VW Transporter T4 is the official car of tradesmen who are too weak for a normal work car. VW Transporter T4, another article where I will be insulted for criticising of the car.

VW Transporter T4, the Golf 4 of the commercial world. Launched in 1990 on the principle that it doesn’t break down because there are no parts to break down to begin with, the VW Transporter T4 has been teaching us since then that the Germans in Wolfsburg are not good with new technology and especially electrics. But at least on the mechanical side, it was and is a popular car for all those who want to get the job done and for whom a Caddy is not enough. Not to say that a T3 is too expensive because it’s a collector’s car, and a T5 is expensive because it’s newer.

And the T4?

Like a colleague you can’t stand but have to stay with because you know he will help you with your homework or maybe even your exams, like a job you hate but where you stay because it pays well, the VW Transporter T4 was a car many people have bought and still buy because they don’t know of alternatives. Like the Golf, the Transporter is bought by people who know they want a commercial car but don’t know exactly what and they go with what they’ve heard from others. VW Transporter – Dua Lipa of the automotive world.


VW Transporter T4 Engines


  • 2.0 MPI of 84 horsepower – An engine stolen from the Golf 3 and de-tuned to 84 horsepower, placed into a Transporter. Lean, microscopic, not very reliable, and not very economical. ECU, intake manifold, and vacuum pump issues. 
  • 2.5 MPI of 112 and 115 horsepower – An Audi engine, because at that time they were still sticking to inline 5 cylinder engines. Comically reliable, but more cramped than a studio flat in Bristol where the rent is only 500 pounds a month. Just like that studio where if you have a heart attack you die standing up, in this engine if a bolt comes lose it stays there because it has nowhere to fall. That means you’ll curse your days when you have to take the engine out for a more serious repair.
  • 2.8 Vr6 of 140 and 204 horsepower – Used extensively by the EU gendarmerie to deliver justice faster, usually on the backs (literally) of criminals, this is another engine capable of comical mileage, as long as it’s properly maintained. Which is ok if you have the budget of the national police, but if you’re a private individual with a 2000 euro budget, I don’t know.


  • 1.9D 60 horsepower – No.
  • 1.9TD of 68 horsepower – Still no, but now you’ve got a turbo. In a few years, this engine will metamorphose into a 1.9 SDI and be put in the Golf V and Caddy. Indestructible as far as reliability goes, but slower thinking than Machine Gun Kelly and not so good on fuel consumption either because it will be more stressed out than a corporate worker.
  • 2.4D of 75 and 78 horsepower – Most T4 Transporters will have this engine because the 2.5 TDI is too expensive and the 1.9 TD is too slow. As long as you replace the timing kit and water pump on time, this engine will spin forever. Slowly, but to infinity.
  • 2.5 TDI of 88, 102, and 150 horsepower – This engine debuts in the Transporter T4 and then is carried over to the Transporter T5 and Touareg. It has timing gears (not changeable) so many forget about the water pump, which normally is replaced at the same time with the timing kit. This will fry your cylinder and engine block if you ignore the pump long enough. Otherwise, on engines like this at around 200,000 km you need to change the crankshafts and if you have a 4×4 system the differential will crack.


VW Transporter T4 General Issues

  • The front window locks were made from discarded and salvaged materials, which is why the glass squeaks so badly. But that’s not an issue for you, you can simply turn up the volume on the radio and it will be a fight between the Bee Gees and the windows.
  • Speaking of radios, many T4s don’t have radios. Or power steering. Or power brakes. Or power anything.
  • The ignition relay death means you put the key in and nothing happens so you have to buy another ignition, another relay, and so on. Although I’ve read that some people have put their starter button directly on, to remove they key and ignition issues.
  • Starter motors and all that is electric proves once again that the Germans don’t know anything about electrics. That’s why people are crying about the Golf 3 and Golf 4, those didn’t have that much technology to break down.
  • The clutch cylinder feels under pressure more than when your girlfriend sends you a “we need to talk” or “my period is late” text. 
  • Rust for VW is a common concern adn the T4 is no exception. In fact, rust may be the only thing to truely retire the Transporter T4 from duty.
  • Just like the Mercedes Vito, the roller on the sliding door costs so much that if it breaks down you either weld the door or sell the van.
  • The casing for Syncro 4×4 models is another issue for the guy who wants a T4 that will go absolutely anywhere.


VW Transporter T4 verdict

The middle child and probably the most famous Transporter. Whether we talk about Doka, Transporter, Caravelle, VW Transporter T4 remains a Golf 4 of the commercial world. Bought by people who want a car but don’t know exactly what they want, the T4 is still a reliable van and leaves a good impression. It’s not at the top of the commercial world, but it’s good enough.

What engines do you recommend? For petrol definitely the 115 horsepower 2.5 MPI, and for diesel the 78 horsepower 2.4D or 102 horsepower 2.5 TDI.