Engine spinning too fast makes for a costly repair

This car came in one day last week.  The customers complaint was “My car is making a ticking noise”.  The noise was strange, it was loud when I was standing right a the engine, but when I walked about 10 feet back, it was super loud.

Complaints like this can be really tricky. On the one hand, some engines are just louder than others, on the other, I can’t just say there is nothing wrong. Also, there are a lot of factors that play into engine noise.

  • Is the oil in the engine right, both level and quality
  • Is other maintenance up to day
  • Did the customer do something they are not telling

I spent about 20 minutes listening to the engine with a “stethoscope”(in quotes because mine is missing so I use a long screwdriver). I narrowed it down to the valve train, the upper end of the engine. Since the VW 2.0t TFSI engine is kinda strange, the initial diagnosis was pretty easy. Removing a valve allowed access to check part of the valve train.

It turns out that the lobe on the intake cam was worn funny. Further inspection revealed more damage.Two of the rockers had floated off the valves(if your not totally sure what that means, don’t worry just know its bad.)

Now that I know what was wrong, it was time to find out why. I checked the faults stored in the engine computer. The check engine light was not on, but the ECM(engine control module) still had information stored. The fault stored was for “Engine over-reving”.  That means, at some point, the engine was spinning too fast. That can cause the type of damage that I found.  The ECM has fail safes built in to prevent this from happening. The ONLY explanation is the guy missed a gear on a down shift. That would mean that he shifted from 6th gear to 3rd gear, or something like that. The engine revved to 8400RPM. Thats about 20% too fast. The ECM has no way to prevent this from happening.

Now the customer is faced with a $2000-$3000 repair on his 2010 GTI with only 16,xxx miles. Its sad to see a car that I really love need that type of repair.

What do you guys think, should he fix it? Trade it in on a new car? I would LOVE to hear what you think.



10 replies
  1. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    He should repair it. It’s still a 2010 with low mileage so it is relatively a new car. Unless he beat his car up until this point and would rather restart in a new one. The money he would lose by trading his car in (if he financed he will be losing all of the interest) is not really worth it

    That’s my feeling on this

    • Humble Mechanic
      Humble Mechanic says:

      Jeremy, I completely agree. The car is in great condition(other than the engine). He would get hammered on a trade in. I am still waiting to see what happens, I will be sure to post what happens.

  2. Josh
    Josh says:

    100% disagree with above comments. This will quickly turn into the nightmare car that is never fixed. Sure the broken part was found, but as stated the car was revved to 8400 rpms! There is no doubt other issues that will result- slightly warped parts, cracked components, etc. this car was destroyed at 16,000 miles! Unless they want to constantly be repairing items, trade it in as is.

      • Pete
        Pete says:

        Just kidd’in case it showed up on a lot when I’m shopping…compared your over-rev numbers to my CC which should be comparable gearing wise and I figure he doing around 110-115 mph when he discovered third gear again. Wonder if his forehead bounced off the steering wheel when he let out the clutch??? Amateurs, I swear!

  3. Ron
    Ron says:

    I think the guy should stick with an automatic next time.
    Right now, trading it in will only create more complaints from anyone suckered into buying it, even though the rockers and cam may get repaired.
    Who knows what else happened in that engine, transmission, clutch etc..during those high RPM’s.
    I think the guy should be responsible for fixing it, not warranty. He deliberately violated his privilege of having ANY kind of warranty coverage on it.
    I don’t think he’s ready or mature enough to own a car yet.
    These are the used vehicles that get dumped on innocent people looking for a quality built machine, and what do they get? His!
    That’s just my opinion.

  4. Matt
    Matt says:

    I know this is an old article, but trying to determine if my engine has damage from this. I let my friend drive my 2014 GTI and he hit 2nd instead of 4th while caning it up through the gears. Pretty sure he hit 8000 RPM for about half a second. Would it be obvious if my engine had damage from this?


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