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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: 34
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

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

Registered: 10/31/11
Posts: 332
Loc: maple ridge, bc
go here

use a generic 15w40, change it every 5000 miles

check the timing belt

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

Registered: 09/23/07
Posts: 8317
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.
2010 Lancer Ralliart Sportback

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

Registered: 09/06/10
Posts: 5941
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."
2013 Chevrolet Cruze Eco - dealer Dexos
2014 Chrysler 200S - Whatever the dealer put in it.
1987 Honda CN250 Helix - Penn Platinum Euro5W40

#3073455 - 07/22/13 08:35 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
Donald Offline

Registered: 03/21/04
Posts: 17427
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).
2015 Subaru Forester 2.5 engine/CVT
2015 Ford F250 w/Powerstroke
2016 Subaru Crosstrek CVT (wife's)

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

Registered: 09/12/12
Posts: 1963
Loc: Greatest Earth on Show
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, Rotella T6 5W-40, Fram TG3675
2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GT, Napa Syn 5W-30, Fram TG3387A

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

Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 373
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.

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

Registered: 06/05/03
Posts: 14357
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
02 Wrangler Chevron 10w30
87 F250 napa 15w40
04 Tahoe super-s 5w30
Z400 Lucas 10w30
KLR250 Maxima 10w40
Can am maveric edge 5w40

#3073468 - 07/22/13 08:47 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
earlyre Offline

Registered: 11/22/11
Posts: 3254
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)
09 Mercury Sable : 5qts Edge 5w20,1/2qt each Edge & GTX 5w30, WIX 51516
Mine to Maintain:
03 Pontiac Vibe : 4.5qts Edge 5w30,Fram XG4967

#3073534 - 07/22/13 10:14 PM Re: Inheriting an Early 80s VW Rabbit Diesel [Re: thebeast]
michaelluscher Offline

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 2161
Loc: Northeast
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 61k
'01 Mercury Villager Estate VG33E 49k
'06 Ford Taurus SE Vulcan 56k
'13 Chrysler 300 3.6 Pentastar 136k

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

Registered: 01/27/04
Posts: 2670
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

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

Registered: 03/02/12
Posts: 5133
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.

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

Registered: 12/14/02
Posts: 38668
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.

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

Registered: 08/21/03
Posts: 947
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.

#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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