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'Worst maintenance nightmare vehicle' hits 200,000 miles

A handful of you may recall my exploits in getting a 2004 Volkswagen Touareg fixed up. It had 169,000 and some change miles on it when I got it back on the road in March 2019.

Apparently I’ve put more than 30,000 miles on it in a year and a half... and it’s not even my “daily driver.” But I do have to admit, sometimes I can’t help myself and just drive it anyway.

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Illustration for article titled Worst maintenance nightmare vehicle hits 200,000 miles
Photo: dieseldub/Matt P.

And the day after this was taken... I drove it over 500 miles to Oregon...

Surprisingly, it’s been holding up very well since the major repairs, as one might hope. But I suppose some of the things the internet leads you to believe about these is you can’t go even a single year without some major repair decimating one’s bank account. Hasn’t been the case for me, knock on wood. Just the initial major work, which I knew it needed when I bought it and thus got it for cheaaaaaap. Really cheap.

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Aside from a couple light bulbs, driveshaft center support bearing and just routine fluid and filter services, it’s been really well behaved so far. I do admit that recently, the transmission has developed a slight delay getting into gear after being in neutral or park. I’ve also been noticing an odd hesitation getting into and out of 2nd gear in some situations. So, earlier in the day before it hit 200k, I did a transmission drain and refill along with the oil change service. I used Red Line D4 ATF and used some Lubegard ATF additive. I’m happy to report, it’s made a very positive difference.

The transmission on these are a big, beefy Aisin-built unit. But like many Aisins from that time frame, the valve bodies are pretty prone to wearing and causing most issues with these transmissions. Catch a problem early enough and replace the valve body, they just keep going. The previous owner actually did this only about 20,000 miles before I got it. So I was a little surprised to have it act up a little so soon, but fortunately some fresh fluid and Lubegard seemed to restore correct operation this time.

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In other news, there will be other posts forthcoming on other projects, since clearly the V10 Touareg is actually kind of boring as far as maintenance stories now. It’s just clicking off the miles, comfortably, smoothly, quietly, going around corners in ways that something weighing near 6000 lbs has no business doing, doing the occasional easy trail, will someday test its limits some more. It really is impressive doing 80+. Feels totally planted and confident. The engine isn’t even audible @ 2000 RPM on the highway, all you get is a little muted wind noise inside. It really is on another level of effortless performance and comfort compared to anything else I’ve owned.

Shit, I was supposed to talk about the other projects and just ended up waxing poetic on the damn Touareg again.

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Ok, ok, here’s what I’ve done but haven’t posted about: in December, I picked up a 2014 Passat TDI for cheap, whole fuel system went kablooey. It’s been fixed and I’ve put 10,000 miles on that one now too. I have a customer of mine who has already agreed to buy it off me, which is good because I have a lot of projects in the pipeline!

In the pipeline: a 1991 Jetta that originally had a 1.6L diesel in it, all of 52 hp. It will be getting a 1.9 TDI with some nice performance upgrades, some better seats, Mk3 5 lug suspension and brakes (which means also converting to rear disc brakes as it currently has drums in the rear). There are a lot of plans formulating in my head with this one as it is.

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And lastly, a 2004 S4 Avant I picked up for cheap because it has a lot of miles and needs timing chains. Oh joy, yet another VW/Audi job that requires engine removal.

But 340 hp in a small, AWD station wagon with a V8 soundtrack sounds like fun. Fuel prices have come down a bit considering the current situation, so why not have a little V8 fun while I can?

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Oh, and the project I have been putting off for years: my 2005 Passat wagon TDI that had its 5 speed auto bite the dust and I intend to manual swap it. First, I gotta stop buying other projects I guess!

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