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Old 05-24-2002, 12:37 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 18,355
experience with VW diesels??

I'm looking at a 1977 Rabbit diesel, non-turbo 4 spd to use as a commuter vehicle. Does anyone have any experience or any comments about it? It is a one owner with 79k miles, clean, no rust. All records including every tank of fuel which shows it never got less than 42mpg. I've heard that VW diesels can lost as long as MB's if cared for and not overheated.

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Old 05-24-2002, 01:58 PM
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Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Cremona, Alta, Canada
Posts: 263
Good little car but GUTLESS as all get out. And SMOKEY too. If you live at sealevel you can get by, but at higher altitudes they are very slow.
82 300SD 110k
91 Caprice SS
92 Jetta TD
97 Cadillac Concours(300hp)
84 Celebrity 4.3L diesel
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Old 05-24-2002, 02:37 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Texas
Posts: 21
1980 Dasher Diesel Wagon

This was the finest car/$ I ever owned. Had plenty of torque and was great in the snow.

Back in '84 this baby ran 42 mpg from Connecticut to Clearwater Beach with 4 people and 2 windsurfers - with the A/C running!

After that I ran for 6 months with a cracked head - no sweat.

I'd buy that rabbit just to make fun of the $30,000 hybrid geeks.
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Old 05-24-2002, 02:57 PM
Admiral-Third World Fleet
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Central FL
Posts: 3,068
I have an '82 diesel rabbit pickup that gets 47mpg on my flat Florida commute (65 mi). It is peppy and has been reliable for the 8 years I have owned it . The truck has almost 300k miles on it but I have replaced almost everything (rebuilt the engine 70k miles ago). Be careful with the head, don't overheat it and change the timing belts often. Adjusting valves is a pain - you need to find and replace shims and a special tool for this is very helpful. You also need to use a dial indicator to set the fuel pump after changing the belt (if it is a Bosch- if its a CAV I would make sure you can get a rebuilt one). Don't pay too much for it. I think a 240D stick is a better value .
80 300SD (129k mi) 82 240D stick (193k mi)77 240D auto - stick to be (153k mi) 85 380SL (145k mi) 89 BMW 535i 82 Diesel Rabbit Pickup (374k mi) 91 Jetta IDI Diesel (155k mi) 81 VW Rabbit Convertible Diesel 70 Triumph Spitfire Mk III (63kmi)66 Triumph TR4a IRS (90k mi)67 Ford F-100 (??)
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Old 05-24-2002, 06:27 PM
84300DT's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Mass.
Posts: 2,219
rabbit diesel

had a 5spd - it was great - died due cracked block so watch the
cooling system. otherwise great car- wish i still had it-
did smoke a bit but not too bad
1984 300D Turbo - 231k....totalled 11/30/07 RIP
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Old 05-25-2002, 04:03 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Valrico FL
Posts: 171
Had an 82 Rabbit Diesel which I bought new and kept for 40K miles. Averaged 48 mpg but was absolutely gutless. Flat out, no wind she would do 74mph....on flat roads in Louisiana. Moved to Colorado and she'd barely hold 55mph unless it was in fourth gear. Never could keep the hubcaps on...they kept falling off. Poor engineering on them, but other than that she did well until
I sold her when I got an assignment to England.
99 E300 133K
98 ML320 99K
87 Saab 900 Turbo Conv 123K
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Old 05-26-2002, 01:24 AM
Posts: n/a
The one thing you have to be careful with on the diesel VW's is the Timing Chain. If it breaks, you now have a very expensive bill paying for broken valves and possibly a new camshaft and more.

The problem is that VW has such tight clearances that there is zero room for error. The timing chain/belt (used both) is very prone to breakage.
Normally they need to be replaced every 35 to 40 thousand miles.

I owned a Dasher wagon which has the same motor as the Rabbit. Great mileage, not real peppy but gets the job done. And like the one guy said, they'll haul a lot and have the power to do so.
Their engines also need to have the valves adjusted much more frequently than other engines, and this is true not only with the VW diesel, but their gas engines too.

A timing chain/belt can break going down the road pretty as you please and then all of a sudden zero power. If this happens and the motor will only roll over by hand 1/2 to 1/3 in either direction, then plan on at least two to three bent or broken valves and possible broken piston. It is also possible to break part of the head too. Camshafts tend to break also. Meaning, a very healthy bill $$$.

Also, in case you all don't know it, you NEED to be running a diesel supplement that has a lubricant for the pump.
This new diesel fuel (low emissions) does not have the lubricity to protect your very expensive Injection Pump.
$5.00 or less for a quart of lubricant is a whole lot cheaper than replacing a pump!
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Old 05-26-2002, 01:31 AM
Car Killer
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Northern VA
Posts: 178
I had an 82 rabbit diesel up to an astounding 102mph. Of course the speedo doesnt read this high so it took a GPS, but this was with three people cruising down the HOV lanes of rt95. it took full throttle for 20 minutes before it finally hit this speed going down a hill, but ones it got there, it held it on the flats. Of course, a trail of black smoke was visible. It had 280,000 miles on it, at 285,000 the transmission siexed up, apparently it leaked all the fluid out (nobody ever changed or checked it). I found a transmission in great shape for $55 at the junk yard. put redline MTL in it and the car is still haulin.
2003 Jetta Wagon TDI 145,000MI
1999.5 Jetta TDI 287,000MI
2001 Suzuki SV650S 26,000MI
2008 Yamaha Vino 125 11,000MI
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Old 05-27-2002, 10:33 PM
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Thanks for all your helpful comments. As it turns out I had offered $1200 (he was asking $1950) and while he was considering my offer someone else offered $1600 so he's the lucky one. However, he lives in Frisco, Colorado which must be around 8000-9000ft elevation. He may be surprised at the difference in performance at that altitude. At 5280ft I was willing to put up with some sluggishness but I believe I'd be hankering for a turbo if I lived any higher.
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Old 05-30-2002, 03:17 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: USA
Posts: 8,033
One other thing nobody has mentioned yet. The VW diesels up to 1980 were 1.5L. From 1981-up they are 1.6L, and from 1984 (or 1985?) up they have hydraulic valve lifters so you don't need to dink with valve adjustments. The difference between the 1.5L and 1.6L is HUGE. Although the horsepower rating is only 10% more, the torque rating is something like 30-40% more. I have driven both and would never buy a 1.5L on purpose, they are beyond gutless, even at sea level. I can't even imagine trying to drive one at 5000+ ft elevation! A 1.6 is a decent engine, though, particularly with the hydraulic lifters. MPG figures between 40-55mpg are possible, typically mid-40's. If cared for these should last 300-500kmi. As usual, take care of the cooling system, and replace the timing BELT (not chain!) every 50-75kmi.

Note: I've owned 5 diesel Dashers, and still have one with a 1.5L engine that was supposed to be a 1.6L... long story...

Dave M.
Boise, ID

1997 E420 - 155kmi (Bugeyes)
1994 E420 - 145kmi (Blondie)
1993 500E - 193kmi (Lollipop)
1992 400E - 189kmi (Stinky Dirty)
Check out my website photos, documents, and movies!
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Old 05-30-2002, 08:12 PM
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Certified diesel nut
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Pacifica (SF Bay Area), CA
Posts: 2,946
I was actually trying to decide between a Benz and a VW diesel. I decided I didn't want to chance an aluminum cylinder head and a timing belt, so I opted for an '85 or lder Benz. That's why I'm here now.

Just my $.02...I'll admit that I don't know much about the VW diesels other than those two factors, and that both can be real dangerous...
2001 VW Jetta TDI, 5 speed, daily driver
1991 Ford F-350, work in progress
1984 Ford F-250 4x4, 6.9l turbo diesel, 5 speed manual
Previous oilburners: 1980 IH Scout, 1984 E-350, 1985 M-B 300D, 1979 M-B 300SD, 1983 M-B 300D
Spark-free since 1999
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Old 05-31-2002, 09:38 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Upstate, NY
Posts: 205
I don't own a vw diesel, but had the opportunity to drive a 84 jetta 5 speed. It was great! It was so much peppyer than my 300TD, and I actually felt like I was moving!

Of course they are in two totally different categories, but I think that when I have the extra money I'm going to get a VW diesel. If youy have the money, get a newer TDI. They get great milage, have low emissions, and seem close to a gas engine in performance.

Sean Roland

2004 Saab 9-5 AERO 138k (for sale)
2000 VW Jetta GLS TDI 215k (sold)
1999 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 - 132k (sold)
1999 Saab 9-3se -- 84k (sold)
1986 MB 190e 2.3 16v -- 221K (sold)
1985 MB 190e 2.3 16v euro -- 145k (junked)
1992 Saab 9000t 5sp. -- 142k (sold)
1994 Subaru Legacy -- 264K (sold)
1998 Audi A4 1.8TQ -- 102k (sold)
1983 MB 240D stick -- 160k (sold)
1988 Saab 900SPG -- 156K (sold)
1983 MB 300D -- 270K project or parts (sold)
1986 MB 280SE Euro stick -- 150K (sold)
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