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Replacements, failures and the recurring problems for the turbocharger wastegate on Volkswagen cars

Photo courtesy of APA

I am the owner of a Volkswagen Golf, which was purchased as new in 2015. At 105,000 km, the engine power control( EPC) light on my dashboard came on, and I took the car to my dealership. Trouble code P2563 was diagnosed, indicating a problem with the turbocharger control.  I was told I would need to replace the turbocharger; not doing so could place me in unsafe situations as my car could potentially fail to accelerate when needed. I paid my Volkswagen dealership $3513 to replace the turbocharger plus $172 for the diagnostic check. 

I called VW Care Canada and spoke with a customer care representative, who indicated VW will not cover the problem as the warranty had expired. Given the expense, I asked to speak to a supervisor to verify costs and determine if any help was available. I was told a supervisor would call me back within 24 to 48 hours. I called again to follow up, but never received a call back. 

This is a recurring problem with Volkswagen and Audi, which the manufacturer chooses not to address in Canada. A licensed mechanic told me this part has been backordered due to demand. The VW dealer had two replacement turbochargers in stock, which further confirmed my belief that this is a common problem, because carrying such an expensive part in inventory would be necessitated only by frequent demand.

The replacement turbocharger from VW is liable to fail in the same way in a few years. So basically, Volkswagen is: 

selling a product that has documented hefty ($3,500 to $4,000) service cost after five to six years, with no guarantee that repairs will not reoccur after another five to six years; not being proactive in addressing a safety issue; I was concerned my car would not accelerate out of harm’s way when needed.

I have maintained my car regularly with servicing more often than required. I should not be paying for the premature failure of a system not due to normal wear and tear. I would like VW to cover the cost of replacing the turbo, reimbursement of the diagnostic costs and an extended warranty for the new part. The replacement part should be redesigned and an extended warranty of 10 years issued for the turbochargers on vehicles with the current design.

—D. B. 

This isn’t a unique complaint. In fact, the Automobile Protection Association (APA) has recorded several complaints from VW and Audi owners for the same problem. Complaints to the APA typically come from moderate drivers; hotshots are running the turbo hard, which appears to delay or eliminate seizure of the wastegate because it is working continually. 

What does a turbocharger wastegate do? How does it fail?

The wastegate regulates turbocharger pressure, by acting as a bypass for some of the exhaust gas flow. The 1.4L, 1.8L and 2L engines are potentially affected in the following models: 

Volkswagen: Golf, Jetta, GTI, Tiguan, and Beetle Audi: A3, S3

Failures reported to the APA appear to cluster in the sixth year, after the new car warranty has expired. The pivot shaft for the wastegate can seize over time and impede the operation of the actuator that controls turbocharger pressure. The owner will experience a drop in power—possibly an abnormal hiss—and eventually a lit engine service light. The service light may be temporary, until it stays on permanently one day. 

Repair shops sometimes charge extensive diagnostic time to determine the problem. It’s not really necessary, as the trouble code you referred to corresponds to “Boost pressure out of range” or “Overboost” or “Wastegate stuck” rather than a general failure of the turbocharger. It takes a specialist about 30 minutes to arrive at this diagnosis. Many knowledgeable shops bill the diagnosis at their minimum one hour of labour for an inspection, which is reasonable.

Is a turbocharger wastegate failure unsafe?

You reported that you were told your Golf will accelerate poorly if it’s not repaired. If performance is decreased but the vehicle can nonetheless be brought to a safe, controlled stop or driven continually, Transport Canada is unlikely to rank your issue as a high priority. And since the fault triggers an engine trouble light, it provides an unambiguous warning to attend to the vehicle.

How much does it cost to repair the VW turbocharger wastegate?

VW sells the turbocharger and wastegate as one complete assembly for $3,000 to $3,500 when installed at a VW dealership. There is a less expensive option: If you can find someone competent to remove your turbo and have it repaired or exchanged for an improved one, you could save a bundle. However, used turbochargers are not reliable, as they are likely to experience the same problem but perhaps sooner than the five to six years in your car.

Here are two options:

A VW-Audi specialist may be able to loosen the shaft with heat. Unfortunately, this is not a skill you will find at most VW dealerships. This alternative fix can reportedly be done for about $400 to $500. It is temporary, the repair lasting from months to years, and requires that the turbo wastegate actuator still be working correctly. After the repair, you should occasionally floor the engine to engage the turbo wastegate fully, which may delay the accumulation of corrosion on the shaft. The APA has identified a specialist, VAG Services, that modifies the turbocharger with an improved stainless-steel part that will not seize again and it recalibrates the wastegate actuator if required. Cost of the repair is about $1,200, installed.  Your local shop can ship the turbo from your car and have it repaired or exchanged for one with the improved shaft for $1,200 including shipping to Ontario. (The specialist will receive a credit of $300 when your old turbo is returned bringing the price of the part down to about $900). There are three different turbos, and which one you may be able to use depends on the displacement of your engine—1.4L, 1.8L or 2L. In the alternative, you could schedule a same-day repair at VAG Service’s location outside Montreal, and drop off your car early in the morning. VAG Service says they will set you up with a courtesy vehicle for the day and you can go sightseeing if you’re from out of town.

How to process a claim with Volkswagen

Start by pressing your claim with VW Canada. In Quebec, where the issue has been publicized in the French-language consumer media, VW dealers are sometimes authorized to offer a discount that reduces the price of the dealer repair by $1,000 to $2,500. If you cannot reach an agreement with Volkswagen Canada or the dealer, you could pursue the automaker for a reimbursement of the repair price. 

Because most failures occur after the brand’s five-year/100,000-kilometre powertrain or Audi’s four-year/80,000-kilometre comprehensive warranties have expired, the claim would be based on the implied warranty of fitness or durability offered under the consumer protection or sale of goods legislation in your province. 

Keep your old part and make sure your repair shop prepares a report on what it found or is prepared to testify on your behalf.

Have a question for George Iny? Email [email protected]

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