Thursday, February 13, 2014

One year with diesel

No, I'm not talking about Vin Diesel.  I'm talking about Volkswagen Golf TDI Clean Diesel.

This time last year, I'd been having all sorts of issues with a 13 year old VW Golf GLS that I bought with fewer than 50 miles.  It wasn't a paragon of reliability at any time, but spending US$500-$1000 nearly every month was difficult.

I searched for several cars and the dealership which serviced my car had two 2012 Golf TDIs in stock at a discount since the 2013 models had been available for months.

Switching to diesel wasn't a huge problem.  I knew enough that I wouldn't put gasoline in the tank.  Apparently, some TDI owners aren't that aware and VW had a couple of safety precautions that they used to help remind people.  My only issue was finding the diesel pump, as it wasn't always out in the open.  At one station, it was in the back, in the dark.  Their price was lower, I guess, because it wasn't for the faint of heart to fill up.  Many times, I've had to search for the diesel pump but a few stations mark it nicely.  It's always amusing how many customers will pass the gasoline-only pump to use the combined gasoline-diesel pump to get gasoline.  I love waiting.  I love sarcasm more.

Finding stations with diesel has been an issue.  While I was traveling, I would have loved to use Waze to help me there, but it doesn't allow me to customize it for the type of fuel, but then, neither does Scout.  If I'm in unfamiliar territory, it's easier to have GasBuddy at the ready and switch to that, and it already knows that I'm looking for diesel fuel.

The price of gasoline has swung madly through the year, while diesel fuel has stayed within 40 cents, never being very cheap at US$3.899, though US$4.299 seems rather expensive.  In my world, when I'm getting over 40 miles per gallon, I suppose it doesn't matter, but during the winter months, I may have trouble reaching 30 mpg because of warming up and moving slowly, staying in lower gears.  I've seen just higher than 50 mpg, which is rather a bit higher than the 42 mpg stated.  On my trip to Philly, I had 48.8 mpg, if I recall correctly, giving me a range of 664 miles.

Since I got the car just past 5500 miles, the first free maintenance had been finished.  I took it for the 10,000 mile maintenance at the same dealer where I bought it.  However, for 20,000 miles, I was between California and Ohio, so when I stopped in Arkansas, I had the service there.  The mechanic botched the service, pinching the fuel filter.  I had a huge leak.  The next day, they took care of it, but the mechanic refused to reimburse me the fuel, even though he was given a voucher to do so.  My next service will certainly not be there, especially since it's 12 dry hours from home.

The car really hasn't given me a cause for concern.  If I look back at the first 30,000 miles of other VWs, I had a vapor lock problem with the 1985 GTI, plus a bent wheel.  The 1986 GTI had a missing weld and a bent wheel and both front brake rotors had to be replaced.  The 1990 Corrado had a bent wheel but it was quite a bit more reliable.  The 1999 Golf GLS had 30 or so trips to the dealer for the power window regulator clips, plus an appetite for daytime running lights, and various electrical problems including the central locking system.

The only serious problem I've had with it is that it's all grown up.  I found myself driving 90 mph when it felt like 65 mph with the 1999.  It is very stable, though not flawless.  The electrically-powered steering took some acclimation, but it's quite reasonable, and I don't have Asphalt 8 (video game) moments with it.

You might ask why I'm already over 20,000 miles.  I took a trip from here to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, plus a trip to San Jose, California.  Those totaled 1884 and 5702 miles respectively.  Obviously, that's not a lot of the travel.  The rest is rather local within the tri-state area.  In fact, January 31st and February 1st, I was in southern Ohio photographing three basketball games.  The trip is about 4 hours each way.  I'm getting an average of about 10 mpg better than the 1999 Golf GLS, which is a good improvement.  If I could drive more slowly on the highway and avoid little towns on the state roads, I'd do better.  (I'm just past a total of 30,000 miles, meaning that I've added nearly 25,000.  The MFI shows that I have another 2000 miles until the final free service.)

This was also my first car with an automatic gearbox.  Yes, they had a manual available but between white and red, I chose red--and the better discount on the demonstrator.  I might do it differently given the choice again.  For some reason, I was completely uncomfortable with the transmission during the test drive.  I suppose that shouldn't be surprising.  Every Volkswagen I've had, the gear change was radically different in feel and it took a while to acclimate myself.  Not only that, but the clutch was usually different also.  I didn't want to be troubled with gearbox and/or clutch problems.

One thing is still certain.  The car was certified as meeting ULEV II standards, so I can move to California without giving up the car, and that's a plus.  It also means that it's not polluting as much as the old car, nor does it have a load of batteries to be recycled as a hybrid or fully electrically-driven vehicle would have.  I can be concerned about the environment without being an activist.

Am I in love with my car on Valentine's Day?  Not exactly, but I am satisfied.  It's all dressed in red--maybe I should take it for a car wash.

Update 2014.05.06: I took my car for its 30,000 mile service a week ago Monday.  I made an appointment, but they were so quick with it that I'd almost think that they didn't do anything.  Supposedly, the change the oil and filter, rotate the tires, and other maintenance-type things.  I suspect that they changed the fuel filter again, since the disaster at the previous VW dealer in Arkansas and my 20,000 mile service.

I'm heading toward California once the sale of my house is complete.  While I was uncertain at the time I bought the car, I'm glad I settled on this certain model because it is a 50-states certified model.  It's just too bad it's not much bigger in the back.  I'm still not sure how I got to Florida in my 1985 Mazda RX-7 with my Japanese futon in the back and various things crammed in the front.  I know that I had many things crammed into my 1999 Golf GLS when I moved up here.  That Jetta Sportwagen looked like a winner but I bet it doesn't have all that much extra room.

Update 2015.11.24: At just over 80,000 miles, I've been busy.

When I sold my house in June 2014, I took a trip to New Jersey, to stay at the shore several days.  It rained most of those days.  As I wouldn't be on the east coast again, most likely, I took a weekend trip to Orlando to visit friends.  That was 1100 miles each way.  Returning to New Jersey, I had a nice day, picked up my things and started for California.

How did I put on 40,000 miles in just over a year, especially when I drove a lot of short trips?  I really don't know.  I'm about 70 miles from San Jose, California and I go there often.  I've been to San Diego once, on one tank with some to spare.  I've been to Orange County a couple of times.  It is a big state.  I haven't got as much fuel economy as I might have.  90 miles per hour is too easily achieved.  Still, 35 miles per gallon and change is good.  If I told it down to 60 mph, I'd see 42 mpg, probably, but traffic doesn't work that way in general.

The car has been good.  Despite the emissions scandal, I still like the car.  I'm disappointed in the company, but I suspect that they're not the only company to cheat.  Apparently, Renault is being investigated at the moment, but it's difficult to believe that any company has not cheated.

 I haven't had any major repairs, though the windshield had to be replaced once.  About two weeks after having tint installed on the rear windows and colorless film on the front windows and windshield, a pebble propelled at the windshield started a crack that took over half of the glass.  It couldn't have happened before the extra cost film, could it have?

As the year is ending soon, I'm wondering about so many things.  Hopefully, the car will continue to be good, even after VW makes their modifications to the emissions control hardware and software.  I don't need a car that coughs and sputters.

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