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Dead 2004 2.0 GAS Beetle need help ASAP

1351 Views 13 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Jeff2
Hello all. I am new to Beetles (being a GM man myself). I am sorry that I am going to run on so long, please endure my plight.

My huge problem is that I was using this dog shelter's Beetle to deliver some dog food to another shelter to be a good guy on my day off. I get the food loaded (only like 100 pounds), crank car, put into gear, and hear a sound. I've heard SOMETHING like this before.. it sounds like the lower plastic part of the front bumper rubbing on a concrete traffic stop in a parking slot (or driven over a curb) and lasted about a second. The car also died. I got out to see if the car was on a curb, but it was not. Got back in, tried to crank it. Just a whirring noise. Electrical seems OK, serpentine belt turns when car is turned over, so I think starter is AOK. No fluids are dripping out. No nasty sounds of a broken valve hitting a piston.

I guessed timing belt but I didn't hear the telltale clacking I have heard on Chevys. (But I know nothing about how a Beetle would sound in that situation)

The Beetle was running perfectly until now, and only has 90,000 miles. This shelter really needs it to work!

The shelter insisted on towing it to a 'Christian' repair shop I'd never heard of (we won't get into that!). The 'mechanic' there had it for a day and told the shelter that the heads were trashed as well as the timing belt. He offered to 'dispose' of the car and give them $250 off his $600 'diagnostic fee', or to fix it for 'about $2500'.

I think they are getting scammed because:

1. I had time to run my bluetooth OBDII on it (gotta love modern tech you can keep in a glove compartment) and the only code was P4231 (IIRC it was P4231, something to do with coolant and this beetle has had the same code since literally 1 month after the warranty ended according to the shelter)

2. The bolt at the back of the black plastic intake manifold cover which you would HAVE to remove to see the engine area is virgin.. no tool marks. Here in salt water covered Florida you get a nice white coating on every exposed bolt and I am 99% sure this was never opened.

I looked up all the codes that MIGHT get thrown.. Cam Sensors, etc, etc.. nothing except P4231 Coolant.

Now the important questions:

1. Should I give this mechanic the benefit of the doubt? He does NOT claim to be a VW expert.

2. Does a timing belt breaking at VERY low (basically idle) RPM ALWAYS trash something in the engine?

3. If it is the TB, can it be confirmed without taking off the timing cover? This looks pretty time consuming in the tight space.

4. If TB and/or heads are bad, can this be diagnosed without taking off the top engine cover? I don't even know if you can check compression on this car without taking off that cover.

I do feel bad for the shelter, and they are not blaming me, but I still want to try and make sure they don't get scammed out of a car that this so called mechanic might fix for small $$$ in parts (TB, maybe a new pulley??) and resell for a couple of thousand.

The mechanic is pressing them for an answer tomorrow or he said he'd have to start charging a storage fee (not very Christian IMHO)

Any help or ideas of what else to look at would be GREATLY appreciated. I did take a good look at the engine before the car was towed, and I remember all the before and after noises vividly. I might be able to give more exact details with a question from a real Beetle expert!

Again, thanks for anything that might help.
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Hey, most of the time; bent valves, are the result of timing belt failure or components, on the timing belt path. There are a number of basics; that can be checked.

1. remove timing belt cover; look for belt damage (missing teeth, shredded belt, missing or thin belt, broken belt path components, etc.).

2. check all timing marks and see if they line up: mark on head toothed gear, flywheel mark in bell housing of transaxle and mark on the crankshaft pulley. If they don't line up; jumped timing would be suspect.

3. compression or leak down test; would confirm; that the valves are bent. No compression; is usually, the outcome of testing. You could use, a boroscope; to see what is going on inside the head.

Based upon; what you have described, it sounds like bent valves but the above testing would confirm this for sure. These are interference engines; so, the likelihood of bent valves is high. As with any diagnosis; you need hard cold facts, that are results of testing and then, make repairs based upon those facts. Unless, you diagnose it yourself or discuss, what the mechanic found out from his own troubleshooting process, it is hard to know for sure.

The head is going to need to come off and taken to a machine shop, for evaluation and repair. The 2.0L; is a very common head, so many rebuilders online, have these ready to go on a exchange basis.

When it comes to pricing; I guess, it comes down to labor rates and what the machine work and parts the head needs. $600 for a diagnosis; seem high, I don't know where you live but what are the labor rates in your area? I would be curious; to know, what he did to charge that fee (compression test, pull the head off, etc.). As always; you could call around to other shops in your area; to get estimates, for the head repair and compare, what he is asking for the job. Typically, with a r/r of a head; the whole timing belt system is replaced (belt, water pump, belt path pulleys, etc.) and all the of the typical stuff: head bolts, head gaskets, oil change, coolant, thermostat, spark plugs, wires, gaskets, etc. etc. etc.

Here is a excellent thread; where a member here, did the whole job and illustrates what is involved, along with prices for parts he needed to complete the job.


I hope this helps; if you have any more questions, let us know! ;)
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Thanks for the reply. Right after I posted it (at midnight) I decided to go with my gut and ensure the shelter would not get ripped off. I had my towing friend 'repo' the Beetle right out of their unlocked yard (a liability problem right there for the mechanic). Another mechanic who I trust more quoted me $1250 to replace heads/valves/TB/WPump and all the gaskets. I think from looking at that thread you posted that the price is in the right ballpark (labor is pretty cheap around here). He also offered a lot more for the car 'as is' so I am content I made the right call.

Is it a requirement to always replace all the head bolts on a Beetle? You don't always have to do that on GM engines.

Volkswagen tends to use; torque to yield bolts, they must be replaced. Volkswagen and European cars are different than traditional Domestic cars. Follow the VW factory service manual and do things as specified, do it once and do it right! Read the Felpro link; which explains the technical aspects of TTY head bolts and why they are used on newer engines.


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Can you reinstall those TTY bolts just enough to hold the head on for towing? I'm afraid if the other mechanic DID actually look inside then moving the car might have screwed up even more.

He was not real happy the car was towed out of his yard, but he didn't try and bill the shelter for 'head bolt replacement' either.
Yeah, just when you put it back together; make sure you have new head bolts and torque to spec. :)
Still trying to make sure these heads were not removed during inspection.... if they were, I should see evidence of coolant leak around the head gasket area, right?

Any other obvious place to look for confirmation?
Hmmm, typically, you would see marks on the bolts, hoses, accessories that were removed during the inspection process. Coolant and oil; should have gotten out into the engine block and compartment, if he went that deep. I would think; he wouldn't tear the engine down, until he got the "ok" to go ahead with the repair, from the customer. Where are you at; in the diagnosis process? Is the new mechanic; working on it? :confused:
Right Out of the Yard

I had my towing friend 'repo' the Beetle right out of their unlocked yard (a liability problem right there for the mechanic).
I remember a friend of mine left his Karmann Ghia at a university when he went home for Christmas and his new friends that he made the first year used the car and it broke down so they brought it to a garage where they had an open yard. He came back to find out his car had been vandalized and the convertible top was slashed.
Well, the dead bug is alive again.. Mechanic says the heads were actually OK. The water pump seized while car was at idle and the crank then tore every tooth off the timing belt and car stalled. Machine shop did nothing to heads but check for true (or whatever VW calls it).

Now the part I'm not sure about. Since they were cheap (relatively speaking), the shelter had new valves/guides/lifters put in the original heads as they think it will make the engine 'like new'. Was that a good idea without remachining the seats? I always have to remachine seats when I put a bigger valve in my GM engines, but can't quite remember if there is a reason to so it when using same size valves and the heads are otherwise good.

Second thing (sadly)... this car has been having trouble when cold. Mechanic says the transmission is probably getting ready to fail because the car shifts extremely hard or just does not shift at all for a few seconds (depending on RPM) until about 10 minutes of usage. Everyone who drives this to various dog shelters knows to not jam on the gas until it starts to shift cleanly. Mechanic says even changing fluid or adding Lucas to it won't fix it. Opinions? It might be a perfect time to sell this thing and get them something that can carry a mastiff around :)
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WOW! They were extremely lucky and it is something of a miracle, that the valves didn't get bent! The rebuilding of the heads; is a tough call, you generally would defer to the machine shops knowledge and recommendations, (this is assuming; they know what they are doing). Most machine shops would: pressure test, test for cracks, check/machine for straightness/squareness, r/r valve guides/seals, machines valves and seats as needed, check cams, regrind or replace, check, replace lifters as needed, etc. etc.. This is another reason; why a advanced exchange, is becoming more common these days and reduces down time, saves money. If nothing was wrong and everything checked out; theoretically, they would be fine... right?

Based upon the year of the New Beetle; we would assume, it has a 01M auto trans-axle. The valve bodies on these wear out and need replaced; many here, have had good success with this but that doesn't guarantee a permanent fix or deal with any internal issues (hard parts, clutches, etc.). A standard transmission; would be more reliable for a long term vehicle. Here is some info; about a shop, that rebuilds the valve bodies and the typical failure modes they have.

faq 01M:

O1M FAQ | Kansas City TDI

valve body repair:

01M or 01P Valve Body Repair $390 Labor + solenoids | Kansas City TDI

Long term (it would seem to me); a Toyota or domestic truck or service type vehicle; would seem to be a better transportation, for something like a animal shelter. I guess; it depends, on what they need the vehicle to do and what they think their needs are.
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Sorry I didn't reply sooner. I wanted to see if this head/valve fix would hold up. Seems to be OK. I have found a GM van for cheap and if i can negotiate a price lower than a new transmission, the Bug is scrap. The shelter does not want to sell it to someone knowing it will fail soon.
Well, it is a shame; the car would be scrapped, after getting the engine repaired? The autos; typically, need a rebuilt valve body, which run in the $600-$1000 range (rebuilt or new). Here is a guy; that rebuilds them and has some good info, as well. If you pursue fixing it; you might give him a call and see what he can do for you.

01M or 01P Valve Body Repair $390 Labor + solenoids | Kansas City TDI

I don't know if you are interested; in the Volkswagen but if the valve body was replaced, it might not be a bad little car. The auto; is definitely, the weak point on these cars. Many places; are offering rebuilt valve bodies for the 01M; as it is such a common issue at this point.

If they are going to unload the car; just scrapping it, doesn't make sense (although, I appreciate their position on it). The car can be sold as a: "mechanics special" with correct emphases, on the fact the transmission needs replaced or repaired. There is no reason; to throw something away, that is a asset that can bring revenue to the shelter. There are MANY; Volkswagens for sale with transmission issues, so it is not uncommon (just look on your local craigslist)! :)
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The car can be sold as a: "mechanics special" with correct emphases, on the fact the transmission needs replaced or repaired. There is no reason; to throw something away, that is a asset that can bring revenue to the shelter. There are MANY; Volkswagens for sale with transmission issues, so it is not uncommon (just look on your local craigslist)! :)
This. When I sold one of my cars back in 1995, I gave the buyer a printout of every issue I knew the car had. I sold it to an older guy who said his son was a mechanic, so "little things" didn't bother him. I essentially sold it to him for the car's value as scrap. I figured better to keep it on the road than sent to the junkyard.
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