Servicing Your VW T4 Transporter

Here we will cover the servicing schedule requirements and service intervals for the VW Transporter T4 models 1.9d, the 2.4d and 2.5TDi diesel and petrol variants:

  • The VW T4 Transporter Service schedule, Inspection Intervals and rough costs
  • Which is the best oil to use in a VW T4 Transporter

The VW T4 represents the 4th generation VW Transporter and ran from 1990 through to 2003 when the T5 was launched.

If the correct VW T4 service regime is followed ensuring frequent oil changes, all variants of this machine are capable of exceeding 250,000 miles without too much effort.

The VW T4 was one of the longest production runs that Volkswagen ever ran between models (it shares the record with the T3) and only underwent a minor facelift in 1997 but remained vastly unchanged for 13 years.

How Often Should Your VW T4 Transporter Be Serviced?

VW T4 service schedule interval

It is worth pointing out here that in early 2000’s Volkswagen introduced the idea of two variations for the VW T4 service schedule depending on the intended use of the VW T4.

  • Fixed time service (Based on fixed distance or time since last service)
  • Flexible Service Regime (Intended for frequent users doing at least 25 miles per day) this is also referred to as the Long life service plan

So if you have one of the later T4’s (2000 through to 2003) your vehicle will have been affected by this change.

Which ever category you would fall under at this point in the vehicles life, due to the age of the vehicle (and likely higher miles on the clock) I would advise any VW T4 owner to follow the more frequent fixed time service plan which is detailed below.

The VW T4 had quite a few variations of engine size and type over the years and there are a couple of service plans depending on model however in a nut shell:

  • The pre 1999 1.9 models with engine code ABL and the 2.4-litre models with engine code AJA VW T4 service schedule should have the oil and filter changed every 6,000 miles (some even say 5,000 miles here) or 6 monthly to prevent sludge build up which can be fatal to the engine.
  • Other models should be serviced every 9,300 miles (15,000 KM)

VW T4 recommended oil

You will find differing opinions on the best oil for a VW T4, this is partly because VW themselves suggest a range between 5W/30 to 10W/40 is acceptable but also the VW T4 came with quite a few variances and engine codes over the years.

best VW T4 2.5TDI recommended oil
The VW T4 has the suggested grade oil printed on the front subframe near the oil filler

One of the most frequently recommended oils for the VW Transporter T4 1.9TD, 2.4D and 2.5TDI is Castrol Edge 5W-40 – 4Ltr (HERE). For petrol variants 2.0 and 2.5 Mobil SUPER 3000 5W-40 is a good oil.

And if you are one of the lucky few with the 2.8 petrol then Castrol Magnatec 5W-30 is well reviewed.

These are also approved for use in VW vehicles that require at least VW 501 01/ 505 00 specification depending on engine model and suits most of the VW T4’s engine range.

best oil for VW T4 Transporter 2.5TDi 1.9 diesel and petrol
Compatible oil for the VW T4 diesel range

There are a quite a few other oil manufacturers that are approved for use by VW for the VW T4 range. The two most important things to observe when selecting your oil is:

  1. It must be within the range 5W/30 to 10W/40
  2. Oil grade must be to VW spec 505 00 or above.

The VW T4 1.9, 2.4, 2.5Tdi as well as petrol variants all have similar oil tolerances.

Full list of recommended VW T4 oils

Best oil for a VW T4 1.9TD oil

Castrol Edge 5W-40

Mobil SUPER 3000 5W-40

Shell Helix 10W-40 HX7 SS

Best oil for a VW T4 2.4D oil

Castrol Edge 5W-40 – 4Ltr

Mobil SUPER 2000 10W-40

Shell Helix 10W-40 HX7 SS

Best oil for a VW T4 2.5TDI oil

Castrol Edge 5W-40

Mobil SUPER 3000 5W-40

Shell Helix 10W-40 HX7 SS

Best oil for a VW T4 2.0 Petrol

Mobil SUPER 3000 5W-40

Shell Helix 5W-40 Ultra

Best oil for a VW T4 2.5 Petrol

Mobil SUPER 3000 5W-40

Best oil for a VW T4 2.8 VR6 petrol

Castrol Magnatec 5W-30

Castrol Edge 5W-30 LL VW 504/507

What do the oil numbers actually mean? (in simple terms)

The number followed by the W at the beginning of the oil (5W or 10W) simply refers to the oil operating temperature. The “W” stands for “Winter”.

If you live in a cold climate then you are better going for a 5w or even 0w. Hot climates should go with the 10w. In the UK 5w or 10w is fine.

The second of the numbers (30 or 40 in the case of the VW t4 oils) simply refers to the viscosity of the oil when the engine is up to operating temperature.

The VW T4 diesels can deal with either 30 (thinner) or 40 (slightly thicker) and the petrol’s generally work better with 30.

Some suggest on higher mileage engines, a slightly thicker oil is worth while as it helps with engine pressure and protects worn bearings. The theory goes that an older higher mileage VW T4 would benefit more from a 40 over a 30 grade oil.

Personally, I believe that with modern oils this argument is probably less relevant than a couple of decades ago…

But as VW themselves state that grade 40 is within tolerance for the T4 then you may as well go for the 40 over the 30 if you are hitting 6 figures on the dash.

VW Transporter T4 Service Costs

I think it is fair to say that most VW T4’s are past the routine service cost stage of their lives. Mine always seems to come back with additional work. Assuming you are just having the work set out in the VW T4 service schedule the typical costs are as follows:

  • Before you get into the major service elements, a standard annual service which will cover your oil and filters should cost around £180 to £220 although could be higher if you are close to major cities (south England dwellers – sorry!) as the hourly rates are normally higher.
  • A major service with belts, tensioner and water pump will be somewhere between £380 and £450 depending on which other elements are covered.

If you are feeling confident however, you can carry out an interim service at home for less than £50 and a full service for around £120. You can get VW T4 service kits on eBay (HERE).

It is worth paying a little more for OEM components if your budget can stretch. In some cases OEM is cheaper than aftermarket options anyway.

Where to get your VW T4 serviced

I have noticed some “high street” garages price the work higher as working on 20+ year vehicles is firstly not as desirable but also can take quite a lot longer due to seized bolts/corrosion and so on…

I’ve also found they are not as good! Following a VW T4 major service, one of my earlier VW T4’s came back from a garage with a cold start issue as the timing had not been set correctly.

If you can find a VW T4 specialist to do the work for you I would highly recommend this route. They will also take more pride in the areas that they check (and will know the vehicles inside out)

As a great rule of thumb, if you budget £1.5k per year for running costs on a VW T4 you will not be too far off. Some years you will win (and justify some new accessories with the change) and on a few rare years you will be a little short!

Either way, 1.5k is less than the depreciation on a new one and if it saves you a few hotels along the way its practically paying you to own it. ;o)

VW Transporter T4 Service Schedule

Frequent servicing is encouraged, as it enhances the performance, efficiency, and resale value of your T4. And if your vehicle is driven frequently at slow speeds or used to tow a trailer, even more frequent service intervals are essential.

If you have the post facelift model (usually 1998 onwards), VW added a service indicator that is shown within the mileage display on the main dashboard. It has a fixed term of 9,300 miles between resets.

VW Transporter T4 service intervals: 

The typical VW Transporter T4 service intervals should be followed below,

*Note* The pre 1999 1.9 models with engine code ABL and the 2.4-liter models with engine code AJA VW T4 service schedule should have the oil and filter changed every 6,000 miles (some even say 5,000 miles here) or 6 monthly to prevent sludge build up which can be fatal to the engine.

  • Every 9,300 miles (or 15,000km) – Engine oil and filter, check brake pads and discs
  • Every 18,600 miles (or 30,000km) – Engine oil, oil filter and pollen filter(s),drain any water from the fuel filter.
  • 27,900 miles (or 45,000km) – Engine oil and filter, check brake pads and discs
  • At 37,200 miles (60,000km) – Engine oil and filter, Air filter, diesel fuel filter, spark plugs (Petrol only), check transmission oil levels. Note that some change the cambelt at 40,000 miles (especially 2.5Tdi models)
  • 46,500 miles (75,000km) – Engine oil and filter, check brake pads and discs
  • 55,800 miles (90,000km) – Engine oil, oil filter and pollen filter(s), diesel fuel filter if applicable. Cambelt and water pump should be changed here or every 4 years, which ever comes sooner.
  • 65,100 miles (105,000km) – Engine oil and filter, check brake pads and discs
  • 74,400 miles (120,000km) – Engine oil and filter, Air filter, diesel/petrol fuel filter, spark plugs (Petrol only), transmission oil

These are guidelines for a good level of maintenance. It is worth pointing out that most VW T4’s will now have lower annual miles and will have dropped onto annual services rather than services triggered by miles covered.

If you have bought a VW T4 without good service history, I would advise carrying out a major service so that you know where you stand in the service cycle. (Engine oil, oil filter and pollen filter(s), diesel fuel filter if applicable. Cambelt and water pump)

Servicing a VW T4 2.5 with decent quality oil
A good tip is to ensure that you also oil exposed hinges, runners and door locks with a generous helping of WD40

Each routine VW T4 service in the schedule above should also include the following checks:

  • Inspect exhaust system for leaks, and secure the mountings if required.
  • Check for leaks around coolant system, hoses, radiator etc.
  • Check for oil leaks from failing gaskets. Replace is needed.
  • Ensure handbrake applies correctly and firmly. Replace or adjust cable if needed.
  • Inspect suspension components, listen for knocks on bumps. Check the coil rebound is effective
  • Inspect steering components/top up steering fluid
  • Inspect the driveshaft gaiters, service if required
  • Adjust headlight if required (would be picked up at MOT anyway)
  • Replace pollen filter
  • A general walk around the vehicle and lubricate hinges, locks and rollers (WD40 works well)
  • Coolant antifreeze concentration level should be assessed. Replace is needed.
  • Inspect windscreen wiper blades, operation and wiper water pump

And every two years your VW T4 should have the following:

  • Drain and replace all coolant.
  • Drain and replace all brake fluid

Between your VW T4 services…

Make sure you carry out regular inspections between the standard VW T4 service schedule.

A good regime to follow is:

Every 250 miles

Every 250 miles it is advisable to check the following items:

  • Engine oil level
  • Coolant level
  • Screen-wash fluid level
  • Brake/clutch fluid level
  • Power steering fluid level
  • Tyres and tyre pressures (ideally before every drive)
  • Battery condition
  • Oil hinges, key holes and runner tracks found on the rolling side door
VW T4 service of hinges and moving parts
The side door runners on VWT4’s build up crud and eventually go rusty. Make sure you clean and oil frequently.

Spot an error?

If you spot an error or have a recommendation to improve this VW T4 service schedule article, please post me a message below and I will happily post an update.

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