December 5

2006 VW TDI Jetta, Camshaft and Lifter Replacement



Mark: Good morning, this is Mark at Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, the world famous Bernie Pawlik. They are 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. Eighteen times, as voted by their customers. How are you doing, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: We're going to talk about a ... We have a weird glitch. I'm going to freeze the camera to you. We're going to talk about a 2006 VW Jetta, a TDI. This is a unique kind of version of this vehicle that was only available in 2006, I think. Is that right?

Bernie: No, there was a few, a couple other years that I, off the top of my head I can't remember the exact, but not much as 2006. There was only two or three years in and around that.

Mark: So what was happening with this VW diesel?

Bernie: A vehicle came to our shop and it was running rough, had a lot of noises coming from the engine. It was pretty apparent within a short drive there was something pretty serious going on. You know, it had a slight misfire but there was ... You know, diesels are always noisy, but there was just this excessive noise that you could tell wasn't right with the diesel. We did some diagnostics on it, and what we found was that the cam shaft was worn very badly, cam shaft and lifters.

Mark: So what kind of diagnosis did you have to do to get the that point?

Bernie: The initial diagnostic with the scan tool, extracting codes, and off the top of my head, I can't remember all the exact codes we had. I know there was one for glow plug, which is relevant. Not relevant to the issue, but there was at least one or two misfire codes, which indicate there's a problem with the cylinders. After that, with that level of noise, it's really a matter of listening, where is the noise most present and then taking things apart. So we pulled the valve cover off and that where we discovered the cam shaft and lifters were extremely badly worn.

Mark: Okay, so what ... I've had one of these 2006 TDI Jettas that was pretty reliable. What could cause this kind of severe wear on the cam and lifters?

Bernie: There's a lot of, I wouldn't say controversy, but opinion on it is people using the wrong oil is one of them. This engine's kind of unique. It uses ... The fuel injection system in this engine uses an actual injector that's driven from the cam shaft and the high pressure fuel is actually delivered into each injector from the cam shaft. There's an extreme amount of pressure on the cam shafts that isn't present in a lot of other engines. Using the right oil, I think VW spec 505.01 is the prescribed oil. It's usually a 540, I think there's a 530 as well, but anyways, you need to make sure you use that spec of oil. Even with that, if you go too long between oil changes, that always causes excessive wear, and some people have even said that it's just the design of the engine is just vulnerable and weak, anyway. This vehicle did have over 200,000 kilometres on it, so that's a pretty fair amount of time, in all fairness, but it is a pretty common problem having these cam shafts wear. Critical to use the right oil, of course, and change your oil at the right interval.

Mark: So, I know my own TDI had over 200,000 kilometres before I traded to a 2010. Do you see this issue often with these engines?

Bernie: You know, we actually haven't seen it that often in our shop. It actually seems like a lot of the TDIs we work on seem to be a generation earlier than this, or a lot newer than this. We haven't seen a lot of this, but I'm certain that we're going to see a lot more of it, because there are a lot of these engines around, a lot of these cars, and they still have good value and worth keeping. It's out there, it happens a lot, and sometimes there's a first for everything, so this is one of our first ones with a worn out cam. But it's out there, and something to be cautious about if you're buying a used Volkswagen, make sure it's running properly and it's in good shape and well maintained.

Mark: So, an expensive repair?

Bernie: It is, yeah. It's an expensive repair. It's a lot of labor. This one needed timing belt to be replaced at the same time, too. It looked like the timing belt was very old and probably hadn't been done. My guess, the owner of this vehicle had bought the vehicle recently and it probably hadn't been very well maintained, would be my guess. Again, the key, as I said, if you're going to buy a used one, if you can buy it from someone who's got all the oil change records, and they're all done within, say 10,000 kilometres, they've all used the right oil, that would be a pretty important thing to look for. Why don't we have a look at a few photos right now. Start with our car, there's the '06, nice red TDI Jetta. We'll go right to the cam shaft. This is the cam shaft that we pulled out of the engine. Now, if you're not used to looking at a cam shaft, it's kind of, this item I'm pointing at here, this is a cam lobe for one of the engine valves, and this lobe here which is unique to this engine, drives the fuel injection pump. You have eight, it's an eight valve engine, so there's a cam lobe for each intake and exhaust valve, so there's four per cylinder. If you look, this is a cam lobe that's in pretty good shape. It's got a nice pointed end to it, but if you look at this one here, you can see the end is not quite so pointy. Some of them are ... Some of the cam lobes are not pointing at us so you don't get a good view. You can see this one here is definitely rounded off. This is one of the really badly worn ones. This one ... It's got wear, but it's still in fairly decent shape. There's also a big gouge here where the fuel injection rocker rides, and all of these had that as well. Again, a lot of wear in these areas. We're going to do a couple more close ups of the cam. This is, again a close up. This is that right cam lobe that I pointed to. You can see it's got a pretty decent point on it. That's an example of a cam lobe that's in pretty good shape. This is a cam lobe that's pretty badly worn. You can see that sort of roundness and discolouration there. That one's again not very good. What happens is ... Actually, I'll show you one more thing. This is the lifter. This is what the cam shaft pushes against to push the valve. Now, it's a little hard to see in this photograph because of the angle, but ... Unfortunately I took it on my steel workbench so it doesn't stand out so much, but this lifter, although it's got a lot of little metal scratches on it, is actually still pretty flat. But it still, it would be ... It's still worn. But this one here is severely worn. It's actually dish shaped, and it's dished so bad there's actually a hole right in the middle. It's actually worn in the middle, right through the middle. The difference between this height and that is probably 3/16 to 1/4 inch, that's how much wear has taken place on this particular lifter. There are several of them like that. That explains all the noise. That basically explains why the engine had the clacking noise, because there was so much play between the cam and the valve, that it's clacking and making a bunch of noise. Plus, it's not opening the valve properly, so the compression is lower. It's not breathing enough air and exhausting properly. That causes all the performance issues with the engine.

Mark: Like always, using the right oil is essential.

Bernie: Yeah. It really comes down to the correct oil, change it regularly. You can't prevent everything. Even really good maintenance doesn't prevent your car from having problems like this, which can happen eventually, but it's a very good way to ... It's like eating healthy and exercising is not necessarily going to guarantee you a long life, but it will generally happen, as opposed to being, smoking and drinking and not exercising and laying on the couch all day.

Mark: There are a lot of generations of TDI engines. Is this one reliable, in your experience?

Bernie: It seems to be pretty good. I said we don't seem to work on a lot of these for some reason, maybe because it's not the most common years, but besides this issue it's been a pretty reliable engine. We haven't run into a lot of problems with it. I don't know that I'd necessarily not buy one of these as opposed to something newer, but the common rail design is a little simpler. There's a little more complexity in this engine because of that cam shaft driven injector. I'd say if you can skip this generation and go with something newer, you'd probably get something more reliable.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service on your TDI Jetta in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112. Book ahead, because they're busy. You must book ahead. Or check out their website,, or our YouTube channel at Pawlik Automotive Repair. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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