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Volkswagen Passat, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Jetta, Audi A4, Audi TT, Volkswagen New Beetle, Electrical, Engine, Sedan
#93 of 243 VW Shuffles Off the Mortal Coil
Feb 03, 2003 (10:06 am)
No easy fix for failing ignition coils in Audis, VWs
By Royal Ford, 1/26/2003
One man, looking to escape his monolithic SUV but wanting to tackle slippery New England weather with all-wheel-drive, opted for an Audi A4. A Cambridge couple, baby on the horizon, looked for a good price, reliability, and a touch of sporty performance and chose the Volkswagen Passat. The Passat also caught the engineer's eye of a Marlborough father whose two sons were finally out of expensive braces and, though an Audi was out of reach, was able to rise with expectation from the worn seat of the Chevrolet Cavalier he had been driving for 12 years.
Theirs are not happy stories.
They are among more than half a million people who purchased 2001 and 2002 Volkswagens and Audis with 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, turbocharged engines. Those engines are found in Audi A4s and TTs and in Volkswagen Jettas, Passats, New Beetles, and Golf GTIs.
The problem, and it is epidemic, is that the ignition coils in the vehicles are failing, leaving drivers to sputter off the road under greatly reduced power.
Volkswagen and Audi acknowledge that every coil on every cylinder in these cars is susceptible to failure. That's four coils for each of the 320,000 Volkswagens and 140,000 Audis (US auto sales) in question. (An ignition coil is a pulse transformer that boosts power from the battery or alternator to generate highly charged sparks for ignition in the cylinders. Some cars have one coil whose pulses are ''distributed'' in a timed pattern to the cylinders. Others, such as the 1.8-liter engines in question, have coils for each cylinder - in this case, four coils for four cylinders.)
And here is where the problem gets worse. The sibling automakers cannot get enough replacement coils (even as they build better coils for their current model year runs) to yank out all the bad coils and put in good ones.
So what are they doing?
If a coil fails, the owner has to limp or be towed to his or her dealer and get the bad coil replaced. Very few will replace the other ''bad'' coils that have not yet failed. That means drivers leave their dealership with one good coil and a sense of great trepidation because three other ready-to-fail coils lurk beneath the hood.
Tony Fouladpour, a Volkswagen spokesman, acknowledged that a second coil failure means a second trip to the dealership - and I assume a third and fourth.
''It's not a situation we necessarily like,'' Fouladpour said, but added that with production limits, ''We're just trying to get people back on the road as fast as possible.'' And for those whose cars can't be fixed quickly, VW and Audi are picking up the tabs on rental or loaner cars.
There have been some reports of dealers rejecting those whose warranties have expired, even though their cars had faulty parts from the get-go. After all, there are those who drive more than 50,000 miles in a two-year period. Don't take that for an answer.
Jennifer Cortez, speaking for Audi, which has 4-year, 50,000-mile warranties, said that anyone who has exceeded the 50,000 miles should not feel left out. Contact Audi, she said. ''We will not leave them high and dry.''
It is the same story at VW, said Fouladpour.
''On those specific parts, we're going to make good,'' he said.
But even being finally back on the road does not equate with being there with any confidence.
Kathleen Spencer and her husband Andrew McLean, of Cambridge, bought their 20011/2 VW Passat with a baby in their future. They bought it ''because of reviews saying it was a great car'' and after lots of research. They wanted a car that was not too expensive, was reliable, and did not say ''Soccer Mom on Board.'' (The last being my interpretation of a conversation with Spencer.)
The car failed, was taken to a dealership, and sat for a few days before it was acknowledged that their case was symptomatic of a massive problem with these cars, but that just one coil would be replaced.
While they use the car for around-town errands, Spencer and McLean will be spending their own dime to rent a car in the days ahead for a holiday trip.
''I don't want to get stuck out on some icy road in Vermont,'' said Spencer.
Steve Lesser, the ex-SUVer from Ashland, chose a 2002 Audi A4 when he went shopping for a sporty ride.
He'd had the car for about eight months when, right after the first of the year and on a Friday night in commuter traffic on 128, he felt a thump, thought he had hit a pothole. Then, he said, he thought he might have a flat because of the way the car sloshed its way along the highway. Then the engine warning light came on, and he knew there was bigger trouble.
He called Audi assistance, was told to have the car towed, and when the tow truck had him hooked up, he climbed in with the truck driver.
''I've been towing two or three of these a day,'' Lesser said the driver told him. Then the driver asked him if he had heard about the coil problem.
They rolled with the Audi to his dealership, Bernardi Audi in Natick, and pulled into a yard basically closed for the night except for a yard boy cleaning up.
Lesser said the tow truck driver asked where to put the Audi.
''Over there with the other 25,'' Lesser recounted. And the yard boy diagnosed the problem for him - correctly.
Lesser is mad at Audi, not his dealer.
''Absolutely, it's not the dealer's fault,'' he said.
The fault, in fact, lies with the supplier for Audi and Volkswagen, Bremi Auto Electrik in Germany. They built bad coils. Now they are running triple shifts (only Christmas Day was a day off in recent months) to try to catch up.
Yet it remains unclear what ''catching up'' means.
Even though Fouladpour said supply has doubled in the past week, most dealers are still replacing the coils one at a time.
''The supply situation is getting better,'' he said. ''I couldn't have said that a month ago.''
Will there ever come a time when, emergency demand sated, people with suspect coils that have not yet failed will get them replaced, free of charge, just for peace of mind, for a sense of reliability, for faith in the car they have purchased?
That's unclear. And why not a recall?
Volkswagen does not see this as a recall issue, said Fouladpour, because recall issues are safety issues and, he said, this is not a safety issue.
I'd argue with that, given that I wouldn't want to find myself limping along Route 128 in high speed commuter traffic. Or crawling through Franconia Notch in New Hampshire, cold wind howling, late at night, returning from a ski trip.
There has been some buzz on the Internet that the coil problem is actually a problem originating elsewhere in the cars - notably the ECU or computer ''brain'' for the car. Fouldapour said that is not correct, that it is strictly ''a coil problem.''
Of course, the Internet is abuzz with this controversy, and I wonder, without the
#94 of 243 exclusive supplier
Feb 03, 2003 (11:55 am)
I would think VW had very detailed specs of how their coil was to be manufactured and perform. I don't think their design would include such prolific failures. If so, shame on VW. If not, then VW should have some legal recourse. Obtain a new supplier, sue current supplier for failure to follow VW's specs, cost of replacing all these coils, etc.
Feb 04, 2003 (10:09 am)
you are right, VW is NOT bound to any exclusive contract if the manufacturer of the part VOIDS the contract by making faulty parts.
i blame VW. no one else.
Feb 04, 2003 (10:36 am)
See the following:
04 FEB 2003
VOLKSWAGEN AND AUDI TO REPLACE ALL IGNITION COIL PARTS ON 2001, 2002 AND SOME 2003 MODELS
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Volkswagen of America, Inc. and Audi of America, Inc. today announced a customer service action in which the companies will ultimately replace the ignition coils in all 2001 and 2002 model year cars equipped with certain engines that have been experiencing a higher-than-normal failure rate. Also affected are very early production 2003 models.
The companies are currently notifying all customers potentially affected and are initially replacing those ignition coils that fail at no cost. The updated customer service action, replacing all ignition coils whether they fail or not, will be implemented in the coming months.
“We know that some ignition coils installed in our cars are not up to our high quality standards, and we are determined to do the right thing for our customers. The right thing to do is to fix every single car with these coils by replacing them whether they are broken yet or not. That is exactly what we will do as soon as we have the parts,” said Gerd Klauss, president and CEO, Volkswagen of America, Inc.
The vehicles affected in this action include cars equipped with 1.8 liter engines, which includes the Audi TT and A4; and the VW Golf/GTI, Jetta, New Beetle and Passat. The companies also included the Passat W8 engine, all VW’s equipped with the 2.8 liter VR6; as well as the Audi 3.0 liter V6 engine. In total, approximately 530,000 cars are affected by this action.
The ignition coils provide electricity to the engine’s spark plugs during operation. Volkswagen and Audi have recognized through service reports that the ignition coils used in the products listed above have a higher-than-normal failure rate. If an ignition coil fails, the check engine light/malfunction indicator lamp will blink. The car’s performance may, in some cases, become rough and/or the engine will lose some power and the car should be taken to an authorized dealer for repair. The engine and its electronic controls are designed to keep the vehicle running. Some deterioration in performance, however, can be expected.
Volkswagen and Audi are announcing the following customer service action:
The supplier is working triple shifts and seven days a week to make as many new parts as possible. Additionally, a second supplier has been activated.
Soon customers will be notified by mail that Volkswagen and Audi will proactively begin replacing all ignition coils in cars potentially affected, whether a failure has occurred or not. This action will begin in the coming months as soon as replacement ignition coil supply volumes will allow.
In order to minimize inconvenience to customers during repair, Volkswagen and Audi dealers will offer alternative transportation at no cost.
Customers with questions should call VW Customer Relations toll-free at (800) 822-8987 or Audi Customer Relations toll-free at (800) 822-2834.
# # #
#97 of 243 finally
Feb 04, 2003 (1:08 pm)
But it's a bit late. Indeed, this was the class PR foul-up -- self-inflicted wound. If VW had simply made this decision a month or two ago, they would have avoided all this bad PR. What they should have done was to send a letter to the owners of the affected cars, telling them about the problem, that parts were currently in short supply, but that 1) they would be taken care of if their coils failed and that 2) they would issue a recall as soon as they had enough parts on hand.
#98 of 243 from the outside looking in
Feb 04, 2003 (4:15 pm)
as a non-VW owner, so far, they've proven they can screw up in several dimensions like anybody else. I can think of a few examples, like ignition modules from GM in the 70s and 80s and ford in the 90s, when folks got stonewalled and stayed stonewalled on parts that died when hot, so it isn't the worst.
of course, it wasn't my car acting like a lawnmower with water in the gas tank.
now we get to see if VW can play catch-up ball and if the fix works.
Feb 06, 2003 (6:52 am)
I heard Letterman did a Top Ten list on the VW recall last night, did anyone see it? Would someone mind cutting and pasting it from the cbs website? For some reason my firewall at work is blocking CBS.com (???)
#100 of 243 Passat V6 4 Motion, 10K Miles
Feb 06, 2003 (7:31 am)
2 weeks ago the MIL light came on but did not blink. I called dealership, they told me it was probably because I did not tighten gas cover. It should reset in about 5 days.
On the day I was to call back the EPC light came on,also not blinking. Called up. They said they were very busy and I made an appt for 2 days later. I was concerned because I drive over 100 miles a day. Service person assured me it was safe to drive. At this time I was not aware of the coil problem!
On the way to drop car at dealership my car lost power, luckily it was on my street.
It was towed to the dealership 8 days ago. They did provide a rental. I finally heard from them this morning. Surprise! It is the ignition coil.
But service person said it is not the same problem as the other ones since mine is a V6.
Mine is only the 2nd one he has seen with the problem! I asked him to explain why it would not be the same problem and he said because he has only seen 2 of the V6's with the problem. Now that's a good answer! We have told dealership that we will not take car unless all 6 coils (I thought a V6 had 6 but he says it has 4) are replaced. He said if it was his choice he would replace all 4 but VW won't let him. As mentioned in previous posts the VW customer care center is useless.
Feb 06, 2003 (8:55 am)
What year was your V6?
Feb 06, 2003 (10:14 am)
My V6 is a 2002. Purchased at end of Aug. 02.