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Common problems with 1985 VW golf diesels? Answered

Hello Instructables community! The time has come for me to terrorize the streets with my driving skillz! (I say "Skillz" jokingly)
I'm looking for a car, and found a good condition 1985 VW Golf Diesel on Craigslist. The owner says it gets 42-47mpg, and, being an old diesel I believe it. But I was wondering if there are any common problems with Golfs of that age? Anything I should be worried about when buying one?
Thank you in advance!



Best Answer 7 years ago

How many miles has it got? When was it serviced and what was done?

I have a 77 VW Rabbit with a diesel. It has 350,000+ miles on it. If its the same engine they can go for a long time. But you do need to do some things on them. The timing belt needs to be replaced often. If that is not done it can be very bad. There is almost no space at the top of the piston when its at TDC. If the timing belt breaks the pistons will hit the open valves and corkscrew them and possibly destroy the head. It also leaves a stamp of the valve in the top of the piston. So you can figure you will have to replace the belt right away as preventive maintenance.
The injectors can develop problems and need to have the cores replaced. So there are a few things. Is it a TDI engine? those are more expensive to maintain but they also run better.

Bottom line on this is the price they want. These engines can work great and save a lot on fuel costs. Mine gets almost 50 MPG and that is hard to beat. But they can be pretty tricky to keep running. You need to be willing to dive into them and learn how to fix them yourself and keep them running. Many mechanics don't know what they are doing around these engines and will cause more harm than good. But its old enough that you don't need expensive computer gear to repair them. And there are still many companies making parts for them because they can last forever. I used mine when I was doing census work last year and being reimbursed 50cents a mile I actually made money on it.
If the price was right I would buy it, but then that's me.


7 years ago

I am a little surprised at the underwheleming response to this question.
Anyway if you do get this diesel there are a number of things you can do with it in the future. There are conversion kits that can change it over to run on vegetable oil. You can still find places that give the stuff away, (the leftover Crisco from deep fat frying) So even though its an old car it could become a fun project down the road and you might be able to get the fuel for free. I thought of doing this to mine but my climate is so cold it takes a lot more work to keep the stuff liquid.
Diesels can also burn used engine oil. You add filtered oil to the diesel fuel and it burns it just fine. (does tend to make more black smoke) , Most people don't know it but the big rigs have a special oil system where the oil is drained from the engine and added to the fuel and then replaced with fresh stuff from an oil reservoir. So they are constantly changing the oil on the fly. It can be a little tough on the fuel filter though.

I need to replace the head on mine so I guess I will write and instructable on it when I get around to doing it. It's not as hard as you might think.

I know that VW electrics tend to be less than reliable, especially the older the car model.