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Can't start car

I have a 2003 VW Jetta, diesel 1.9L motor, 50 mpg, 5 speed…

Last winter it wouldn’t turn over and run. My mechanic couldn’t find anything wrong and ended up cleaning out the fuel system ($$$). After less than a week it wouldn’t start again so I took it to the dealer. The mechanic said it was a dirty flap that closes for a smoother shut off when I turn off the car. So that was cleaned ($$$).
That worked for a week or so; after that I would turn the key and get silence, only dashboard lights but it would evenutally start. This happened a few times, the it wouldn’t start at all.

So it was towed back to my mechanic’s shop. He put in a new starter ($$$). I picked up the car, drove it for a couple of days and got just dash board lights, again. My mechanic now said I needed another battery (it was 4 years old).
Battery in, I biked up to my car; the car started and I drove to my daughter’s house in a neighboring city. When I was ready to leave, I got the dashboard light again!!! I had it towed to the VW dealer there.

This dealer said it was the starter and I could pay $600 or go back to my mechanic. So they got my car to start and I drove it back to my mechanic; he put in another starter. I brought the car home, again.

In the morning, I turned the key, heard the starter whirling, but the car didn’t try to start. Infact, when I took the key out, the starter continnued to whirl for another 10 minutes. then I smelled burnt rubber.

The car is back at the mechanics, the starter was fried; we are both scratching our heads with this.

I have 2 more payments on the car, is this the problem?
Do you have any other advise?

In the meantime I am at the limit of tow’s AAA will allow without a co-pay and I am driving my 1987 Dodge Ram Pickup which, at least, starts and goes.

You have an interesting one.

I suspect it is an electrical problem. However I believe you have an anti-shutter valve and that could be at least part of the problem. Check with the dealer or your mechanic and verify that your 2003 Jetta has that valve and if so, ask them to show you where it is and how to flip it off.

I have a 2002.5 New Beetle and about once every few years that valves sticks and will prevent it from starting. Once you know where it is and if it is not more difficult on your car, it takes about 30 seconds to manually unstick it. Then it is good for another year or so.

On mine I just open the hood reach into the back of the engine compartment and move a lever, it will click open and you are good to go. Keep a rag in the car to wipe your hand clean.

Note Not all years or models have this feature.

Good Luck

Yes your 2003 ALH code engine has an anti-shudder flap. Be careful if you play with it to not break the plastic linkage. You said you had this cleaned out though so if it’s sticking again so soon they didn’t do a good job. My TDI"s never stick but that is because I remove them or take other measures so that the “gunk” never starts. I would be suspicious of your ignition switch. How long have you owned this car? How many keys hang on the switchblade fob? In addition your symptoms could jive with a failing relay 109 (main power supply relay). Usually it just fails leaving you stranded but they sometimes die slowly and cause intermittent symptoms. It’s failure mode is cranking over is fine but no “ignition” or start. It’s a $10 part. I am not clear from your above desciption if this was the case every time. I think you also had a no crank condition? No crank would not have anything to do with the anti-shudder flap.


If you don’t know about it already take a look at A very good resource. Even if you don’t want to play around w/things yourself you may want to check out the regional section for your area and attend a get together (GTG) to plug into the local TDI’ers, you will be led to a good mechanic and depending on the nature of the GTG (some are social some are more work/repair oriented) you may get a proper diagnosis and maybe even a fix. At the very least you will get a few names of good TDI mechanics so that there is less guessing = less needless $$$ jobs.