Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Can tightener blow freeze plug on VW Beetle 2001

On a recent road trip from Boston to VT, my Beetle arrived in a cloud of smoke to a garage in NH. The mechanic there (not a VW dealership) repaired the water pump and timing belt. It was still leaking coolant, so I had it towed back to a VW dealership to see if the balance of the work would be covered under my 100k mi/10 yr drive train warranty. The VW service department is denying the claim, saying that the independent mechanic damaged the tightener on the timing belt which caused the freeze plug to blow. I called the independent guy who is saying that explanation makes no sense, since if the tightener was broken- the car wouldn’t run- but it did.

I need to decide whose story makes sense to decide if I pursue it with VW or with the independent garage as to who is responsible.

Whose story do you buy? Thanks, Scott

Neither one will face the music. The first place probably couldn’t check the freeze plug, what with all the water coming from the pump. I just made that up, but it may not matter what form of fiction is expressed by whoever speaks. I don’t believe that either one of those places will be held to any account. The only one who suffers will probably be you. I would say to pay up and drive on; just to save time, of course.

Can’t see the Dealer’s logic.Refer to the “Tightener” as the tensioner,more acurate.Was the “blown” part recovered? if yes any kind of marks on it? Was the car overheated? if yes this may be a explaination as to the Dealer’s position.You can’t continue to drive a car thats overheating and expect to be compensated.

Yes, I think indeed it was called the tensioner. Just to clarify, the dealer is arguing that the tensioner damaged the freeze plug, which was never found. The independent mechanic is saying that since the car started when it was at his shop, it doesn’t make sense that the tensioner was damaged, because if it was- the car wouldn’t have started.

So, I am trying to get clarity about whether the dealerships claim that the tensioner damaged the freeze plug could possibly be true. If it is, the independent will take responsibility for it (at least he said he would). If not, I will pursue it with the dealership.

So, is there any way in which the dealer’s claim be true?

Thanks, Scott

I am not asking if you think either one will take responsibility. I am trying to find out who is right and who is not. I want to know if it is logically possible that a tensioner can damage a freeze plug. The independent says it can not, since the car started and it wouldn’t have if the tensioner was damaged. The dealership is saying it can. I am trying to decide who’s argument makes sense to know with whom to pursue things… Scott

I can’t see how a timing belt tensioner could pull a freeze plug out of a engine block,there is no place for it to grip the plug,normally to remove a freeze plug you use a hammer and punch/chisel knock it sideways,grab it with a pair of pliers and pull it out.

If the tensioner wasn’t keeping the timing belt tight the potential for incorrect cam timing is real.Since you dont have a cam timing issue I am having a hard time working a inoperative tensioner into a missing freeze plug situation.Truthfully I am having a hard time comming up with any cause for the missing plug.

1 Like

“The VW service department is denying the claim, saying that the independent mechanic damaged the tightener on the timing belt which caused the freeze plug to blow.”

Yea total excrement!

tightener on the timing belt which caused the freeze plug to blow.

I don’t believe there is any thing called a “tightener” on your car. There is a tensioned on the timing belt. It however has absolutely nothing to do with the freeze plug.

I don’t know exactly were the freeze plug is on your car, so I guess it could have been in the area where the first mechanic was working, but I don’t see where he would have been bothering with it.

Am I guessing right that the warranty you are talking about is not factory provided but rather an “extended warranty” which are really third party insurance policies designed to provide large profits to the seller and the insurance company?

1 Like

I know this is a bit late but the dealership is trying to pass the buck, the freeze plug popped out somehow, which allowed the damage to the cooling pump in the first place. The independent shop should have noticed the freeze plug down near the crankshaft pulley(for the timing belt) when they took the belt cover off. The freeze plug is right above the tensioner but I can see of no way improperly tensioning the belt could cause the freeze plug to come out… especially since in this case it was already out.
Hope things were resolved properly with your local dealer.

So this reply is way late but Ive thought my recent experiences should be shared.

I recently did a self replacement of my timing belt and water pump due to a definite broken water pump.
Upon replacing everything properly and per manufacturer specs and torques, I had aquired an even worse coolant leak that I had traced back to the freeze plug directly above the tensioner.

The tensioner has a lip (of sorts) that is SUPPOSED to sit inside the freeze plug. My guess is that since freeze plugs are known to corrode, when a new tensioner is installed one runs the risk of puncturing and/or crushing enough of the plug, with this lip, to cause an additional problem.

I’ll know more after I take this plug out and install a new one, but until then I highly recommend that DIYers inspect this freeze plug when doing a water pump timing belt job and anybody who visits a mechanic for this job keeps this info in mind.


This is a real world example of why opening an old thread can be valuable.