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VW Golf tdi starter issues - HELP!

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Alright, beginning of December, went to start my 2002 VW Golf tdi, and nothing-- no crank, all lights on, seemed like a starter issue. Called for tow truck next day, and to my surprise, it started. Worked for a day or two, then same thing happened. Had it towed to a local place, where after extensive trouble-shooting, they replaced the starter. They had to do a little re-wiring to get it in, but it seemed to work. Picked it up, worked for a few days, then same thing happened. Left it in a parking lot for a couple days, during a huge snowstorm here in GA. Went to get it towed, and… yup, started right up. Drove to a different mechanic, they checked starter, wiring, alternator, and battery, and found nothing. Worked for a few days, then… Yup, nothing. This time I listened for the click when turning the key, and could hear it. Towed to yet another mechanic, and they replaced the ignition switch and starter relay. Worked for a couple days, and… Yup, nothing. Again, clicks, lights all come on, but does not crank. I’m really sick of trying to figure this out-- any ideas? Any recourse about the stuff these mechanics have already replaced? Any chance it’s a glow-plug related issue? Should I take it to the dealership?



If the lights come on fine and you hear a click when you try to start, it could be a bad ground cable from the battery or a bad ground connection. Sometimes a weak ground will let a small amount of current through but fail when a large current is demanded.

If that isn’t it, that leaves the relay, starter, wiring from the the relay or the positive cable to the starter.

That would make sense, regarding the intermittent nature of the problem… So if I can find the ground and re-connect it somehow, it would work… Hmmm, time to call electrician friends…

…replaced relay & starter and I assume mechanics double & triple checked the wiring when doing that each time… Thanks for the tip. I’ve always suspected it was something simple in the wiring, and I’m frustrated that mechanics can’t figure that out (and that perhaps the starter, ignition switch, and starter relay weren’t really needed-- lots of money there spent for nothing, perhaps…)

is it an automatic? if so, have the neutral safety switch checked. does your car have a factory security system. these can lock out the starter. you need someone up to date on vw cars and have online diagnostic guides that will list any TSBs that may apply. google vw forum to talk to other vw owners and mechanics. good luck

Thanks-- no, it’s manual… Yes on security system, but I don’t think that’s it-- I know these vw’s have weird security system/key safeguards, but it’s the original key I’m using… Will check out the vw forums though-- Thanks!

The starter solenoid contacts may be worn out…

I’d like to know if Mervnet still has his 2002 Golf, but more specifically if the no start problem was ever resolved. I am having the identical problem with our 2002 Golf TDI, now, of course, almost 15 years old. The dealership detects nothing through a computer read, and I’m down to the starter relay and neutral switch as possibilities. Th e battery is fine and just 3 years old. Can a neutral switch be tested for proper operation? Can the electrical system by tested for a starter motor or relay fault? The dealership maintains I need to await failure before they can do anything. We’ve had previous VW electrical problems w/this car - several dead batteries, complete on-board computer failure after having the car several months, way back when, and that part has been fine since then. I sold my last VW, a 1974 Karmann-Ghia Coupe, a few years ago, and these under-the-hood diesel setups are beyond me. I’d appreciate any help anyone can give.

Well after all the work the guy did I would have just replace the ground cables. The long one from the battery to the starter I believe and the engine ground. Could have been corrosion inside the cable. A decent mechanic can do a load test on the starter to see if it is drawing more current than it should. If the neutral safety switch is bad, you should not hear a click when turning the key. I believe you can try in park or neutral if its an automatic and might work in one position but not the other. Normally the solenoid for the starter and the starter are replaced at the same time. I guess first thing though would be to make sure the cables and connections are clean and good.

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Not reliably for an intermittent problem. I’d just replace it and move on from there.