October 23

2002 VW Eurovan Timing Chain



Mark: it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience and 25 times they've won best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. We're talking cars. How you doing, Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is, we're going to Europe. We're going in a Eurovan, a 2002 VW Eurovan. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: So this vehicle came to our shop. It had the check engine light on. It was running very poorly, engine making some noise, rattling kind of noises. And there was a number of codes stored, basically the check engine light was on. So that's kind of what brought it in. Bad noise and poor performance. 

Mark: So walk us through the testing and diagnosis that you do when a car comes in. 

Bernie: Yeah, so for something like that, of course, it's a matter of listening to the car and hearing the sound from the engine. We kind of figured possibly a timing chain kind of issue. These engines do have that sort of issue. It's a 2.8 VR6 engine. Timing chains are an issue in them. And of course we hook a scan tool up, see what codes there are and kind of verified the timing chain had some issues because a lot of the codes that were stored were cam and crankshaft correlation codes.

So this uses variable valve timing. There are sensors on the camshafts. There's two cams and the crankshaft and it senses, are these in the right timing? And if it's not, then it'll set codes in the system. And of course, once those start setting often can be a timing chain problem or some kind of cam gear issue or something like that.

So we knew there was a pretty serious problem with the engine. Plus the noise is bad. That was kind of our procedure. So next step was basically we need to access the timing chains and you know, have a look at them and then likely that would be the problem, like a either skip timing chain or something worn out bad gear, perhaps.

Mark: So this is the fat straight six basically that are, the pistons are sort of offset from each other to try and squeeze them in. So it's not a V six. It's a little and it's not a straight six. So how is it getting to the timing chain in this because it's pretty cramped in a Eurovan. 

Bernie: Yeah, the timing chain is actually located on the back of the engine which is similar to a lot of other Audis. Yeah, I like your facial expression there. A lot of other Audi and VW engines use the same kind of technology. They put the timing chain in the back of the engine, which means you have to pull the transmission out to access the timing chain. In the case of this vehicle it's basically drop the engine and transmission assembly, take the transmission off.

And then you've got the timing chain. So right off the mark, you've got an incredible amount of labour to do the job as opposed to an engine where the timing chain is accessible from the front of the engine. 

Mark: So what kind of parts did you end up replacing? 

Bernie: Let's look at some pictures and then we can start talking about some parts here.

Mark: I guess the one thing that occurs to me is that when you've got the transmission out, do you look at the pressure plate and the clutch and all that stuff too. I'm not sure. Is this an automatic? 

2002 VW Eurovan Timing Chain

Bernie: This was an automatic. I mean, we do look at those kinds of things to make sure the flywheel and the ring gear is all in good shape and there's nothing else wrong with that.

So yeah, absolutely. Those are things we definitely look at. This vehicle, you know, when we took it out, the alternator actually had a broken one of the ears off the alternator, the mounts, the alternate was broken. So the owner of the vehicle actually sent it out himself, he had someone who could fix it for him. It's apparently had a special alternator, so it wasn't readily available. 

But those are the kind of things you do when you pull an engine out like this. Here we're looking at the top of the engine, but we found a few breather hoses that were cracked and split, which is kind of typical for, you know, Volkswagen, once they get to this age for a lot of cars.

So here we're looking at the top of this VR6 engine. There's an engine cover that goes on top. So you wouldn't normally see this when you pop the hood, but underneath you can see the, I'm just moving my mouse point around. These are the ignition coils here. So you can see they're kind of staggered.

So this is how they do the VR6. Like you said, it's kind of a straight 6, but it's a V. I think it's a 15 degree V bank engine. It's really, I think from an engineering perspective, it's pretty cool how they do these. And that W12 that Volkswagen has used in some models, which is basically like 2 of these engines put together.

Never taken one apart. Actually, I don't know if we've ever even worked on one in our shop. They're exceptionally rare, but it's a pretty cool concept. Taking this and going one step further. But anyways, that's sort of the top view of the engine. Let's get into some other pictures here.

So with the timing chain cover off. So, I think you asked what parts we changed. 

2002 VW Eurovan Timing Chain

Mark: Yes. 

Bernie: Yeah. There's two timing chains. We replaced both chains. We replaced all the guides and the tensioners. And then we replaced this gear here, this little small gear here. I've got a closer up picture, but if you look at the teeth of this gear, they were actually worn out really badly.

The timing chain had actually skipped teeth. So the owner was really lucky that it didn't skip a little more because otherwise there would have been piston and valve collision and much more expensive repair, probably, you know, maybe a complete engine replacement at that point.

It would have been a horrifically expensive job. Just a couple of things to while we're looking at the side. So this cover, we removed to do the more of the timing chain work to sort of the initial removal, but these are the sensors for the camshaft positions or these may be the sensors here. Yeah, these are the actuators for the variable valve timing. These are the cam position sensors up here that I'm moving my mouse pointer around to.

So next picture. So as I mentioned, that gear was badly worn. You can see the arrow pointing down here. I should have taken a picture of the new gear, but you can just imagine these teeth sticking up to about here.

2002 VW Eurovan Timing Chain

They're, they're just incredibly badly worn. This inner gear, the teeth were okay on this. Same with the crank gear. This gear we replaced. And then, as I mentioned, the chains and the guides. This is one of the guides here. There's another one here. There's couple of guides, couple of tensioners. Lots of bits and pieces. 

This is the other interesting view of this too. So this is the view of the top of the engine. You can see the camshaft lobes here, spark plugs, one of the spark plug tubes here. If you look really carefully at this timing chain, you can actually see it sort of sits on an angle.

2002 VW Eurovan Timing Chain

It's not straight. Can you see that? 

Mark: Yeah. 

Bernie: Yeah. And so, I mean, this is how badly worn the chain was. It's actually kind of skewed. Now, if you look at the the replacement much straighter. 

2002 VW Eurovan Timing Chain

Mark: Right. 

Bernie: I sort of try to figure out it. it's not really that the gears were worn, but just the chain itself had been running so long in a weird position that it just kind of wore out. And I think this guide has got a bit of an angle to it as well. This is actually a tensioner here as well, this piece. So this, again, I'm moving my mouse pointer around. This is the one of the variable valve timing cam gears.

We sort of suggested the customer to replace them because they were old, but they're exceptionally expensive for this engine and hard to get. So we ended up putting it back together with it. You know, there is a risk that there could be some valve timing problems if these gears don't quite operate.

They have oil filled chambers and they change the valve timing. So hopefully it'll be all be okay. But time will tell. 

This is that with that cover off. Again, you can see the new chain here. And I think that's it.

Mark: Pretty normal wear and tear?

Bernie: Yeah, this vehicle is, so we're looking at 21 years old now. I think this thing has over 200,000 kilometres on it as well. So it's got some pretty good, pretty good age. I'd say normal wear and tear. You know, timing chains have been an issue on this VR6 engine for a long time, but these newer generation, I say newer generations, one of the variable valve timing seemed to be more durable than the older ones that didn't have the variable valve timing.

They were simpler, but they seem to be more problematic. So that's a good thing. You know, you really don't want to be doing that timing chain job on any of these engines ever, but you know, the less, the less frequent, the better. 

Mark: So how did it run after all the repairs? 

Bernie: Yeah, it's good. The owner did say the check engine light did come on and there actually was a code the next day for a exhaust timing issue. But as I mentioned, we did not change those gears, so we don't know how that's going to shake out over time, but it runs perfectly well. So you know, the owner had made a choice there not to change those gears.

And so that might end up being something that could create an issue. But we'll see how it goes. It runs perfectly. There's no noises, you know, it's safe to drive it, which is good. Cause you know, the other one with that, especially with that gear, it didn't have, he's lucky again, you know, the next start of the engine could have been the end of it.

Mark: Yeah, so is there anything that the owner could have done to get more life from the timing change? 

Bernie: Well, I think, you know, frequent oil changes that we talk about are really important. There was some sludge buildup in this engine and I can't say whether that's normal amount, you know, we don't really know the history of it's 20, 21 years of history.

We don't know how the oil has been changed and how well it was maintained. So I mean, not severe sludge, you know, but just probably normal for the age of the engine, but you know, really, the key is just frequent oil changes. You know, if the maintenance schedule says 10,000 kilometres, do them at eight.

You know, there's certain cars where that the schedules, especially European cars, they put synthetic oil in and think you can go for 25,000 kilometres and it's a recipe for disaster. So frequent oil changes. That's about all you can do. But other than that, those parts will just wear on their own sort of timeframe.

Mark: So 21 years old Eurovan. I'm sure the owner probably loves this vehicle. Otherwise, he wouldn't be keeping it going. With this kind of expensive repair. Was it worth repairing in your opinion? 

Bernie: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, they're good vans. Especially the camperized versions. I mean, these vehicles are actually got a fair bit of value. Even at this age. So you know, the camperized versions, this thing may have been camperized. You know, it's funny. I didn't even really look to see, but you know, like the Westfalia versions are certainly worth a lot. So they're worth keeping. 

Mark: And how reliable are they? 

Bernie: I'd call them fair. I mean, they're, they're a lot of expensive things to fix on them. And they're fiddly. But they're generally pretty reliable. And sometimes I think reliability is something that happens over a long timeframe. It's not just you know, the first year or two, you know, it's how long, how good is it over the years? And so I think generally they're pretty good, but again, you know, maintenance is key.

You want a reliable car. Keep your maintenance up, change your oil, change your fluids, make sure the battery's good. Those sort of things. All those things make a big difference to keep your cost down over a long period of time. 

Mark: You're looking for service for your Eurovan or any VW product in Vancouver. The guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website. You can book there at pawlikautomotive.com, or you can call to book at (604) 327-7112. You have to book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. You can check out on the website, we've got over a thousand videos on there, all makes and models and types of repairs over 10 years of doing this as well. You can check out the YouTube channel and we appreciate you watching and listening. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. And thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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