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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone! Hoping someone has some good suggestions! Sorry this is a bit long- trying to cover all bases and give as much info. as I can!

When I last drove my bug it was working perfectly (and has been all winter)...no lights on or hidden codes (randomly scan it to make sure) or any issues at all.

Last drove it last Sunday. Went to start it Tuesday and it would not start. Turned over a couple times and that was it (both battery and starter are under 6 months old and alternator is only a couple of years-all from vw). Have another car I can drive and was in a hurry so just left the bug and didn't try boosting it anything. Where I live in Canada it has been between -20 and -30 Celsius (so between -4 and -20 Fahrenheit) all week. Because of this I didn't really feel like going outside and trying to jump it. So it sat until today (Friday). The temperature today is 4 Celsius (49 Fahrenheit)- crazy weather

Here is where the issues come in: Went out today and decided to try and start it before jumping it or anything...Turned over but took a long time to start. Eventually started and ran for about 10 seconds then shook and jumped and died. Started it a second time, and again it started and then started shaking, but I gave it some gas and it kept running. Took about 5 minutes of lightly giving it gas before it would run on it's own. Then the exhaust started coming out sporadically and engine light came on (catalytic converter was replaced this summer)...Exhaust was fine again maybe 10 seconds later but engine light stayed on...Car was running normal at this point though.

Decided to leave it running for 10-15 minutes before turning it off. Was just ambling around outside 10 minutes later when their was a horrible smell (not quite rotten eggs but quite bad) and the engine was making a loud noise (like a dull clickly/bangy noise)-sorry am not a mechanic. Turned it off asap and opened the hood and there was a little bit of smoke (kind of like foggy breath) around the engine- not sure if that's a symptom or just because the cold but there was a burning smell that was different from the exhaust smell.

Checked the fluids and oil is mayyybeee on the low side but not low enough it should impact anything. Coolant is about 2cm below the min line (was fine about 1 month ago when I last checked, however I do have to periodically top it off)...again don't think it's low enough to do anything and the sensor was not beeping at me (plus had only been running sitting there for 15 minutes at this point). The only thing I noticed is what looks like water or a liquid coming out around the bottom of the battery- however everything is WET considering we have about 3 feet of snow that is melting, so i'm not sure if battery is leaking or it's just as wet as everything else. Can check that once everything dries out, but doubt a leaking battery would cause this. And because of the wetness I can't tell if anything has leaked around the car- but I don't think this has to do with fluids.

The way I see it, is I have three options:
1) Get it towed somewhere- which I don't really want to do (bank account still hurting after the holidays)
2) Plug it in and see what the engine code says and go from there (won't be able to access my dads scanner until sunday)
3) Try starting it again and see what it does- kind of afraid i'll kill it though. On the other hand, maybe something is frozen still and needs to thaw out?

ANY opinions would be super appreciated :) And it is a 99 2.0 litre gas. Have had her 7 years now as an everyday car but kind of thinking this may be my last winter with her...
 

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Try to dump a can of SeaFoam in the fuel tank. Or a good quality gas additive that is made to remove water from gas. This could be something as simple as bad gas.

The battery 'water' is interesting. Keep in mind that anything stone cold and subject to getting 'hot/warmed up' will have condensation form on it.

The mechanical sounds are of a concern. Either it's having an issue due to bad gas? Or something internally nasty is about to rear it's head. It's risky, but I'd give the fuel line antifreeze stuff a shot.

S-
 

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Sounds like the time it wouldn't start the battery was frozen. If the battery is not completely charged the electrolyte can freeze at those temperatures. Hopefully the case was not cracked, but you say that you've seen wetness there now.

The time it did start you may have had fuel injectors that were sticking open. I've suspected this with my car when it sits for about 3 days or more. It will run rough for a minute or two before is smooths out. The exhaust has a strong gas smell. If this goes on for too long the catalytic converter can overheat from the raw fuel going down the exhaust. This may account for the rotten egg smell that you had.

With the noises you describe I would start at basics in trying to get it to run again. Check the camshaft timing and make sure there are no problems there. Cold temperatures can do in the timing belt as well. Hopefully it has been changed at some point now.

After that, battery and alternator. Make sure the battery is OK and can be charged. Once it is going again make sure the alternator is keeping it charged.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the comments guys!

Teddybear: I think if it were bad gas I would of noticed it, as I filled it up the last time I was at the station and i'm down to 1/4 tank...so lots of driving with that gas. I also do periodically put fuel injector cleaner in it, however I have not tried anti freeze, so that is something I might look into...It almost seemed like it wasn't gas and that's why it turned off and then needed me to push the peddle to keep it running...

Red: With the battery being so new I would of thought it would of been completely charged and therefore not able to freeze...I have no idea how to check if the wetness is from the case being cracked or it's water, due to the fact that I can't even see out my window it is so foggy and raining everything is soaking wet. And yes that would explain the exhaust smell, but would that cause the engine to make noise and have a burning smell? How do I check the camshaft timing? And I will get my dad to use his electrical thing and check the battery and alternator. Also, timing belt (along with water pump) are two maintenance things I stay on top of, so I will check and make sure no new cracks, but it is not that old.

At this point i'm leaning towards plugging it in and seeing what code it threw when the cel light came on, and checking the battery and alternator. As well as the camshaft timing? I will ask my dad what this entails. After all of that I will try starting it...I am probably being overly paranoid about starting it but am concerned that I will do more harm then good by starting it...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
jfoj: What an excellent and informative post!

I plugged it in today and got 5 codes! eek! I know these are recent because I last plugged it in 3 weeks ago to do a random check and there was nothing on there.
They are:
p0300- random misfire detected
p0116- engine coolant temp. circuit range/performance
p0303- cylinder 3 misfire detected
p0302- cylinder 2 misfire detected
The cylinder 2 misfire was stored on there twice
Battery voltage was also 10.53...normally when I plug it in it is 12 something...
Also checked the oil cap as jfoj suggested and there was yellow goo.

Before getting access to the code reader I tried starting it again and it was not a happy bug! It chugged a bit but did start...was very shaky and exhaust sounded louder then usual and slightly sporadic. Idle was all over the place. Let it run for about 5 minutes then when it stabilized a bit I tried pressing the gas peddle and it chugged and shook and then would accelerate like normal...Seemed to get a bit better each time though...Let it idle roughly for another 10 minutes then turned it off because I had somewhere to be. Fast forward to now- plugged it in and got the codes and cleared them but don't have time to start it and see what it will do not, so will try again tomorrow.

So...what caused these codes? Is it just like what jfoj said in his thread, that it is really just because of the cold and other cold related problems such as ethanol in the gas? How do I prevent these issues? Jfoj mentions putting these issues on spring to do list...not sure what that details doing in the spring?

I stay on top of all maintenance for this car (regular oil changes...I even regularly change the spark plugs and the wires aren't that old either. I never start it for short periods of time, always let it run for a bit...Only thing I don't do is longer highway speed trips that often, I am mostly a city driver. Also, water pump has been replaced, as well as a sensor in/around there (not sure the one but could check my records later...something related to temperature. Edited to ad: checked records and it was the coolant temp sensor that was done (that was just over 2 yrs ago)

Jfoj: I cleared codes before reading your post- if I were to plug it in now would it still show the temperature?
 

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So lots of things can cause misfires, however, for cold start they are NOT usually secondary ignition problems (coils, plugs, wires, but these are wise to keep on top of anyway).

Likely you have a soft thermostat, I estimate at least 35% of the cars and trucks on the road have soft thermostats.

Low engine coolant temps can lead to excess carbon build up, which can cause poor cold start performance.

Your battery is also very low by the Voltage you indicated, not sure where this value came from, but you need to check into it future. If you are using Movi, it has issues indicating the correct Voltage.

Fully charged battery should be 12.6 Volts with car not running, colder temps will bring this figure down.

Running the charging system should be operating at 13.5-14.5 Volts.

If your OBDII scan tool reads and displays Live/Real Time data, you can get the Engine Coolant Temp and Fuel Time info.

If the tool does not support Live/Real Time data, then you will need to see if you can get the engine temp from the Freeze Frame data, but if all the problems are on cold start, then your figures will not be accurate.

Engine sound run 200-205F at idle once warmed up.

Suggest you read the 2 links below in my signature.
 

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jfoj: What an excellent and informative post!

I plugged it in today and got 5 codes! eek! I know these are recent because I last plugged it in 3 weeks ago to do a random check and there was nothing on there.
They are:
p0300- random misfire detected
p0116- engine coolant temp. circuit range/performance
p0303- cylinder 3 misfire detected
p0302- cylinder 2 misfire detected
The cylinder 2 misfire was stored on there twice
Battery voltage was also 10.53...normally when I plug it in it is 12 something...
Also checked the oil cap as jfoj suggested and there was yellow goo.

Before getting access to the code reader I tried starting it again and it was not a happy bug! It chugged a bit but did start...was very shaky and exhaust sounded louder then usual and slightly sporadic. Idle was all over the place. Let it run for about 5 minutes then when it stabilized a bit I tried pressing the gas peddle and it chugged and shook and then would accelerate like normal...Seemed to get a bit better each time though...Let it idle roughly for another 10 minutes then turned it off because I had somewhere to be. Fast forward to now- plugged it in and got the codes and cleared them but don't have time to start it and see what it will do not, so will try again tomorrow.

So...what caused these codes? Is it just like what jfoj said in his thread, that it is really just because of the cold and other cold related problems such as ethanol in the gas? How do I prevent these issues? Jfoj mentions putting these issues on spring to do list...not sure what that details doing in the spring?

I stay on top of all maintenance for this car (regular oil changes...I even regularly change the spark plugs and the wires aren't that old either. I never start it for short periods of time, always let it run for a bit...Only thing I don't do is longer highway speed trips that often, I am mostly a city driver. Also, water pump has been replaced, as well as a sensor in/around there (not sure the one but could check my records later...something related to temperature. Edited to ad: checked records and it was the coolant temp sensor that was done (that was just over 2 yrs ago)

Jfoj: I cleared codes before reading your post- if I were to plug it in now would it still show the temperature?
You can use a scan tool to verify the engine temp regardless of any codes stored. However you must first get it up to temp, which in it's current state? Is risky.

Considering the 'goo' in the oil cap, it's a safe bet the thermostat is running the engine at to low a temp. It needs to be replaced. At the same time, sense the part is pretty cheap-I'd replace the coolant temp sensor at the same time. If you have one with a 'green' connector? It's probably better then average odd's it's okay--but sense you're already drained off anyway? And hopefully the coolant being used is the correct type--and not the standard green coolant--which isn't correct for these cars.

Now for all the misfire codes. If the plugs and wires are recent? I'm willing to bet you have several hairline cracks in the coil pack and it's arcing to ground. This normally happens on humid days--not HOT HUMID! But ANY high humid days. As our 2.0 just did to us? We can't see the arc, but can reproduce the issue with a spray bottle of water at the coil pack. (get it wet--and it starts skipping like a 5 year old school girl.)

So do the coil pack, thermostat, coolant flush/fill with the correct coolant, coolant temp sensor. And I'd throw in an oil change to get the fresh synthetic in the system, if the oil is already 'soaked' with water.

S-
 

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Red: With the battery being so new I would of thought it would of been completely charged and therefore not able to freeze...I have no idea how to check if the wetness is from the case being cracked or it's water, due to the fact that I can't even see out my window it is so foggy and raining everything is soaking wet. And yes that would explain the exhaust smell, but would that cause the engine to make noise and have a burning smell? How do I check the camshaft timing? And I will get my dad to use his electrical thing and check the battery and alternator. Also, timing belt (along with water pump) are two maintenance things I stay on top of, so I will check and make sure no new cracks, but it is not that old.
The time to check cam timing would have been before trying to start it again. Since it ran, looks like you are OK there.

Even a brand new battery will run down if it is not charged properly. Your alternator is a couple years old so it should be OK but check the voltage on the battery terminals themselves when the engine is running. It should be in the 14-14.5 range to fully charge the battery. You may have a corroded or loose connection somewhere that prevents the battery from charging.

I second what tedybear says about the coil pack. It is a fairly common problem on the 2.0 and would account for the rough running and P030x codes that you have. You indicate there is a lot of moisture around so that would certainly add to any coil problems. When everything has been cooled down to a low temperature and is then exposed to warmer air, water will condense in even the most minute cracks. The ignition system has to be in very good shape to work in these conditions.
 

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The time to check cam timing would have been before trying to start it again. Since it ran, looks like you are OK there.

Even a brand new battery will run down if it is not charged properly. Your alternator is a couple years old so it should be OK but check the voltage on the battery terminals themselves when the engine is running. It should be in the 14-14.5 range to fully charge the battery. You may have a corroded or loose connection somewhere that prevents the battery from charging.

I second what tedybear says about the coil pack. It is a fairly common problem on the 2.0 and would account for the rough running and P030x codes that you have. You indicate there is a lot of moisture around so that would certainly add to any coil problems. When everything has been cooled down to a low temperature and is then exposed to warmer air, water will condense in even the most minute cracks. The ignition system has to be in very good shape to work in these conditions.

There's no real way to extend the life of the coil pack either. We had a lot of rain yesterday and went to start the ol' girl up. P0300, P0301, and today after pulling the coil pack, cleaning it and filling in yet another crack? (And packing the batsnot out of it with dielectric gel) Now it's got a random miss fire on #4.

All this of course happens when the engine is cold, and the humidity is very high.

S-
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks everyone for your help! It is greatly appreciated! I have ordered the coil pack and thermostat, and here's to hoping it is an easy swap/fix! If this does not solve it I will try changing the spark plugs and wires, even though they are not that old. However, I have a feeling based on what you all have said that it is most definitely the coil pack and thermostat. I am also going to get an oil change once she is up and running...i'm close enough to be doing for one anyway, then i'm not worrying about water or anything in it.

The only thing I am not sure about replacing is the sensor...should it not be okay with it being just 2 years old? And I checked and it is a green cap. Even though it is fairly inexpensive I hate to throw money at something that is still working

Also, battery seems to be ok now...thinking that it just did not have a chance to fully charge from when it would not start...plus the extremely crazy cold weather we had.

And, not to worry but my coolant is the correct pink stuff! I buy it right from VW. Thinking there must be a slow leak somewhere as I have to top it off more often then I should have to. Spring project I guess.
 
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