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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: 13775
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, 188k miles.
Castrol Edge SPT 0W-20; Fram EG2, and lots of top-offs.

#3085254 - 08/04/13 09:29 AM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: Rico567]
2015_PSD Offline

Registered: 09/26/10
Posts: 4464
Loc: SE Texas
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!
2015 F-250 FX4................Delo LE 5W-40 CJ-4 + MC
2014 Explorer LTD.............PUP 5W-20 SN + FU
2010 Kawasaki BF750 4x4....RT6 5W-40 + OEM

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

Registered: 10/04/12
Posts: 468
Loc: Anchorage, AK
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.
'15 Toyota Prius C TGMO 0w20
'91 Toyota Land Cruiser VWB 5w30
'73 Datsun 240Z 4sp Vintage QS 10w40 from '73 in the sump

#3089861 - 08/08/13 03:47 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
javacontour Offline

Registered: 06/26/03
Posts: 8471
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.
network down, IP packets delivered via UPS -BOFH

#3091004 - 08/09/13 05:26 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
bullwinkle Offline

Registered: 10/09/04
Posts: 4957
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, 15 Transit 250 3.7

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

Registered: 04/18/05
Posts: 2011
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

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

Registered: 02/18/12
Posts: 213
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. 131K miles
2000 dodge caravan 2.4L 214K. miles

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