Blog : Modern diesels – longevity vs environment

Mike Humble

An old school analogue diesel – As refined as a drunken tramp, equally as smelly but designed to lumber on forever. The days of an ever lasting diesel power unit seem to be a memory.

You know, they say the best conversations a man can ever have are in the pub or down the barbers – and it’s 100% true. Some of the best Politicians, Engineers, Police Chief Superintendents or Heads of State that never were earn their wedge by cutting hair and putting the world to rights.

I am quite lucky as my barber is a gentleman and a petrolhead – never mind that he drives a Toyota Auris (a wife and kids altered his buying policy), he knows a thing or three about cars. Anyway, sitting there waiting while pawing through a copy of Auto Express, a sorry looking Escort van plastered with mud and sporting a roof-mounted amber beacon bar clatters onto the forecourt of the barber’s emporium – sounding as smooth as a mower running over shale.

An equally tired and mucky looking chap about my vintage enters the shop and plonks his weary derrière beside me before grabbing another motoring magazine and awaiting his barnet to be barbered. My barber knows everyone by name and he quips that he needs a new van but the chap snorts back that there’s loads of life left in his steed having just knocked up an amazing 280,000 miles.

This is no mean feat by any standards – the Endura 1.8 Ford diesel has nothing in the form of power or torque but they certainly run and run and run seemingly forever when given a little TLC but 280K? That’s damn impressive. Sadly, not as impressive is his workmate’s Renault Kangoo DCi which has just had its third engine fitted at less than half the Escort’s mileage and is under three years old.

Recycling isn’t new

Once upon a time, in not so distant past, it was not unheard of for a diesel heart actually to outlast the carcass it was fitted in, hundreds of life-expired Maestro and Montego diesels provided a transplant for drivers of Land Rover 90s looking to add a bit more oomph. A good few canal barges also saw their worn-out Lister engines swapped over to the same hardy Perkins/Rover Prima MDi too as they were known for being utterly robust and bomb proof even if a little smokey, especially in turbo format. On the subject of the Prima, I read in a Perkins newsletter once about a courier driver hitting 350,000 miles in his diesel Maestro. If I recall, they bought him a new van – and a pair of the latest hearing aids (ahem sniff).

The modern diesel is a far cry from say 10-15 years ago – ultra thrifty, they now may be but it seems the original USP for choosing diesel – longevity, seems to be distant memory like record players or Texan bars. Manufacturers still charge that added premium for a car that uses the black pump yet the life expectancy of said engine quite often fails to match its petrol sibling. Audi and Volkswagen models which dine out on their fangled dual vane turbochargers or GM 1.9 CDTi engines blowing head gaskets are just a soupçon of silly and unacceptable problems as the makers squeeze and wring every last blip of power from engines of ever decreasing capacities.

The Diesel Maestro Van – The Rover/Perkins Prima lump would often still be working 10 years after the shell was scrapped!

Progress – at what cost

How about the PSA Group HDi engines, though? Go like the clappers they may do compared to the XUD of old, but as for fuel system and engine-related electrical faults – they are simply unable to hold a candle to an old 406 TD LX. It’s kind of comparable to mobile phones – my old Ericsson 638 had a battery life you could count in seasons unlike my HTC which needs to be defibrilated into life every evening. There seems to be too many electronics in the engine bay where once a diesel was simplicity itself. Dr. Rudolph surely never envisaged his ultra-simple, ultra-efficient idea to be surrounded by a cacophony of senders sensors and ECUs when he invented his heavy fuel engine all those years ago.

Take my mate’s wife’s Zafira 120 CDTi for example, she works as a child minder ferrying Suffolk’s baby boom around. I’ve lost count now how many times the engine management light came on owing to the ultra low mileage the car actually does. The family have now cottoned on to the fact that an occasional spanking on the M11 is all that’s required to avoid the dreaded yellow glow but, as my friend often says to me, ‘why should I?’

He is, of course, right to a degree. Why should you adopt a different style of driving to avoid an expensive plug in job at the Vauxhall Dealer? The service manager will probably tell you that’s a small price to pay for progress. However, what about stop-start technology then, crawling in traffic with this function is both tedious and frustrating in my opinion.

Turbo-diesel cars used to be torquey and gutsy, too. Our current 1.6 TDi Golf, for example, has a powerband as wide as your little finger – let the revs drop below 1500rpm and it’s almost like there’s no engine there at all. Compare that to my old company Civic iCDTi with its hulking great 2.2-litre engine which had so much torque that when you planted your foot, the Earth would rotate backwards.  As the Actress said to the Bishop ‘there’s no substitute for size’ – look what happened when Peugeot introduced a 1.5 yes! 1.5-litre HDi plant in the 407 range, they subsequently went on to sell so few that you virtually count the total sales on the fingers of Abu Hamza’s right hand.

407 1.5 HDi – Sounds bonkers eh? The public agreed, and stayed away in droves.

Reductions in reliability

Engine failures in modern diesels are so common place today but it does not stop with just cars and light commercials either. Once a Cummins NTA 14-litre would punch out 350bhp and colossal torque in an average British truck and give up to a million kilometres of trouble free life but, today, that level of horsepower can be gained with just 8-litres though with drastically reduced life expectancy.

A local resident to me just happens to be a workshop manager for a local HGV dealership and tells me engine changes inside warranty 10 years ago virtually never happened, but today? They change an engine once or twice a month. Modern telematics may make a truck more efficient, but it does not make them any more reliable – quite the reverse in fact.

Even modern buses have a similar problem. Your average full-length single-decker would once happily burble around the metropolis armed with a 10-litre engine that never even so much as broke into a sweat.  That’s a far cry from today where a 12m service bus can be fitted with a 6-litre power unit that just screams all day at 2000+ rpm with its hydraulic cooling fan acting and sounding like a mobile vacuum cleaner. The average life expectancy of a city bus engine has dropped from eight years down to a miserable three putting thousands of pounds onto ever tightening engineering budgets.

Modern buses often feature tiny over stressed engines with half the life expectancy and up to 25% thirstier than 15 years ago – How is that better for the environment in the long term?

Counting the environmental cost – long term

What about the environment, then?  Granted, toxins and particulates of new vehicles are impressively low but, once out of warranty and the servicing is skimped, they soon start to clatter clank and smoke like an old locomotive – has anyone ever suffered the misery of following a Laguna DCi or Focus TDCi with a failed EGR valve whilst grinding up Corley bank on the M6? And on the bigger stuff, a Gardner-powered Leyland double-decker would return around just over ten mpg in service whereas a modern Volvo equivalent struggles to top seven. Look at the total life costings and I’ll bet the old Leyland is kinder the the trees than the Swede.

Okay then, what about economy? Well, the old Montego diesel introduced in 1989 was capable of well in excess of 65mpg – even in estate form – and the current Mondeo diesel without stop start trickery manages around the same. So have we progressed and have we really reduced the carbon footprint? Probably, yes in the short term but to what extent is the carbon offset if so many diesel cars and commercials are suffering from premature engine failure thus requiring brand new lumps?

A sobering thought when you think that my fellow customer’s van has an original old-school diesel engine cast from Pig iron a million years ago… and still delivers the goods!

So much for progress, indeed.

Mike Humble


  1. What’s more there is the nonsense called Adblue, you’ll curse the day you run out of the darn stuff as some engines go into limp mode (15% power)- nice if you are towing a load!

  2. @1 piss in the adblue tank,thats what some do when they run low,a good story,and indeed where is the progress?

  3. Ah Adblue, that horrid, corrosive, and expensive liquid, which has a nasty habit of turning to a crystallised powder & blocking the injector in the cat, thus ruining it. I’ve had a Euro IV Cummins ISBe 6 eat its oil pump at less than 2000 miles, thus ruining the engine, and Volvo’s 7 ish litre lump fitted to the B7L/B7TL and early B7R, well in coaches they cook themselves alarmingly regularly, and fuel economy,well, you are lucky to get 5 mpg out of them in service, and they suffer from horrendous turbo lag, and beltch out black smoke when pulling away, almost as badly as a Leyland 510. They also fail at scarily low miles. The old 9.6 litre Volvo lump was legendary for long life, and good mpg!

  4. A small pedantic point, but the 1.6 (not 1.5) HDI in the 407 has found its way into cars as big as the mondeo and Volvo s80 as well as the mini, focus, mazda3, Volvo s40,
    I think there will be a genuine shortage of cars from this generation as the prohibitive cost of injectors, dpf’s, dmf’s turbos etc etc means many will break beyond economical repair.

  5. Well I won’t be lamenting a lack of HDi Peugeots.

    If only MGR had got the G Series into production, that would have spanked arse.

  6. And adding to this, where I used to work, they had a fleet of Peugeot Bipper vans, and as soon as they got near 60k, that was it, engine management lights almost permanently on, breakdowns were regular too. Years back I ran a Skoda Cube van with the old VAG 1.9 lump, and it racked up a trouble free 150k in 3 years, basically because there was sod all to go wrong on it. I did see not that long ago on ebay an ex taxi Skoda Fabia 1.9 SDi with over 300,000 on, and it was still on the original engine.

  7. Cheap diesel, the desire to use as low rpm as possible, service skimping and a lack of knowledge on how a DPF filter operates will kill many modern diesels before most modern petrols. Coupled with the tiny power band and higher than advertised mpg figures mean many are destined for a short life and a miserable driving experience for the driver.

  8. Its sad but true that humans are an easily lead and fickle species.Any body in the trade will confirm that using modern production practices it is easily possible to build a vehicle with a lifespan of 20+ years as the norm not the exception. And yet the enviromentalist, lobby groups and governments tell manufacturers that their vehicles must have this sensor and that sensor and this system and that system, all of which are not needed. Joe public laps it up and the makers breathe a sigh of relief as policy makers give them a get out of jail free card, here they can make a vehicle that they know will have a premature existance and they can then supply another over priced, over sensored, over equipped pile of crap. They know full well if the governments told them to build bodies with a 20 year life, build engines simple but well engineered to last 250,000 miles and make every suspension joint greaseable they’d all go bust. But the companies are safe because its not the new car buyers that suffer the expensive breakdowns, its the second and third owners who can ill afford them, and who crave a return to “simple is effecient”


  9. What is the point of an EGR. It failed in my S40′ the RAC technician fitted a blanking plate & told me to go to an MOT test centre to check it would still pass its emissions test. Not only did it do so but with better results than the previous year!

    As for raking more power out of a diesel lump. Does anybody know of the failure rate of a VAG 1.9 TDI eeking out 150bhp (not bettered by its 2.0 successor for years until the 168 brake version was launched) compared with the humble SDi which only delivered 60hp?

    • played with quite a few vag 1.9tdi’s, i’ve noticed the early vw engines from a 1Z sdi to the ARL pd150, all of which were oem in everyway, noticed the number 4 conrod bends on some engines and on the pd’s it has managed to break a tooth off the reluctor ring on the crankshaft causing a crankshaft sensor dtc, but later ones (after 2004) we’ve had remapped+tuned running 215bhp 330 torque comfortably, changed turbo, intercooler and exhaust, the block is still stock, but near its limits as injectors gearbox and virtally all internals are requied for even bigger numbers, just cause you got the power dont mean you have to use it all the time,

  10. @9 It is a total myth that cars a designed to expire at a certain age/mileage. I know because I’m this side of that fence. I sit in meetings and discuss material choice and component options; I’m a design analyst. Not once will or have we ever decided to go for an option where life expectancy would be reduced. Never.

    What drives vehicle life expectancy is what the customer is willing to pay. Most OEMs could produce a car that will last for 1 millions miles and 50 years quite easily with no breakdown whatsoever but nobody want to pay for it. It’d be tens of thousands of pound more expensive due to the huigher grade steels etc used; just one aeroplane aero engine costs about £8 million.

  11. sounds a bit like my eco friendly fridge that died at 7 years old (not uncommon too apparently), while the 40 year old fridge and the deep freezer in the basement…just keep on going and going and going and going and going…alex

  12. the point I was making about the eco friendly fridge was that it might have saved say 20% in energy, but who cares about the cost saving if the damned thing doesnt last a reasonable life time.

  13. At the risk of being a bit contradictory here, I drive around 35-40,000 miles a year with modern diesels, running the cars for 3 to 4 years and the only problem that I’ve had in the last 10 years was in a Volvo D5, where a turbo hose came lose.

    There seem to be a lot of people who drive modern diesels that shouldn’t and it’s little wonder the DPF’s clog when so many people drive them do little and for such short journeys.

  14. I think that if the vast majority of owners who don’t need a diesel, got rid of them then the market change would be immense. How many diesels can be seen driven by people who don’t do 25k a year or keep them for 15+ years? Too many is the answer!The number of comments about the lack of diesel for the new MG’s proves the point. Yes, there are some who may not purchase because of the lack of a diesel but, if,as seems the case, MG at the moment, while finding their feet, are looking at Private buyers, then the vast majority of them don’t need a diesel.I would never consider changing our petrol for a diesel, as we only do 10k and our diesel is for towing and carting kids about and will be kept for years.

  15. @10,contrary to popular belief the EGR in a turbodiesel are in use 75% of the time for Nox reduction,in other words cooling combustion temps and act as another wastegate to stop turbo’s overspooling im not a fan myself but hey,modern diesels now have EGR valve that run on delta pressure systems whereby the curcuit is constantly monitered and you cant simply “block off” the EGR without a MIL lamp coming on.

    As for the 1.9 TDI failre rate,i know an engine builder that does about one head job a week due to HGF but he insists if looked after the engines are bombproof-thats the correct 5w30 oil etc,some 2.0TDi lumps have let go due to excess lash in the hexagon drive of the oil pump/balancer shaft unit but this affects certain engine codes and thankfully my BKD engined golf with 170BHP is rock solid

  16. “The average life expectancy of a city bus engine has dropped from eight years down to a miserable three”. Totally sums up the stupidity of the modern approach. I dare say that the extra pollution created in the manufacture of a replacement unit outweighs the pollution saved by the extra efficiency of modern engines.

  17. @17,This is the green lobby for you,but try explaining that to them and they slap you down with vitriolic fervour.
    I put an engine in a H reg Volvo 940 a few weeks ago-the old Audi 6 cyl Tdi unit and they wipe out species on start up!I said to the bloke why? is it worth it?he said im 70 pal i have had it from new,its its third engine and i will run on turps,chip fat and parrafin and it carries my farm stuff so why not?the thing is mint underneath and drives arrow straight,the interior is like a tramps loincloth but i can see his point-thats a green car!

    • It’s supposed to reduce oxides of nitrogen, part of the atmospheric polution that anually kills 1,000s in the UK alone. These oxides are produced at the higher exhaust gas temperatures (along with the excess-air combustion in all CI engines) that a modern diesel engine creates. The thing is, we export a lot of our pollution to China every time we buy a new car. China makes most of the components in many so-called Euro cars. Their manufacturing plants are an enviromental disaster.
      The Green argument for modern cars, especially electric cars is lame, to say the least. It is all about making money for share holders. Same as it ever was. AdBlue is a marvellous invention, selling a couple of gallons of sheep wee (I know thwy make it synthetically nowadays) for twenty quid. How much pollution does the polythene plastic container cost the planet?
      They don’t even charge a deposit on the=is big plastic container, so they just leech out their chemicals in your local landfill, which eventually ends up in tap water. Apparently mimicking human hormones…
      But AdBlue is good for the planet. Yea right.
      Night, night. Sleep tight 🙂

  18. I am glad that someone has at last written an article like this.

    The comments are also interesting.

    I currently own a Kia Rio 1.5l CRDI and this thing really goes well.

    I can also confirm that under 1,600rpm there is nothing there but it has an ‘old style’ turbo that comes in and makes me sink in the car seat.

    As for the engine life, god knows.
    I only know of one owner that has driven 130,000 miles in his Rio and the engine is still going well.
    However I think any diesel engined car, the engine has to be used in the ‘right way’ (long drives every day with the engine running up to temp).

    As one other comment said, there are too many diesel owners out there who should own a petrol engine car instead due to the lack of miles or incorrect driving.

    I did read of an insignia owner that never drove the car on the motorway and for three years just drove to the shops and back.
    Result cambelt snapped, dropped valves and a wrecked engine.
    When the garage looked at the car the exhaust system it was clogged to hell. the engine could hardly breath.

    Or what about the Diesel Jag owner who had to have the DPF filter replaced five times because he was also driving the car ‘around town’.
    If memory works he had to foot the bill after the fifth time due to being warned by the garage that he doesn’t drive the car enough miles.
    The owner did say that he brought the car for status and not what he needed to drive for.

    I guess stories like this will always strike a fear of doubt about buying a diesel car.

    Regarding the tech today in diesel cars, one advantage (apart from hugging more trees) is that a smaller diesel engine will be exercised more often so in theory owners should not have problems with dpf filters.
    I am not sure of the dual mass flywheels though.

    I also think that diesel engines appear to be weaker on the whole as they have been designed to be driven in less variety of ways.
    Some people say ragging a diesel to an inch of its life is good for it, other people say varied driving is better.
    Me myself, I think varied driving is better for the engine.

  19. The 1.8 Ford TD engine is not reliable at all, I have done quite a few head gasket changes on them, they are a rough, crude, weak engine compared to XUD, L-series et al. I do agree on the rest though, modern diesel engines just lack the reliability, I believe the Honda units are good though. Lets hope SAIC have made the MG6 diesel reliable…

  20. @21, the old “two belt” engines was fairly unreliable if neglected,i have yet to count on one hand how many lynx engined vehicles we have on our fleet that have let go other than driver abuse,in a word,bombproof.
    @ 19, adblue is refined pigpiss that is introduced into the exhaust as a after treatment almost a catalyst on the go in simplistic terms.

  21. Well said Mike… Remember when Diesel Engines easily outlived their Bodyshells! Before becoming a Diesel Die Hard I had years of Petrol cars which always ended in Carb, points, Coil, plug leads trouble and generally poor running, (usually 1980s Fords) then along came my 1st Diesel car, 1.6 Fiesta D of 1988 origin. I was amazed I never had one bit of bother (from the engine), It always started in the Winter/Damp Conditions (so I didnt need to bump start it down hill, only 1 wire to the fuel stop, not much could go wrong) and keep it below 55ish and I got incredible mpg, Bought nearly new It lasted to over 180k and still going before it got nicked, though the bottom end was knocking but this was due to part time job of constant stop start Delivering pizza’s (have killed a few engines due to this) and it developed Back Pressure around 80k (again all my Ford Diesels have inherently done this, eventually weeping oil out the sump gasket).

    In between a few Petrol cars and the tool box was opened at weekends with the usual ill running, Later moved onto PSA 1.5/1.9 D and again almost indestructible (though a tad thirsty) and felt more sturdy than Uncle Henry’s items, Then a change to our beloved Rover 220 D, Seized clutch fork aside the Engine was a Gem, never had any faults at all, It was the Rust that got hold and sadly went for scrappage nearly 3 years ago. We already had a Mk4 Golf TDi (pre PD model and less complicated though still a mass of electronics, sensors) bought new and already possessed “Back Pressure” This I was told was normal… yet it blew a core plug located behind the gearbox, (all our VW Diesels have Back Pressure, One courtesy car even stopped working when removing the oil cap) Apart from this, It has been another Gem and despite it showing its age, dare put money on it outlasting the new car.

    The replacement for our Rover was the mk6 Golf 1.6TDi, which I hate to bang on about it but it is a pile of sh*te, after new Injectors (Asda Fuel killed it at around 15k) over twenty visits to 4 different dealers and countless updates, I have found a decent VW Dealer who has bent over backwards, The service Manager sat me down and showed a thick file full of updates, (not sure if he is meant to do this?) A staggering 15 on just the one page but each Main update had 30 Sub Update’s (I kid you not !) some were in red, not sure if this had already been used on mine, but was amazed at the list of these quick fixes, It is currently on the very latest update but is still running crap (but within very wide spec, so deemed OK?) Though I must add ours is one of the Early ones, later items should be better?.

    I have no faith in anyone fixing it, nor it lasting 5 or more years…(We tend to run cars till they drop) However mpg has improved at 23k, I am now in the 50s, Thing is what do you replace it with? another Diesel (all the Diesel courtesy cars had some major quirks unique to that car… either worse or similar, whilst Petrol cars just feel gutless and are even more thirsty) And the Dealer was mentioning that soon all Diesel cars will all be on Adblue (Fox P*ss), So more money spent at the pumps, and a regular top up destroying any chance of cheaper motoring.

    If you have an old School Diesel Look after it, Bangernomics has never appeared to make more sense than now…

    • With regards to the Ford diesel developing back-pressure. I once was given an Escort 1.8D van to sell. It was listed in Loot, (remember that great free ad paper?) well buyer after buyer raised the bonnet (hood) engine running. Ever one of them lifted the dipstick, saw there was slight back-pressure and walked away. I finally sold it to smoeone desparate for a work van. His modern HDi engine was in the dealership for a new engine. He contacted me six years later telling me that he liked the van so much, he used it for all of his long distance deliveries. Just short of 300k miles when it too was stolen. I used to specialise in Peugeot Citroens and the XUD was a never-ending source of income throughout the 1990s. I still have a 306 and a Xantia. Both N/A diesels 1.9D with no fancy tech or catalytic converters. One Lucas one Bosch. I never had a problem with either system. The Lucas pumps perform notecably better. I’ve driven lots & lots of brand new Citroen BXs and you could tell which system it had without lifting the bonnet. Citroen UK also agreed with me when I went on their training courses. They didn’t know why Lucas ones were quicker. They just were.

  22. I can remember calling up to my Citroen collecting friend a fair few times, to see him dragging an XUD out of a BX or crash damaged Xantia carcass, for use as a replacement or even someone bought as a Generator!

    Cracking engines, even if the non-turbo in my ZX was the slowest car I’ve ever driven.

    Could run them on chip fat too.
    Putting my conspiracy hat on, I sometimes wonder if the petrol lobby leaned on the manufacturers to make their engines too complex to run on anything other than properly refined diesel…
    Manufacturers too were bound to be losing servicing and sales, if the bodywork was properly rustproofed and the engines went on for decades…

    Only new gen diesel I had was an HDi in a 406. Wasn’t impressed. True, mine might have had servicing skimped by the previous owner, but I had sensors, fuel line issues that I would never have had in an XUD. I did end up blocking the EGR, no engine light in the dash.

    The 407 had a 1.6 HDi, and I’ve heard of fleets that tried it for the cheap tax, and would never touch another!

    Japanese manufactuers have had issues with new diesels too – on the Accord forums, last-gen Accord diesels seem to have many issues. From a Honda, which is usually a byword for reliability. Toyota Avensis 2.2 diesels eat head gaskets too. Nissan Navara D22 conrod bolts are weak.

    Octavia diesels seem to be the choice of fleets, though TDis also seem to have issues with injectors.

    • The PSA 1.6 Engine was a disaster. It is an all-alloy engine that suffers from blockages in the oilways. The only solution is to completely strip the engine and hot-dip it into a cleaning bath. Even then success is not a certain. Citroen blamed garages saying they weren’t allowing enough time for the oil to fully drain and sent out a bulletin saying the engine should be at least 80 deg and allow thirty minutes for all of the oil to drain.

      Well from experience at working at a Citroen franchise in the mid-nineties, that wasn’t going to happen. Starting a service at 8:30, the car would be on the roadtest before 8:50. In my opinion it was too highly tuned and a quite fragile engine. Even fuel economy was not so good, with only performance an area that this engine excelled.

      I’ve seen quite a few engines not even reaching 50k miles before turbo failure. Garages fit a new turbocharger, only for it to come back after 1k miles having failed again owing to oil starvation to the turbo bearings. The 2.0 HDi being based on the old XUD block is a lot better and can also go on to reach astronomical mileage. It’s the external bits that let it down. The in-tank fuel pumps can self-destruct spreading copper filings throughout the fuel system. Repair bills for this can easily exceed the value of older vehicles.

      However for dependability, refinement and fuel economy the old XUD is unbeatable in the world of small high-speed diesels.

  23. As usual Mike, hit the nail on the head! My (considerable) experience with diesels of all types over many years tells me it is the modern electronics that kills them, we are now approaching the era of the “unfixable fault”.
    As for progress, years ago I had two Montego turbo diesel estates, both consistently did 53mpg. 20 years later I drive a similar sized 2litre turbo diesel estate car with all of the modern crap on it (Jaguar X type), this does consistently 44mpg. And thats progress?
    Keep ’em coming! David

  24. The old xud’s were strong old engines, though you needed to take care with the coolant system they overheated very easily. The non turbos were very slow but the Turbo D zx and 306 were quick in their day. But i wouldnt say the HDi is a bad engine, my current 406 has the 2.0 HDi 110 and the engine has never gave a moments trouble currently at 120,000 miles, a crankshaft pulley has been the only major thing required to date. Ive been in taxis with over 300,000 on their HDi engines.
    The HDi engines after that seem to be nothing but trouble, especially the 1.6 110 which replaced the 2.0 110.

  25. Very good article Mike.

    I wonder at the strategy of Jaguar making the new Sportbrake diesel-only, as Jaguar must surely be one company with a strong following of affluent privateers who would want one for ‘bragging rights’ at the country club and who don’t necessarily do high milages.

    As for downsizing engines in buses- I thought some of the older single deckers in use by Stagecoach in Gloucester were already undersized at 5.9 litres- they sound stressed as hell and gutless, whereas the MAN engines in their sucessors seem to be a lot brisker (and a hell of a lot sweeter sounding than the old Cummins engined rattleboxes). There isn’t a week that goes by without me seeing a Cummins engined Dart or Plaxtons Whateveritis either being repaired at the side of the road or being recovered…

    Re comments about the ‘Green Lobby’ by various commentators- there are environmentalists and there are environmentalists, often with very different agendas. The ones that tend to do the harm seem to be those of a beaurocratic bent, who crowbar legislation through such as the Euro emissions level specs. In fairness to them, however, if you ever try to get the motor industry to do anything it doesn’t want to do, then they always start crying about ‘the sky being about to fall in’, so no progress would ever be made re drivers and pedestrian safety, recyclability, catalytic converters, etc, etc, yet they always deliver when forced. So you can’t necessarily blame politicians of the so-called ‘Green lobby’ for wanting to move the game along against the wishes of the motor industry. However, before EuroV1 is implemented, perhaps the motor industry should be given some slack in order to get EuroV engines working properly, instead of being forced to repeatedly introduce untried and unreliable technology in order to meet every more exacting legislation.

  26. Cant agree about stop start, I find it works fine no problems whatsoever. But then I am perfectly happy with Electromechanical hand brakes as well. Hardly surprising either that a Maestro Vans body failed before its Engine. The things where rusting as they left the production line!

  27. I can make a direct comparison here. My dad has a hdi, and my car has an XUD. XUD has blown its head gasket, but it is still going at 200K and with no more than serving for the last 100K.

    The HDI is a far better engine, more power, and better fuel economy. The problem isn’t the engine, it is the greed of the manufacturers. Fixing the XUD would cost virtually nothing, if it ever did break, which I doubt it will.

    The HDI should be equally cheap, if the ECU or one of the sensors goes, which are the weak points (that and the low pressure fuel pump). Whip it out and put in a new one. You can buy a smart phone for under £40, how much can a sensor cost?

    The answer is a small fortune. Manufacturers hate patent parts and want you to use their dealers. So they make sure that for many items they have a monopoly, and that the main dealer is the only one who can read all the fault codes. Even when a third party part is available, it is still a ripoff price.

    If the parts were cheap enough, I would buy a modern diesel. The electronics don’t really phase me, I am confident that I could fix them. However, as long as parts cost ripoff prices, and diagnostic tools are expensive, I won’t touch them

  28. VW/Audi have had terrible issues with the 2.0Tdi engine with regards the oil level rising due to diesel fuel contamination. There is a recall on at least two engine codes and VW Passats are particularly problematical as the diesel dilutes the oil causing premature failure of the oil pump gearing in turn causing total engine failure. A DPF is a device originally designed to filter diesel soot from the exhaust system of a diesel powered engine. They are found in the majority of modern day diesel powered vehicles from year 2004 to present. A DPF will trap a percentage of the diesel soot for only a certain amount of time (normally around 300 miles of driving) before a DPF regeneration is triggered.

    A DPF Regeneration is when the vehicles Electronic Control Module will inject after pulses of diesel into the engine chambers commonly known as “Post Injection Pulses”. This is done to increase Exhaust Gas Temperatures to unacceptable levels in order to burn out the trapped soot from the DPF.

    Unfortunately, due to Post Injection Pulses of Fuel during a DPF regeneration, a certain amount of diesel will mix into the vehicles engine oil which have been often proved by an engine oil analysis and reports of Oil Level Rising leading to engine failure (VW/AUDI) Diesel Particulate Filters have known to become problematic and some refer them as to a Failed Technology. Repairs or replacement DPF can cost thousands.

    The DPF poses a very tough restriction to the flow of exhaust gases. This can and does lead to premature turbo failure, O2 sensor failure, power/performance decrease, lower MPG and shortens the life of the engine from regenerations to unacceptable high exhaust gas temperatures to a huge exhaust restriction coupled with diesel washed engine oil.

    • An interesting post, as are many others on this site. Should be a forum…

      Whoever came up with the misnomer ‘Regeneration’ should’ve been given a bonus. So clever – and such BS too – as indeed a lot of the guff on DPFs etc. that are issued by the motor industry is. My niece has a VW Polo. The O2 sensor wires shorted out. It took out a few relays and the engine ECU!

      Now, when made by a decent company (Honda) modernvehicle electronics can be made very reliable. But as soon as the cost-cutting creeps in, you end up with a fragile mess of a car. I take a few of my relatives’ cars for the MOT and the owner is always saying how modern cars are somehow seen as a disposable product. They are meant to last about five years and 100k miles. I think he’s right too. You only have to see how many lease cars and cars where you pay reduced monthly payments, with an option to buy after so many years are around. I would love to know the % of motorists who actually pay the final fee, or simply buy another of what is essentially a Hire Car.

      I realise that this, and up to a point is, just an old git moaning on about how things used to be: but £1700+ repair bill for a simple wiring short?
      I tried ECU Testing near to Stoke to see if they’d repair it, but they didn’t have the software. Great company by the way.

      The diagnosis is the correct one too. I had to do an enormous amount of trawling car forums, as wiring diagrams are close to impossible to find/buy on many newer marques to make sure.

      During the lockdown, I inherited a mint Peugeot 306 from my very last customer. It has the non-turbo non-cat fully mechanical Bosch injection pump. I’ve repaired/serviced it from new. Thirty-odd oil & filter changes and a full suspension/brake/steering recondition at 90k miles and I hope it will outlive me.

      Great articles btw. I love the one on the experimental Leyland Diesel engine designed without a cylinder head 🙂
      I have always loved vehicles that in some way I feel sorry for. Please keep it coming!

  29. @32 Kev

    Yes I think the DFP and running too lean/Rich is probably the main cause of problems with mine (DPFs should be Banned!) A major restriction in the Exhaust system and Wasting Gallons of Diesel to burn off excess Soot seams a Mad idea to me, But try telling Manufacturers that… And yet they dare to promote them as Highly Efficient??

    Now anyone remember in the Early 1980s VW developed is “Hedgehog” which was a few spikes in the base of the manifold (on Carburettor Engines) that actually heated the petrol so a quicker warm up time was achieved (less use of the Choke) Not sure how successful this was but they were onto the right ideas, So why cant they develop an exhaust that has Heating elements inside (via the Battery, not your fuel) Hell am sure a number of heater plugs arranged in such a way that it would catch the majority of Soot would be better alternative than the DPF, Also the amount of heat generated sounds like burned valves wont be far away ! especially if used mainly in Town.

    • Well the ‘Hedgehog’ made it to their early mono-point EFi system, so it must have been at least OK?
      I agree DPFs are such a bodge solution. Put a filter in the exhaust pipe to catch the soot!
      I remember an enviromental studies teacher (way ahead of his time) told us how a car going from Birmingham to London uses more air than a human does in a lifetime. So how can a smallish gauze trap the soot without choking a diesel engine…

  30. @33,Those recalls are due to the injectors, not the DPF system,passive regeneration is done at high engine speeds/motorway speeds without any engine management intervention,if you are in active regeneration mode (only possible if above 1/4tank of fuel)which would last no less than ten minutes, operation of the clutch for example will bring you back to square one,the exact low ash engine oil should always be used as well.VW introduced its first DPF vehicle in 1999,the 3 cyl Lupo Tdi,Caddy Sdi engines have suffered unit injector failure which leaks fuel into the oil,generally due to neglect,and those unit injectors are subject to adjustment due to wear.
    The absolute worst diesel car to have is the Mazda 6,nothing but trouble,and every service injection amount correction procedures have to be applied via IDS machine.

  31. I have been running diesels for 25 years and as a serial car changer have a reasonable experience of different marques. At present I run a 120k mile Audi A2 1.4TDi 75 version with remap to around 105 horses. Apart from a very occassional problem relating to an air leak in the turbo pipework the car has proven faultless in the 90k miles i have covered. My wife has a SEAT Toledo with 2.0TDi in 140 horse guise and also a low mileage at 119k miles….. apart from an ocassional uneven running at tickover the car is fault free. The a2 gives 60+mpg and the SEAT around 45mpg rising to 55 on a long run. Both are serviced correctly and i run my a2 on premium brand diesel with 2 stroke additive, last week it sailed trough its MOT exhaust emmissions on a clap cold engine….. I have had ZT and 75 CDTi’s, plenty of French fodder, a couple of CDTi Astra’s remapped to 200 horses, SAAB CDTi 150 with remap, plenty of VAG group diesels starting with a 1.6D passatt estate in 1987. An accord is my only Jap experience and the C class 220 non-turbo Merc was probably the least relaible eating glow plugs like there was no tomorrow. Would I go back to petrol? No chance until they give real world economy of a diesel, I like the sheer slug of torque only ever exceeded by my 944Turbo I once had the privalege of owning. I doubt any of the modern rash of pint-size petrol engines get any where near the claimed mpg. I do agree though that many diesel owners shouldn’t be let anywhere a diesel but then again probably also applies with petrol. I think a lot of the problems would also arise if they drove a donkey fuelled car and is more to do with a total lack of understanding what a car needs to give its best and lack of servicing. I know too many people who simply NEVER have their cars serviced.

  32. @ 34 …Err you lost me there… As far as I know the 1.6TDi has not had any recall, the 2.0TDi has. Mine has been back and forth to Dealers off my own back due to Hesitations/Flat spots/Hiccups and general horrible running, It is gradually becoming a better car but it still isnt running right, Originally it would constantly go into “Re Gen Mode” whether you drove long distance at steady/constant speeds, as soon as you waited at traffic lights the revs would race upto 1300 rpm and sit as you say for at least 10 mins, Drive to the next set of lights and again it would repeat the process, No matter how you drove it it appeared incapable of idling for more than a few seconds, Also No torque was present until a heady 2500 rpm, meant it struggled to pull away and hill starts were a nightmare which is difficult to avoid in Co Durham, along with coughs and farts at 1800 and 1200 rpm and many times it would cut out for no apparent reason.

    Not to mention it would rattle on its mountings at 750 rpm when cold and be reluctant to rev at all (accompanied by cutting out) Fast Forward a few updates and gradually it has got better, no parts have been replaced other than the Injectors which was down to heavy Diesel Knock, though Dealers insisted it just needed recalibrating. It still knocks intermittently, the flat spot at 1800 has almost gone however it is still rather horrible around 1100rpm which it feels like the management system doesn’t quite know what to do and dipping the clutch to get over Speed Humps confuses itself, and when its cold a sod to drive….

    It still sounds like it’s running on 3 cylinders below 1500rpm, pressing the throttle is always delayed by an abrupt lurch but not much progress, but at least the Torque is now around 17/1800 rpm which has made a huge difference, but still a lengthy wait for not much action.

    There was a VW website (which appears to have gone AWOL) had many a tale of whore about the VW Tdi engines, It had some brilliant information one of which was about the Common Rail Maker “MOTORENTEILE” apparently very few worked properly (similar problems to mine) The group were trying to lobby VW into sorting the faults out (I think it was a North America/Canadian site as it used words like Firewall and Fender) However VW response was remove the maker name (as they are cheap and still in use) and replace it with a bar code, So pot luck who you get .

    My new VW Dealer (around 30 mile away) also said He has problems with the new breed of Vag Engines not just Diesel,(In fairness Tinternet is full of complaints from all the Manufacturers).

    Back to Mikes Brilliant Article, my MK4 Golf which has been on ASDA fuel since day one (as have all my diesels, Bluemotion is now on Shell) and only covers around 6-8K per annum still goes about its job with the minimum of fuss, in fact I take for granted how well an all rounder it is and still gets better mpg.

  33. @11
    I never once mention the use of low grade materials neither do I advocate it. Nor would the grade of steel need to be upgraded to build a bodyshell to last 20 years, current zinc coated steel and proper sealing would suffice.
    If you read the original drafts for the Euro emissions regulations from the powers that be it states that engines manufactured to these regulations should be capable of emitting certain amounts of pollutant and be able to maintain those levels for a period of 3 or 5 years, cant remember exactly which. In order to do that an ever increasing number of “strangulation” sensors and cleaning systems have to be added to vehicles, and then yet more sensors to ensure the thing keeps running on overly lean mixtures so the motorists doesn’t notice. But the 2nd or 3rd owner notices because they have to pay to keep these systems working when they expire, and many times thats beyond the economical worth of the vehicle so off to the scrapyard it goes. Where is the “green” thinking in that.
    My non catalyst 827 Sterling passes a modern day Mot test, it is loaded with sensors, BUT the vehicles own ECU tells me which one has gone and I can reset the fault light by simply pulling a fuse for 30 seconds and the vehicle in the meantime will just pick a preset from the ECU memory, ignore the out of spec signal and carry on running with virtually no ill effect.So no £80 dealer reset, no £110+vat sensors(funny how they all seem to cost that same figure)
    What I’m getting at is if we could build a vehicle 23 years ago that could run clean and have a solid structure in the intravening 23 years we have gone backwards in terms of driver friendly vehicles and enviromentally because modern vehicles will not last the course due to our own ability to over complicate something that could and should be simple by now.


  34. @36, that is what i was saying,the 2.0 TDI has had recalls on the Siemens injectors,not the bosch ones,i dont know how old yours is as regard warranty etc but perhaps its time to entrust it to a engine management specialist such as Frank Massey or equivelant whom use ‘scopes etc for pinpoints,with all due respect to your dealer (and a lot of independants)sometimes they get lost in the fog of it all and a belt and braces approach often helps,and these specialists do this job day in,day out.

  35. This blog is definitely in pub conversation territory, but here goes for a brief attempt at explaining a subject that people devote a lifetime to.

    We use diesels because of the better economy, but to date in Europe we’ve ignored much of the low level pollution from the things (oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulates) in favour of the reduction in oil imports. We’ve even gone out of our way with easier type approval emission standards and financial incentives. For example lower tax on diesel road fuel, maybe not so much in the UK, but until recently, substantially so in France and the UK’s CO2 based company car taxation system. The downside is poor urban air quality. Unlike gasoline, which can run at a stoichiometric mixture and use a three way catalyst to control the regulated pollutants, the diesels operate on the lean side. CO is hardly ever a problem, an oxidation catalyst can deal with the hydrocarbons, but NOx and particulates are another matter. Particle filters achieve a large reduaction in the particulate matter, but need to be regenerated. Until recently, NOx was a question of EGR and careful calibration by the manufacturer. Whilst only a few cars and vans are currently using selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to control NOx, the next emissions standard (Euro 6, still with higher numbers for diesels, compared to spark ignition) will see its use by more manufacturers. SCR needs a reagent supply to work. It used to be called urea, but commercially for road vehicles it’s known as Adblue. The regulators hold the correct supply of urea in the same regard as fuel, so no urea or problems with the injection system mean no vehicle operation. The competing technology is the lean Nox trap (LNT) and we may see these in the future as an alternative to SCR, particularly on smaller, lighter vehicles.

    • Landyboy,
      thanks for that comment and lifting the debate out of the pub talk level. NOx emissions are a serious problems for Diesels and affect air quality in cities significantly. Opposed to particulate matter the influence of road traffic on NOx pollution is easy to establish. But legislation was lax with Diesels in this regard, allowing Euro IV direct injection engines similar NOx emission levels as petrol cars in the late 70s – something that needs to be addressed.
      Regarding reliability it is always interesting what Taxi drivers say. Recently it was reported here in Germany that Mercedes is back to form with largely trouble free long term reliability and durability (E class). VW on the other hand left many unhappy Touran taxi owners with plenty of problems with the 1.9 TDI engine. The Dacia MCV 1.5dci proved to be a good taxi on the other hand and increasing popularity of these in service can not only be down to the price. A surprising entrant into the taxi service here in Germany is the Prius – there is a surprisingly large number of these around and have proven to be amongst the most reliable and economical cars in taxi fleets.
      So complicated technical solutions do not really decide about durability and reliability of a car.

    • @Landyboy another interesting and factual post. By the way, with a user name like yours, it’s good to know you realise the importance of these oxides of nitrogen in diesel exhaust emissions or even the omission of ‘Ns’ too could be problematic… (think about it) 🙂

  36. @39, SCR/LNT technology is expensive at the moment and temperature is the key for this to work to any effect,short drive cycles will present problems as per DPF and expense,on top of the premium paid for the vehicle with such tecnology in the first place,while a Cummins experimental gas engine showed excellant results in terms of Nox,again,temperature was the key to the system working correctly.While Noxis not very nice to have about,soot particles are far more dangerous and a proven carcinogen,so fine they can enter your lungs via your pores never mind nostrils!
    SCR/LNT will work a treat on CV’s but city cars? small petrol engines are the future,which was showcased in VW’s 170 hp 1.4 Tfsi engine years back,even now i am begrudgingly impressed by Fords 3 pot ecoboost with the honeywell designed twin turbined single shaft (in one turbocharger housing)blower.Economy means nothing if the running costs are high.

  37. @35, Adrian 888,

    Why are you using 2 Stroke additive in a 4 Stroke Audi A2 diesel engine? What is the advantage?

    I had an A2 diesel as a courtesy car one when my A4 1.8 (petrol) was in to the main dealers for some overpriced fettling (and inevitable fault correction). I found the A2 a very willing and enjoyable drive- low down torque was absolutely unbelieveable in such a small car, although it was ridiculously easy for me (then a non-diesel driver) to over-rev. It was far faster than the maker claimed for it (ahem), and if only it didn’t have over-nannying ESP it would have been an absolutely brilliant drive.

  38. VAG’s 1.4 lump is proving a tad unreliable, with very, very heavy oil consumption, and also coil pack issues are getting quite common on them too. Getting 170 bhp out of 1.4 litres has perhaps pushed the engine beyond it’s limits

  39. 1. Stop/Start technology – This would annoy the hell out of me! Also, surely the extra wear and tear it causes must offset any fuel saving benefit??
    2. ECU warning lights – on my VAG 1.9 turbo diesel this kept coming on. Each time the following trip to the garage would have the system showing a different fault. Everything fine, initially, the offending part having been replaced. A few hundred miles later, however, back the Toledo would go on to ‘limp home mode’. After 3 attempts to sort the car, I gave up and bought my 75 ( I then began a long tale of two HGFs – oh well, at least my current ZR has been faultless for the past 5K miles!)

  40. Chris, If you research tinternet you will find evidence that adding (low ash semi-synthetic) 2 stroke oil at around 1:150/200 ratio to the fuel improves economy, torque, smooth running, cleaner emmissions. The German a2 forum has laboratory evidence showing cleaner injectors and burn after prolonged us of 2st oil and there are plenty of German taxi drivers who swear by it. There are also rumours many of the German manufacturers run their management staff car fleets with 2st oil additive. The fact my car passed its MOT on a cold engine must say something positive! However as for longevity of current generation engines it does appear the constant chasing of every 0.1 mpg and gramme of CO2 reduction enforced by legislators without understanding the bigger picture is partly to blame.

  41. @43,Oil consumption of a pint every 500 miles is the industry norm like it or lump it,which petrol dont eat coil packs? try any petrol Renault for coil towers,and BMW’s.
    That said,you look on any VW forum about this engine and they say put 10W40 in them,only the temp sensor,MAF and MAP sensors adjust fuelling because of the thicker oil and thinks its friction!Im not for one minute suggesting this engine is the holy grail of engine design,only when it was introduced it was seen as the way forward.

  42. @45, Adrian888,

    Interesting to know- thanks for getting back with that. I did notice my old low tech and lamented Fiesta Mk3 diesel ran noticably better with a couple of bottles of Redex diesel stuff in the tank.

  43. We currently have 3 diesels in the family:

    Landrover TD5, currently on 102k miles and starts on the button. Not particularly economical being an auto and dragging 2.3 tonnes of bulky 4WD around 27 – 28mpg typical. Uses virtually no oil between services. Noisy & rattly, will probably run forever with regular oil & filter changes. Have seen these with well over 200k miles on them.

    Honda FRV 2.2 ictdi; 83000 miles. No issues, only uses about a pint of oil in 12,000 miles. Drags a 3+3 people carrier around quite happily, pulls like a train from 1100rpm. Super smooth. Averages 48-49 mpg driven sensibly.

    VW Golf 1.6tdi 90 (2009); 37000 miles. No problems to date but gutless and rough below 1500rpm. Does about 40 miles per day of which about 12 are on the motorway. Driven by the wife gets 58-60mpg on a mixture of journeys. 65mpg on a long run and 70 if you have a light right foot.

    All 3 have a bunch of sensors and of the 3 I expect the LR to possibly outlast the other 2 as it is lowly stressed at 120bhp from 2.5 litres. I have a strong dislike of DPFs, catalytic converters, EGRs and the like and reckon that without these we could make a 1.6tdi engine that would do about 90mpg in a Golf size car.

    I would be concerned about the longevity of either the VW 1.4TFSI petrol or the Ford 1.0 litre “Econetic” lump. Extracting high bhp from a small engine has always traditionally resulted in a short engine life. I would much prefer to have a larger, low stressed lump that does not have to be flogged to death.

    My favourite old diesel was the GM/Isuzu non-turbo 1.6 that was smooth and very long lived albeit low powered. It would do 40mpg whilst being thrashed and rarely gave any trouble.

  44. @48, i have seen those Td5’s with similar mileages but have also seen a lot with the well known head failures with diesel leaking into theengine block and exhaust manifold failure which manifests itself with a aux belt like scream,like i said a pint every 500 miles is considered the norm,if it is more fair do’s.Ever consideredfuel dilution maintaining the oil level?it can happen,im not saying it does but should always be considered.

  45. One of the problems with diesels and DF’s is the difference in driving and usage between the UK and most of mainland europe. We do more short stop-start commuting which is not DPF friendly and why there have been so many problems especially in the UK. Germans and Italians in particular give their cars an italian tune up on a regular basis simply by virtue of their driving style/usage. I only once ever had DPF’ problems and that was with a SAAB 9-3 TDi I used a second car. After a few forced regen by the SAAB dealer it seemed to cure itself and I learned to give the car the beans every now and again. As for oil consumption, never had an issue with any car I have owned since the 80’s when I went through a series of petrol VW’s with valve stem seals which needed replacing. Maybe I am lucky but using premium brand fuels (I NEVER use supermarket jungle juice) and correct oils probably has a lot to do with it.

  46. As a family, we must be well on the way to 300,000 miles in a variety of DPF equipped cars and Land Rovers. None has suffered from a DPF regeneration issue and this is due to the usage cycle. So why do people feel the need to buy diesels to drive short journeys in towns and cities? Surely our ever wonderful taxation scheme needs a tweak or two to make this unattractive?

  47. I won’t be buying a modern diesel – too many horror stories involving the absurdly expensive three-letter acronyms. The failure-rates quoted here and elsewhere are extraordinary – I ran a 1.4 petrol Renault 5 in the 80s that was still a nice drive and reliable with 240k+ on the clock. Had two replacement clutches and a a few more exhausts in that time, but engine/gearbox remained original and fault-free. £15 worth of Oil/filter every 6k plus the occasional air-filter was all the engine-servicing it needed.

  48. Most of these modern diesels will be sat in breakers yards at less than 5 years old, after something terminal goes on the electrics,not exactly ‘green’ to be honest

  49. If 1 pint of oil every 500 miles is the “norm” Then thank God I’m running a petrol! I drive an average 1200 miles a week, be more than a Gallon of oil a month!!!!!!!!!

    #55, @Rhydian.. I think you will find a salesman will push whatever their targets tell them!

  50. @11
    I doubt the compaison of an RB211’s cost is really valid, A Continetntal or Lycombing would be a better comparison, even if they are on the whole out of the ark.
    In all reality any modern petrol engine correctly maintaned from just about any maker will reach 500K (even the k-series with its original Head gasket, as long as its had the remote themrostat fitted from new) why people belive at 100K its ‘high millage’ is beyond me, but thank god they do, as I have a cheap supply of nice second hand cars to drive

  51. I have a feeling that the VAG diesels like being serviced on the button with the correct grade oil. I’ve run three (Golf Mk5 2.0TDI, Tiguan 2.0TDI and Fabia 1.4TDI). I ran the Golf for 40k miles with no issues (other than a cruise control fault which was rectified under warranty). That was the PDI engine – the dealer changed from the LongLife oil to the PDI specific stuff at twelve months old to reduce it’s oil consupmtion (it did have a bit of an appetite for oil and I was having it serviced at 10k/12 month intervals). The engine kept using oil! (probably just over a litre every 10k miles). The Tiguan has done 36k faultless miles (never misses a service. CR engine; doesn’t use any oil) and the Skoda is the real trooper (same engine as the A2 TDI’s mentioned above). It has done 160k miles (60k in my ownership) and its as tight as a drum (and doesn’t use oil). I have all the service invoices and it has always been serviced on the button. Previously I had a Golf 1.6FSI (the much fabled “Fuel Stratified Injection”). Engine was reasonably powerful and refined (coming from a 1.8 Focus it wasn’t difficult!) but mine suffered from a bizzare borewash problem and reputedly didn’t like 95RON unleaded in some cars (I tried super unleaded but apart from a slight increase in economy didn’t notice any difference). I wonder if some of the company/repmobile cars are using any old oil?

  52. @58

    Probably doesn’t help that manufacturers are selling repmobiles on the premise of extended servicing intervals. Beancounters see pound signs.

    I wouldn’t fancy the oil in my car not being changed in over 12k / year.

  53. Oh, and EGR faults aren’t just the preserve of diesels. My wife’s car (many years ago) suffered an EGR fault that the dealer tried to ignore (until I shouted at them as they hadn’t even bothered looking at the damn thing!). I remember looking at t’interweb at the time and there were loads of complaints about varoius Honda petrol EGR valves sticking. I owned a 1.6 8v Astra a few years ago and one of the favourite tricks was to blank off the EGR valve.

  54. @59. If they are using standard oil rather than the fully synthetic stuff therein lies the problem. However I am not keen on these extended service intervals. The first Golf I had (1.6FSI) was on Long Life servicing (first service at ~17k miles IIRC) and it was running like a dog coming into that service. Always done the 12 month fixed since.

  55. @56,thats the acceptable limit on any engine,not an hard and fast your engine will use it,its the upper limit.

  56. Good article!
    Having run most off the earlier BL/Ford/xud stuff for millions of miles between them, I do worry that the newer generation of diesels are far less serviceable than is needed. Currently on a 340k 406 hdi which frankly, is feeling its age. Nowhere near as solid or dependable as its previous 440k Xud engined car that it replaced. A solid flywheel replacement has helped having had dmf issues, but why should a recognised problem carry on? ….Profit perhaps over a simpler clutch arrangement that works as good?
    I’m now looking to replace but concerned that I cant find anything decent enough that will last the big mileages that I demand..And yes the impact on the environment of chucking away a relatively rust free car thats uneconomical to repair just seems crazy to me. I know of two (good)cars that got broke because the Ecu’s just shut their engines down for no apparent reason (and in very dangerous driving situations!). The cost and time to diagnose and unsuccessfully repair just made then too expensive . All the local diesel specialists left shaking heads at why these cars would be fine one minute and a nightmare the next.
    Luckily Ive not suffered too much in the way of sensors etc but become irritated by the constant messages coming out the dashboard of ”no coolant/ABS/low oil” when in fact there are no problems at all. Theyve all been check and again I’m told…Dont worry as they all do that!


  57. Soervice intervals are probssibly an issue. Tradionianlly a diesel needed to be service about twice as often as its petrol counterpart. This would have been a balck mark in the deisels book as far as fleet buyers for company cars would be concerned (twice the oil, twice the number of services and so on) Being a cynic, I belive is that all they have done to make them closer to petrol engines is tested them on petrol service intervals to see if they would outlast what would be exepcted of them as a fleet car and be dammed after that. Be inetretsing to see what the service intervals are on the same cars outside of britain where the fleet buyer is not so important. They have undubtably made the pistons and crank much less heaveyweight than they used to, in an effort to make the deisel rev like a petrol, but there were very good reasons why these parts were so much heavier, the forces produced by the deisel explding were much higher than those produced by the burning of petrol, and so the componants had to be heavier. I feel that electronic injection has been required due to the increased speed of the whole process at high RPM while keeping emissions down. Hence my opinion that in making a diesel like a petrol they have ruined it. They should have left it as it was and accepeted it would not be like a petrol engine, ever, and it was better off being like a deisel engine. And accepting that for perfomance you needed spark plugs and that for economy you needed CI and left it at that

  58. I did read somewhere that diesels need the oil changing due to soot building up over time, which can cause problems if not dealt with.

    Not usre if that applies to older or new engines though.

  59. It is older diesels that need more frequent oli changes (indirect injection rather than modern DI engines). I do run my A2 on extended service intervals with a simple oil/filter change at about midpoint. I also have heard of companies who reputedly don’t even bother with servicing other than when something needs replacing (brakes etc) and simply do an oil top up as required until the cars/vans go ‘bang’ and then get rid, allegedly cheaper.

    However the issue of ECU problems is not restricted to diesel engines and will similarly afflict petrol cars. I also guess a lot of cars are scrapped because the garage doesn’t employ a computer whizz kid who can sort out the ECU. There must be significant business/employment opportunities for someone who can interrogate ECU’s and provide a cheap non OE fix……

  60. Ford motor company specify oil for the transit that must stay in grade and carry soot and carbon and still be an effective lubricant upto 18k miles-that with 7 litres of oil in the sump mind,would anyone have that kind of confidance in say a diesel Golf that holds 3.9 l of oil? i wouldn’t.Forget car makers claims on long life service intervals,they dont do your car any favours at all.

  61. I used to own a diesel Seat Ibiza, non turbo with a 1.9 litre lump, that apart from some trim issues and a glow plug that went at 45,000 miles, was utterly reliable and needed hardly any work done on it in the 5 years I owned the car.

  62. Worrying to read about the fragility of Renault DCIs. It’s about the only thing on my Scenic that hasn’t needed attention. I can’t say how many miles its done as the instrument panel packed up. They all do that Sir.


  63. I think the biggest problem with these new breed of diesels is technicians making the right diagnosis first time, if there is a problem.
    A very good friend with his own garage has to rely on a trade travelling auto lec. To diagnose any problems with most modern diesels. I know Mondeo diesels cause him a lot of grief
    He has a mutual firend mini cabber, customer with a Octavia it eats DMF’s two since the warrenty expired.

  64. @69,The 1.5 dci is troublesome mainly because No4 inlet tract (cambelt end)gets cpked up solid due to the egr runnung most of the time and this causes a misfire that some technicians mis-diagnose,left to get this bad they do the turbo in as well.
    Diesels nowadays are quite simple once understood,and its mainly down to readings at sensors and at fuel rail (of course).

  65. If you do less than 10,000 miles a year, like I do, petrol makes more sense. If you’re talking superminis, many in the 1.0-1.3 class will now return 50 mpg easily, plus there is the lower purchase price, cheaper servicing and cheaper fuel. I had the loan of a third generation Suzuki Swift and 50 mpg in mixed driving was excellent.

  66. Ran my 75 cdt to 150k before the slave cylinder went, rendering it BER. The M47 BMW diesel was a bit sooty, but ran fine.

    My e-class has the Merc 2.1 diesel, had a glow plug go, but otherwise has been fine, now on 134k.

    It’s all relative I guess, the engine needs to last as long as the car is viable. Isn’t anything more a waste?

    It may all be academic if EVs are the future..

  67. Modern Diesels = Guaranteed massive expense.

    Oh come back Peugeot non-turbo 309GLD! The back axles were a joke but that XUD was smooth economical and would survive a nuclear winter!

    I changed my car recently as the old Citroen Xsara 1.9D (DW8 – 200k miles on crappy roads, badly maintained and still using no oil) was getting too ropey for the motorways. Sold it to a friend who is using it as a workhorse.

    So I was thinking of blowing a massive three or four grand on a new-to-me-car.

    Ahh all those smart looking Golf’s or Audi’s. Then I thought about what would be coming with a 2008-on Derv burner – sod that! Damn clutches alone would wipe you out!

    So what did I find? 2003 Skoda Octavia 1.9SDi. 115k, no rust, tight car is giving me 300 miles to the half tank and not using any oil. Simple tough engine. A klinker!
    ”..but its slow..” I hear you cry, no its not I can tell you. Ideal car for the motorway, no-turbo so it doesn’t just blow the Derv through the engine at 80mph.

    By the time I wear out the Octavia all diesels will be Buck Rodgers complicated, I’m thinking of seriously waxoiling that SDi Skoda!

  68. Oh yes, the Peugeot Citroen 1.9 (non turbo) diesel. I had one of those in a Peugeot 405 diesel, new, in 1995. Absolutely and without a shadow of a doubt, the most gutless engine that I ever owned! Slow, extremely noisy, with a very narrow “power” band, producing something around 67 bhp from memory; it had to be thrashed to death to keep up with the traffic.

    Replaced with a 406 2.1 TD and then a XM 2.5 TD – not sure if they qualify as simple diesels now, but they were both nice engines.

    • My mates berlingo van has the 1.9 non turbo engine (200000 miles nearly) and its so slow it makes my van feel fast. I must say he has no problems with the thing just normal wear and tear. Very loud sounds like a tractor !

  69. I have an old Peugeot partner van 2003 2L HDI 173000 on the clock. Iv owned it last 8 years driven very hard but oil changed every 6000-10000 miles. The engines never missed a beat its indestructible but everything else fails around it though. Its cost me £1000s in repairs but the engine wont give up. Only cost me £2000 to buy, so I’m not complaining iv easily had my moneys worth out of the old thing.

  70. Unless there are major breakthroughs in exhaust emission reduction technology for diesel cars expect to see more and more manufacturers drop the diesel and return to petrol engines for passenger cars
    The VW dieselgate revelations over criminal use of cheat software in the ECU to skirt around air quality laws has placed the spotlight firmly on toxic Nox emission levels in towns and cities.
    Screening tests for VW-type defeat devices invoked by France Germany UK Govts etc have revealed the serious shortcomings of the typical diesel car.

    On road driving tests with portable test equipment,( the exhaust gas is analysed as the car is driven) on the latest Euro 6 cars from a wide range of manufacturers showed petrol cars to easily meet Euro 6 standard with a typical figure of 50 micrograms of Nox/km, for diesel cars the typical figure was 500 micrograms of Nox /km, a major multiple of the 80 microgram upper limit.

    Quite simply despite all the money given in loans and grants to manufacturers to develop the “eco diesel” car, they have failed miserably.

    Even hardened diesel car apologists are waking up to the the “not-so- green” credentials and the adverse effect of the diesel car exhaust emissions on human health

  71. Swore off diesels from around 2008 onwards when all the emissions gubbins started appearing on the scene. It was untested in long-term real-world conditions and ‘mechanics’, a.k.a Fitters didn’t fully understand them or know how to repair them beyond plugging into the computer to read a fault-code before replacing an expensive component.
    Fast-forward 10 years and I’ve just bought a new Dacia Duster 1.5DCi. I now fully understand the tech (even as a mere home mechanic), the engine has been improved and developed over time and should prove reliable, and at Euro6 it’s cleaner than many petrol cars. With dealer discounts, the petrol to diesel price differential was narrow to £1000 which I’ll recoup in 2 years compared to the petrol model. I only do 12-13k miles p/year, but don’t tend to use my car for journeys less than 20 miles dual-carriageway driving as a minimum. I’ve gone full circle on my dislike of diesel, am liking this car, understand the common issues and how to fix them cheaply using some proper ‘mechanic’ skills, and expect to achieve an easy 10yrs/150k miles from it.

  72. It’s all very well moaning about diesel particle filters, adblue, EGR etc. but try telling anyone who suffers from asthma that these are a bad idea. UK air quality needs to be cleaned up – so if we want to keep driving our lovely cars, accepting the stuff that cleans up their exhausts is the price we have to pay. Removing DPFs, deactivating Adblue dosing and suchlike isn’t smart – it’s downright antisocial.
    Modern engines are complicated and they can be expensive to repair when they go wrong but let’s not get too sentimental about slow, noisy, polluting old diesels, or assume that modern engines can’t run a long time. A few years ago a Leeds taxi driver told me his company buys Skoda Octavia diesels and usually runs them for 300-450,000 miles – ‘had one last week with 418,000 miles on the clock and it drove quite nicely’.
    Personal experiences? A Montego diesel estate averaged 48mpg and felt like it would have run forever but for the rust. A Ford Galaxy did 80,000 miles at 40mpg with no engine problems (but broke a gearbox). A Citroen C5/II estate was just getting into its stride at 80,000 miles (42mpg) when someone crashed into it and wrote it off when it was parked at the side of the road. Current Citroen C5/III estate (160bhp) is going fine (45mpg) at 89,000 miles (just refilled the special fluid for the DPF) and feels like it should go a lot longer as long as nobody crashes into it.
    ‘They don’t make them like they used to’? There are some modern cars I wouldn’t thank you for but in general modern engines need less maintenance and can run for a very long time without trouble. They’re more powerful and (unless idiots interfere with them) they pollute the air a lot less than their predecessors did. Progress isn’t all bad.

  73. I can remember diesel Mercedes being able to do 40,000 miles a year with no problems and being able to last for 400 k miles with regular servicing. The eighties diesels might not have been the most refined or most powerful of cars, the 200 D being very slow, but they were well loved among taxi drivers in continental Europe for their ability to take enormous mileages and being reasonably economical. Also some of the XUD engines used by Peugeot Citroen could last forever if serviced correctly and offered a more pleasurable driving experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.