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2005 Volkswagen polo needs new engine!


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Hi guys,

 

I've been a lurker on these forums for some time and seen how much other people have been helped, so now I'm hoping somebody may be able to give me some helpful advice!

 

In May 2008 I bought a 2005 (55) reg polo from a reputable car supermarket in London. It has cause me no problems at all and ran like a dream until about 3 months ago. I started to notice that it would really chug and judder at traffic lights or when I was stationary when the engine was just ticking over. It got worse quite quickly, it has got to the point where the tick over revs are so low that I can't even have the air-con on because the engine will misfire. It has actually misfired at least twice and the engine management light is on pretty much most of the time but it goes off every so often.

 

Now, I use a well reputed garage who I have a good relationship with and would like to keep it that way if at all possible. I don't get my car serviced at VW as they charge too much and the garage that I use stick to the service schedule and only use VW approved parts. It has been serviced twice in its life, once at 17K and again at 22K, I am going to have it serviced again in the very near future (it has now done 27K). I took the car to my garage when the EML light came on and it had misfired. The error came up on the computer as a misfire and to rectify it the replaced the coil pads. They needed replacing anyway but this did not fix the problem. I wasn't too worried about the cost of this because it wasn't very expensive and they needed replacing anyway. The problem got worse. Next time they took it in and found out that one of the three pistons in the engine is broken. In laymans terms, apparently it is a compression problem where not enough air is going into the piston which is then not lighting the spark to the engine so I'm effectively running on a third less power. Apparently the piston rings are stuck together.

 

The garage I use took the car in over two days and out a treatment through the engine which they thought might help the piston rings become unstuck and although this has improved the problem, the car is not fixed. They did not charge me for this because they weren't convinced they had fixed the problem. They told me to take the car away and drive it over the weekend and see how it goes. It hasn't got worse but there's no improvement either. They told me I should ring them back if there was no improvement and they would call Volkswagen to enquire about it for me as they have a few contacts at VW. They said if the engine treatment didn't work then I would be looking at the car needing a whole new engine.

 

I would like to know whether I am better off just taking it to VW and asking them to replace the engine as the car is not fit for purpose. It can't possibly be wear and tear if I have had it serviced quite regularly and it's done a relatively low amount of mileage. The only think I'm thinking is that because I didn't get it serviced at VW they will flat out refuse to help me?

 

What I'd also like to know is what are my legal rights here? Surely I purchased a car for 6K expecting it to be reliable and not to have these problems? I can't possibly afford to replace the engine. I do really like the garage I use and feel happy I have found someone honest and reputable, but I don't want to pay them to fix the engine if I can get VW possibly to replace it for me - just wondering what my chances are? I know, probably not great but can't help to ask.

 

Thanks in advance.

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Presume its out of all warranties? The garage you took it to doesn't sound very good; engine 'treatment' would never fix a problem like you're describing. Take it to another garage who is able to read the diagnostic socket (there are plenty of independents who can read VAG diagnostics) and find out properly what the problem is. I doubt very much that it needs a new engine; more likely plugs, leads or a sensor. Good luck ! Let me know the outcome too.

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It is definitely out of its 3 year warranty period. I do trust the garage I took it to though as they have sorted out a number of smaller problems with this car and all my other cars and I've never had a problem with the work they've done or the price they charge.

 

They said the error on the computer is just coming up as a misfire. I think it would be a good idea to get a second opinion, but I don't know any other reputable garages around me save for going to my nearest VW garage. Would you suggest I take it straight there? Would they charge for doing a diagnostic test?

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Yes they would charge but you'd hopefully get a proper diagnosis and fix though obviously not at a cheap price. A diagnostic test would be upwards of £20 (I think Hyundai charge £50 just for connecting up and seeing how many £££ signs come up on their machine lol)

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You need a second opinion. My car, a 2004 Mondeo TDCI, started playing up last year. Took it for a diagnostic check, no fault codes but from the symptoms it was suggested it was an injector problem. Quoted at roughly £300 per injector to replace, advised to replace all 4 injectors. So, went elsewhere for second opinion. £40 boost pipe and an hours labour later, problem sorted.

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Well for a start the above post, whilst true and valid refers to a larger diesel engine so don't panic over costs etc.

 

If you're happy with the current garage then stick with them. They seem to have acted decently.

 

Provided they can read the diagnostic codes then all said and good however the problem these days is that these codes often don't give enough info as to why. What is apparent is that there is a cylinder down on compression hence the thought of stuck piston rings. Their action to free is admirable to help the customer but in reality won't work.

 

It's quite possible to remove the head and sump, pull the piston and see whats wrong but prior to that I'd expect to see some evidence this is necessary such as basic checks as emissions, compressions, trace curves on each cylinder firing pattern. Shouldn't take too long to do with the right equipment.

 

One of the problems these days is that cars have complicated systems and technicians are not trained to go back to basics.

 

It would be highly unusual for an engine to fail today in such circumstances but not impossible. You will also have no redress on VW either unless it is a known problem and there is a current quality campaign. I'm not aware of either.

 

If you want to talk this through then pm me with details and I'll call you.

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Thank you very much for your replies. I have booked the car in with my local VW garage just for a diagnostic check to verify what my garage are saying. It can't hurt to get a second opinion? I will let you know how that turns out.

 

Thank you very much for your kind offer of help/advice heliosuk. I will let you know what VW have to say when I take the car in next Wednesday.

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If you're in reach of Epping then I can really recommend PMW who are based there. The owner ( he's expanded a lot since he first started) was a mechanic I used to work with and is one of the old school. He's predominantly BMW and Merc based but is fortunately one of the few technicians/garages I rate as 5 star today. This is based on technical ability and his open and honest way of getting around the problem.

 

Like before, see how you get on at the VW dealership and let me know. Do not allow them to charge more than an hour for this type of diagnosis work.

 

Personnaly I don't think the problem is that big. Far too often do techs get confused by codes these days.

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You say you trust the garage where you usually take your cars, but you are taking it to another for a diagnostic so that means there are doubts in your mind on the quality of advice offered.

 

I would be interested to know why he suspects piston rings and a computer readout by VW won't say the same thing, so don't expect confirmation of that being the problem.

If it should be piston rings, then unless there is a build fault with the engine, I would be very suspicious of the recorded mileage. As heliosuk says very unusual but not impossible.

 

I'm a great advocate of 'try the cheapest thing first' and an additive is certainly that, so nothing wasted there. You don't cure problems by replacing things until you eventually find the fault, and to replace the coils is an expensive first try.

 

The error came up on the computer as a misfire and to rectify it the replaced the coil pads. They needed replacing anyway but this did not fix the problem. I wasn't too worried about the cost of this because it wasn't very expensive and they needed replacing anyway.

 

As changing them made no difference, they obviously didn't require changing. Why do you say they need replacing anyway?

 

Next time they took it in and found out that one of the three pistons in the engine is broken. In laymans terms, apparently it is a compression problem where not enough air is going into the piston which is then not lighting the spark to the engine so I'm effectively running on a third less power. Apparently the piston rings are stuck together.

 

That is a typical amateur mechanics baffle the customer response.

Without stripping the engine, they cannot justify any problem with the pistons, did you have a written compression readout? If they did do a compression check, a low reading in one of the pots does not say "piston rings", it says low compression and further investigation is required to find out why.

 

Sorry but I think you should move on to another garage, you are getting too familiar with this one.

Edited by Conniff
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I'm taking it to VW as I have been advised to by many people more knowledgeable that me (not just on here) that it would be sensible to get a second opinion. I don't doubt the quality of the advice offered from my usual garage - they have helped me with a number of different problems throughout the years and have always fixed things and at a reasonable price, this is the first time they have been puzzled.

 

I guess if one thing should have been done differently it had to have been that they shouldn't have replaced the coil pads or at least not charged me for changing them as it didn't fix things, although it did improve the problem. Since they have been changed the engine has not misfired but the EML light is still always on. I think because changing the coil pads did not fix the problem they have been very willing to try other things and haven't charged me for anything since even though it has been in and out of the garage whilst they try to figure things out.

 

It does sound rather baffling what they are telling me, and I hardly understand a word of it, you're right about that. And I am taking it do a VW garage to avoid becoming too familiar with them - if VW tell me something completely different is wrong with with the engine I will know that they are a lovely bunch of guys but don't know much about engines, and if VW confirm the problem is what they have said it is (or something similar) then my faith in them will be restored.

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OK, well I took the car to my local Volkswagen franchise and guess what? They've said the problem is wait for it....the coil packs! I suppose in a way it's good because I have a three month warranty on parts from my local garage so I can get them to replace them again. I'm just wondering why the problem wasn't fixed when my garage replaced them before.

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Well, my local garage have replaced the coil packs again and it has not fixed the problem. I'm really confused. If anything this makes me believe what they are saying about the pistons because VW have got it wrong initially as well. Any ideas?

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OK Blinky, here's what to do. It would seem your local garage are on the ball , VW have come up with the same thing as originally diagnosed.

 

The first thing is to ask them to go back to basics in that they need to do a compression test. The results should be within 5 to 10% of each other on an engine such as this. If all ok then great, if not then they should do a leakage test to determine where the compression leak is. Each cylinder needs to be at TDC when the test is carried out. By listening to the rocker cover oil inlet (oil cap) the inlet manifold a hissing sound will be heard which will determine where a compression fault is.

 

Now this is all very interesting as there are a load of other factors that can affect it and cause the problem you have.

 

As the original garage are suspecting a low compression where i have described how to confirm it they then need to look as to why. On the assumption as what they have originally said about the compression they need to look for the reason why. The chances of piston ring stick on an engine of this type is extreamly remote but would cause the same fault code to display.

 

My gut feel with this one is that you have a faulty injector which is overfueling, washing the bore for the low compression and wetting the plug so it cannot fire correctly. From my knowledge of these systems, the misfire will record first.

 

It's not also beyond the realms of possibility, as this has happened to me a few times that the plugs, even though new are faulty.

 

Misfire codes just tell you a misfire and will record a fault in the coil packs without telling the technician why.

 

Conniff's opinion would be valued here.

 

As a quick resort I'd change the plugs and then go more indepth as above.

 

I really don't think this is as serious as might seem. Annoying yes, but I can't see it being terminal.

 

Like before, offer to talk you or the garage is open.

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I certainly agree with all the above and as the new coils have eased the problem then this points away from piston rings.

 

No one seems to be looking at it like a mechanic. Have the plugs been changed, has a compression check been carried out? I wouldn't let anyone go any further and bill you for other work/guesses until I had those readings. It's only a ten minute job.

 

If there is blow past the rings, you will definately feel it if you remove the oil filler cap or even the dipstick.

Edited by Conniff
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I know for sure that my garage suspect a compression problem. They have changed all the plugs. To be completely honest, I can't say for sure if changing the coil packs has improved the problem even though I haven't had the major problems I had before because I'm driving the car differently now than before they were replaced (i.e. keeping the revs higher when idling).

 

They have told me they have changed the plugs. They have also carried out a compression test and I gave them the print out of what VW gave me after I took it to them and have told me they are going to ring VW on Monday to discuss it further. I saw the result of the compression test stapled to the print out I gave them from VW and I wish I'd taken notice of what they were now but to be honest it goes out over my head anyway. It's all very confusing for me and I feel I just have to put my trust in them. I will mention what both of you have said when they cal me on monday.

 

Thank you for your advice.

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Blinkey, you need to tell us exactly what it says on the read outs. As conniff says, it's now looking unlikely a ring issue but as I say there are many other things that can cause the same issue. It seems more and more likely that there is a fueling problem here. Can you give us the code readouts for example? They will be on a print out.

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OK here's an update. (Helios - I do not have the read outs that VW gave me as I gave them to the other garage when I took the car back to get the coil packs replaced again and forgot to ask for them back - stupid I know).

 

The other garage called Volkswagen on my behalf yesterday to discuss the issue, told them of the compression tests they did showing that there is a significant compression problem in cylinder 3, and VW now accept that the problem is a sticky piston on cylinder 3 of my engine, which is what my original garage suspected from the outset (after replacing the coil packs didn't work). Here are my problems:

 

1) The work is going to cost an estimated £1500

2) VW assured me there was less than a 5% chance this could be the problem the other week when I took it for a diag test - they told me the oldest car this had ever happened to in their experience was 2001! (Obviously they could tell I was looking dubious when they told me the problem was the coil packs after they'd already been replaced).

3) VW have charged me £50 for a diagnostic test that did not even diagnose the problem. Am I entitled to have this money back?

4) My car is 1 year out of warranty.

 

BIG PROBLEMS...Please could anybody offer me advice of where to go from here? My car has been serviced regularly, driven carefully and only done 27K miles. This should not have happened, it can't be a wear and tear problem, surely?

 

I want to write VW a letter of complaint but I'm not sure what to say and where to send it to...Do I send it to my local VW franchise or VW UK?

 

My partner is this close to spending 15K on a brand new VW transporter but now we're not so sure! I have never had a VW before and prior to this it was the only car I'd ever wanted since I passed my test so to say I am disappointed is an understatement. The irony is that I replaced my little old banger citroen saxo with this car so I could have something a little bit more reliable...

 

I would really appreciate any words of wisdom or suggestions of what to put in my letter. I'm sorry as well for not being able to explain things as well as would be helpful.

 

Jess

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This seems very unfortunate blinky and if it is correct you have been extreamly unlucky. Your local garage seems to be the best bet here. What needs to happen next is for them to do a leakage test. The equipment for this they will either have or not. However, a quick way of doing it is to get them to break out an old spark plug and weld a male air line connector to it. Then get them to put the engine on the affected cylinder TDC and connect the air line. By removing the air filter assembly and the oil filler cap they should be able to hear the air escaping either through the inlet valve and through the manifold or down the side of the piston or even the exhaust valve. This will confirm why the loss of cylindr pressure occurs.

 

In relation to getting the money back from the VW dealer, this would be a no no as they have carried out the work which confirmed your local garages thinking.

 

You could try writing to customer services at Milton Keynes for assistance but the replacement engine/short block will have to be done through a VW dealer. I wouldn't go through the usual route of threatrening this and that which is often seen on this forum but send evidence that it has been serviced regularly and ask for assistance as it is to be considered an abnormal failure. I'll try to get you the name of someone you can approach directly there as generally a lot of these customer service centre people are not employed by the manufacturer and work to strict guidelines such as don't give anything away!!

 

Keep us informed won't you.

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Thank you very much for your offer of help helios - I will of course keep you updated. Unfortunately I work in the customer service department of a well known insurance company so I know how difficult this is going to be! On the other hand I know a good complaint letter from a bad one so hopefully that might work in my favor. We'll have to see...

 

I feel so disheartened because this has never happened to me before and I feel like I've done it all wrong! I'm nearly £200 out of pocket already and my cars not even fixed! So frustrating.

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I doubt you will get the diagnostic fee back from VW as they did what you asked and gave you the result; but it's worth asking.

The main problem then is the low compression. Is your garage 100% certain it is the piston rings that are stuck and not a sticking or burnt valve? Assuming they are certain it is the piston rings there are other cheap solutions to try before spending £1500. For instance take the spark plug out of the offending cylinder and pour in some thin oil through the plug hole. Leave for 24 hrs to soak in. Then start the engine up on the three remaining cylinders (i.e. spark plug still out) to expel excess oil. Refit spark plug and have a thrash up the motorway. As the engine is young, if the rings have stuck then it must be due to carbon fouling. Soaking in oil may free them up again. If you can try this yourself so much the better as I doubt your garage will be interested in 'messing around' for a cheap solution but you should ask them why they believe it is the piston rings and not a valve.

I note in your first entry you say 'It has been serviced twice in its life, once at 17K and again at 22K' !!! 17K is way too long to go without a service and the oil should have been changed at around 5K ideally (even though some service schedules say 10K, that is really too long) . In view of this and the fact you have not had it serviced at Vauxhalls, I would suggest complaining to them is pointless.

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Good idea to release the rings if that is the issue ed gasket . By the way, it's a VW Polo so saying it's been serviced at Vauxhalls might be a just a bit of a problem!!

 

Having said that, the block exemption rules do not preclude a vehicle being serviced outside of the network provided "equivalent quality parts have been used".

 

Therefore it's still worth a pop at VAG in Milton Keynes. I still can't see it's a sticking ring problem.

 

As I say before, a leakage test is necessary to determine why this individual cylinder is down on pressure. I'm still not convinced by the readings at the moment. A stuck injector could cause it and would be concurrent with an engine used for town work. A properly conducted leak test would confirm exactly what is going on.

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Hi,

 

Sorry I meant to say I have had it serviced twice, just looked in the service schedule and its been serviced by the previous owner at about 7k by VW. I didn't get it serviced at Vauxhall, I got it serviced by my local garage who do use VW parts.

 

On monday I will ring them because I need to make a list of what exactly has been done to it diagnostic-wise that has directed them towards this conclusion so I can put it in my letter. At this point I will ask them about conducting a leakage test if they have not done so already and if they have I will note the results of that as well and let you know.

 

Jess

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