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1983 Rabbit with issues (redux)

The original problem I posted here was that my Rabbit was having a hard time starting and it seemed to me that it was not getting fuel to the engine. After a number of helpful replies and some more invasive poking I have chased the source of the problem to be the relay panel, I think. I have found that if I poke and jiggle the relay panel the engine will become more or less happy and seems directly related to how much it wants to start at any given moment. My question now is do I spend $160 and wait a week for a new panel or can I fix the panel myself? Any ideas or insight is greatly appreciated.

After I chase this ghost out of the wires maybe I will start thinking about the one that lives in the tach.

Is this the relay box under the hood?
I’m totally not familiar with '83 Rabbits, but every car that I am familiar with has a starter relay in the relay/fusebox under the hood. It’s a relay that enables the circuit for the starter solenoid. It may also have other circuits involved that are necessary for starting, such as the fuel pump and/or security system circuits. Is this the box that you’re alluding to? It’s possible that the contacts have fried over time. In every car I’m familiar with the relay is changeable as a seperate entity.

I’d check out the individual relays before I replaced the panel.

The relay panel is under the dash. I tried replacing the fuel relay (because that was where the issue seemed to be) and it did not fix the problem. It seems that wiggling the fuel relay affects whether the car wants to start/run.

Have you replaced all the individual fuses? They can look good but be intermittant.

This is a common problem with VWs of that era . The relay panel is often behind a protective cover that lets it overheat . My 80 Scirrocco had this problem and I solved it by removing the cover .
You might also have a slight leak at the windshield that allows a drip onto the relays and causes corrosion .

Have you asked around VWVortex for the best place to get the replacement panel?

I think this problem is the one I referenced previously about the fuse panel burning due to fuel pump load.
Did you drop the fuse panel (easy to do, one screw) and check that white connector on the outside end for burning as I mentioned?

There’s a workaround for this problem that is easy to do.

ok4450, I did drop it and could not find anything obviously amiss. As I was fidgeting with the panel I noticed the effect on the engine. I plan on having it apart again tomorrow so I will certainly look again. I am interested in the work around, especially if it saves me from having to buy a whole new fusebox.

The fuse boxes did have a tendency to burn up internally as the tiny pin connectors would get done in by the high current draw of the fuel pumps.

To bypass the fuse block do this. Here’s a pic of the stock pump relay located on the upper right of the block. Note the one blade that runs horizontally whereas the others run vertically.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Beck-Arnley-203-0003-Fuel-Pump-Relay-/251091369865?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&fits=Make%3AVolkswagen|Model%3ARabbit&hash=item3a76363f89&vxp=mtr

With a pair of pliers bend that horizontal terminal outwards and plug it back into the fuse block. You should see the terminal protruding out from under the edge of the relay.

With the fuse block dropped down (remember, one screw and it’s only hanging by a couple of nubs) look back behind the block and you should see a connector in there that was once clear but is now probably yellow due to heat. There should be 3 wires (all green with black tracers if memory serves me right) and that is the pump wiring connector.

Make a jumper wire about a foot or so long with a couple of female spade connectors on each end. Plug one end onto the exposed relay terminal and the other into that yellowed connector after removing the single wire that runs to that connector from the fuse block. This will bypass the fuse block/connectors entirely and should never be a problem again.

I used to do these all of the time and got to where I could do them in 5 minutes or so.

You might examine the radio antenna grommet inside of the left front fender also. There were some problems with rain water leaks past the grommet and into the fuse block connectors. Your car should be fine, but if it looks shaky goop it up with some RTV silicone.
Some of the cars with manual transmissions have been known to take off cranking on their own during a thunderstorm after water leaked in and shorted the starter wiring. They would usually stop when the battery was dead, the starter burnt up, or the car ran into something… :slight_smile:

Hope that helps.

ok4450: The fuel relay in my car looks a bit different than the one you linked to. I also could not find a connector back there that had just 3 wires in it, green or otherwise. I will see if I can get an image of it and the rest of the mess down there. I do not think I mentioned it prior but my Rabbit is a cabby and that might explain the differences.

A quick look at a schematic shows I was wrong on the wire color. Instead of green with black tracers it’s black with green tracers. That connector is stuffed back up in there and it may be a bit hard to see.

Look at the plug in connectors on the back of the fuse block. From my memory (which may be fuzzy) there should be a white one plugged in on the end of the fuse block nearest the door jam. That should be the one providing the fuel pump power and it’s also the one prone to burning. Unplug it, look at the side of it, and note if the plastic is melting a bit. That black/green wire I referenced should be in that connector.

Should have added that there are different styles of relays used so the appearance is not always spot on.
Anyhoo, things to do and will be back this evening sometime.