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Don’t Let The Dieselgate Recall Ruin Your VW TDI Experience

Volkswagen TDI Dieselgate

Volkswagen TDIs are incredible vehicles, despite much of the public sentiment right now, propagated by the whole Dieselgate debacle. 

Disagree? Then try achieving over 50 MPG while cruising at 90mph in any other car… a Pruis will barely even go that fast, let alone be efficient there.

Many Volkswagen TDI owners are very worried about the Dieselgate recall ruining their car’s performance, fuel mileage, and resale value — more so than the possibility of their car killing a few extra birds.

This article is for the informed diesel buyers, and probably not the those who bought their cars based on some vast “green” marketing fantasy. Everyone who knows diesel, knows it’s not the cleanest option, but they also know that its durabiltiy and efficiency makes up for that.

So if you’re starting to feel angry about the bird comment, then I suggest you stop reading here because the rest of this article will only piss you off even more.

For the rest of you, I want to discuss the best course of action for TDI owners who want to keep their diesels running solid after the recall is implemented. And yes, that means running a bit dirty to retain the outstanding performance and fuel economy, which are likely the main reasons you purchased a TDI. I will also discuss my take on what will most likely happen with the value of TDIs in the coming years (utilizing my degree in economics!).

Do the recall, then simply get an aftermarket tune/reflash to bring your performance back

Once the recall is figured out, your TDI will have it done the next time it is at the dealer. I strongly advise you wait until you actually get your recall notice to bring the car in. There is no rush, as this is not a safety issue.

So let the dealer do the recall their way. Your car will go on record as having had it done, and it shouldn’t be an issue from there.

My guess is the recall will consist of an ECU reflash that will effectively neuter your TDI in order to bring the emissions down. The more unlikely alternative would be for VW to affix AdBlue hardware to hundreds of thousands of individual TDI cars, which would be excessively expensive. If they do wind up having to add AdBlue hardware, then the situation may become more complicated for TDI owners wanting to keep their car’s performance in tact — I will write a follow up article in that case.

Once the recall is done, the car should be noticeably down on power and the fuel economy will drop a good bit.

My guess is that you will see closer to the actual EPA fuel economy numbers, rather than the much higher MPG most TDI owners have been accustomed to. So we could be talking about a 25% drop here, which is pretty significant — especially in the winter when diesel is very expensive.

Time To Get Tuned!

With the recall done, you can then get your performance and fuel economy back by getting an aftermarket ECU tune or reflash.

This is nothing new at all. It’s the same exact trick that car enthusiasts have been using to get more performance out of their cars for years. All it entails is a 10 minute reprogramming of your car’s ECU. It’s the same exact process as the VW recall will be, just turning things up, rather than turning things down.

Many companies out there already sell these performance tunes for TDIs , and I suspect they will be creating more tunes the coming months to meet all this new demand. (Just search for “VW TDI Tuning” or “VW Diesel ECU Reflash”)

Generally these aftermaket reflashes come in the form of an iPod-like device that you plug into the car’s diagnostic port. You upload the new software, and you’re back on the road within 10 minutes.

The bonus of many of these tuning devices is that they are able to return the car’s ECU to the original settings. So those of you concerned about your warranty just need to return the car to it’s stock settings before going to the dealer or inspection station.

This also means that it is imperative that you have the VW recall reflash done to your car before you purchase the re-tuning device, so the stock settings will be the right settings for emissions tests.

So all of you TDI owners should fear not in terms of the performance of your cars. The fix to Volkswagen’s recall should be an easy and simple one. And you can choose whether you want to just go back to the settings you had pre-recall, or if you want to add more power and MPG to your TDI with a high performance map. It’s all good!

Legality Disclaimer: Depending on your state, switching your tune back may not be “legal”

Switching between tuning settings as described is essentially the same action that VW had implemented in their cars to get around emissions tests in the first place. I know many of us in the car community are more than happy to bend/break laws in the name of performance, but if your state requires a diesel emissions test, then be advised.

VW Golf GTD Engine

What about the value of your TDI in the future?

In my opinion, TDI owners can rest easy. Diesel has never been the choice of mainstream carbuyers in America, and this scandal just assures it stays that way. People who are genuinely interested in diesels won’t be swayed by this scandal. Just look at older TDI values and you’ll see things are fine. People who buy used diesels buy them for the MPG and the performance. Such buyers will be happy to buy recalled TDIs and put a performance tune on them to bring them back up to speed.

Lets look at things in terms of supply and demand. Volkswagen’s next generation of diesels will likely suck, strangled by excessive emissions and extra crap they’ll have to put on the cars post-Dieselgate. That means that the previous TDIs will be the “good diesels” and they will be well sought after by the diesel crowd.

Another scenario is that this scandal could kill diesels in America, once again. That would mean a scarcity of new diesels, and a rise in value of existing diesels.

Will the value of your TDI dip in the immediate short term, probably, but only because of the media hype. Just remember how dumb the average bandwagoner is, and keep driving your car until they’re on to their next fight.

Longer term I think the values of TDIs are safe. If you’re panicking thinking about selling your car, just don’t. Volkswagen TDIs are incredibly solid and durable cars, well proven to be good for over 200,000 miles. TDI-Powered Audis have also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race 8 times in the last decade — you can’t achieve that using technology that is anything but robust.

Keep the car, drive the car, and enjoy the car.  There is nothing to worry about.

-Nick Walker

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7 thoughts on “Don’t Let The Dieselgate Recall Ruin Your VW TDI Experience”

  1. This was largely the same thinking that I had up until I found out the firmware updates also included tattletales that could be used to report tunes to both Volkswagen and you’re motor vehicle registering agency.
    I’m sure the EPA will be interested as well. New encryption and other ways to block tunes are also in the works.

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  2. Fast forward 2 years later and the fix is in, the performance is about the same and the value of TDI cars is going up. Finding a low mileage and excellent shape car is hard, the tuners are able to bypass the VW ecu locks and the power is restored. Furthermore, owners got thousands of $$$$ in restitution, they get to keep their running cars legal and I can’t recall any dead birds falling off the sky.

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