Need help with purchase decision - 1999 VW Golf

Hello everyone,
I apologize in advance for this newbie question
I am helping a single mother (4 kids!) purchase a car for her oldest child, who is 18. Finances are VERY tight and she's pretty much limited to about $4,000 or less.
She has found a 1999 VW Golf with 128,000 miles on it. It's got an automatic transmission and sun roof. It's being offered by a used car dealer "as-is" for $3,000. She asked me to look it over. I know that on *any* car with that number of miles on it will have some issues, and that how well it was maintained is the major factor, but I do not have access to any of the maintenance records. I am unfamiliar with VWs, and really need input from the perspective of an experienced VW enthusiast who knows the weak points and what to look for. Here is what I can find:
1) Car pulls to the right significantly. This might be because the left front tire is the spare, which has lots of tread on it, whereas the right front is nearly completely worn. Dealer claims this is why it is pulling right. I do believe this *could* be a cause, or it might simply be an excuse to cover up a more significant problem. Do VW Golfs of that vintage have any alignment problems?
2) Plenty of rear brake pad left, but fronts are almost gone, although not touching rotors yet. How expensive are Golf brake jobs? Can you resurface Golf rotors, or does VW automatically replace rotors when front pads need replacing?
3) Perhaps most significant: I opened the oil fill cap, and there appears to be a light coating of gritty sludge. The oil on the dipstick is pretty dirty. Do Golfs of this vintage have any sludging problems?
4) Do Golfs have timing belts, or chains? If a belt, how much does it cost to replace them?
Reply to
Dennis
Is this the mk3 or mk4 style 1999 model? The mk4 was introduced 1/2way through the model year.
mk3 style (license plate in hatch is the easy way to tell):
formatting link
mk4 style (license plate in bumper):
formatting link

Only way to tell is to have the swap the tires left-right and drive it again and see if it pulls the other way. But it sounds like new tires are in order anyway so that's an expense that they'll have to incur after buying the car. However in the event that the tires are directional, don't drive it for too long like that (with the tires swapped)...just drive it long enough for the test.
Nothing inherent in the design that causes a problem, no.
They're not real cheap although there's a lot of mail-order places to get brake parts from and do it yourself if you're handy. VW dealers will always be expensive on this. Rotors should be measured for thickness but in general they're never turned/resurfaced.
For what it's worth, on my old Mk2 Golf I always replaced the rotors at every other pad change and it was fine.
What engine is this? If we're talking about the basic 2.0L 4-cylinder, the only issue I think it sometimes had was consumption but otherwise it's a tough engine. It's not particularly powerful or anything like that but it's dependable transport. Sounds like it needs an oil change though
Again, what engine? If the 2.0L four, it's a belt. If a VR6 (GTIs and you didn't mention GTI so I guess this isn't it), it's a chain. Probably looking at about $400-500 for replacement of a timing belt.
I'd be a little nervous about this particular sample because it sounds like it may not have been maintained too well and the selling dealer isn't even interested in changing the oil. Could be not a very wise choice for a single mom + 4 kids because it sounds like it'll need some catch-up maintenance. Although if you're a good friend and are handy with helping out with car projects and can volunteer to help out with some of the DIY stuff on this car, it might not be a problem.
Back to "is this a mk3 or mk4", in North America, '99 was the last year for the mk3 (so most bugs were worked out of it) and the first year for the mk4 (had some bugs). The most notable bugs in the mk4 were not horribly critical though...the most I can remember is the window regulator clips that would fail. On the other hand, the mk4 is safer than the mk3 (although the mk3 is hardly a deathtrap either) and more refined, nicer interior, etc.
Reply to
Matt B.
Definitely needs a new pair of tires. Could need struts/bearings/tie rods etc. but parts are cheap.
just replace them they are cheap.
Not that I am aware of.
Belts. Never paid to have one done so I don't know. Most 8V engines won't crash valves if it breaks, but it still should be replaced every 60K miles or so (so with no records, you should be about due for the second replacement)
I'd be more concerned about the automatic transmission, honestly. If she's interested in VWs stickshift is the way to go.
nate
Reply to
Nate Nagel
(...)
Tell your woman friend to forget about this car and move on. Something this old is better purchased from the private sector and not a used car dealer. Just by the description alone, I'd pay 1000 - 1500 for that car.
Reply to
Madesio
I agree......pass on this one since it sounds like it already has issues. If that mom wants to buy one and keep things cheap in the long run, I recommend a 94-98 Jetta with a 2.0l engine, manual transmission and manual windows. She should be able to get one for under $3000 and maybe as low as $1400 is she looks and acts quickly. craigslist.org will be her friend. ;-)
JMHO
Reply to
dave AKA vwdoc1
IIRC the only 8V VW engine that won't have this issue is the older 1.8L 8V. The 2.0L 8V found in Mk3 and Mk4 VWs (high chance that's what this engine is) will have this issue if the belt breaks.
Reply to
Matt B.
timing belt and leave running well with a new timing belt. I think the Audi 80s with their 2.0l 8V engines will usually not have problems when their T-Belt breaks, but I am not totally sure on this.
The worse one I have seen is a VR6 engine after the timing chains jumped. yuck! lol
formatting link
Still have that mom pass on this car!
Reply to
dave AKA vwdoc1
Well, my friend took the Golf into their mechanic. The first thing he did was put it on a lift. It took him less than 30 seconds before he came out and said, "Run, Don't Walk away from this car"! He said it was very obvious it had been in a major accident, and the repair wasn't done very well.
Wish there had been enough clearance for me to look under there...The mechanic refused payment for the inspection, saying he had hardly done anything to warrant a charge.
So - Many thanks for all the advice - my friend has avoided a bad purchase decision she could ill-afford to make.
Regards,
Dennis
Reply to
Dennis

MotorsForum website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.