience the early to mid-2000’s do great with high quality, well filtered ASTM-spec biodiesel. Results have been mixed with the newer (2009+) common-rail TDI’s. VW says 5% biodiesel is covered under warranty and experiments with 20% and even 100% are ongoing.

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