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VW Ignition Coil Problems?

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Comments

  • I understand your perspective on the overall reliability of the car. Didn't mean to offend with the "settle" remark. Subaru makes a great car and you're smart to keep an open mind about what's best for you. I've been a VW owner for 20 years and have learned to put up with the glitches that seem inherent in German designed cars. Obviously Im a more than just a little biased towards the Passat. :)

    Personally, if I didn't need the car so soon, I would have waited for the 130hp 1.9TDI Passat Wagon slated for MY 2004, and avoided the coilpack issue completely.

    Regarding the coilpacks, I've heard that the problem could be on 2003 models but as Altair stated, it appears to be manifested in the H packs. I've yet to hear that its affecting the J packs.
  • altair4altair4 Posts: 1,469
    Check on Clubb5 and Vwvortex...apparently a couple of people are now reporting J pack failure. I'm not sure, at this point, how much credence to give a couple of failures (did the owners actually see that they were J's, etc), but it's worth watching.

    Additionally, there's been some indications that VW will be superceding the J packs with a new version (tentatively called the "K" packs, for lack of an official designation) causing some to speculate that a recall will/may be announced upon build-up of an adequate supply. But it's all speculative at this point, and honestly, that's probably the biggest problem with how this whole thing is being handled - inadequate communications from VWoA or VWAG. Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

    VW could learn a lesson from the Toyota engine/oil sludge debacle. After all, this really isn't as bad as the Toyota situation; consumers were losing engines to the tune of $3,000 or more, not just a small easily replaced electrical component costing, I believe, $28US over the counter (if you can find one). VW should grab this by the horns and protect the gains that they've made in product reliability in the public's eye.
  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    cmann

    The size/height is an issue that may ultimately exclude the Subie for me. I'm 6'3", and I'm worried the fit may be a problem. I typically recline my seat back a little more than normal anyway, so we'll see.

    wagonmeister

    No problem, and again, I realize I came off a little harsh with my first post. As I said, I think the Passat is a great looking car and I've heard nothing but good things about the way it drives. I've just got a Ford Explorer right now with 135k miles on it that comes up with a new noise about every other month (requiring about $500 in the shop every time), so reliability is a touchy subject for me.

    It really does sound like this should be tailor-made for a recall. The coil pack seems like a very easy thing to just replace.
  • Obviously I forgot to "knock on wood" after blathering on about no issues with the J packs. It looks like reliable sources on the Vortex are having J coilpack failures as Altair mentioned.

    Now Im not so excited about picking up the wagon tomorrow. If the coil packs go, my wife is going to unload on me with both barrels and I'll end up driving a mini-van quicker than you can say "Farfromgroovin". Ugh!!
  • 03honda03honda Posts: 96
    The other day I turned on my 2002 1.8T Passat Wagon (17,000 miles, built March 2002), it began to shake and the check engine light came on. It was a rather cold day so I thought it may have just been the results of the engine being so cold, but now I'm beginning to think it may be my coil(s) going. Any thoughts?
    Thanks!
  • Those sound like the symptoms of the intermittent coil pack failure. If thats what it was, chances are it will happen again especially when its really cold. Eventually the pack will fail completely.

    You might be able to learn more about your problem from here: http://clubb5.zeroforum.com/zerothread?id=33587
    It should give you a better indication of whether you are being affected by coilpack failure.
  • Can anyone enlighten me just a little bit more. Is the ignition coil problem related only to the 1.8l turbo or is every Passat, Golf and Jetta involved? This includes also the famously praised 2.8l V6 engine as well?
  • Thank your very much. This helps greatly. It's definitely not the V6, which is the car I was looking at. It sure does not provide confidence in the company with this kind of problem undermining VW's reputation.
  • To all Passat owners and those considering:
    I purchased my Passat in April, 2002 and now have 17K. Repairs to date include the following: leaking valve cover and gasket - both replaced, leaking fuel injectors - all for injectors replaced, head light, dash rattles so bad that the Monsoon radio had difficulty covering - 3 visits to fix. Any now the famous coil failure! What is next?
    So to those in the market, the car (when I have it), handles great and the turbo4 is fast. But how much headache do you want to deal with? Buy a Honda!
  • mrd63mrd63 Posts: 8
    Clicked on the Boston Globe website today to catch up on the latest Red Sox news, and what do I see but the article by Royal Ford referenced above by flora43. Gosh, the symptoms described by Mr. Ford (loss of power, shaking, CEL blinking, etc.) sound exactly like what happened to my '02 Passat GLS 1.8T last October 22nd with 12.5K miles on the odometer. The dealership where I bought it (Quirk Imports in Quincy, MA) was too far away, so I drove (slowly) to a closer dealer (Volkswagen Of North Attleboro, MA). Had to leave the car but the work was done in one day. Replaced coilpacks 1 & 2, and thankfully they used new J series parts, not leftover H series. BUT...absolutely no mention was made that this was a known and recurring problem! They MUST have been aware of the issue, since they were using J's and not H's. I'm thankful I got such speedy service from a dealer who didn't know me from Adam, but I certainly feel I should have gotten some sort of warning that this might happen again. Fortunately, there have been no problems since then, despite bitterly cold weather in New England. But I drive 450 highway miles per week and I've got a trip to Montreal (from Providence) scheduled in less than a month. Like many another Globe reader, I'll be at my dealership bright and early tomorrow morning to find out just how they plan to address this situation.
  • bjbird2bjbird2 Posts: 647
    This morning I had a third coil go out in my 2002 1.8T Passat. It was towed to the dealer, and I'm going to try everything I can to get the remaining 2 coils replaced. I don't want my wife to be stranded on the highway in sub-zero weather when the last one goes out. The dealer told me the good news is that there is no longer a backorder on the replacement coils and VW has them in stock. We'll see how long it takes to get the car back. Thankfully we do have a dealer supplied rental to drive while it's being repaired. When we called the dealer this morning they said there were owners walking in from stranded cars, and the temp here this morning was -9 degrees. I have to keep reminding myself that the Passat is such a fun car to drive when it's running. I've never had problems with the 2 Infinitis I own, only routine maintainance, and one of those is 10 years old.
  • pkraddpkradd Posts: 358
    I've had my car for 19 months now. Two problems; the left rear brake light burned out and the trim along the passenger side above the door came loose. Both were fixed under warranty. No other problems. I live in a warm weather situation so perhaps the coils in my car may be unaffected or as is probably the case NOT ALL coils are defective. I understand the frustration of people who have problems with their Passats, but to be fair not everybody does. Heck, my 1998 Camry was not trouble free and was in the shop three times for nagging problems. I've traded off a boring sedan for a fun one and so far am completely satisfied. Making statements that infer that ALL Passats are derfective is unfortunate.
  • bjbird2bjbird2 Posts: 647
    pkradd, I don't think you have a clue about the scope of this problem for VW until you read this article from the Boston Globe
    Quote

    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 2001-1/2 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.

    The result?

    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.

    The response?

    ''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.
  • bjbird2bjbird2 Posts: 647
    For some reason the article from the Boston Globe was cut short in the above post. Here is the conclusion.
    Quote

    Of course, the Internet is abuzz with this controversy, and I wonder, without the Internet, how long it would have taken for this problem to reach critical mass.

    A sampling from the Internet:

    ''Please tell me how is it that a car that is exactly one year old...has to be towed?''

    ''I cried this morning as they towed my car for the second time in five weeks. It's only 18 months old.''

    Douglas Philpott, the engineer from Marlborough who bought a 2002 Passat after his boys got out of braces and he got out of that well-worn Cavalier, might be considered one of the lucky ones.

    His car failed back in September, before the epidemic had spread so widely, and he got all four coils replaced.

    Yet he does not have faith in his car - and in the you-can-look-it-up department, lemon laws are based on the notion that when you buy a car, you purchase ''more than the sum of its parts,'' you also purchase faith. Do I smell class action suit here?

    ''I keep my fingers crossed every time I start it,'' Philpott said of the time he spends in the car that was the glorious step up from the Chevy he drove for 12 years.

    Royal Ford can be reached at ford@globe.com.

    This story ran on page K1 of the Boston Globe on 1/26/2003.
    © Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
  • Thank you for all the responses to my above inquiry. However, so far respondents have only written about the 1.8l turbo problem. What about the the Passat with the 2.8l V6 engine? Is anyone driving the GLX4Motion wagon? What are your experiences with this car? Any positive/negative experiences? Thanks!
  • pkraddpkradd Posts: 358
    I know that a lot of Passats have had a problem. But the simple fact that not all have. I spoke to my dealer today and he said that about 20 cars have come in since December for coil related problems. The Boston Globe article, which I read at their site, gives the impression that all Passats are having the problem. It simply isn't true. I understand from what my dealer said that a recall may be in the works next month when VW of America has enough coils on hand. I will keep my fingers crossed that I won't have a problem (except when driving as it is very uncomfortable).
  • mrd63mrd63 Posts: 8
    Visited my dealership first thing this morning and found the service techs nervously perusing printouts of the Boston Globe article. I asked what their policy was regarding replacement of defective but not yet failing H series coilpacks and got the standard answers: VW won't let us, we don't have the parts, etc. I decided against making too much of a stink (not that it would have done much good anyway) because they were so obviously frustrated with the situation. One of the techs said they had cars on lot that had been waiting three weeks for replacement coilpacks. I told them that I had already had two coilpacks replaced and asked what the chances were that the other two would eventually fail. 95% chance was the answer. Swell...
  • flora43,

    With regard to the V6 and 4Motion you may want to ask questions in other boards, since the ignition coil problem (this topic) does not apply to it.

    I have a V6 4Motion and I am very happy with mine (almost 3 years and 40K miles). It did have a few problems that were covered under warranty and that could be taken care of during scheduled maintenance. But so will most other owners of other brands.

    VWs will likely have a few more problems than e.g. Honda or Toyota, but for me the difference is slight and not as important as other reasons for which I like this car. My VWs have been very reliable and have never left me stranded. Well maintained, they can easily last as long as if not longer than other brands known for their reliability.

    As I said, I am very happy, enjoy every moment of driving my cars, and would buy another VW in a minute.

    - D
  • outrunoutrun Posts: 539
    I have an '02 Passat GLS 1.8T which I adore. I have about 13,500 miles, and only a seat heater has been replaced. Knock on wood, the coils haven't blown yet even though I live in Massachusetts with temperatures hovering around 0 degrees for the past 2 weeks. For what it's worth, the car is garaged every evening.

    But, like others have said, I'm nervous every time I drive it. I commute 35 miles each direction, 90% of the trip on the highway (Rt. 3, 128, Mass Pike), another 5% on Rt 9 (crazy drivers), and the rest on residential roads. The highways are high speed roads (80+ mph). It's a scary thought of being rear ended by an 18 wheeler doing 70 while I'm puttering at 20 mph in limp mode.

    Getting an '03 Honda Accord EX Sedan, 4 cyl, 5 speed, leather, and voice navigation for about $24k has crossed my mine more than once recently. I'd be giving up 10 hp, head airbags, MFA, and night time illumination on everything. But I'd be gaining peace of mind reguarding reliability.

    Decisions, decisions...

    -Craig
  • I too had the same ignition coil problem along with other electrical issues. I have the 2001 model with 40k and I'm wondering what else is in store for the near future.

    The Dealer’s lackadaisical attitude had me in a rage after two weeks. Also, is it standard business practice to charge sales tax on the total amount covered by the warranty? Are all Volkswagen Dealerships as painful as the ones here in Austin, Texas?

    I plan to trade the car in and take my chances elsewhere.
  • I have now gotten all of my coils replaced. VW Customer Care was absolutely worthless in this regard. I sent a written letter to my dealer explaning the situation. In it, I stated, "Due to the substantial failure of the vehicle to meet its intended normal use, I am requesting once again (in writing) that you replace all of the ignition coils in the vehicle with the cost covered under warranty. In doing so, I am attempting to give you the opportunity to correct the defect in manufacture of the vehicle. I would like a written acknowledgement and decision regarding this request sent to my email address as soon as possible". Thus I asked them to give me a written acknowledgement that they were denying my request. Of course, they won't do that, but the dealer did contact his VW District Service Manager , who showed up the next day and had all the coils on my car replaced. Oh, yeah, I also told my dealer if he was unwilling to resolve the issue by replacing all of the coils in one visit, my next visit was to the IL State's Attnys office. Bottom line - just gotta push 'em in the right direction...Don't bother with VW "Customer Care"...it should be renamed..."VW Customer? We Care-Less"
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    they have VW officials saying replacement of all coils can start in march, and out of warranty cars will not be abandoned by them.

    you will need to make a free registration to read the article itself, which should be up for a week or so

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/02/automobiles/02COIL.html
  • Rather than just rehash the known facts of this fiasco, Ms. Jensen has shown that VW has committed the clissic bungled PR.

    February 2, 2003
    A Black Eye for VW and Audi
    By CHERYL JENSEN
     
    WIDESPREAD failures of a crucial engine component have left owners of 2001 and 2002 Volkswagens and Audis stranded and stewing while the companies scramble for replacement parts. The problem, faulty ignition coils, potentially affects more than half a million cars in the United States.

    For VW, which hopes to turn itself into an upscale brand, the timing couldn't be worse. The company is bringing out a new $40,000 sport utility, the Touareg, and this fall it will sell a large luxury sedan, the Phaeton, for $60,000 to $75,000. But even as the company lays out a red carpet for demanding luxury-car buyers, it is trying to mollify its current customers and keep their cars running.

    Audi, a subsidiary of VW, already competes in the luxury market.

    The failures have left owners at roadsides waiting to have cars towed to dealerships. Because replacement parts have been in short supply, some cars have sat for days or weeks. Furthermore, because each car has four or more potentially faulty coils, the experience can be repeated over and over.

    VW and Audi have generally declined to replace coils that have not yet failed, angering owners. But late last week, the company said it would have enough parts in March to replace all potentially defective coils.

    Ignition coils produce the high-voltage current that fires the sparkplugs. Some automakers use a single coil, but VW has one for each sparkplug — four coils, for instance, on a four-cylinder engine. If a coil fails, the sparkplug will not fire and the engine will lose power.

    The company began hearing about problems last fall, said Tony Fouladpour, a Volkswagen spokesman in Auburn Hills, Mich. But it wasn't until Friday that VW and Audi began sending letters to owners of 2001 and 2002 models explaining the problem and what the companies intended to do about it.

    VW says more than 500,000 vehicles in the United States may be affected, but the problem is global; even The China Daily has reported on coil failures. Web forums for VW and Audi owners in the United States and Britain have been deluged with complaints. One site — "http://forums.vwvortex.com
    /zerothread?id=575535" — recently had 29 pages of postings on the subject.

    VW is aware that owners are saying the company doesn't care about their problems. "That is absolutely not the case," Mr. Fouladpour said. "Have we been playing catch-up? Absolutely. Have we been just trying to get the parts and get them to the dealers? Absolutely. But at this point, we want to prove we can take care of the customer."

    The experience of Pat and Carol Navin of Evanston, Ill., seems typical. While Mrs. Navin was driving their 2002 Passat wagon — with just 3,100 miles on the odometer — the "check engine" light came on, and the car rumbled, shook and lost power. Mrs. Navin pulled off the road and had the Passat towed to their dealership. Two of the four coils on the 1.8T four-cylinder engine had failed.

    Mr. Navin said that his dealer treated them well and quickly fixed the problem, but that it was inexcusable that VW had only now begun to communicate with owners. "I think I would not have been nearly as angry if I'd gotten a letter," he said. "Instead, they've really chosen to bury their heads in the sand and let everybody discover it for themselves."

    VW says the ignition-coil failure rate has been "higher than normal" on 2001 and 2002 models of the New Beetle, Golf, GTI, Jetta and Passat with the turbocharged 1.8T engine, as well as on Audi A4's and TT's with the same engine.

    Mr. Fouladpour said that there had been some cases of ignition-coil failures on other engines, but that the rate was not as high as with the 1.8T. Those engines are the 3-liter V-6 in some A4's and A6's; the 2.8-liter VR6, a narrow-angle V-6 in the Eurovan, GTI and Jetta; and the 4-liter 8-cylinder in the Passat W8. No 2003 models are affected, Mr. Fouladpour said, nor is the 2.8-liter V-6 also used in Passats and some older Audis.

    He said that the company was working hard to keep its owners happy and that getting enough parts had been the top priority. The German supplier of the defective part has been working three shifts and, starting Jan. 20, twice as many coils have been delivered to the United States.

    "We have filled the backlog of orders," Mr. Fouladpour said. "Today, if you come in with a car with a malfunctioning ignition coil, your dealer should be able to, in a very timely manner, get that part."

    In the letters to owners, VW and Audi agree to pay for repairs even if the warranty has expired, and to reimburse owners for previous repairs. Dealers will provide loaner or rental cars without charge.

    When an ignition coil fails, the owner has two options: either call the toll-free numbers for VW or Audi roadside assistance, which can be found with the owner's manual and other materials in the glovebox, or try to drive the vehicle.

    "We don't recommend people drive for an extended period with it," Mr. Fouladpour said. "And they should drive slowly to prevent damage to the catalytic converter."

    The situation has left owners like Mr. Navin worried about driving their cars and wondering why the loss of power is not a safety issue that would prompt a recall to replace all the coils. "What if there is a failure while a driver is being tailgated by a tractor-trailer?" he asked.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "has the matter under review," said a spokeswoman, Liz Neblett.

    Even before the coil problems became news, Volkswagens were slipping in the reliability ratings of Consumer Reports. The Passat is the only VW remaining on the magazine's list of recommended vehicles, and "it doesn't need many more problems to put it into the `unreliable' category," said David Champion, director of automotive testing.
  • altair4altair4 Posts: 1,469
    I'd dispute that line about no 2003 models affected. At least for Passats, the high failure rate ignition coil, known as the H version, was used on '03 production through build date 07/2002.
  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    already poor reputation for reliability. I wanted a Jetta 1.8T in 2001 but was turned off by the reliability concerns and this was before the coil issue was well known. How many people who have heard about this will never buy a VW because of it?
  • justinjustin Posts: 1,918
    for us current owners, people won't care. they will buy VW's until their are no more to buy. and that will mean VW doesn't have to take it seriously. everyone thinks it won't happen to them. and for an affordable car, there are very few choices out there.

    i thought it was interesting in the NY Times -

    "The German supplier of the defective part has been working three shifts and, starting Jan. 20, twice as many coils have been delivered to the United States."

    why in the heck would i want the company that made the DEFECTIVE part to simply make more? what good does that do?
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    suppose the coil outfit (I'm not going to cut 'n' paste from above for the obvious legal reasons) has a patent on a process to wind a coil in a smaller footprint and saving weight. they offer their coil exclusively to VW at a good price, it fits their redesign plans for engines, and an exclusive supplier contract is signed.

    VW is deep up a crick if they decide they don't want to deal with this outfit any more... they are tied to the supplier. so they have to work something out.

    the same thing happens every day in a lot of industries... it could be a single ASIC chip on a data switch circuit board that overheats and dies, it could be the devil's agreement between using asbestos in brake linings and the medical consequences, it could be having the two suppliers of vehicle parts and fuel tanks running the space shuttle program under contract as a cost savings.

    you have nobody else you can deal with because you have an exclusive arrangement with somebody who owns part of your final product, like it or not, and you just have to deal with those folks.

    if VW wants out of their contract, they have to pay the coil guy beaucoup euros to make it worth their while, amount to be determined by negotiations or lawsuit. or they don't have any coils, period. if they try to play hardball and a court enjoins them from screwing the supplier in the meantime, VW has no parts and can't build or service cars. that is not the business plan for world domination of a market, not at all.

    so that's the wonderful part about exclusivity. it should be obvious that you want to see multiple suppliers before you buy something, but consider... that is not the way we see our markets work these days.

    VW should have dealt with the issue in a wholly different manner before now... customer letters, information on exactly what the failure was and how they were stepping up to it, and by that I mean diagnostic teardown photos included of where the coil failed internally... and now we'll see how much effort it takes to clear the mess up.
  • 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.

    The result?

    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.

    The response?

    ''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
  • 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.
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