Check engine light in VW Jetta 1.8l turbo

Greetings, I have a problem with the check engine light in my 2001 VW Jetta GLS 1.8. I bought the car about a year ago from my mechanic. He swore the car was in great shape. About three months after I bought it, the check engine light came on. I took the car in and they did smoke tests, changed some hoses and valves and charged me $800 for it. I do not know much about cars and they did not tell me the code at the time, so I’m not sure exactly what they did. A few weeks later, the CEL came on again. I found out online that it seems to be a common problem in Jettas, so I ignored it and drove with the CEL on without a problem. In Oct. my inspection sticker expired and I could not get a new sticker with the CEL on. I took the car in again and they said the air-fuel mix was too rich. They also said the car was overheating (although I never noticed) and changed the water pump and timing belt for 1,500 bucks! 2 days later the CEL came back on. The reading is P0411 - air injection incorrect flow. This is insane - I plunked down almost 2.5 grand and the light is still on! Does anyone have any advice? Am I being taken for a ride by my mechanic?

Wow. $1500 for a water pump and timing belt (if that’s all he did) sounds pretty steep, especially if it didn’t fix the problem.

You might want to look for a different mechanic. Have you checked the “Mechanics Files” on the Car Talk website for a local mechanic who’s been recommended by other people?

Note: Most code readers do not read all the possible codes and VW has quite a few of them. Was the mechanic you used a VW mechanic or a one size fits all?

Thanks for your replies. Jesmed, $1,500 included the diagnostics (smoked the system again, supposedly) and I want to say they did fix something related to the airpump - unfortunately I lost the receipt where they listed everything they did - the water pump and timing belt + labor was about $900-1,000, I think. I have been researching alternative mechanics, but I feel like these guys have already done so much, so I have to go back at least one more time and actually hold them accountable. And this relates to Joseph’s question - they are not VW mechanics, just a shop down the street. There were two codes that came up last time - one related to the car running rich, the second one I think was the same, i.e. P0411. So they obviously did not fix the problem and I think I have to go back for that reason alone. Do you guys think it’s advisable to switch mechanics at this stage?

Well, having spent over $2000 on mechanics who haven’t actually fixed the problem…yeah, I’d say it’s time to find a new mechanic. Unless you want to go back and pay them even more money not to fix the problem again…

I would not be so quick to suspect your mechanic. You bought a 10 year old used vehicle and a turbocharged one at that.
Do you like the feel of that turbocharger pull when you nail it? The prior owner(s) may have felt the same way and this leads to what one could consider to be rough driving habits.

A used car is a collection of used parts, all subject to fail at any time. The first problem cropped up 3 months after you bought it so apparently there were no problems when you laid the money down and drove off.

You’re also dead wrong by stating that a CEL is a common problem with Jettas. It’s only a common problem on abused vehicles, vehicles with more than one problem, or one that is constantly being misdiagnosed.

The air injection code may be a different problem altogether and without car in hand I can’t tell you what the problem is other than it could be an air pump failure or something as simple as a blown fuse.

I agree that 1500 could be a bit much for a water pump/timing belt job but from the reading of your post I’m wondering if that amount encompasses more than those items.

Okay, good point. I guess I’ll find someone else. Can’t get any worse.

Jesmed above is of a different opinion. I’ve given the mechanic the benefit of the doubt for quite some time now. I do realize that CEL issues are complex and the readings often not that clear. You are right in that I was not fully aware of all the additional problems that may come with a turbocharged car. I should have never bought it. I did mention that there was more to the water pump timing belt bill in one of my posts above.

The labor sounds a bit high for the 1.8 but some areas of the country have very high labor rates (San Francisco for one) and it doesn’t take very long to add up.
To find out if they’re on the up and up you might consider the following.
Find out what their hourly flat rate charge is ($) and how many flat rate hours they allotted to this. (The latter is given in a flat rate manual although there is no law that says they have to abide by the labor times as there are variables involved.)
Multiply this and see what you come up with.

While the following is not illegal, it’s unethical at best. Make sure they’re not figuring a full flat rate charge for the timing belt and another full flat rate charge for the water pump. There is a lot of labor overlap as the 2 jobs are somewhat tied together. In other words, if the book says 4 hours on the belt and 4 hours on the water pump you should not be charged 8 hours total. More like 5, etc.; at least by an ethical shop.

I hope that explained it and let us know if possible how this bill was figured in the first place.

(Some years back a customer came into the shop with a problem unrelated to prior work and a conversation with them showed they had been royally gouged at one time. Their car had needed a new clutch which was about 5 hours labor. Their car also had a leaky engine rear main seal which was a 5.5 hour job by the book. The transmission and clutch has to come out anyway to change the seal so they should NOT have been charged for replacing the clutch but they were. The shop hit them for 10.5 hours labor and this is horribly unethical.)

There seems to be a common fault for the Turbo Diverter Valve for that era Turbo Jettas, or a vacuum hose that feeds the solenoid that controls the Air Injection pump.

It shouldn’t be that expensive to have both inspected and repaired.

We are talking under $150 for them.