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VW MKIV-A4 TDIs (VE and PD) This is a general discussion about A4/MkIV Jetta (99.5-~2005), Golf(99.5-2006), and New Beetle(98-2006). Both VE and PD engines are covered here.

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Old August 2nd, 2018, 22:14   #1
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Location: Portland, effing Oregon
Exclamation Buying advice perhaps?

I am suddenly seriously under the gun to obtain an ALH this weekend. My executive other has been without a car for a few years now, driving mine some, but is mostly stuck at home. She's done. And she wants one like mine (or a Golf or Wagon but...)
I'm looking at this
Assuming timing belt failure as the explanation for the "new top end"
Normally I would wait, and be able to spend more and for something less questionable but....these are not normal times

What are the chances this beauty is a ticking time bomb?
Could it have really gone 10k miles and still be waiting to detonate?
I'm ashamed to say I've been reading this site for 11 years but now my brain is locking up!
How would you approach this anyone?
2003 Jetta TDI 1.9L 5-speed
All Stock except: Ventectomy
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Old August 2nd, 2018, 23:38   #2
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Location: Too close to Sturgis 'ithole

As a potential buyer, I would expect the owner to sit down and tell you exactly what-was-what with this car in very clear terms.
If it did sustain cam belt breakage or whatever, I would be leery of the valves as there was no mention of head coming off....really.
I would also expect the seller to be able to present dated receipts of work or at least sit down at the computer and go over orders from parts places (open his accounts to see what parts were ordered....if he does his own work).
I opened up this 200,000 mile Beetle I bought and the crank and conn rod bearings show some pretty serious wear....and it never sustained a cam belt snap or anything to even FURTHER complicate matters. The "top-end" of mine actually looks pretty nice....surprisingly. I think mine was run hard prior to any warm-up of the engine....and some serious lugging (got into higher gears and then was too lazy to shift down).
By the seller saying he "sealed up the engine," I sincerely doubt he did much more than a front crank seal and cam seal....maybe a rear main with clutch......maybe.
Gotta see those receipts, you know? Itemized parts. Talk is really cheapo. A lot of people really bs their way through reality.
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Old August 3rd, 2018, 04:59   #3
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Default who did the work!?!? you want to know

Find out where the work was done. Tell the buyer it looks great but you have to talk to the mechanic first.

What kind of shape is the suspension? If the struts are toast and the front end is loose use that to knock a few hundred off if possible. New lower control arm bushings and struts/shocks is a lot of work. Not necessarily, or absolutely required, but tight suspension is safer (and more fun to drive).
Lost my JSW to a reckless MB E350 sedan driver blowing a stoplight:
Working on a replacement project:
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Old August 3rd, 2018, 07:47   #4
Join Date: May 2004
Location: central Ohio
Fuel Economy: 50/45/35

I would ask how many miles he put on it after the head work. If it's not 5000 or more I might expect more issues. People lie when it comes to money and sex, not as bad as dealers, but how do you know?
Muffle the ticking and keep looking, you may need to travel. Consider 2004, 2005 PD as well. Maybe give her your car and buy yourself one.
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Old August 3rd, 2018, 08:13   #5
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Fuel Economy: 40-ish

That price is only justifiable if everything mechanical and cosmetic is about 90%.
I would recommend holding out for a wagon. they are worth waiting for, IMHO.
2002 Jetta GLS TDI wagon, 2012 Audi A3 TDI S-Line
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Old August 3rd, 2018, 09:12   #6
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One of The most important important facts to me when buying a car is how long has the seller owned it. As in, is the person flipping it, owned and maintained for years, or somewhere in between. Other than that a good eyeball test, and always go in to a deal prepared to walk away, if I am not I have found I tend to not be objective and thorough enough.
The more I find to learn, I find there's more to learn
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Old August 3rd, 2018, 09:53   #7
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Fuel Economy: 51/47/42

Car looks pretty clean, but understanding the reasoning for head and cam replacement is critical.

I didn't hesitate buying my Mk4 with with 200k on the clock. It had a brand new turbo and fresh high mileage TB kit installed. I still invested about $2k to completely renew the suspension, sub-frame, LCA's and brakes. I replaced the front wheel bearing while I had everything apart.

Car drives like new!
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Old August 3rd, 2018, 10:03   #8
Steve Addy
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Location: Iowa
TDI(s): 97 Mk3

Based on the photos, which are always difficult to use to determine things, that car looks better than 90% IMO. I'm sure there are things a person could find if they dig far enough but it's 16 year old car.

As for owner / vs flipper, I've seen owners ruin just as much or jerry rig just as well as any dealer might, so how long they've owned it is kind of a moot point. The fact that they do mention the engine has had work done to it is good, at those miles it will be getting close to needing new exhaust valve guides I'd say.

Based on the photo with the other VW's in a line I can pretty much say with certainty that this is not a private owner sale, I think that's pretty clear.

These request for info threads always seem to bring out a lot of irrational responses. It's a 16 year old car and every post I read here wants it to look like and be maintained like it's a 2 year old car, and that just doesn't happen, and you know it.

Go look at it and drive it and ask questions, that's all you can do. No one is going to guarantee anything on this car although there might be some warranty on the engine work, who knows. That's something you might have to discuss with the seller. And I'd want all the receipts / work tickets for it that they have.

Otherwise, it's a 16 year old car in that mile range where some stuff probably hasn't been done, pass if you don't feel comfortable about it, but as the poster said he's under the gun to get something purchased.

My .02

97 Jetta TDI, 90 B3V TDI, 92 MB 300SD

You didn't poison the coffee, did you? Not anymore than I usually do.
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Old August 4th, 2018, 09:44   #9
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I'm surprised it didn't sell on the first day after posting.
'03 Golf with 731k miles: Bosio DLC 764, GT1749VB, PP 2.5" downpipe, Malone tuning, VR6/G60 clutch/flywheel, Bilstein HDs, Recaros, Akebono pads/Brembo rotors, Cat filter with Nicktane head, DG Panzer w/FMJ, Blizzaks, TDT or Delvac1
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Old August 9th, 2018, 23:37   #10
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OK I want to finish this tale up but first express how grateful I am for this forum. You guys are awesome!

I passed on the car in the OP for a few reasons:
#1 he said he did all the work (so there were no service records for that) BUT, he also said he's a VW mechanic (FWIW).
#2 He wanted to meet between towns, ostensibly as a compromise in travel (about 210 miles between us) but I would rather sit down at a home vs. a Denny's for example...
For all I know though - that car is in top shape and looks like it sold already.

Anyway that was 8/2. By 8/3, She who must be obeyed had decided we were driving From P-town to Whidbey island WA on 8/4 (500 something miles one way) to pick up this:

My first thought was 'yay- salt water!'
Owner said it had been garaged since 5k miles, and had maint records since 2005. He did. Several high dollar repairs during 2017.
As good as it is on the outside and the interior, one thing I learned -and here's the part where I give buying advice- the engine bay was (is) pretty damned gross.
Because the seller was a car guy (he has a 1965 2-door T-Bird that's basically cherry), I assumed he would have taken as good of care of the motor as he did the rest of it. I was wrong.

The original foam pad underside of the engine cozy was gone.
Actually it wasn't gone, it had transformed itself into a toxic dust storm all over the top of the motor lol. Throughout most every square inch of the bay was either a fine coating of dusty crud, or a deep-ish coating of cruddy crap. Typical filthy 17y/o diesel that nobody rubbed on or admired... UNTIL NOW
No obvious rust though (have yet to inspect the wheel-wells).

Notably, the fuel filter was covered with white fuzz... and it had a VW logo on it(!), and I don't remember seeing a FF change in the service records(!).....has a new Myele on it now
Mark, if you're reading this, you seem like a great guy, but geez!
(was actually his wife's car so...)

I'm going to go through this baby bumper-to-bumper and make her like new again.

My gal is happy. Thank goodness it's over lol (or has it just begun...)
EDIT: sorry, forgot to add: 230k miles, 4100 bucks. The oil was changed every 10k but with "castrol synthetic" ...I'm still praying. We'll see how it goes. Engine pulls great, no weird noises. Needs suspension refresh. Pretty exciting!
2003 Jetta TDI 1.9L 5-speed
All Stock except: Ventectomy

Last edited by STDOUBT; August 10th, 2018 at 00:00.
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Old August 10th, 2018, 13:43   #11
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STDOUBT, are you a home brewer? Your SWMBO reference makes me wonder...
2001 Jetta GL TDI, Tinted, Ventectomy, Catectomy, EGR-ectomy, TDTuning, HIFLO .216's, Stealth 17/56 Garrett, VCDS Hex+CAN, South Bend Daily Driver 2 Clutch, DG Short Shifter, Frostheater, Baldwin Fuel Filter, Previous Diesel: 1983 Rabbit Diesel
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Old August 10th, 2018, 14:53   #12
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TDI(s): 2002 Golf

Looks like a nice score!
Give that engine a steam clean and you'll be able to eat off the dang thing!

If someone was leary about me doing all the service to my own car, ie if that put them off, I'd tell them:

a) It's taken care of better than 90% of the shops out there would treat it. As a home mechanic to all of my vehicles, I take pride in what I do, and since I own them, I make darn sure everything is done right because I rely on them. Great claimed "professional" mechanic or not, you really don't know if anything is done correct unless you do it yourself.

It's like going to a restaurant. Yeah, you pay for the service and your food comes out, but you don't know what went on behind the scenes to get it to you.

To your point though, I do document all of my work.

b) If the hard work I put into it wasn't appreciated enough to honor what I was asking for the car, time for that buyer to move on.

To mitigate the situation though, you need to be able to ask the right questions...the hard questions.

Things like TB procedure. This would be one of your best go to questions to ask someone that does their own work. It could pretty much show a lot about them as a mechanic and the attention to detail of their work.

When I bought my Golf, the PO had a list of repairs, including a TB procedure done by a VW specific shop. Said that they were friends. I was unfamiliar to the area or the reputation of the shop, so I called the shop and spoke with the gentleman. He definitely knew the car and owner right away. I asked him about his TB procedure, what tools he used, his static timing set procedure, what kit he used, where he set VCDS after he finished on the graph, etc. He checked off all the boxes in flying colors, so I bought the car.

I did a TB procedure a bit after I got the car (old kit had 80k) and I just did another one (at 65k unfortunately because of a water pump leak that I didn't want to risk turning into a WP failure and a new head...). It's been a great car for me.

Moral of the story, I wouldn't hesitated to buy a car from someone who does their own work, I'd just ask the questions to prove they knew about that vehicle and engine enough to be more than competent as a mechanic on it.
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Old August 10th, 2018, 19:25   #13
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Originally Posted by Nevada_TDI View Post
STDOUBT, are you a home brewer? Your SWMBO reference makes me wonder...
It's in reference to Rumpole of the Bailey
I'm not familiar with its relation to brewing but I'll check that out

You're completely right about all of that.
Unlisted reasons I passed were he said there was no TB event, but said something about a 'bent lifter' IIRC. He didn't seem really forthcoming, acted like he was in a hurry even though he said he had time to talk. And he didn't get back to me when he said he would (forgivable but). I'm sure the car could have been in top shape, and I probably missed a killer deal, but it just wasn't coming together.

As for the car I do have...time will tell if the engine was treated well enough to provide 'full service life'. I do plan on sinking about 2500USD into it before the year is out so...it's a gamble even with service records.
2003 Jetta TDI 1.9L 5-speed
All Stock except: Ventectomy
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Old August 11th, 2018, 00:08   #14
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Ya, I think you did the right thing on the first guy. I've got mechanics around me that only appear adept at running a pry bar.....and putting their ball caps on backwards......
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Old August 11th, 2018, 21:56   #15
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Here's some hopefully fun pics of the gore I found under the hood of my (her) lovely acquisition. It's just proof you can't necessarily trust fancy people with service records lol
But really, I'm thinking it'll work out.

Before brushing of the foam: Backside of the IP, nice and dry(!)

The edge of wetness...

Wet -n- fuzzy...gotta fix that

Strange brew with questionable dark "flakes"??

Shifter linkage thingey. Both since replaced (2001 had the
funky snap-in ball type bushing) Thanks ECS! Will surely upgrade to the newer type someday. Imagine your wife driving around like that! Actually was still pretty tight. Had to replace for my G.

Fuel filter top covered in white corrosion....for shame.

No pic of the snow screen, but it was half clogged. Not too bad really. Over all, having been a rushed deal (IMO, not hers)
I might not have bought this car (not a fan of the hole in the roof), but I'm sure there are worse out there. I also think this may be the year where we see peak re-selling of the MKIV? 03's are hitting 15 years..."Honey shouldn't we get rid of that and go electric" lol "Gee, I guess so, dear, it has been shifting funny...."
2003 Jetta TDI 1.9L 5-speed
All Stock except: Ventectomy
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