By on November 17, 2015


carbon cleaning. shutterstock user sasha2109

Arley writes:

Dear Sanjeev, [Oh, come on!!! —SM]

I have a ’03 Jetta 1.9-liter TDI. Do you know if the emission controls were tampered with on these models? If they are not part of the recall, am I to assume everything is as it should be? Resale value has dropped noticeably.

After your (and reader) recommendations regarding carbon cleaning, the car runs noticeably better, even at 180k mikes.

Thanks. I read you every day.

You can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish.

Sajeev answers:

I have no information on emissions controls tampering on your Jetta, mostly because it’s not part of the VW TDI recall. That’s only for 2009-2015 VW diesels with the 2.0-liter engine. That model was known as the greenwashed TDI Clean Diesel.

Your diesel is then, by default, a dirty diesel. But at least it was honest!

Sorry to hear about the loss of resale value, but the court of public opinion is (slowly?) going against diesel engines for use in “clean” vehicles. Meaningless in the world of full-size trucks, where people regularly defeat the clean diesel particulate filters…but I digress.

While your ride may have the same steering angle sensor (and other in-vehicle monitors) as the later TDI Clean Diesels, they were only used for their intended purpose. Hell, even Martin Winterkorn, the CEO that allegedly set unattainable goals fostering VW’s Cheat Culture, wasn’t in a position of power when your Jetta TDI was designed.

Perhaps expecting any other outcome is like trying to “tune a fish.”

[Image: Shutterstock user sasha2109]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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31 Comments on “Piston Slap: Oil Burning and Carbon Cleaning (Part II)...”

  • avatar

    The earlier TDI’s are not part of the recall but among TDI drivers they are very sought after because they are simpler to care for and get better mileage, than the newer “cleaner” ones, I doubt value has dropped much if anything, really how much value can a 13 year old VW with 180,000 miles have to the general public. I am surprised that Sanjeev did not jump all over that, he is the less PC than Sajeev his twin brother. Perhaps his meds are working today, glad to see he gets a letter sent to him still.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I’m not convinced that resale value can collapse on a 13-year-old daily driver. Did it go from being worth $100 more than an ’03 Pontiac Sunfire to being worth $100 less?

    At that age, your resale value is heavily influenced by how much thread you have on your tires, and how long before you need new pads and rotors. Give it a few more years and your resale will be the amount of fuel in your tank plus the value of scrap metal.

    Don’t worry about the emissions scandal. Enjoy your car if it still drives well. It owes you nothing, and that’s almost exactly what you’ll get when it no longer serves its purpose.

  • avatar

    On average these cars are worth more to the owner than resale value will ever dictate. Every year we keep talking about replacing the wife’s commuter car (01 Beetle TDI 5 speed) but it just continues to be reliable and drama free with excellent fuel mileage. She puts anywhere between 500-650 miles a week on it and has yet to leave her stranded. Other than a droopy headliner which im about to fix and an annoying squeak that i cant pinpoint somewhere near the center console its in excellent shape. It is still 100% rust free which is impressive given its age and the fact it sees so many miles of salt covered highways week in and week out. The day will come that it necessitates a repair that will force us to buy something else, until then we’ll probably just keep running it.

    • 0 avatar

      Even if it costs $1,000 to repair, that’s less than $100 per month over a year. You can also drop collision / comprehensive insurance for more savings on an old vehicle. My newest (2000 Impala) has 183,000 miles, and received a $977 intake gasket repair 3+ years ago at 154,000 miles, which works out to about $25 per month and continues to go down.

    • 0 avatar

      In our part of the country, a Mercedes with veggie capability will have a no-blink asking price of $3000+ even 30 years old and 300,000 miles. Or more. My dear long-suffering wife attempted to lead me down this path, but heated and cooled seats with all wheel drive and 300 horses ended up tilting the scales. That was too close. It would have pierced my diagnostic shield of invulnerability.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know enough about the W123 Diesels to say why, but I do know they always seem to find a home (at least since the 2008 oil spike). Prior to this I don’t remember hearing about them much.

        • 0 avatar

          They’re ad simple as an anvil, truly the everlasting engine

          • 0 avatar

            They actually are not as reliable or as durable as legend would have it. They take a LOT of care and feeding to reach huge mileages. A Volvo redblock motor is FAR better over the long haul, having owned multiples of each.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      That’s alot of driving per week for a car of that age.

      • 0 avatar

        Assuming your referring to me, I tend to disagree. They’re virtually all highway miles. We also live rural so there are very few short trips on any of our vehicles. I also am very meticulous about maintenance.

        Provided I know the history of a vehicle, age means very little to me. I routinely run my 98 Ram CTD on multi state trips on light loads just to keep the miles off my 13. I am the 2nd owner of my 98 (but have owned it longer and put more miles on it than the P.O.) and have ran it cross country multiple times and would not hesitate to get in it right now and do so. I know the truck inside and out (same with the wife’s Beetle). If the 98 were to break down on the side of the road which it has yet to do, there is really nothing aside from a catastrophic drivetrain failure I can not fix. If my 13 breaks down I’m at the mercy of the local dealer where ever that may be.

        I tend to have more faith in myself than a dealer that I am not familiar with.

  • avatar

    Assuming your car is a top model in excellent condition, Kelley Blue Book says is worth less than $3,000 in a private sale. If it isn’t that good and you trade it to a dealer, its value drops to $1,000. In other words, it’s worth more to you than to anyone else.

    I suggest you keep driving it until something expensive goes wrong. Then, you will have to make a decision. If the repair will keep the car running without significant additional expense, it might be worth the investment. However, a more likely scenario is a string of expensive repairs. The time to dump a car is when you can buy something at least as good for the same price as it takes to keep the old one running.

    If you haven’t done so already, drop collision and comprehensive insurance. If it is totaled, you won’t get enough out of the insurance company to justify the premium.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a YMMV situation. Depends very much on who you are and where you live. It would cost me less than $100/yr for comp/collision on a car like that (collision and comp on my 2016 M235i only costs me ~$250). Of that, probably $80 is collision, $20 is comp. So I would MAYBE see dropping collision, but I would not drop comprehensive, ever. Broken windshields alone have meant I have gotten my money’s worth out of it. And Comp claims generally do not count against you.

  • avatar

    Just keep the 03 tdi. Fantastic mpg and with owning a car that long you know what to expect with the car. With basic maintenance you should have no problem getting another 80-100 k miles out of her.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Every post here jumped on the same thought I had, resale value has dropped? Surely you jest!

    All passenger cars of this vintage, that don’t have a Toyota or Honda badge, have minimal resale value. As in 2k or less. If the toy or Honda badge are present you may find yourself in the 3k vicinity.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Run it, with modest repairs along the way.

    Then sell it to a fellow True Believer, or junk it.

  • avatar

    “Resale value has dropped noticeably.”

    Resale was never particularly high on these, what probably happened is the pool of potential buyers has driven up and the ones who will buy are lowballing (so, me). I’m not up on the TDI of the period in terms of TCO, but I do knew they could put up miles. The trouble is if if the TDI is rock solid its still the classic GM paradigm: good motor in a crummy car.

  • avatar

    ’03 was the last year of the ALH engine, which I think is the most reliable and simple engine for the power it provided. Keep the maintenance up and watch your timing belt age/mileage (and perhaps window regulators). But it is a 12 year old vehicle, that said, I’m driving my ’02 Wagon to LA from MN on Thursday. Go to and find yourself a guru and you will be good.

    Edit. I note from the picture of the tdi motor it looks like it has a grease kit installed, from my reading not a good idea, from what I’ve read on the “club”.

  • avatar

    To be honest you will not get much more for a Honda or Toyota of that age or mileage. Yes a Honda or Toyota with very low mileage will bring more money but most Honda’s & Toyoda’s have been driven into the ground or never had the oil changed. The real older one’s were great cars but as the years go by they have also lost some of their shine.

    • 0 avatar

      “..most Honda’s & Toyoda’s have been driven into the ground or never had the oil changed.”

      Everybody knows this. What else would you expect from typical Honda and Toyoda buyers?

      Dregs of society.

    • 0 avatar

      “The real older one’s were great cars but as the years go by they have also lost some of their shine.”

      I’m still running around in a 1989 Camry V6 DD I bought used from my best friend for $100 earlier this year.

      Yeah, the interior is showing wear, some of the plastic has turned to dust, but it still has the original plugs and gives me a decent 20mpg on a 200mi roundtrip. And the paint is still decent thanks to Nu-Finish.

      When they started making them in America, Toyota lost a lot of its shine that came with the Made in Japan Toyotas.

  • avatar

    Re: trucks, DPF deletes are only legal on non-registered vehicles. (A carefully driven deleted vehicle will be hard to notice, but who can resist a good stomp on the throttle once in a while?)
    EPA fined one company $500,000 for DPF-delete related tuning products:
    CARB fined another $1 million:
    Illinois had a bill in the state legislature this year that would have fined “coal rollers” $5000:

  • avatar

    If you haven’t replaced that POS cheap orange dipstick yet do it ASAP.

    After a few years, they break apart and the resulting debris falls down the tube.

    Only way to retrieve it is to drop the pan, fun times!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The Sell It Yourself price on for an 2003 Jetta TDI w/180k is a mere $1,350–$2,150. Better off just doing the basic maintenance and repairs and keep it going.

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