Verbally Flimzy

Ramblings, Observations and Misconceptions

My new toy: 1986 Turbodiesel Jetta

Posted on April 6, 2010

Well I have a new toy, of sorts. Anyone who knows me very well knows that I have an affinity for diesel-powered vehicles, and the last 5 vehicles I’ve purchased (now 6!) have all been diesel-powered.

I’ve been in the market for a new diesel-powered “toy” for a while, with three specific purposes in mind:

  1. An educational tool. I know how to change my oil, and I’ve replaced brake pads once, but beyond that, I know next to nothing about cars. And when my car needs repair, I depend on it, so I never have time to learn to do my own work on it. By having a secondary car, I can take all the time I need to learn to fix whatever is wrong with it. 2) As a daily-commuter in Mexico, where I plan to live for a year, starting this summer. 3) As a toy. Old diesel Jettas (especially the turbo models) are just fun to drive!

Blue 1986 TurboDiesel Jetta

When I bought the car, the previous owner–a high school kid–told me of a number of issues, including a broken odometer (it reads 119022 miles, but is estimated to be closer to 150k), and a slow coolant leak. I wish I had known a bit more about what to look for when I bought it, because I probably could have talked him down in price drastically. As it turned out, I paid $2500 which is already at least $500 above book value, but the TDs are hard to find–and especially hard to find in Kansas. So I was willing to pay a premium to not drive half way across the country to pick the car up. I actually bought the car Dec 6, 2009 near Salina, and drove it home that day.

I finally registered the vehicle last week, and since then have driven it probably 150 miles, and now have quite a to-do list:

  • Coolant leak I can’t find any external leaks; seems likely I have a leaky head gasket, sending my coolant out the tail pipe. This makes it a perfect educational vehicle! Not so perfect for moving to Mexico in a timely fashion :)
  • Brakes The brakes are a bit squishy. I discovered the brake fluid reservoir is bone-dry. Oops. I hope there’s not a leak! At minimum, I’ll be bleeding the brake system, and putting in new brake fluid. No telling when that was last done anyway.
  • Parking brake The parking/emergency brake is very loose. Not a big deal in Kansas where it’s easy enough to just park in a flat spot, and leave the car in gear. But in Mexico, I want a working parking brake! Hopefully this is just as simple as tightening the cable…
  • Heater/AC The heater and A/C come on simultaneously. WTF?! I have no idea what might cause this, but I expect it’s just a wiring issue…
  • Tires I think exactly 2 of my tires match. The other 2 are odd-balls. And one is completely bald in one spot. I need new tires, as well as a desperate front-end alignment.
  • Tachometer The Tach does nothing. I’d like to fix this, as a prerequisite to some of the performance tuning I’d like to do later on. Having a tach is also just cool, even when it’s not absolutely necessary.
  • Odometer It’s hard to calculate my far superior fuel economy without a working odometer!
  • New Tunes The radio head-unit in the car is not factory original, but is horrendous, and the speakers don’t work. I’ve already ordered most of the components necessary to replace the entire sound system–but I won’t be installing any of it until my engine work is complete.

And when all of that is done, if I still feel like it’s worth throwing money at my car just for fun, I’d also like to:

  • Performance tweaks It’s allegedly possible to get close to 200 HP from this car with some minor tweaks, and for a very small financial investment. That’s pretty amazing, considering that it’s only rated at 68 HP from the factory!
  • New suspension The suspension in this car is pretty well shot already, so replacing my suspension lies somewhere between “necessity” and “want.”
  • Paint job I’d like to repaint the car (color suggestions anyone?) and remove the dents from the body
  • New wheels I already have 3 full sets of wheels for this thing… but I think there are some cooler designs out there. If I do a new paint job, I may as well top it off with brand new shiny wheels, too, right?

Filed under: Cars diesel jetta turbo diesel