As you’re reading this, Volkswagen and Audi are mailing owners of 2015 TDI models (such as myself as well) a very detailed emissions recall information package. We previously reported that a fix was approved by the EPA and the Canadian government to clear up emissions in what is known as the “Generation 3” 2.0 litre TDI engine installed in certain model year 2015 Audi and Volkswagen models.
While we knew this fix was one of the three settlement options offered to Canadian TDI owners (the others being a buy-back or a trade-in), there’s an interesting option here that some folks may not be aware of: owners can get their car fixed without locking out other settlement options, provided the recall is performed before the Canadian-court-approved settlement becomes official, expected by early April, at the earliest (after court hearings in Quebec and Ontario on March 22nd and March 31st 2017). But if you're an owner, you'll want to double-check this and its timing with your dealer before proceeding with the fix.
That fix-and-buy back option was already built into the long-form settlement documents in case a recall was approved before the settlement gets under way, but did not appear in earlier summaries of the settlement, making it easy to miss. The complete recall documentation was also added to the TDI settlement website, regularly updated by the manufacturer.
The emissions recall is a two-phase affair. Phase 1, available right now, is a software update that removes the “cheater code” amongst other things. From what we understand, that software alone will reduce emissions from the TDI engine, getting them closer to, but not quite at the required emissions standards. According to Volkswagen, there will be no adverse effects from the software change to the vehicle’s performance, fuel economy, NVH, reliability or durability.
That last part is where Phase 2 comes in. It involves hardware swaps and will only get under way in early 2018, once parts are available. Apparently the software will put more strain on certain components; they were redesigned as part of the fix. The diesel particulate filter, diesel oxidation catalyst and the selective catalytic reduction converter will all be replaced, and a second NOx sensor and associated software update will complete the recall process. All these parts aim to maintain emissions performance for 240,000km, which VW estimates as the “full useful life of your vehicle.”
To underline how critical the new parts are, if your TDI has between 64,000km and 112,000km at the time the recall is performed, it will need a second catalytic converter replacement down the road – owners will get notified by VW.
Both phases of the emissions recall will still have some noticeable effects, according to VW. First of all, DEF / AdBlue use will increase by one to 14 per cent – YMMV, but expect more refills of the blue liquid exhaust scrubber. Engine sounds, tone, cooling fan operation may differ from current operation. The software also updated other parameters in DSG-equipped cars, such as shift points under Sport mode, improved throttle response, smoother acceleration, improved driving experience and new high altitude shift patterns.
Changes in the OBD system may be noticed by tinkerers and provincial emissions inspections. The emissions recall comes with an extended emissions control system warranty, to the greater of 11 years / 260,000km since in-service date or 5 years / 97,000km past either Phase 1 or Phase 2 completion date. Many other systems are covered by this extended warranty, from fuel rail to turbocharger.
And if anybody still has visions of hiding their beloved 2015 TDI “intact” under a tarp until the whole Dieselgate saga gets buried in past history, please take note that the original emission parts have been discontinued by VW. Any parts needing replacement will have to be swapped with the new components, and that may involve getting the full recall treatment – in the end, it seems there’s no avoiding “taking it to the vet.”