1986 Volkswagen Jetta GL 1.6 turbo diesel from North America


A good Mk 2 turbo diesel is dependable, easy & cheap to fix, and a great car for short trips in town


Power steering rack leaking, 22K miles, replaced (warranty).

Glow plug relay, replaced 64K miles, 8 years, (intermittent).

Power steering reservoir replaced, 70K miles (cracked).

CV joint boots (outer) replaced, 70K miles, 9 years.

Front shocks (strut rebuild), 70K miles (same time as boots).

Glow plug temp sensor replaced, 71K miles (resistance shifted).

Brake master cylinder replaced, 72K miles (11 years).

Timing belt, 76K miles (normal maintenance).

Front motor mount (hydraulic mount) replaced at 81K miles (15 years).

Glow plugs replaced, 83K miles (one plug bad, replaced all 4).

Odometer rebuild, 93K miles, 20 years (nylon gear stripped, known problem in many MK2 Jettas/Golfs).

Diesel fuel water trap, 96K miles (plastic tank cracked after 25 years...).

Injection pump reseal, 96k miles (large O ring failed after 26 years, dumping diesel all over the engine. Had the entire pump resealed. No other rebuild necessary. Keep the fuel filter changed and the pump will last forever!

A/C compressor finally died this year (seals).

General Comments:

Dependable vehicle, starts in any weather. 55 MPG trundling around my small town. Not a hot rod by any means (68HP), but comfortable. Interior was standard fare for mid-eighties, but a cut above most competitors at the time. Unbelievable trunk space!

This car hooked me on VW diesels.

'Replaced' this car in 2002 with a VW Golf GLS TDI (light years ahead of the '86.) But just couldn't let the old girl go, so I keep her going. Paint still shines (Diamond Silver); Blue pin-strip seats are still attractive and comfortable with no rips, tears or stains (no kids; pets ride in carrier). Only interior flaw is the headliner (normal for age), which dropped a few years back. But was able to re-glue aft of the sunroof and the rest is held up by the sunroof, visors, edges, windshield, etc. Steel wheels and plastic covers have lost their paint and need to be refinished.

Quirks: some road impacts on the front end really resonate in the passenger compartment. Shifter is stiff but precise and smooth -- but it is slow because of its stiffness -- but hey, in a 68HP turbo diesel you don't need quick shifts! The old 1.6 diesel, whether with a turbo or without, has a resonance at about 1300-1500 RPM +/-, and this is helped with the hydraulic mounts on this generation. Never an issue with the engine cooling system, even to the present day. A/C on this car has been very dependable and durable, up to this point. But hey, what compressor lasts 26 years?

The build quality on my Jetta was top notch. The Diesel and Turbodiesel US models were made in Germany, whereas the '85/'86 was the start of US model Jettas coming out of Puebla, Mexico. Only gas engined MK 2 Golf/Jettas for US market came from Puebla, through to the end of the run in 1992. Oh, and that leaking power steering rack? I was amazed to find that it was a US built part from a US supplier. The replacement was the same (and has worked leak free for 24 years).

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 11th June, 2013

13th Jun 2013, 06:36

The US TDI's up to 1997 (Mk4, if I recall correctly), and perhaps later, all came from Germany.

They had many of the same issues that you mention. But that's not unusual for VAG. Biggest problems with my '97 Passat TDI had to do with anything that Hella was involved with. Reliability was a problem. Actual engine, not including controls, was reliable. Window regulators and door handles needed frequent replacement, as they did in my '87 Audi.

VAG parts sourced from Hella were never proof of German engineering.

30th Dec 2013, 15:03

I have 86 VW Jetta with 600,000 km, but I have a starting problem when hot or cold. I have few parts that I had changed, and no luck, but still trying and I will not give up. When started there's no power on acceleration.

19th May 2015, 22:51

Get a compression check.

1986 Volkswagen Jetta GL 1.8 from North America


German garbage mobile


Everything that could go wrong has happened. This thing burned up the final drive of the transmission at 56000 miles ($1200). The sad part was that VW knew of the problem, and only made a recall to change out the fluid on the Audi branded part, even though it was stamped VW and Audi on the final drive. You see, the fluid in the final drive was inferior and would dry up, thus burning up the final drive.

CV boots (twice), CV joints, fuel pump (x2), engine mounts, air conditioner compressor, electrical problems.

This was the worst car I have ever owned.

A passenger closed the rear door, and the handle came right off on the inside. The windows stopped working on both rear doors.

Man, this thing was junk... I mean it only had about 55000 miles on it.

General Comments:

Stay far away from this German junk mobile. Farrrrrrrr...

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 8th November, 2010

6th Jan 2012, 13:46

If you would have looked at the VIN number, all VW's are not made in Germany; that's why you are having problems. To buy a German car, the VIN should start with WVW.