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6 Volkswagen TDI Years To Avoid

Volkswagen is known for reliability and longevity, as are the company’s TDI engines. However, there’s a group of TDI VWs that you need to know about before choosing which one is right for you.

The 6 Volkswagen TDI years to avoid include 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. All of these years produced far more carbon emissions than Volkswagen initially reported. Additionally, they experienced fuel injector clogs, which prevented them from supplying a steady supply of diesel.

Throughout this article, we’ll show you the six Volkswagen TDI years you should avoid and why they shouldn’t be bothered with. Without further ado, let’s dive into the list below.

1. 2005 Volkswagen TDI

2005 was an unfortunate year for Volkswagen TDI owners. These engines were touted as some of the most fuel-efficient models, but they ended up costing their owners a lot of money on repairs.

The 2005 TDI engine began the years of injection failures and clogs that continued to plague turbocharged direct-injection engines.

2005 Volkswagen engines used camshafts to drive the fuel injectors and not only did these camshafts jam and leak, but they also required very specific oil.

Once the oil was replaced with the proper type, pre-existing issues didn’t disappear. In other words, stock 2005 Volkswagen TDI engines were nearly guaranteed to have expensive repairs relatively soon.

With the malfunctioning camshafts came fuel clogs. These clogs gunked up the camshafts, drastically reducing the engine’s performance.

Furthermore, they reduced the engine’s ability to burn fuel and oxygen efficiently. This increased the engine’s internal temperature, leading to overheating problems and smoking engine failures.

Reasons To Avoid

  • Fuel injection leaks, clogs, and other failures
  • Camshaft issues ranging from jammed parts to specific oil requirements
  • Timing belt problems that prevented bearings from rotating correctly
  • Reduced overall quality and reliability compared to the previous TDI years that used ALH-series TDI engines
  • Increased carbon emissions compared to previous predictions and company-made estimates

2. 2006 Volkswagen TDI

2006 isn’t the most commonly thought of TDI year to avoid in terms of emissions issues. This is because the emission report wasn’t released for several years after the vehicles hit the market, making them relatively outdated.

However, Copilot Search reports that the 2006 Jetta TDI had the most complaints of any Jetta available due to the TDI engine’s poor performance.

Perhaps the greatest issue with the 2006 Volkswagen TDI engine is its lack of functionality and resilience to cold weather conditions.

Not only did the engine lock up when it got too cold due to the camshafts failing to rotate correctly, but it also turned on the Check Engine light almost routinely when the vehicle got too cold.

While it wasn’t as common, the EA188 TDI years (2004 to 2009) often experienced cracked cylinder heads.

This allowed coolant to flow into the engine, causing it to combust and burn unevenly. The cracked cylinder head eventually led to cracked engine blocks, which cost thousands of dollars to repair.

Reasons To Avoid

  • Poor performance in cold weather conditions, making the TDI engine unreliable in snow and rain
  • Cracked engine blocks and cylinder heads led to muddied oil and fuel
  • Locked and clogged camshafts with similar issues to the 2005 Volkswagen TDI engine lineup
  • Terrible emissions reports that didn’t come out for nearly half a decade after the release of the 2006 TDI engines
  • Nearly identical construction to the 2005 VW TDI engine, which meant the company didn’t learn from its previous mistakes

3. 2009 Volkswagen TDI

2009 was the year the Volkswagen TDI took a massive downturn. Unfortunately, this trend continued for a few years following this engine’s production.

The biggest issue of the 2009 Volkswagen TDI was its outrageous emissions. While VW claimed the emissions were some of the best in the industry, they turned out to be some of the worst.

According to Get Jerry, the 2009 through 2012 Volkswagen TDI engine put out up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide as the company claimed. 

This meant they were terrible for the environment, but it also meant that not nearly as much fuel was being burned and used efficiently as previously thought.

Another reason the high nitrogen oxide emissions are an issue is that it showed VW was either lying about the emissions or didn’t do adequate research.

Both of these potential claims showed the 2009 TDI engine wasn’t to be trusted. It also cast a shadow of doubt on many of the following TDI years.

Reasons To Avoid

  • Some of the worst nitrogen oxide emissions out of any diesel engine in history
  • Unreliable emission reports make Volkswagen TDI engines less reliable and trustworthy for the upcoming years
  • Higher nitrogen oxide output meant reduced burn time, which made these engines less fuel-efficient
  • They weren’t as powerful as other turbocharged direct injection engines from 2009
  • High-pressure fuel pump problems led to greater chances of overheating

4. 2010 Volkswagen TDI

2010 carried most of 2009’s Volkswagen TDI engine problems. These problems worsened in some areas. For instance, 2010 models used copious amounts of oil to lubricate the high-heat engine.

This was initially seen as a solution to the pressure buildup, but it ended up causing clogs and inaccurate oil replacement timeframes.

On top of that, Volkswagen tried to go back and replace or repair the 2010 TDI engines by adding new filters.

These filters increased the chances of developing clogs, which caused overheating, reduced performance, and excessive oil debris buildup. They also meant the engine couldn’t burn as much fuel, resulting in reduced acceleration.

All of these issues meant the 2010 Volkswagen TDI engine had frequent Check Engine alerts on the dashboard. However, these engines also sent false alarms to the dashboard, making it difficult for drivers to know whether there was a problem.

Reasons To Avoid

  • No real improvements from 2009, making it equally as bad
  • Added fuel filters reduced oil flow and increased the chances of overheating
  • Faulty Check Engine lights made it difficult to know if there was a problem with the engine
  • Extra oil consumption increased maintenance costs and oil requirements
  • Pressure buildup caused long-term overheating problems and interior heating discomfort

5. 2011 Volkswagen TDI

2011 continued the unwanted emissions trend while attempting to reduce some of the pressure buildup issues from 2009 and 2010.

While there wasn’t as much overheating, there were issues with oil usage and coolant requirements.

Most 2011 VW TDI engines ran through coolant much quicker because they wanted to correct the previous years’ problems.

Carbon buildup was a major issue for Volkswagen TDIs from 2011. 

Not only did the engine need to be cleaned more often, but not doing so would lead to temperature regulation issues and foul odors wafting into the cab.

Furthermore, it could trigger Check Engine lights on the dashboard, much like the problems from the 2010 TDI engine.

The biggest issue found in the 2011 TDI engine was the fuel injector failure. The fuel injector would stop working if it got a small clog, which meant there wasn’t enough fuel to ignite with oxygen. The vehicle would stop working, regardless of how quickly it was moving (or if it was parked).

Reasons To Avoid

  • Carbon buildup led to numerous expensive engine repairs, cleaning, and maintenance
  • Same nitrogen oxide emission issues as most other TDI engines mentioned above
  • Excessive coolant consumption meant it had to be replaced much more often to prevent the engine from overheating
  • Fuel injection malfunctions led to clogs and engine failure, much like the Northstar engine years to avoid

6. 2012 Volkswagen TDI

2012 marked the last year of Volkswagen’s TDI diesel emission reports. It maintained the same emission problems, but most TDI engines saw an upward trend after this year.

There were far too many years of unreliable TDI engines from Volkswagen, one of the biggest issues facing the 2012 models.

However, the 2012 VW TDI also saw a lot of misfiring issues. These engines lost fuel from the fuel injector, which caused them to misfire. The Check Engine light would come on for the remainder of the commute.

Another problem associated with the 2012 Volkswagen TDI engine is poor fuel efficiency. These engines burned through a lot of diesel without properly disposing of the emissions.

This meant reduced MPG, though it wasn’t reported for many years.

Reasons To Avoid

  • Continued awful emission reports damaged the 2012 VW TDI’s reputation
  • Fuel injector issues created misfiring reports that could damage the engine
  • Poor fuel economy costs 2012 VW TDI owners more money than expected
  • Bad fuel combustion made the engines louder while also reducing their efficiency and reliability
  • Excessive oil requirements needed to be upheld to prevent these TDI engines from getting too hot or worn down

Final Thoughts

While it might seem like these six years ruined Volkswagen’s TDI lineup, there are many high-quality TDI engines from VW. Modern Volkswagen TDI engines offer excellent fuel efficiency, performance, and reliability.

Once Volkswagen took responsibility for the incorrect emission reports, they went through a series of recalls and corrected the issue for future models.