Project Hyper-Miler MKIV TDI Jetta Maintenance Engine

Project Hyper-Miler Part 2: Maintenance
by Steve Rockwood

I hate maintaining vehicles.  Nothing is worse than sweating your ass off and busting knuckles for hours only to have a car that was only as good as when you started.  No better, no worse (hopefully).   If cars stayed clean, parts never wore out, and oil stayed golden, I'd piss my pants in jubilation.  Unfortunately, everything on this planet has a nasty habit of degrading, and cars are no exception.

The first thing anyone should do when buying a used car of any age is give it a thorough cleaning inside and out.  Cleaning the car will reveal a lot of things you may have missed when purchasing.  If it's an especially cheap and ratty car, you even get the joy of discovering loose change cemented to floorboards with soda or coffee, condom wrappers, hypodermic needles, crack pipes, broken bong parts, and all sorts of other interesting items.  If you discover something that may have been involved in a murder or other violent crime, notify the police immediately, or throw it away in the neighbor's trash if you fear retribution from the previous owner. 


Project Hyper-Miler MKIV TDI Jetta Maintenance Engine rear car shot
Amazing what a good wash and wax does to what at first appeared to be a tired paint job.


Luckily, this car had none of those interesting items.  What it did have, however, was a pervasive cigarette odor.  By pervasive cigarette odor, we don't mean drunk high school chick who thinks she's cool, we mean the guy you get stuck with on the elevator with the yellow teeth, yellow hair, Marlboro-man-gone-south-gravelly-voice, hasn't taken a shower in a while, chain-smoking pervasive cigarette odor.  Every time we got in the car, someone would invariably quote Forrest Gump thusly: "sorry to ruin your New Year's Eve party, Lieutenant Dan, she tasted like cigarettes."  Obviously, we knew about this when we bought it, but having never smoked with any kind of frequency, we figured it couldn't be that hard to remove.  We were wrong.  At first, we tried simple things like air fresheners and spraying the upholstery.  When that failed, a snowstorm of baking soda was thrown into the car, let sit for a day, then vacuumed.  The cigarette smell scoffed at our pathetic attempts to defeat it like a Frenchman (who also smells like cigarettes) pooh-poohing American culture.  Finally, we took off interior panels, headliner, center console, as well as any other part of the interior that had fabric, and gave it the "sniff test" outside the car.  If it smelled like the Circus Circus casino floor, we either sprayed it with Febreze until it was soaked and let dry in the sun, or we threw it away if it was an especially heinous non-critical part (like the foam ring surrounding the shifter, or the floormats).  We wiped down every hard surface with a multi-surface cleaner pilfered from the kitchen (most of which revealed yellow tar on white papertowels) and were finally getting somewhere.  After the thorough nicotine purge, the car still had that "did someone smoke in here at one time?" smell, but could easily be covered up with an air freshener. 


Project Hyper-Miler MKIV TDI Jetta Maintenance Engine Interior Shot
Many hours of hard work went into cleaning the smell of Circus Circus out of our Jetta, as well as over 100,000 miles of stains and abuse.


Cleaning involved the engine bay as well.  Cleaning the engine on your newly acquired car allows you to more easily find the source of the oily disaster under the hood.  Something like a valve cover leak can cover up an amazing percentage of the engine block, transmission, and accessories, and cover up that coolant weep you might have, or the slow leak from the power steering pump, or the rear main seal leaking.  Cleaning the engine also prevents you from looking like a coal miner every time you go to work on your car.  To clean our engine, we first removed the engine cover and washed it in a simple dish soap and water solution.  While we were cleaning the cover, we liberally sprayed the engine with Motul Moto Wash.  Motul Moto Wash works wonderfully at cutting grease, etc, from the engine, and also doesn't seem to etch aluminum like other products can.  It also leaves the engine with a slightly glossy shine and protects from future corrosion.  After the Moto Wash settled in for 5 minutes or so, we put an old toothbrush (you could also use your roommate's) to use scrubbing the especially filthy nether regions of the engine.  Another liberal dose of Moto Wash, another scrub, and we rinsed it down with the hose.  Note that unless you're being stupid about things and directly spraying water into fuse boxes and the intake, you don't need to cover everything up.  If you're washing a gasoline engine, just make sure that you didn't flood the spark plug wells with water.  Someone must have stolen ours, as we can't seem to find them.


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Andrew Brilliant
Andrew Brilliantlink
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 2:09 AM
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 2:14 AM
Any plans to change the PCV system around to prevent future soot buildup?
Mike Karr
Mike Karrlink
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 2:17 AM
Having once replaced a water pump on a Porsche 944, I can totally empathize with your feelings toward German engineering practices.
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 3:57 AM
Germans are notoriously bad at something called "maintainability." They seemingly design systems with no consideration whatsoever to how easily it can be worked on.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 4:05 AM
Great writing! Nice laughs along with a worn out and frustrated feeling. :)
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 4:15 AM
@ Andrew: Aero is forthcoming. That'll be covered in a future MPG-optimization article, probably after performance/suspension mods, since those will also have an effect on MPG.

@ Dusty: Nope. I want it to appear 100% stock so I don't have to mess around every 2 years for smog checks. More likely, you'll see EGR system mods.

@ Mike: I'll pour an ounce out for my fellow victim of ze Germans... :)

@rawkus: Did I mention I hate maintenance? :)
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 4:26 AM
Working as a tech for a distributor of both Mercedes-Benz and Deutz diesel engines, I usually spend a large portion of my week wrenching on German diesel equipment. They can be difficult to understand at times, sure, but the more you work on a product, the easier it gets, and the more you start to understand what the engineers must have been thinking at the time.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 4:32 AM
i always enjoy reading your articles/columns. thank you for that.

do you have any thoughts towards "seafoam" when maintaining a vehicle?
call me lazy but i have an urge to dump seafoam in my gas tank and in my vacuum lines as a once in a while maintenance effort. any thoughts on negative drawbacks? fouled plugs/o2 sensors, etc....?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 4:43 AM
After my cousin's modded mkiv jetta TDI was wrecked by a woman running a red, he wanted to get right back into the same car.

He recently picked up a mkiv golf 2dr TDI, and wanted to put similar mods in as his now scrapped Jetta.

Last weekend we put it under the knife and completely transformed the stock TDI; Replaced the clutch with one rated up to 300ft/lbs of torque, as well as a euro-equivalent turbo upgrade, boost controller, an ecu tuned for this turbo @ 22psi, up-rated injectors/nozzles, and a bunch of odds and ends I'm not super familiar with as I'm not a vw or diesel guy for that matter, I just installed what was handed to me.

Anyhow, my overall impressions... impressed with the overall 'efficiency' and simplicity of the 1.9TDI setup, as everything is shockingly TINY for the power it produces, and very easy to work on. Great bang for the buck too, and it's still on a mostly stock/all oem setup, so fuel economy and reliability is still stock like.

As for the power? Car is completely transformed; for a fuel-conscious fwd commuter, this 200hp/300tq is MORE than enough imo, and car gets on it and can pass with EASE.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 5:36 AM
@ DieselTech: Yeah, I can do both the timing belt job and the clutch job in less than half the time now. That doesn't stop me from cursing as I do it. :)

@ rich: You're welcome. Thanks for the kind words.

As for seafoam, it depends on the situation. Those chunks that were in my intake manifold were beyond seafoam, and if it worked, it probably would've hydrolocked the engined.

Personally, I think you're much better off removing and cleaning things. On most engines, it's really not that bad removing the intake manifold, and most don't need it anyway as long as you're staying on top of things and using quality fuel.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 5:37 AM
@ Tony: That's the hope for this thing. Right now, it's perfect when just commuting to work. Every thing I get on it to pass someone, I'm sorely reminded of the engine's 90HP rating. :)
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 5:45 AM
i used to wrench a lot more than i do now... right now, my car is a 99 pathfinder that takes me to and from the train station. that's how i stumbled upon your car... your project pathfinder that google so happened to direct me to. anyhow, i guess ralphs fuel may not qualify as "quality fuel" to most? lol.
one day i might just get back in to cars... as for now, i have motoiq to compensate.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 8:02 AM
Steve - Entertaining and informative! I had to laugh a few times remembering why I'm a former MKV GTI owner and not a current one :) Ze Germans have their highs and lows when it comes to their cars. It was nice that IDparts had what you needed because ze Germans helped define the term stealership :) As to the 1.9, it's still the best 4 cyclinder diesel available to us in a compact car. It is also nice knowing you can actually add power to get better MPG!

Now that you've experienced some of the drawbacks and frustrations of German engineering, if you could start over, would you have gone with a different platform for such a hyper-miler project?

Rich - be very careful with seafoam. I read a lot about it once before deciding I didn't feel comfortable with it near my engine. Steve's preference of removing and cleaning also happens to coincide with you'll find in most (99.9%) service manuals.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 8:20 AM
Steve - Almost forgot. Have you seen the TDIfaq.pdf from TDIclub? They show how to recalibrate the EGR for no more build up!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 8:44 AM
@ Der Bruce: Yep, I'd still pick the TDI. The best combination of comfort, size, efficiency, and platform potential of the group.

And yep, read that whole thing. You can recalibrate it for less buildup, but some people have been complaining about lower fuel mileage, so I'm probably going to do something with an ECU vendor. Supposedly, ULSD isn't causing as much buildup, so when I swap the turbo out, I'll see if it's getting dirty far too quickly and make a final decision.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 3:34 PM
Couldn't have described my thoughts of VW engineering any better! Done a fare amount of VW work with no formal VW training and all I can say is WTF. Why is a longitudinally mounted 1.8L anywhere near as complicated to R&R as it is in a Passat, or why the hell do you need to, more or less, remove the whole front core support to replace a DRIVE BELT on an S4? Anyway great article!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 5:52 PM
So much for "German engineering."

Would a catch can fix the oil into soot issue?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 6:38 PM
Shell Rotella T6 for the win! That stuff is a really great oil, especially considering the cost. I buy it for $19.50 a jug at Wally World. I mix it with 20% Lucas Synthetic Stabilizer and run it in my old Crysler Shelby Turbo year-round. It results in a cheap all-synthetic oil that can take ONE HELL of a beating. The old Garrett sleeve-bearing turbos like the one in my car are notorious for cooking the engine oil. Rotella T6 is one of the few I've found that will withstand the punishment without costing an arm and a leg. Royal Purple is great and everything, but $50+ for an oil change? Maybe if I had an R35 GT-R, but definitely not in a car that I paid $174 for.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 6:12 AM
@ Ninja: Yeah, I must have said " this car" about 1500 time while working on it.

@ brian: Ze Germans engineer a good car. That clutch still had loads of meat on it with over 150k miles, and the older ones have been known to go for 300k before needing replacement. Unfortunately, it's just not at all easy to work on. Everything is of sound engineering from a reliability standpoint, just not from a serviceability standpoint. They seem to think buying special tools for each and every generation is perfectly acceptable.

An oil catch can would help the oil issue quite a bit, and that's another thing I'm looking into. Nothing's been bought quite yet. ;-p

@ Drunk: Are you sure T6 is formulated to be compatible in gasoline engines? T6 is a diesel formulation, and may not be able to cope with the solvent nature of gasoline. I'd run Mobil 1 synthetic, as it's ~$24 for FIVE quarts (same price per quart) from Wally World, and is a superior oil, IMO.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 6:13 AM
BTW, superior oil as in really good, not better for TDIs than Rotella T.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 10:40 AM
Steve - You do your research old grasshoper :p The ULSD might help to keep build up down but there are lubricity drawbacks as well. We've tried the cetane booster stuff and a few other additives at the Duramax/Powerstroke and Cummins level but no magic pills yet! Oh, and the
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 10:47 AM
5w-40 was the same blend needed in my 2.0t gas motor, factory spec. I sink ze Germans vant das Auto to lassst fuer ever!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 11:10 AM
@ Der Bruce: ULSD was, at first, low on lubricity. However, they've been throwing in additives to counter this. Is it the same as before? Probably not, but I don't think it's a problem anymore. I don't add anything other than a bottle of Diesel Kleen every once in a while to my truck or Jetta, and haven't had any problems with injection pumps, etc.

As for 5w-40. Yes, same weight, but not the same formulation. Diesel oil is a different formulation than gasoline oil, as you can see on the back of the bottle.
Spectrum (WI)
Spectrum (WI)link
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 3:57 PM
The way I get smell out of cars is you put a couple of tires inside and close the doors and in a couple of days the smell is gone. even works on crusted up milk stains soaked in the carpet. Try it...... Somehow the rubber in the tires absorbs the smell.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 4:15 PM
I'd like to hear your opinions of the Valeo SMF in a future article sometime... as DMF failure is also a problem with Fords, and I'm wondering if our friendly neighborhood racing team (running Ford 2.0 TDCis with 6-speeds) will want to swap out their DMFs for SMFs.
Thursday, August 18, 2011 3:41 AM
Thanks for the update! I have been seriously considering getting a TDI in the next few months and it is really nice to see a good article on the general maintenance for a TDI. I had an old 86' Jetta and that thing wouldn't die! The drive train was bulletproof and was still running when we towed the car to the scrap yard. You are right about clutches lasting forever, mine had well over 230k (speedo cable broke so I don't know the final mileage) with the original stock clutch. I imagine working on the TDI engine can't be any harder then doing an engine swap on a Pontiac Aztek...... Did you know 2 of the A/C compressor bolts on that car require RTV because they extend into the engine block?!
Thursday, August 18, 2011 5:00 AM
@ Spectrum: Most of the smell is gone, but if I'm ever dumb enough to buy another smoker vehicle, I'll keep that in mind!

@ niky: So far, no complaints with the Valeo clutch whatsoever. Takeup is smooth, vibrations are minimal, and it'll chirp 2nd and 3rd if I feel like being a teen again. ;-p

@ Nate: Wait until you see our future installments. However, one of the key points in this article is that TDIs aren't for everyone. What is an annoyance to work on yourself is an annoyance to mechanics everywhere. That means that either you'll pay a pretty penny, or that you'll get shortcutted somewhere. If you get one, and don't want to work on it yourself, stay far, far away from anyone but a certified TDI "guru". That list can be found on the tdiclub forums. Generally, they're cheaper than the dealer, and more than the regular independent guys, but in the end you'll be much farther ahead.

In regards to the A/C compressor bolts: that's one of the dumber things I've heard.
Saturday, August 20, 2011 7:49 PM

I've never heard of anyone saying that Rotella T6 is a diesel-only oil. As far as I knew it is a heavy-duty group-III derived synthetic motor oil. High shear stability and ash-less chemistry certainly makes it well-suited for diesel engines, but not to the point of exclusivity.

T6 is pretty popular in the STI community and there are a LOT of positive Used Oil Analysis histories generated by them for Rotella. If the solvent nature of gasoline gave Rotella T6 any problems then it would definitely show up in the UOA's. Mobil 1 is also very good stuff, but a lot of guys in the TurboDodge community who run the same engine setup as me have reported moderate oil consumption compared to T6 and other synthetics. The Shelby 2.2 is a VERY low-tech motor and even well-assembled ones tend to have looser tolerances than other motors. The old sleeve-bearing turbo doesn't help matters any. Most of them are quite tired, mine included. T6 is renowned for it's tendency to reduce oil consumption which is what endears it to turbo-dodge and boxer-engine owners alike.
Monday, August 22, 2011 3:14 AM
Check out the container, there are all sorts of indications that it's a diesel-only oil. Shell calls it "Shell Rotella heavy-duty diesel engine oil". The formulation standards, if you look them up, are all diesel oil standards:

API CJ-4, CI-4 PLUS, CI-4, CH-4, C4, SM, SL, SH; ACEA E9; Caterpillar
ECF-3, ECF-2; Cummins CES 20081; DDC 93K218; Ford WSS
M2C171-E; JASO DH2, MA; Mack EO-0 Premium Plus; MAN 3275;
MB Approval 228.31; Volvo VDS-4

The Subaru 2.5L engine requires API GF-4, a gasoline formulation, which is not listed on the Rotella container (all the above API specs are the ones Rotella T6 meets). I assume that your Dodge had some sort of spec for it, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now... ;-p

Lastly, on the back of the container of every oil container is one of these symbols:


My Shell Rotella T6 container has "Figure 3: API CI-4 Plus/SL "donut"for diesel engine oil."

What weight of Mobil 1 were you running? I don't think it comes in 5w-40, but once upon a time we got it in 15w-50, which may help with consumption issues. 5/10w-30, at temperature, is going to be more likely to burn since it's a lighter oil.

I guess I'd run it if the UOAs you've been getting say it's working, but at the same time, you may be able to get longer OCIs out of Mobil 1. Just know that it was designed for diesel applications.
Wes Dumalski
Wes Dumalskilink
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 6:02 AM
I ran rotella 5w40 in the 200 for 2 years worth of track days and just switched to it on the Elise. After speaking with Shell themselves regarding a change in the packaging last year the additive package is fine for gasoline engines. The real difference that I see is ZDDP content however it is not high enough to be a concern.

YMMV, Batteries not included, may cause oily discharge....
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 6:55 AM
Well, there you have it.

Did you notice anything that made it superior to Mobil 1?
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