VW TDI woes. Ford Focus. And a busy start to the week

Posted By on November 8, 2011

towingjettatdiMy daughter called to tell me her dependable Volkswagen Jetta TDI wouldn’t start. So far it has made it through high school, college, med school and to her medical residency without letting her down. Unfortunately it just cranked and wouldn’t start this time. I attempted to diagnose over the phone – having her check for bubbles in the fuel line and looking for a stuck anti-shudder valve, but unfortunately the little diesel engine just cranked without firing.

towingjettatdi2I put the call into one of my Columbus TDI gurus but he was unfortunately tied up … so I took a half day off yesterday and zipped up to Columbus armed with a new fuel filter, my battery charger and a few tools. Unfortunately the shorter day got the best of me and a quick filter change did not solve the problem. Since Marysville was only a short trip to the northwest, I opted to have the car hauled ($115 – ouch) to Jon Hamilton’s garage to figure out the problem and while there get the timing belt scheduled as well. Unfortunately at a paramedic, he is working a 24 hour shift and won’t be able to get to my daughter’s car until the end of the week … but at least he is squeezing me in.

Location of the A4 VW Jetta TDI anti-shudder valve and linkage

As for the Ford part of this post …

fordfocus_sideft fordfocus_rear

I left my Honda Pilot with my daughter and rented a small 2012 Ford Focus until her car is repaired … and on my way home was impressed both with the Sync to my Palm Pre and the excellent fuel mileage – at least what th display was showing. Mind you, I was on the interstate and not necessarily driving above 65mph. (not bad, although I might do a real physical test since I have a road trip coming up this week – image below)



  • I’m leaning towards buying a new Focus… if you have time, I’d love to see some detailed thoughts on it after you drive your rental for a few days!

    • Steve: While in the area today, I’ve been driving the Focus in the sport mode. I’m no longer bragging about the 40+ mpg as the average is now in the low 30s. On the other hand, the little hatchback is functional and sporty in handling characteristics — very tight and responsive. I’ve not adjusted to the quick power steering and punchy 4 cylinder yet (although once it jumps, it is not as gutsy as bigger engines). It is surprisingly quiet and not at all buzzy; build quality seems very good and it is loaded with tech. Probably too many buttons for most over 40, but wouldn’t take long to get comfortable with if “you” are a pilot (except those who ONLY flying Cubs!)

      The down side is that I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle longer trips in “this” Ford Focus. The ride is harsh and stiff. The seats – for me – are not that comfortable … especially riding for much over an hour. I wonder if there is a more premium seat or slightly less stiff suspension package?

      I’ll be driving about 800 miles in the next couple of days and will be sure to give you my thoughts. So far I personally like everything except am already NOT looking forward to the tight suspension and not so comfortable seats.

      • Thanks for the report so far. Which model is it? I’m looking at the Titanium Hatch most likely – at least based on my research to date.

        Not sure exactly how the seats differ but I feel like I read the leather ones on the Ti are a little better for extended drives. Then again, I could be making that up. It’s been hard to keep track of a lot of stuff lately!

  • Richard Dawkins

    Did get a chance to use the Ford Sync with your cellphone?

    • Thanks for the earlier message Richard. I’ve added above and yes I did use it but only with my cellphone. I’m not happy with the default safety measure that does not permit visual phonebook selection as does the VW interface (VW Passat).

      The audio is usable but my wife dislikes the obvious hands-free conference sound … but then most suffer from this in my experience.

  • Sorry to barge in here late, but I’m considering checking Jon Hamilton’s shop out for my VW GTI.  Any reason to reconsider?

    •  No reason to be concerned about Jon. I’ve known him for years and he is very competent and one of the few I don’t mind paying to work on my daughter’s TDI. We also have a GTI, which has not been to Jon just yet, but with his racing background, it would be nice to have his set of eyes on the sport tuning. All above said, he is now in the business to also make a living and so don’t expect the bargain basement pricing of a backyard/part-time mechanic. Depending on your location … his shop isn’t always the easiest place to squeeze in a repair if you need to get rides or wait for a repair. Good luck and mention a hello from me.

      • Thanks — I’ll be giving him a call, I believe.

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.