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Common Volkswagen (VW) Problems

Oil leak

(ie. Valve cover gasket, timing chain cover gasket, camshaft seals)

If your vehicle has a history of irregular oil changes, extreme climates, or low RPM driving, condensation and moisture can form in the engine and cause sludge to build up, creating the possibility of a leak. In addition, the crankcase breather system can also become clogged, preventing the engine from ventilating properly and causing a buildup of pressure. Oil then leaks from the weakest parts of the system. Other parts that are often leak culprits are the valve cover gaskets, camshaft seals and plugs, front and rear crankshaft seals, and cam chain tensioner gasket and seals, and O-ring.If you see oil covering the filter and cooler, the O-ring is likely the problem.

Coolant leaks

(ie. Coolant flange, radiator, coolant hoses, water pump)

If coolant from your VW is leaking from the water pump, the internal bearing and seals are most likely weak, and there will be a trail of coolant from the pump region down toward the engine. If there is steam blowing from the engine, the coolant leak is likely originating from the coolant flange. If coolant is visible under the vehicle, the radiator is the most probable culprit. Coolant hoses also often cause coolant leaks, since they can be damaged by oil leaks and age. It is best to address a coolant issue as soon as you can to avoid engine overheating.

Smoke coming from exhaust

If there is smoke coming from your vehicle’s exhaust, there is likely a coolant leak. In this case, the likely culprit is a faulty head gasket, warped cylinder head, or cracked engine block, especially if you notice a burning oil smell while driving.

Another way to tell if there is a coolant leak is to check your oil for a frothy, milky appearance, or for internal leaks, a sweet odor, and low coolant reservoir levels.

Replacement of timing belt, water pump, tensioner, and rollers

All of these parts should be replaced at the same time. If your timing belt needs replacing, the camshaft and crankshaft sensors will detect an error, and the check engine light will come on. The timing belt may be showing signs of wear, but has not yet snapped, if you hear slapping or scraping noises coming from the engine.

Vehicle overheats

(ie. While driving or sitting at idle)

Since the VW cooling system only holds a small amount of coolant, it is important to have your vehicle repaired shortly after it shows signs of overheating. Generally, coolant parts should be replaced every 60,000 miles to avoid issues.

If your vehicle does overheat, there are a few different possibilities for the cause of the problem:

A failing coolant reservoir or radiator can result in pressure issues that prevent coolant from reaching the engine, which then overheats.

The engine fan may need a repair or replacement so that air continues to flow properly through the radiator and prevent the vehicle from overheating at low speeds.

A defective thermostat that limits the flow of coolant to the radiator is also an option if your engine is overheating. It may also be necessary to check the coolant temperature sensor. If the reading on the sensor is above 190 degrees, however, there is most likely an issue with your thermostat or water pump.

Suspension concerns

(ie. Clunking noise while going over bumps, clicking noise while turning)

If you have been hearing squeaking or clicking noises when turning your VW, there is likely a suspension issue caused by faulty ball joints, which absorb shock from up-down movements and rotate with steering wheel movement. Another possible cause of abnormal noises when turning your vehicle is worn out bushings on the control arms, or the hinges that hold the wheels to the frame and connect steering to the wheels. Also consider the brake pads and rotors, loose screws near the rotors, or the vehicle’s springs, if your vehicle is lower on one corner when at idle.

Maintenance light

At times, there is no need to worry about a maintenance indicator on your VW, like if the light is green signifying something informational such as your daytime running lights being on. However, yellow or red lights signal a more serious issue. A yellow light typically means to use caution while driving, in the case of a possible ABS defect, low oil pressure, or issue with the steering system. Red maintenance lights signal that you should stop the vehicle as soon as possible and turn off the engine. There could be low voltage output from the alternator, exceedingly high engine temperatures, or no oil pressure at all.

ABS/Brake light

If the brake light or ABS lights are illuminated on your vehicle, the wheel speed sensor or ABS control module has most likely failed. This does not necessarily mean that the speed sensor is broken, it may just need to be cleaned off. In addition to the speed sensor, any basic problem that causes the rear brakes to apply too quickly can activate the ABS. These issues may include cracked rear linings, oil-contaminated linings, weak brake return springs, or a faulty proportioning valve.

Some VW owners may experience the ABS and brake lights flashing once accompanied by three beeps. This symptom can signify a faulty ABS sensor, an issue with the hand brake switch, or even low brake fluid. The ABS control module may also play a role if you experience this symptom.

Check engine light

(ie. Could be running fine or have a noticeable drivability concern/ symptoms)

The first easy fix if your check engine light is on is to make sure the gas cap is tightened. If the gas cap is loose or cracked, the check engine light will stay on for extended periods of time. If the gas cap is intact and the light is on, you may be experiencing problems such as a blown head gasket, faulty fuel injector, faulty oxygen sensor, cracked or loose hoses, or faulty spark plugs or wires. If the light is flashing, this indicates serious issues with the engine that should be tended to immediately, such as a catalytic converter malfunction or a cylinder misfire.

Low heat output out of vents

The first thing to check if you’re experiencing low heat output is your vehicle’s coolant levels, which can cause air to become trapped in the heater core. The heater core is the heat source for the vehicle’s climate control system, and it is a radiator usually found behind the dashboard in the glove compartment. If the heater core is clogged, heat for your vehicle may be restricted, especially if product to prevent coolant leaks has been used excessively. In order to check if your heater core is clogged, ensure that the two heater hoses which carry coolant to the heater core are the same temperature.

If the heater core is not an issue, make sure that your vehicle’s thermostat is not stuck open, or that the blend door on the heating system is not worn, especially if there are small pieces of foam coming out of the vents.

Steering wheel shakes/pulsation while braking

Warped rotors are a frequent cause of vehicle pulsation while braking. Your steering wheel may also shake if your rotors are worn, as the wheel vibration is transferred to the steering column through the front-end components that the brake calipers are bolted to. If your rotors are only slightly warped or worn, you may be able to get away with only having them straightened out. However, if they are new or have just been replaced, they may not have been properly mounted to the axle. Unbalanced wheels are another cause of steering wheel shakes at high speeds.

The window doesn't go up or down/crunching noise while moving windows

Issues with the power window regulator mechanism can cause the windows on your vehicle to refuse movement. An electrical problem with the window regulator can cause the window to roll up or down slower than it should. If you hear clicking or grinding when the window is rolled up or down debris may be trapped between the window and the motor assembly, which can cause the regulator to work harder than it should to move the window.

Sometimes VW owners experience the steel spreader pins within the plastic cylindrical pins on the window regulator popping out of the window glass or regulator, as it simply slides into a hole in the bottom of the glass.

Water leaks

A likely cause of water leaks on your VW is the sunroof drains, which are small rubber tubes on either side of the vehicle by the rearview mirrors. These drains often get clogged with debris and begin leaking water once they become too full. When experiencing issues with the sunroof drains, squeeze the tube to force the water and debris out, and then cut the end of the tube so that it is always open, preventing anything from becoming trapped inside.

Other causes of water leaks may include a clogged drain located under the battery, a clogged pollen filter, or debris trapped in the flange next to the windshield.

Electrical concerns

(ie. Battery keeps dying)

If your VW is experiencing electrical issues, do a visual and voltage battery test. Despite advancements, all batteries lose charging capacity over time. If your battery seems to be doing fine, a bad starter could be the problem. However, starters on most newer cars easily outlast a vehicle’s warranty as long as the engine is not excessively overheated or exposed to a lot of debris. The alternator could also be the cause of frequent battery drain. With many electrical add-ons for newer models, the average lifespan for an alternator is around 3-4 years.

Finally, poor battery life is often caused by a parasitic drain from electrical components in your vehicle that continue drawing current after it is turned off. While some drain is normal (i.e. for the clock, radio, and security alarm), electric problems such as a faulty seat control module can result in too much battery drain when your vehicle is not running.

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