Our Four Seasons Passat TDI's round-trip to the East Coast took a toll on its odometer. Before heading to the Empire State, we'd only racked up a little more than 16,000 miles. Upon its return, we'd managed to push that just shy of the 20,000-mile mark, meaning it was once again time to visit our dealer for scheduled maintenance.
Volkswagen's 20,000-mile check-up is actually surprisingly low-key. After the Passat passed a lengthy multi-point inspection, our dealer tech set about rotating tires, changing the engine oil (and oil filter), replacing the intake and cabin air filters, and topping off the washer fluid reservoir. As this falls under the free scheduled maintenance plan VW offers to customers in the U.S., the entire appointment was gratis.
"Senior editor Joe Lorio needed to add the AdBlue fluid about 3000 miles ahead of schedule."
On the Passat TDI, the 20,000-mile service interval also calls for topping off the car's AdBlue tank, as the fluid is a key element of the TDI's selective catalyst reduction (SCR) emissions system. Volkswagen says owners will likely only need to add fluid at regular maintenance appointments, but senior editor Joe Lorio needed to add the fluid about 3000 miles ahead of schedule:
"As part of its emissions control system, Volkswagen's TDI engine injects a urea solution into the exhaust system, and that solution must be replenished every so often. How often? There is no fixed interval, so the answer is: whenever the engine calls for it.
"You do get plenty of warning. According to the owner's manual, a message in the instrument cluster should first appear when there's about 1500 miles of range left. When I collected the Passat from [NY bureau chief] Jamie Kitman, the indicator was telling me there was about 900 miles of range left. Naturally, I ignored it.
"When it was down to 400 miles, on the eve of a trip upstate that would likely exceed that distance, I couldn't put it off any more, because if the AdBlue tank runs dry, the car won't start.
"I headed off to the VW dealer to get some AdBlue. The parts guy didn't know how much to sell me, so I bought one half-gallon container for $16. They also had a 2.5-gallon jug for $30 -- obviously the better deal, except that the smaller container is the only one that screws (upside down) onto the filler neck, which is in the trunk. Presumably, if you buy the big jug you then need to transfer the liquid into an empty half-gallon container so that you can pour it in without spilling it (the owner's manual warns not to get it on carpet, plastics, painted surfaces, or clothing).
"It turns out that I was supposed to put in 1.5 gallons -- 3 containers -- at a minimum. But after I added the half-gallon, the warning light disappeared, so evidently I bought myself some time. The AdBlue tank holds 5 gallons in total.
"Going to the dealership to buy this stuff is an annoyance. (Although it's also available at truck stops and auto parts stores.) The dispensing of it is a hassle. And Volkswagen cautions against carrying it around, so there's no buying extra to have on hand."
All told, our AdBlue adventures ran us $47.18 - including tax -- for three gallons of the fluid. Here's hoping it'll last us another 20,000 miles - or, at least, another 17,000.