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Thanks guys, this thread was help to me today, my daughters 2003 Beetle 2.0L had the P2181 Cooling System Performance ODBII code flagged, I had cleared it several times, after reading this thread,

1. Warmed up engine with my ScanGage II plugged in, this universal gage displays more than ODBII codes, it has gages and can display actual water temp. I could see the water temp change as the engine warmed. It warmed up to 197F and the fans never came on.

2. I turned on the Air Conditioner and both fans came on, this confirmed the fans were operational. So now I know the water temp sensor is reporting temp, and the fans work. I was also able to watch the temp as it climbed then it dropped suddenly (told me thermostat was working), so I rolled the dice and went to VW parts.

3. Without having the old part, the guy at the counter asked if I had the defective part, I said no. He then said you know if you buy the wrong part we cannot take it back? as it is electronic part. I said fine, give me the themoswitch for a 2003 Beetle. He hands me this Green Sensor, it has 4 conductors, I was expecting it to only have 3. So I was needing some other parts for the VW, and he was getting these and bagging them up. I said can you re-check this part? I was expecting it to only have 3 conductors and this has 4? He then says I asked for the wrong part, I said is this a thermo-switch? He says no it is a sensor, what did I ask for? He grudenly goes back to the computer screen and rounds up the right part and bags it. I hand him back the green sensor, don't think I need that yet. If the "switch" doesn't fix it, I'll come back and get the green one along with a water pump.

4. So I get home, have the VW on ramps, look for a 1-1/8" wrench or socket to fit that sucker, couldn't find one other than the collet wrench from my Porter Cable 690 Router, hey they fit that switch perfectly. Put a clear container under the radiator, remove the plug, use the 1-1/8" wrench to loosen the switch, out it comes about a pint of anti-freeze comes out, I screw in the new one. Plug it back in, take the clean contain that caught the lost antifreeze and used a funnel with a fine screen and poured the lost antifreeze back in the overflow.

5. Cleared the codes with the ScanGageII, started it up and allowed it to run for 20 minutes, temp started rising past 190F (according to ScanGage) and BOTH fans come on. Take it for a 5 mile drive and on the freeway, temp never got over 197F. Think I'm good to go for the time being.

Guess I got lucky picking the 1J0-959-481-A "Switch" at $49.23, and not letting the counter guy sell me the wrong part and going on a wild goose chase.

Thanks for your help guys!
 
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