October 10

2009 VW Rabbit Start Issues

VW

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Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 25 times voted best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie?  

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today we're talking about a 2009 VW Rabbit. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: So this vehicle came to our shop. The owner had some concerns, the vehicle had died while they were driving it on a couple of occasions. The vehicle sometimes wouldn't start. I wasn't clear whether, you know, it wouldn't crank over, but sometimes it wouldn't start.

So it was a bit unreliable. It had been to another shop, had the battery replaced, they brought it back, had a look at it, a couple of things, but they weren't able to fix it. The owners had kind of lost confidence in the other place and wanted another shop to have a look at it. So they chose us and that's how the vehicle came to us. 

Mark: So when that happens, what's your investigation start with? I'm assuming you start really looking into getting the client to tell you what's exactly is going on. 

Bernie: Exactly. And so asking questions and I realize that this is a big part of our business, especially as service advisors is to ask people what exactly is going on.

And I find, you know, I've been doing this my whole adult life and I got a lot of gray hair. So I've been doing this a long time you know, it's funny how many times we get a car in and I asked what I think are all the right questions. And then the technicians look at it or say even myself, It's like, Oh, I should have asked that question because I didn't actually ask all the right questions. So it's amazing how much there is. 

But you know, we really asked the questions of how does it happen? When does it happen? And if you're watching this podcast, if you're taking your vehicle into a shop, just think about all those things. When does the issue happen? Is it hot? Is it cold? Is the weather raining or is it sunny? Is it in the summertime, wintertime, you know, just all sorts of whatever you can think of when I turn right or left or faster, slower, you know, go over a bump? Anything that affects it is really useful information.

And so I asked, you know, the questions of when does it happen? How does it happen? I got sort of a pretty good idea. And the owner also told me that at one occasion, when it wouldn't start, someone had a little mini plug in code scanner and they'd scanned it. There was a code. I think it's a P0322 and so that was a useful bit of information. You know plug in scanners can, you know, any bit of information is helpful. So we had a few things to go on and that's where the procedure starts. 

Mark: So what sort of testing and diagnosis did you do then?

Bernie: So the first thing we do, of course, is try to verify the client's concern and it appeared to be intermittent. So intermittent problems are really the things we have the most problem with because it's hard to find the issue if the problem isn't happening right when we have the vehicle. And the good thing is that you noticed immediately when Jordan was working on the vehicle, went to crank the vehicle over, you could hear it go, it cranked for a long time before the engine caught. 

I go okay well, there's a problem right there. So that was a good thing. So it actually wasn't just an intermittent problem. Some of this stalling and the dying was some of the problem, but the actual fact that it cranked for a long time was an issue. So right there, we had something good to go on.

You know, the next procedure, of course, is often to scan the vehicle computer, see if there's any trouble codes. Sure enough, this P0322 code, which is an engine speed sensor circuit code, was stored. And so that gave us an area to look at and diagnose.

Mark: What did you find? 

Bernie: Well, what we found was the engine speed sensor was defective, worn out. We test the actual sensor, the resistance values were outta spec. Now the sensor could still have good resistance values and not work properly, but that was certainly something to go on. And so our first recommendation, what we always go with is, okay, this we know is wrong, so let's fix this. And you might have other problems, but let's start with this. So we proceeded to replace the engine speed sensor. 

Mark: What's the purpose of the engine speed sensor? 

Bernie: It basically tells the vehicle computer, how fast the engine's turning. Now I should have done a little more research on this because every vehicle is different, but I believe on this Volkswagen has a TDC sensor as well to where the engine is at top dead centre, but anyways, just to dumb it down. I mean, basically the engine speed sensor will will detect how fast is the engine rotating? 

Often it'll tell what position the crankshaft is in as well. So crankshaft position sensor's another term. And the vehicles will often have a camshaft position sensor to tell the computer, this is where the camshaft is. In other words, this is where the valves are opening and closing. From all that information, the computer can go, okay, this is when we need to fire the spark. This is when we need to turn the fuel injectors on. 

So, without having all the proper information, like the engine speed, for instance, the computer doesn't quite know. Hey, is the engine turning over fast enough? What speed is it going? What position are things? The computers are smart. Things are built into them on a lot of cars. It'll eventually go, okay, I think we need to start the engine now because something's happening. Maybe it's getting a signal from the cam sensor or the TDC sensor is telling it what to do. 

So it's getting some information, but not all of it. And then of course, if it loses some signals, sometimes it'll just cut out. So that would probably explain the cutting out. 

Mark: So on more modern vehicles, it's all done with sensors where it used to be all mechanically transmitted and there wasn't any computer. 

Bernie: Exactly. If we go way back to a car with point ignition and If you're young and you have no idea what that is, it's kind of worth looking at. I actually like to reminisce about stuff like that and show like my young technicians, Hey, have you ever worked on points? I mean, it was so common when you and I were younger. It was the norm. But when you think about it now and you look at modern technology, it just seems so silly. I wouldn't say it's the best we had, but it is what was there and what it was what worked for a long, long, long, long time.

Mark: So what's involved in replacing the engine speed sensor on a Rabbit? 

Bernie: Well, it's not too difficult. It's actually underneath the vehicle, bolts in and bolts out. It's in the bell housing near the transmission. So this is fortunately not a really difficult part to change. Let's just look at a couple of pictures.

So there's our 09 Rabbit. 13, 14 years old and in very good condition still. 

2009 VW Rabbit Start Issues

There's a view of the old engine speed sensor. So this is the section here, that bolts into the bell housing area. And then there's a long wire that loops around underneath. And this connects up to the engine wiring harness.

2009 VW Rabbit Start Issues

And another closer view. This is the actual sensor itself. So no physical damage. I mean, it's rare that we ever see any physical damage, but inside there are windings of usually copper wire, extremely fine. It's interesting, if you ever take these things apart, there could be a mile long piece of wire in this. It's like the size of a half this piece of a spider web thread. It's quite incredible. I don't know how they make these things. All these miraculous things we have that we just use, we don't know we even have them and we just toss them out. But nonetheless, that's kind of a view of it. I don't have a picture of where it's located, but it's at the bottom of the engine. 

2009 VW Rabbit Start Issues

Mark: So how did the car work after you replaced that part? 

Bernie: Perfect. Started immediately. So it was quite gratifying, you know, of a repair because you know, whenever I talk with a client, you go, well, we don't really know what it's going to be. And I was kind of leaning more towards, because the other shop had replaced the battery and it seemed like the issue was more of a battery or a power issue and it's nice having something where, yeah, we found the issue right away. These are the best things to find because we can see it, test it and repair it and know that it's done and fixed. It's not like, oh, you know, it stalls once a week out in the road. We're going, well, let's try this thing. And of course, then you wait for a week and it's like, yeah, it worked or it didn't work.

Mark: Would you care to speculate on why the other shop changed the battery when that really didn't have anything to do with the problem. 

Bernie: Well, my first thought is maybe the battery was actually weak and dead, you know, and that was a problem that existed with the vehicle. It might be that on the evidence and information that they had, that that's what they thought was the thing to replace.

And this, this was actually a few months ago too. It wasn't like it was done last week. So this problem had been going on for a while. So that's what I would say without knowing, I couldn't say, but you know, batteries do go bad and having a good one is important. Why, of course they didn't solve the other parts of it, I don't know. 

Mark: Yeah, maybe replacing the battery fixed the starting issue temporarily, for instance. 

Bernie: Exactly. And there may have been two problems. Or the battery was a problem at the time and fix that. And then this other problem crept up sort of shortly right after that. And it's like, well, I have a problem. So it must be the same thing. Cars are exceptionally complicated pieces of machinery, so it's like if you don't know things, and almost nobody does, even I learn, and sometimes I go I don't know how that works. I gotta learn it, but I have the basic understanding, you know, they're complicated machines. So it's easy to kind of assume one thing, and it's causing another thing.

Mark: So how reliable are 2009 VW Rabbits? 

Bernie: Yeah, they're good cars. You know, it's a good economy car. I think they're very nice. They're pretty reliable, not too problematic. You know, 2009 now is getting kind of older for a car, but I still think it's a decent vehicle.

Mark: You're looking for service for your VW products, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website, pawlikautomotive.com. Or you can call them in Vancouver (604) 327-7112. You can also check out the website as far as lots and lots of videos on there, all makes and models and types of repairs. We've been doing this for 10 years. And of course, we appreciate you watching and listening. Thanks so much, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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