Problems I've Encountered With My TDI...
Updated/Checked May 10, 2003

[Back to Main TDI Page] [Links] [E-Mail Me]

[Creaking Behind Driver] [Stereo Failure] [Turbo Oil Leak] [Oil Spills] [Turbo Oil Leak-2] [Fouled Intake Manifold]

Ross-Tech is the creator of VAG-COM, a diagnostic tool for all VWs and Audis.  It's just like having your own VAG-1552... the same diagnostic tool used by dealerships.

     This is a list of problems I've encountered with my car.  Its purpose is to illustrate the reliability of the TDI.  If the list grows, then it will hopefully serve as a way to assist other TDI owners in troubleshooting their problems.  Background on my car:  I purchased it on February 2, 1998 from Mattie Imports of Fall River, MA.  The car was exposed to the New England atmosphere until May 18, 1999 when it was moved to the desert environment of West Texas, where it was driven over 100-miles a day for two years.  It is currently enjoying a life of leisure in the San Francisco Bay Area, driving only 20-miles per week.  Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

May 12, 1998 at 6,127 miles - Creaking noise appeared behind the driver.  Dealer lubed the struts and door hinges.  Creaking ceased.

October 1, 1998 at 15,534 miles - Factory stereo failed.  The cassette unit started making a grinding noise even though there wasn't a tape in the deck.  This noise continued even when the ignition was off.  The dealer put a tape in the deck which became stuck, but allowed the radio to function.  The factory replacement was on eternal backorder.  I sent a nasty-gram to VWoA on January 1, 1999.  After waiting another month I gave up and purchased a Pioneer CD system from Crutchfield which is much more satisfying than the factory stereo.  The factory replacement stereo arrived the day after I placed the order with Crutchfield.  I allowed the dealer to install the new stereo.  I verified that it worked, removed it to install the Pioneer system, and stored it in my closet.  The OEM stereo has since been sold.

May 14, 1999 at 24,987 miles - While changing the oil I noticed that oil had been dripping from the turbo.  Since I was departing on a major trip on May 18, I opted to troubleshoot this later.  I had the VW dealer in Denver, CO investigate the oil leakage during an oil change on June 5th.  He cleaned the engine and inspected the oil lines to and from the turbo, noting no abnormalities.  He suggested I return in two weeks.  Two days and 600 miles later I opted to remove the engine cover to inspect the valve cover.  

      It had a stream of oil that had dribbled down the front of the valve cover, traveled to the rear/low side of the valve cover, then was probably dribbling on the turbo, providing the appearance of a turbo leak.  I noticed that one of the factory hose (left rear clamp)  on the blow-by "biscuit" had been replaced with a standard screw-on clamp.  The oil leak I noticed was coming from the right front clamp.  I replaced the hose clamp and have noticed no further leakage.

July 9, 1999 at 35,279 miles - While traveling, I decided NOT to stretch my oil change or tire rotation an extra 600 miles (until I got home).  So I decided to take my car to a Wal-Mart for service.  They had one of those drive-in oil change bays with a worker in a "basement" (similar to Jiffy lube and other popular quick-lube joints).  I warned the service manager that the car needed to be lifted in order to get the belly pan off and access the oil filter (true on A3s and B4s).  I suggested that he change the oil while he was rotating the tires.  "No problem, we get those pans off all the time," he said.  I thought, "All the time in 'Ford-Country, TX?'  Right!" (remember, TDIs were not commonplace in 1999).  I allowed him to service the car.  Sure enough, his technicians were unable to remove the belly pan.  However, they did manage to replace the oil filter... without removing the belly pan OR lifting the car.  However, they also managed to spill oil all over the belly pan, soaking the acoustic lining that's attached to it.  Lesson learned:  Don't allow any garage to change the oil in your TDI unless either they lift the car or you can live with a mess.  This will not be a problem with the A4s (NB and 1999.5+ TDIs)  because they feature a drop-in oil filter that can be accessed from the top.  However, most quick-lube places don't carry these specialized oil filters, nor do they normally carry the appropriate oil for our TDIs (although they'll TELL you they do if you ask).  The bottom line: Always carry a spare oil filter for your car.  I also carry six quarts of my favorite oil on long trips.

December 1, 1999 at 51,654 miles - It appears that the little oil leak is not coming from above the engine.  The best explanation I've received about this leak (from The TDI Forum)  is that oil residue is getting into the intake via the CCV.  Then the wastegate is purging it, leaving it to collect here.  My estimate is that I'm leaking less than one teaspoon per 5000-miles.  I don't feel this is a major problem; especially not one worth taking it to the dealer for the prerequisite scratch on the head, line of baloney, and consequential financial raping.  I'll keep an eye on this and act when it becomes a REAL problem.

January 14, 2001 at 99,934 miles - After reading several reports of plugged intake manifolds caused by the Exhaust Gas Recirculators (EGR), I decided to remove my intake manifold and take a peek.  Sure enough, I had some build up.  Some have reported as much as 50-80% blockage at 100,000-miles... some had total blockage in as little as 50,000-miles, resulting in $1000 repair bills (this is what happens when VW replaces the intake manifold instead of cleaning it).  My manifold was about 10-15% blocked (photo at right is not mine, but similar).  Because of my tolerance levels when working in tight spaces, removal was harder than it should've been, but should be much easier the next time.  Cleaning was difficult due to the gummy nature of the contaminants.  If you have a second car for transportation, I highly recommend cleaning the manifold by taking it someplace for beadblasting.  

Here's another photo of an intake manifold that's even more plugged up than mine.  Many have asked about the best solution to this problem.  The way I see it, there are three options:

1) If you drive less than 20,000-miles per year and you're only driving the car for five years and selling it, leave it alone and let the next guy deal with it.  A little rude, but it's just not worth the hassle.

2) If you're mechanically inclined and don't mind removing the manifold for cleaning every 50-100k, then consider it preventative maintenance and have a blast.

3) Disable your EGR and/or bypass the Crankcase Vent (CCV).  This is VERY ILLEGAL, but it's the most effective way to keep the intake manifold clean if you intend to drive your TDI for eternity (over 350,000 miles).  At least the head and manifold will stay clean enough to survive until a rebuild.  Disabling the EGR increases NOx emissions, but also reduces particulate emissions.  Which is the worse of two evils?  I don't know.  Even the almighty catalytic converter reduces certain emissions at the expense of increasing others.  

Please don't ask me about how to disable the EGR.  All requests for this information will be ignored.  I won't get into that legal game.  Instead, run a search in the TDI Forum for "EGR."  You'll have more information than you can shake a stick at.  Good Luck....

UPDATE: A FOURTH OPTION IS AVAILABLE.  You can drastically reduce, if not completely eliminate, the amount of soot that builds up in the intake by reducing the EGR's operation through VAG-COM adaptation.  VAG-COM is a program that not only allows you to change certain operating parameters of your VW/Audi, it also allows you to check and clear Diagnotic Trouble Codes (aka "DTC")  and extinguish the Check Engine Light (CEL, sometimes called a MIL or Malfunction Indicator Light).  CLICK HERE to see how you can get your own.

[Back to Main TDI Page] [Links] [E-Mail Me]