Volkswagen TDI Cold Weather Issues

Tdi Diesel fuel system High Pressure Fuel Pump Failure

Happy Tuesday everyone. As you read this, my area is getting ready for a big snow storm. For the southern USA, this has been a crazy cold winter. We even seen temps as low as 8F. I know that some of you folks are cracking up right now. But for me that is record cold. With such cold weather, we have seen a huge run of issues with VW diesels. So today is a little about diesels and a mini Shop Shots, all in one. I have always had mixed thoughts on VW diesels.

Tdi Diesel fuel system High Pressure Fuel Pump FailureLike I said you are getting a mini Shop Shots today. This is a picture of the inside of the high pressure fuel pump HPFP on a TDI Jetta. While this is not a cold weather problem, we have had a run of them at my dealer. For those that think this is due to gas, I assure you none of the last 5 or 6 had gas. The metal bits in the fuel are from the gut of the pump. We have even seen a Passat TDI and a Touareg TDI with fuel system failures. These repairs run from $4000,-$8000. VW has been covering most of them so that is good for customers  **DISCLAIMER** I am not saying that VW is, or will cover this repair for you, or anyone you now.

VW TDI Cold weather kitMoving on to real cold issues with the Common Rail TDI. I posted this on Facebook last week. This is an updated charge cooler, intake pipe and some tubing. The issue is moisture freezing inside the cooler. This can prevent the TDI from starting. It can also go as far as causing major engine damage. We a Jetta at the shop now that we suspect having a bent connecting rod. It seems a small bit of ice can get up to the engine and cause the damage. Based on conversations, this is not the first one out there. I will be sure to post a picture of the damage when the engine is a part

There is one more issue I have seen that seems to plague the TDI in cold weather. That is turbo charger failure on the Common Rail TDI Passat. We had a car towed in with a glow plug light, check engine light, and no power. The faults were something related the car not having any power. (duh, it had no power) I did some checking and everything electrical checked out. Finally I removed the intake pipe and found that the compressor wheel was completely seized. It should turn freely, heck when spinning at top speed, some turbos can spin up to 100,000RPM. I do not have any pictures of that yet. I should be making the repair on Thursday.

After reading this, you must think I hate the VW TDI. That is just not true. I think the diesels are great. They have good MPG, tons of power, and are super clean. But there is no denying they are having some serious issues. The one good thing I can say is, VW has been great in taking care of TDI owners.

28 replies
  1. Pat ~ The Muscle Car Guy
    Pat ~ The Muscle Car Guy says:

    Could some of the issues with TDI’s and the cold be due to the fuel in your area isn’t blended to stay liquid at the temps you are having this year?

    The ice in the charge cooler seems like a design flaw though. Suprised that would make it into production.

    • Brandon
      Brandon says:

      That would be something interesting to investigate. As Charles said, 8F is cold for his area, but here in North Dakota we have seen about -50F temps on some mornings. I cannot help but to think what it must be like for the VW techs at our local dealer on these days.

  2. Maks
    Maks says:

    Hi Charles ! In my 2006 VW Touareg R50 V10 TDI if it’s cold below -15C,-20, after start driving about 10-15 minutes I usually have on display STOP FAULTY RUNNING GEAR, but car runs good. What could be the problem?

  3. Quillen, Robert
    Quillen, Robert says:

    Hi Charles,
    If you had told me back in the 90’s that I would be driving a diesel power car, I would have told you that you are crazy. Starting in 1996, we got the first two cars with diesel engines The cars were an A-3 Audi, and an A-6 Audi, both cars had the 1.9 TDI from VW. Since then we have had 6 cars with diesel engines and only one of them was not a VW engine. That one car was a Citreôn with a 2 liter turbo. Living here in Germany we have during the winter cold spells that go down to -25°F and sometimes in Austria as low as -20°C. In all the years I have never had any problems with the VW diesel engines. This could be that we have a winter diesel and a summer diesel fuel, the winter fuel has less Paraffin, too prevent the fuel from congealing during cold weather. A second problem could arise when the customer doesn’t let the glow plug light extinguish on it’s on, but tries to start the car before the glow plugs have heated the combustion chamber.
    As for the Timing belt, during the normal service intervals the belt is normally inspected for any abnormal wear. When abnormal wear is found or in one case that we had, the span roller bearing had failed which damaged the belt (found during the service inspection), either case would be a cause, resulting in early replacement.

  4. Max
    Max says:

    My wife took her 2012 Passat TDI to the dealer with the CEL and glow plug indicator lit up and no power this week. The dealer removed the turbo and said it seemed to still spin freely but VW told them to replace it anyways. We are currently waiting for the dealer to get a new turbo and replace it. I understand this is not an isolated failure on these models. Even though according to the dealer the turbo had not disintegrated, should I be concerned that bits of metal from the turbo have made their way into other parts of the engine? The dealer did mention having to flush the oil system. I understand some models have had multiple failures and I’d rather not have to pay for a third turbo when the car is out of warranty. My 2002 GTI has 132k miles and never an issue with the turbo.

  5. Brandon R
    Brandon R says:

    I purchased a 2013 Passat TDI and I love the car. I’m almost at 20K and not a single problem. But I have to admit I almost wish I never checked out some of the forums where the turbo failures are being discussed and mass panic seems to be the order of the day. I think your the guy to ask here. Is the failure rate really alarmingly high or is it being blown out of proportion? Just hoping you will shed some light on what you have seen come through the shop.

    This is my first VW and so far so good. I am fairly mechanically inclined so I’m not afraid of the extra services and feel like I stay on top of things with my cars so I don’t mind to pay the price to have a “drivers car.”

    I just stumbled onto your site a couple days ago and want to say that I really enjoy it and I hope you find the time to keep it going. I will be checking in regularly for updates. I’m a factory heavy repair tech for a Japanese car company at the assembly plant and I really can relate to a lot of the things you blog about. Keep up the good work.

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      Hey Brandon, let me give you some thoughts on this.

      1) Always take forum stuff with a grain of salt. There are a lot of razor sharp folks on most forums. But, for every one of those folks, there are a bunch of folks that could not fix a sandwich.

      2) There have been a fair amount of failures. Most have been low miles, under 20k. That is just what my experience has been. I don’t have the exact numbers.

      I am glad you are loving your car. If you ever want to really see how much MPG you can get, let me know. A great friend of mine is a world record holder hyper miler. You might not want to get that into it, but he can give you a few pointers. Plus he LOVES LOVES LOVES the Passat TDI!

      On the point of you being a heavy repair tech. How would you like to be on my interview series “Behind the Wrench”? That is a place I have not found any one on. Let me know what you think.

      • Brandon R
        Brandon R says:

        Thanks for giving me a little peace of mind about my new Passat. I bought it with the intention of keeping it for a long time and I hope it does not give me a reason not follow through with that plan. I find what some of these hypermilers can accomplish pretty amazing. I would also be up to for some good tips. I have the DSG instead of the manual which I’m sure costs me big time in that department but I lost that battle with the wife when we were looking at them.

        I was reading through your “Behind The Wrench” section and I would be happy add to it. We do things a little different than the your traditional mechanic and it might be interesting to some people.

      • Mark Dischinger
        Mark Dischinger says:

        I have a 2014 VW TDi Passaet. I had a 2012 Passat TDi too. I get a lick out of trying to get over 60mpg average and have accomplished a few times. I would be interested in the tips to see if there is something I haven’t

  6. Jesse M
    Jesse M says:

    Charles, Just found your site and really enjoying reading some of the blogs, I recently purchased a 2014 Passat TDI DSG. Was curious what you thought after 50 highway miles do you always wanna let the car stabilize and get the exhaust temperatures down on a hot day before powering off. And If you were in the position currently of owning the Passat TDI would you go ahead and purchase the Extended Warranty knowing what you do about the future of these turbos.

  7. Elaine MacRae
    Elaine MacRae says:

    Really upset right now about my 2010 VW Golf,diesel. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. This fall my car was slow to start on a number of occasions. I mentioned this to the dealer 2 – 3 times when I was in for other service. They made note of it on the work order but really did not address the issue with me and did not indicate they had done anything about it.
    About a week ago it would not start at all. I called the dealer who said they were ‘swamped’ with work and could not see me for a number of days. I called CAA who started it for me and explained that VW is having serious problems with some of their diesel models.
    After my car started, I drove in to see my dealer. He was totally evasive with me until I finally confronted him at which time he admitted VW is indeed having troubles. He said they have to witness the problem themselves, and once it starts for me, it will no longer occur that day. I said I would be happy to arrange to leave it with them for a number of days until they can diagnose the problem.

    We booked an appointment for the next week. The engine light came on before the appointment .
    When I met with them later on the day of the appointment, they said there was ice in the engine which was then forced ‘through’ when I had it started, resulting in the rod being bent.
    Now, they would need to get approval from VW, take it in for a 2 day operation to repair the engine and install the ‘kit’. The kit is an attempt to deal with the problem, not a guarantee!

    They do not supply a car while it is being repaired.

    I asked if there is going to be a recall. They said, no, because it is only happening in Eastern Canada due to the fluctuation in our temperatures and moisture. Having read this site and others, I now know this is not true!

    I am very upset!
    If they had been up front when I told them about the problem, we would not being dealing with a bent rod etc.

    And now, based on what I am reading, this repair may not even solve the problem.

    I think it is time to bring more attention to this problem!!

    • Mark Tescari
      Mark Tescari says:

      I am experiencing the exact same issue here in Michigan! Still in a fight with VW over it. Car is still at the dealer where they can’t figure out what is wrong with it. 2010 tdi Jetta wagon. Iced up intercooler replace with new design “cold weather intercooler.” $1042.92 later and the car didn’t even make it home with out stalling at a red light! Started right back up and ran fine until the next day. Same issue happened 3 out of the 4 times the car was used post repair. Doubt it’s ice in the intercooler because the new intercooler Kit was installed. By the way, my car has had the emissions fix. The reason I went with the fix was because of the extended warranty. Except now, the warranty is not being honored, at least in my opinion (which doesn’t matter to VWoA). They are telling me there was nothing wrong with the original intercooler. They have no answer when i ask them why it was replaced with a new design then? They say it is an outside influence just like if i hit a tree and ruined the engine! It’s not their fault, nor is it an engineering shortcoming!!! I had both fenders on my GTI replaced under warranty due to rust. Wouldn’t rust be considered a outside influence? My diesel needs air to run, and stay running. The low pressure EGR system puts warm, moist air into the intercooler. This moisture builds up and freezes when it gets very cold outside. Enough ice will block boost pressure and your engine dies, or at least loses boost and has no power. Major damage can happen as well.

  8. Elaine MacRae
    Elaine MacRae says:

    Thanks for being sensitive to how I am feeling, Charles.
    My car is finally going in tomorrow for 2 day surgery, no replacement car being provided. I tried to have it done during the Christmas-New Year period but they were only working certain days and didn’t want to take it in, in case they ran into complications.
    I have extended warranty but they said VW is doing the work anyway. I don’t know if they will say the same thing if I have more difficulties after this warranty expires (soon).
    I am very upset with how they have been handling the issue but am even more concerned that my difficulties may be long from over.
    Reading this site gives me grave concern. Can I really rely on my vehicle anymore?

    My last VW golf, diesel lasted me for 14 yrs and then I sold it to a young couple who was very happy with it. I waited patiently for the next generation diesel to be available and had full intention on keeping this one for an equally lengthy period of time.
    I cannot afford to just ‘get rid of this car’ ( who would buy it anyway) and buy another.

  9. Anjali
    Anjali says:

    Hi! We had weather at minus 30 yesterday up in Ottawa. This morning we tried starting our VW Golf TDI, and it kept stalling. Black smoke was coming out of the exhaust pipe though.. Is this because of the cold weather or is there something serious that we need to call a mechanic? Help please!

    Anjali- Sad VW Golf TDI owner

  10. stephanie
    stephanie says:

    Hey! I have a 04 Jetta TDI and it seems as though everytime it gets really cold the car skips and sometimes even stalls. However, when its 50.degrees or above its not nearly as big of a.problem. We cleaned out the EGR valve cause it was completely clogged which helped big time for a while but now we are back to square one. Any ideas?

  11. Jinny
    Jinny says:

    HELP! 2013 TDI Passat – No big problems until now – just small ones. Driver side door freezes in cold weather. Major squeak in front end that was a bushing replacement. Headlight stopped working and was told I broke it with a hood slam even though I never opened it…etc. etc. Now here is the kicker. Picked up the car after oil change at Dealer & check engine light was on. Next day it was off. 1 month later it is back on again and my TDI is getting horrible mileage on the tank gage (real) and computer says (mpg dash) everything is normal 39 mpg. Also, my glow light (on the dash) stopped coming on during initial starts. Took it to Dealer and they said after a 4 hour stay that my Adblue pump is “fried” because I didn’t use the VW Adblue, I used a generic Adblue which matched the Adblue spec EXACTLY. My car has power, engine light is now off, but still lousy mpg. This is the 1st time ever I have actually seen my gas needle move. YIKES! Dealer said NO WARRANTY and $1700, please. I am saying there has to be something else wrong. They also said they needed to add Adblue so they could run diagnostics on the car, but wouldn’t tell me how much they added and it wasn’t on my repair invoice. NO warning lights came on my dash to ever Adblue, but I have no doubts it was low. What’s going on here? Please shine some light on my dilemma. Thank you!

  12. Ahmed
    Ahmed says:

    I guess u r right!
    2014 passat tdi 30k just stopped on the express way when took it to the dealer they found the high pressure fule pump broken with metel and they said it will only happen if i put tegular gas by mistake so waited the sample test three days and it was clean ! When it broke down temp was -15F !! So i am assuming its a factor. They are flushing all fule system and thanks god its still under warranty.

  13. Michael
    Michael says:

    Very Touareg want start when cold it turns over for about 40 seconds then starts I have changed glow plugs but still the same many thanks if you can help Michael

  14. Dayahyah
    Dayahyah says:

    Hey there! I’m having trouble getting my 2002 VW Jetta TDI to start and I’ve had this problem since the temp got below roughly 40 degrees. As of yesterday it wouldn’t turn over all the way, and quite frequently, the oil light would blink on although the oil was at the perfect amount. My car does have almost 300,000 miles on it but I’m aware these engines tend to be amazing and can reach up to 400k Any tips on how to get it to turn over anytime soon would be much appreciated! It’s only supposed to become colder from here which only makes me more worried on wether it will start at all this winter or not:/


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