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#3073410 - 07/22/13 07:36 PM Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel
thebeast Offline


Registered: 11/20/09
Posts: 32
Loc: Wheeling, WV
My great uncle is graciously giving me his early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel, naturally aspirated, manual transmission. Not entirely sure of the year, I'll find out when I get it this weekend. I have only owned gasoline cars so far, but I'm excited to dive into the world of diesel. Anyways, does anyone have experience with oil for this car? What about OCI and oil filters? Are there any other common maintenance items I should get a head start on with this particular car? Obviously it's ~30 years old, so I know it will need some TLC. Thanks in advance for your advice.
_________________________
2002 Hyundai Elantra GT 2.0L - Pennzoil Ultra 5W-30, Purolator PureOne
1999 Toyota Camry LE 3.0L - Pennzoil Ultra 5W-30, Purolator PureOne

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#3073427 - 07/22/13 07:55 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
2004tdigls Offline


Registered: 10/31/11
Posts: 253
Loc: maple ridge, bc
go here

http://www.vwdiesel.net/forum/

use a generic 15w40, change it every 5000 miles

check the timing belt

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#3073441 - 07/22/13 08:14 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
artificialist Offline


Registered: 09/23/07
Posts: 6714
Loc: Florida
Thins kind of diesel would have a "Wait to start" light. In order to start the engine quickly and do the least amount of wear, you must switch the key to "on" and leave it there until a "Wait to start or glow plug" light went out. Then crank your engine.

If you don't do that, you just spend extra time stressing the starter, battery, and engine.

As for the timing belt, replace all components at the same time using premium parts. If you don't you will be stuck doing all that stuff over again prematurely. The VW diesel engines are all interference design, if the belt fails, valves crash into the pistons. I am fairly sure all diesels are that way because they need high compression to function.
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2010 Lancer Ralliart Sportback

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#3073452 - 07/22/13 08:31 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
Spazdog Offline


Registered: 09/06/10
Posts: 5492
Loc: Arlington
Stay off freeways with 65+mph speed limits! LOL

My ex in college had one. Pressing the pedal down just made more noise and soot - not much acceleration, but you could eventually coax about 65mph out of it if you dented the firewall with the small accelerator pedal.

Sipped diesel. Couple bucks of diesel would last a long time back then. I don't know exactly what the mpg was but I would estimate it to be at least 50mpg.

It was more rust than car. One of the A-pillars was rusted all the way through and stuffed with red rags and caulk. Don't know how the windshield stayed in. But it did.

When it was really cold. North cold, leaving the block heater plugged in overnight would make the whole car shake like a paint mixer when it caught. Sounded like it was running on 2 cylinders. Then 3...eventually all 4 would run and away we would go in a blinding flash of......slow. But when I thought for sure the diesel would have gelled and the car was stuck until the spring, it would rattle and bang it's way to life.

I don't know if it was really good on ice and snow or if it just didn't have enough power to get you into trouble. In the words of Forrest Gump, "I think maybe it's both."
_________________________
2005 Mazda 6S hatchback - Mobil Super 5000 5W20
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#3073455 - 07/22/13 08:35 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
Donald Offline


Registered: 03/21/04
Posts: 13352
Loc: Upstate NY
I had a 1980 one.

I installed a block heater as even in CT where I lived at the time I could not start it in the winter.

There is a connector for the fuel line under the car about in the middle. This connector seemed to be made of a material that diesel fuel would eat through after 2 years and leak. I replaced it twice.

I once tightened the head gasket with a torque wrench and blew the head gasket the next day. Obviously no connections between the 2 events.

Before winter check each glow plug. You could have a defective one all summer and never know it. Come winter you will.

Given ULSD, use 1 oz of 2 cycle oil per gallon of fuel since there is less lubricant in diesel now than in the 1980s. I buy Walmart 2 cycle oil by the gallon. (For my Cummins diesel).
_________________________
2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4.0 - PP & M1
1999 Dodge Ram 2500 w/Cummins - Rotella T6 & M1
Amsoil ATF in both vehicles & Magnefine filter.

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#3073457 - 07/22/13 08:36 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
NMBurb02 Offline


Registered: 09/12/12
Posts: 1297
Loc: Crowntown, CA
These posts make it sound awful inconvenient to own. You should probably just let me take it off your hands for you!
_________________________
2002 Chevy Suburban 1500, G-Oil 5W-30, Napa Gold FIL 4805
2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GT, Valvoline ML NG 10W-30 +MMO, Puro PureOne PL10111

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#3073460 - 07/22/13 08:39 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
tstep Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 328
Loc: PA
Had an 85 Jetta Diesel NA. Pretty light on power. I think only around 45-50 hp, but once I learned to drive it, the 5 speed helped greatly. Consistently above 45mpg and I beat on it. Top speed I ever as able to get it was 95mph downhill. Uphill maybe 70ish.

Changed oil every 2500-3000 w/ straight 30 weight, but I'm thinking I should have used 15w-40 if I knew any better. It had glow plugs and you really did need to use them.

One thing that I hated wasw the position of the water separator. It hung very low and was something like $300 to replace. Absolute moneymaker for VW. Had to repair it several time due to an errant deer leg, medium sized tree branch, etc. For the most part I think the drive train was close to bullet proof if you performed the maintenance. The rest of the car fell apart around he drive train.

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#3073463 - 07/22/13 08:41 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
Chris142 Offline


Registered: 06/05/03
Posts: 11262
Loc: apple valley, ca
My friends mom had one when we were about 14. We would use it to go see girls after his mom went to sleep. Terribly noisey engine that made sneaking out and back in very hard for two 14 yr olds but we managed to never get caught. Same problem at the girls houses. Had to wait at the corner for them as the Diesel was guaranteed to wake parents up if we pulled into a driveway
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02 Jeep Wrangler super-s 10/30
87 F250 Diesel Delo 15w40
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#3073468 - 07/22/13 08:47 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
earlyre Offline


Registered: 11/22/11
Posts: 2134
Loc: Lima, Ohio, USA
My uncle has one of those in his yard in southern ID, hasn't run in....20 yrs? I've often toyed with the idea of trying to Resurrect it.. though i suspect the transport costs to get it back to buckeyeland would be WAYYY to high for me to mess with.


Edited by earlyre (07/22/13 08:50 PM)
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09 Mercury Sable : Meijer(Warren)Full Syn 5w20, FL400s
Mine to Maintain:
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#3073534 - 07/22/13 10:14 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
michaelluscher Offline


Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 1178
Loc: NYC
Replace glow plugs and ream carbon from glow plug holes.
Whatever fuel filters there are, replace.
Some sort of 5/10/15w-40. Rotella,Delo,Delvac, It's all good.
Have battery tested, especially round winter.
Lube whatever need be that can, or should, Zerk fittings, door locks/hinges/window slides, etc.
Then your standard look over all the other fun car stuff, all the other fluids, brakes, suspension, lights, wiper blades, etc.

Basically your used car to do list, Diesel Edition.
_________________________
'06 Toyota Camry SE V6 3MZ-FE 48k
'01 Mercury Villager Estate VG33E 45.5k
'06 Ford Taurus SE Vulcan 44k
'13 Chrysler 300 3.6 Pentastar FF 2.5k

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#3073549 - 07/22/13 10:44 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
Barkleymut Offline


Registered: 01/27/04
Posts: 2431
Loc: Richmond, VA
was this car garaged? I grew up kinda near Wheeling and they salt those roads pretty hard. You may want to pass on this one or else it may be a money trap. Rotella/Delvac would be the way to go for oil if the body is still in ok shape.
_________________________
09 Vue(95K) 2.4 4spd AT -PU 5w30 / 09 Flex(52K)3.5L PU / Moms car 04 Pilot(105K) 5w20 PP + Puro

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#3073568 - 07/22/13 11:26 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: Barkleymut]
antiqueshell Offline


Registered: 03/02/12
Posts: 4030
Loc: chicago, Illinois
Do Want! shocked2

I'm am so jealous. slobber


I used to own a 84 Rabbit GTI that I loved and was bulletproof until it was stolen at 120k miles.

I always wanted a mid 80s TurboDiesel VW Golf or Jetta MKI.

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#3073586 - 07/22/13 11:53 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
JHZR2 Offline



Registered: 12/14/02
Posts: 33553
Loc: New Jersey
Glow plugs and valve adjustments are key!!!

Many of us MB diesel owners of the same era have gone over to 5w-40 syn oils for better soot dispersion and better cranking characteristics. 15w-40 HDEOs would work great too.

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#3073609 - 07/23/13 12:51 AM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
jaj Offline


Registered: 08/21/03
Posts: 893
Loc: Vancouver, Canada
I had a 1980 Diesel Rabbit that I drove 60k miles in 3 years on a winding hilly highway between the small town where I lived and the university where I got my degree. It didn't have a lot of power, but a thousand trips over the same road made it so I could pretty much pass anything by using momentum - I'd be speeding up while they were slowing down and if I timed it right, I'd fly by at flat out and be gone in a few moments.

Basically, it was indestructible. I used 20w-50 in the summer and 10w-30 in the winter. One time a friend borrowed it and drove 50 miles to town. On the way back the coolant light came on, so they kept going and when I got it back the radiator was dry. I fixed the leaking hose, filled the coolant back up and it was fine.

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#3079229 - 07/28/13 08:17 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
Rico567 Offline


Registered: 09/08/06
Posts: 173
Loc: IL
It's already been mentioned, but if you don't know when the timing belt was done, if you drive the car and like and plan to keep it (this won't be cheap), get someone who knows how to do a complete job. If they know their business, they'll know what "complete" means.
_________________________
'13 VW Passat TDI, '04 SAAB 9-5 wagon, '02 Dodge Dakota 4x4

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#3079644 - 07/29/13 09:00 AM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
addyguy Offline


Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 13426
Loc: Canada
My best friend brother was in BC tree planting, and it was time to come home.

Bought a 1979 Rabbit diesel for something like $400 b/c it and gas were cheaper that a plane ticket home.

Was a 4-speed, and he 'blew' 4th gear going through the rockies. No problem, drove it the rest of the way, in third, at the redline, the whole way...about 55mph.

Drove it like that, day and night, over 2500 miles back to Ontario. Got it here, and sold the engine to a guy who wanted to use it as a generator. Ran perfect.

True story.
_________________________
2003 Mazda Tribute LX V-6, 169k miles.
Oil: Edge SPT, PP, and Lucas syn; MPH2 filter.

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#3085254 - 08/04/13 09:29 AM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: Rico567]
2010_FX4 Offline


Registered: 09/26/10
Posts: 3038
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Rico567
It's already been mentioned, but if you don't know when the timing belt was done, if you drive the car and like and plan to keep it (this won't be cheap), get someone who knows how to do a complete job. If they know their business, they'll know what "complete" means.

x 1000! I had a 1981 model and a friend had a 1980. I changed my timing belt on schedule and he did not attempting to save a few bucks. About 8 months, later it skipped a few teeth and the valves hit the piston destroying the head, piston, and rod. Bad to happen, but a trip to a junk yard garnered the parts to fix it (was a very easy job) and it still ran like a top afterwards.

I would not think of starting it without changing the timing belt. As others have said the glow plugs will fail and you will not know it making winter time starting a near impossibility. Use Rotella for the oil (it will be pitch black in a few miles) and the thing will last forever. Low power high MPG is the order of the day despite being named a Rabbit. Enjoy!
_________________________
2010 F-150 FX4......M1 0W-20 SN EP + FU......(Last OC @ 136.7K)
2014 Explorer LTD....KENDALL GT-1 0W-20 SN + MC....(Last OC @ 15.0K)

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#3087940 - 08/06/13 07:06 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: Spazdog]
jayg Offline


Registered: 10/04/12
Posts: 300
Loc: Acworth, GA
Originally Posted By: Spazdog
Stay off freeways with 65+mph speed limits! LOL

My ex in college had one. Pressing the pedal down just made more noise and soot - not much acceleration, but you could eventually coax about 65mph out of it if you dented the firewall with the small accelerator pedal.

Sipped diesel. Couple bucks of diesel would last a long time back then. I don't know exactly what the mpg was but I would estimate it to be at least 50mpg.

It was more rust than car. One of the A-pillars was rusted all the way through and stuffed with red rags and caulk. Don't know how the windshield stayed in. But it did.

When it was really cold. North cold, leaving the block heater plugged in overnight would make the whole car shake like a paint mixer when it caught. Sounded like it was running on 2 cylinders. Then 3...eventually all 4 would run and away we would go in a blinding flash of......slow. But when I thought for sure the diesel would have gelled and the car was stuck until the spring, it would rattle and bang it's way to life.

I don't know if it was really good on ice and snow or if it just didn't have enough power to get you into trouble. In the words of Forrest Gump, "I think maybe it's both."


Thats about right in those cars. I laughed at the hard sttart when cold. My friends dad had one growing up and he said "He had to let those pistons get round again". Smoked like a freight train when cold and accelerating.
_________________________
'14 Jeep Wrangler Sport S 6sp
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#3089861 - 08/08/13 03:47 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
javacontour Offline


Registered: 06/26/03
Posts: 7489
Loc: Illinois
I owned a well worn '81.

The engine was indestructible. Everything around it fell apart.

As others have mentioned, acceleration is best measured with a calendar but it does sip fuel.

I got good at changing window regulators as they would fail frequently.

I only changed 3 of the four glow plugs as one was blocked by something (injector pump or some lines) so in the winter it would run on 3 cylinders until the fourth got warm enough to run.

It leaked everything it could leak, including rain water.

I got rid of it because it didn't have A/C and I got tired of driving in the summer without A/C.
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#3091004 - 08/09/13 05:26 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
bullwinkle Offline


Registered: 10/09/04
Posts: 3992
Loc: Cincinnati, OH, USA
Local mechanic had a nice diesel Westfalia Transporter for sale a while back, $5 grand, and I bet a 10 speed bike could have outrun it (loaded)!
_________________________
06 Ram 3500 CTD 4X4 48RE SRW, 93 GMC C3500 6.2 diesel, 89 F-450 7.3 IDI, 98 Cherokee 4.0, 05 Scion xB, 82 Mercedes 300D, company van 12 Ford E-250 4.6

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#3093665 - 08/12/13 03:56 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
Thermo1223 Offline


Registered: 04/18/05
Posts: 1677
Loc: Easton, PA
Easiest thing in the world to maintain.

Oil & Fuel are big spin-on filters.

Glowplugs are cheap, injectors are cheap.

Everything about those cars were cheap, including the steel they were made out of.
_________________________
2004 - Jetta Wagon TDI - Gone
2009 - Subaru Forester XT - 4AT 5k OCI
2014 - Scion xD - 4AT Toyota Care

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#3098269 - 08/17/13 09:16 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
mene Offline


Registered: 02/18/12
Posts: 191
Loc: winter park, Fl.
Like it has been said timing belt and tensioner are imperative, need to be somebody who knows or the pump timing might be off a little or a lot and will be [censored] also you will need a locking tool for the pump to keep it on time, there is more about it but it will take a lot more writing. Glow plugs, you might have or not the fast ones, maybe they were changed already, for the last 20 years only the slow ones are used with the turbos. The injection pump might be leaking at the front seal, might be the seal it could be the bushing, if the glow plugs are warming up and doesn't start, clean the surroundings of the fuel line from the filter and fill the pump with fresh diesel, filter it as best as you can, put the fitting back and crank the engine it should start. If it has been sitting for a long time the diesel might have bacteria so drain it and change the filter. Injectors go out of tolerance after about 60k miles, something to remember. There is more if you want to, if you decide to throw it away because it seems too much trouble please let me know where, I'll help you taking it out of your hands.
_________________________
1984 Dodge Caravan. 461K miles (replaced by the 2000, body rusted badly)
2004 Chrysler Town & Country. 127K miles
2000 dodge caravan 2.4L 189K. miles

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