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2004 New Beetle shuts off while driving!

My 2004 2.0L beetle has started shutting off when I drive it down to Phoenix. By way of detailed information, I live at 4500 ft and it’s often 10-15 degrees cooler up here than in Phoenix. It takes me approx 2 hours to get to Phoenix and the problem starts with a hesitation just about when I am ready to exit the highway. Btw, speed limit here is 75 and I go 85 with the a/c on. mileage 70K–mostly highway miles.

So, the car starts hesitating when I’m exiting the highway and by the time I’ve made it through a few stop lights, it’s out and out threatening to stall or just shutting off. I’ve had it happen a few times when I was trying to turn left in front of oncoming traffic! Needless to say, this is scary.

It’s been at the dealer now three separate times. The first time the dealer did a fuel injection service and the problem seemed to go away (but I didn’t drive back down to Phoenix until the fall, when it was a bit cooler). The next time (early June), we tried the fuel injection service again and it seemed to work, that is until I drove back down there three weeks later and it did the stalling and shutting off thing again. The dealer has now had the car for over a week and keeps on saying that they cannot duplicate the problem. They’ve been driving it with a fuel pressure gauge and they don’t see anything there.

I need help. I’ve googled this and found that there were many people with this problem, but I don’t see any solutions or even any one answer. So far I’ve seen the following as suggestions (ECM, MAF, cam sensor, ignition coil, fuel pump relay, relay 109, fuel cut relay, engine speed sensor and the overall idea that this car is a lemon).

Does anyone have anything concrete that might help me? I’m a teacher, on a limited budget and very worried.



If you are under warranty I would have it checked the next time you are in pheonix. I would especially have them check the timing. You may be able to solve the problem by filling up with a higher octane gas before descending into pheonix. It sounds like everything is set perfectly for your altitude, but problems ensue with changes in altitude. What is the elevation difference?

It’s not under warranty anymore. :frowning: It’s been at the dealer for almost a week now; I’m in their loaner. I will certainly take your advice and ask them to check the timing.

As for elevation, the difference is about 3000 ft, give or take a few hundred feet. I bought the car down there and it has been okay until last summer. It seems to have something to do with the heat??

Thanks for your ideas, Waterboy.

In the way olden days it used to be necessary to adjust the timing for driving in high altitudes. Lower Octane gas works better in higher altitudes than lower. If your temperature gauge does not vary or warning light does not come on it is something else besides temp. If you usually use the 87 octane try the 89 from a major brand next time before you go to Phoenix.

This problem haunted my beetle forever. Everyone and his brother had a recommendation. I changed the fuel pump, filters, fuel pressure regulator, the MAF sensor, engine speed sensor, replaced the factory airbox with a K&N, kept stalling… turns out the problem was something that not a single mechanic thought of, and that no diagnostic tool hooked up to your computer would find: sludge in the gas tank. Over time, the lining in the gas tank wears, creating a sludge. This is usually not a problem until you run below a certain level. For me, this is when the gas gauge goes below half. The solution would be to have the entire fuel system cleaned, which I did, but you have to get the tank pumped and cleaned too. Otherwise, the sludge remains. The temporary fix for me, was to never let it go below half. I hope that helps!