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2001 Passat Engine Gunk

Another month and another problem to be resolved. Here goes: The 2001 Passat 1.8T has had a hard life in the past year. The specifics are listed in previous posts. Most recently, the radiator was replaced because the engine was overheating again. The car has been leaking fluid ever since but it is not radiator fluid. Yesterday, I took a look at the oil and found tan gunk mixed in with the oil. I must admit that I had concerns after the fact about the shop that did the last oil change. Is it possible for mechanic to screw up the head gasket while replacing the radiator? It was fine before the repair. Is there another source to look for the seepage into the oil? Basically, the question is - Is the car destined for the graveyard because of this?

Thank You.

Tan gunk makes me think there is radiator coolent getting into the engine oil. You may notice the dipstick shows your engine is overfull from the additional water. Bottomline, your concern about a headgasket is probably accurate, though I would not expect a radiator change to be the cause. The overheating would be a another symptom of a headgastket problem besides the “gunk”

Would you be able to offer a guess as to how long the engine can last with the head gasket issue if we keep the oil changed? Just a guess.

We are trying to hold off another month before buying a car.


If the leak is small, some drivers have gone from 6 months to a year with frequent oil changes. Others have not been so lucky and have seen their engines destroyed in short order (one month or more). In other words, this is a crap shoot. A bad head gasket has to be fixed ASAP.

I would have a compression test done to determine where the leak is.

The tan gunk is coolant mixed with oil, as others have said. Your engine will not like this at all and it will cause damage to your bearings. As for how long it will last, that’s anybody’s guess. I’ve seen people drive with their engine in this condition for, what was to me, incredibly long periods of time. I recently replaced lower intake gaskets for a fellow. They were leaking coolant into the crankcase, leaving that familiar tan gunk in the engine. I told him the engine may not last too long even after the repairs were made, so start thinking about a different car. That was about a year ago and his car is still running fine, and he said his car had that issue for several months before he asked me to look at it. He says it no longer makes a bunch of noise at startup, but I’m quite surprised it has lasted as long as it has.

tires may be worth more than resale value.
Drive it till it drops, with DIY oil changes.

Hello all,
We have started looking for a new car. We took the car in for an oil change and I was surprised that the mechanic did not notice any gunk when he changed the oil.
The service manager suggested that the VW turbo has issue with condensation ( H20) getting into the system and , because of this, the tan gunk should not be a great concern. I am perplexed by this - does anyone have any thoughts on the service person’s comment? The coolant loss is noticeable although it is slow and the service manager pointed out two external coolant leaks in my tour of the car’s engine:one around the head gasket and another lower in the system. We are looking for a bit more time to gather a down payment. Should I have any optimism about the car?

Puzzled and looking for another car.


Crankcase condensation is quite common in the winter months and the dipstick tube is one of the first places it collects…You can have a sample of your oil tested for a few bucks and learn for SURE if coolant is leaking into the crankcase…Cars have been collecting “tan gunk” in their dipstick tubes ever since there have been cars…Don’t jump to conclusions based on that alone…

At this point a common over the counter coolant leak medic solution may be in you budget. Anything that promises to fix head gasket leaks. This is said with the understanding that this car will die of this condition. The only time I saw tan in oil in a car that was run every day is when I did a quick and dirty repair of a dropped push rod in a volvo. The parts stores were closed. I have had cars with coolant leaks that were helped by the common liquid repair options, none were ultimately fixed that way. You can look at 2-10k miles for a life extension.

The only thing I will add to whatever has been posted is that if there is a head gasket problem the mechanic is not the cause of it.
The overheating, and allowing it to overheat, is the cause; not the radiator replacement.