Piston Slap: Is VW's Emissions Scandal Saving or Killing TDI Culture?

piston slap is vws emissions scandal saving or killing tdi culture

TTAC regular David Holzman writes:

My brother and several of my friends are wondering what to do about their TDIs. There are probably hundreds of thousands more like them! Some issues with keeping them:

  1. Will they actually be forced to clean up the emissions? (I think this may depend on which state they’re in, but I’m not sure.)
  2. How much will the fix affect gas mileage and performance?
  3. Will the fix be a PITA after it’s installed? If so, how so?
  4. After all the above is considered, what’s the cost/benefit of keeping the TDI vs taking the money and getting a new car?
  5. Is there any reason not to simply wait and see how the fix works out and not rushing to take the buy out?

For my brother, sportiness is not a priority, but having a wagon is. As is reliability and having a very similar car so that his wife, who does not adapt easily to different cars and drives the TDI exclusively, will be happy. But I think VW has discontinued Jetta wagons, and the latest generation of Golf (which has a wagon) gets lousy marks for reliability from CR. In particular, they consider some fuel system problems to be “fairly serious.”

All the best,


Sajeev answers:

From what I’ve seen, VW’s giving above market value price, so making a lateral-ish move from an A3 TDI to something Germanically gutsy like a turbo Mini Cooper, or from a base Jetta TDI to a cleaner Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf makes sense. But your questions point to those embracing the culture surrounding TDI ownership: no different from Panther Love, Corvette Fever, The Jeep Wave, Teslaratis, Ferraristias, etc.

And that’s the real shitter: will this scandal’s final act save or kill TDI Culture?

1) Yes, VW will attempt to clean up its act. Question is, will the government accept it? A rudimentary emissions-tuned ECU reflash is VW’s best hope, but integrating a complicated, expensive urea-injection system (like damn near every other non-cheating diesel) is likely better for the government. I guess the latter is more likely.

1.5) Another point to consider: will owners accept the clear (lower fuel economy/performance) downsides? And will the state demand proof of a retrofit to get next year’s vehicle registration?

2) Maybe this sheds light on the TDIs future, especially if that involves urea injection.

3) Read the owner’s manual on a late-model diesel from Mercedes or BMW. And no, you can’t just take a piss in the urea tank. That ain’t gonna fly, son.

4) Cost/benefit analysis are personal, as people often lie about their automotive needs, wants and (most importantly) their personal finances. If you can’t afford the car you really want (or don’t want another one) let VW install the fix. Deal with the repercussions: that’s how it shoulda come from the factory!

5) Money is the cause of, and the solution to, damn near all of life’s problems. There are countless reasons why someone would take the money and run. Those that stick around are definitely deep in what’s left of TDI culture. For now.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.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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3 of 53 comments
  • Brettc Brettc on Dec 20, 2016

    The smartest thing is to take the money and move on. You don't want a "fixed" TDI for many reasons, reliability being the biggest one. Fuel economy and performance aren't supposed to suffer much, but they will be affected (along with Adblue fluid consumption being higher). The Jetta wagon has always been a Golf wagon. It doesn't take rocket appliances to figure that out so that shouldn't be a stumbling block. If you want to stick with VW and live in a location that sees winter, consider the 4Motion Golf wagon S. Pretty good value for the money and it's AWD.

  • Amca Amca on Jan 19, 2017

    Visiting my Porsche dealer this last weekend, I noted he had a humber of diesels on his inventory list. He said he gets requests for them every day, and isn't allowed to sell them. Me, I've got a '14 A8 TDI. Love it. And they'd sell me another A8 TDI if they'd just bring their hot new euro-V8 turbo-super-charged car here. Alas, they're chickens ready to blow me off. Time to buy a Cadillac, I think.

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