1.9 TDI Limp Mode Resoved?

For some time now, I’ve experienced “limp mode” in my van. It first manifested itself on a family trip back from Florida. We were heading north on the highway doing about 65 mph (in the slow lane, of course). All of a sudden there’s sort of a jerk forward, a cloud of smoke out the back and then lack of power. The first time I was freaked out! I pulled over to the side of the road immediately, turned it off and looked for any obvious leaks, bursts or the likes. Nothing really jumped out at me! So, I started back up cautiously and entered onto the highway again. I had full power and full boost, so all was good. Engine temps and pressures weren’t abnormal. However, it happened again about 10 minutes later.

This is where I started to think about an exit plan for the family. You see, it was Spring Break and everyone needed to be back to work/school the following day! We searched high and low in northern Florida to finally come up with a rental car place. I sent the “life raft” home with my family as I figured the worst which could happen would be I’d be stranded on the side of the road. Who cares? I’m in a camper! 🙂

I decided to drive a bit slower and not engage the turbo as much as I could. My thinking was that when the turbo was spooling / spooled up, that’s where I was seeing the pressure loss and lack of power. The remainder of the 6 hour drive, or whatever it was, was uneventful! In fact, I think I got home 20 minutes after the family had arrived safely!

Now my quest was on to find a diesel mechanic who could look the engine over, make a prioritized list and start addressing any issues I might have in some sort of prioritized fashion. Little did I know that finding a VW diesel mechanic was going to be SO difficult! My original search was the greater Atlanta area. I found one small shop nearby where there was a “claim” of a “German Master Mechanic”. Damn! That sounds too good! Yea… $1,200 later, no priority list and same limp mode.

So, I broadened my search to the Vanagon community to see who people use on the East Coast. I think I journaled most of that experience here. That ended in an EPIC disaster! After 15 weeks and having a loaner car from Westy Motorwerks, I was emailed on Aug. 3rd saying that his customer needed their car back which he loaned to me and that he’d be leaving around 9 am on the 4th to come pick it up. We exchanged emails back and forth because I told him if he was coming down, he might as well just bring my van with. Since it STILL wasn’t running, he stated he couldn’t drive it down. After that many weeks being up there, I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted it back in my driveway. Some of my concerns were that due to the pandemic, small businesses were closing. I didn’t want my van to be part of a shop’s collateral or anything like that. I figured 15 weeks was MORE than enough to sort through a problem. All I really received is sympathy of why everything wasn’t their fault. (My “official” review of that shop will be on Google Maps as I’m a Global Reviewer and Guide. It won’t be pretty.)

Van is back with more stuff broken than when I brought it up there. Mind you, I DROVE it up there, 3 hours away, under its own power. It was now brought back to me not running on the street, tach broken/non-functioning, oil light on… probably other stuff I’m not thinking of right now. All for the price of… you guessed it, ANOTHER $1,200. You see, when I was up there in July when I was told it was going to be completed and I went to pick it up and it WASN’T completed… after being loaned a car to be able to get back home in (since my son left HOURS ago previously), Wes asked me if I could help him out and pay half of my bill. Honestly, I didn’t have a problem with it. I knew they did some work to it and had mechanic hours into it. However, hindsight is that I should have NEVER been “nice” on a business transaction. Nothing had been completed start to finish. Limp mode was still persistent. Diesel heater was placed in but not plumbed in yet. Tach wasn’t functioning. I should have known yet I was attempting to support a small business in a small Vanagon community who was “recommended”.

Fast forward. I’m going to tackle this project my damn self! First business of order is to rip off the turbo, check for sticking veins and ensure actuator isn’t stuck. After ALL the research I had done on this, I needed a piece of mind to check that off the list! I start talking to a friend of mine and we get into a debate if it’d be easier to remove the turbo from the top or the bottom. I was SURE it was easiest from the bottom but he recalls looking down on it from the top. Since it’s in my driveway, it’s easy enough to prove him wrong! I run out there, stick my phone in the rear wheel arch and snap a picture of the turbo on the BOTTOM of the engine!

I look at the picture and WTH??!! A hose on the intake side of the turbo staring RIGHT at me with these big old cracks!! I take some pictures and start asking the community. Obviously, any hose/pipe in the system is a bad thing so I know it needs replacement! The next piece of this equation was to remove the under armor to get complete access to the bottom of the engine. That was fairly straight forward!

Now that I have those heavy things out of the way, it’s time to get down to business! Two screws loosened off the hose clamps later and I now have the “offending part” in my hands! However, in the process, I find that Motorwerks did not bolt down the turbo bracket nor the intake pipe bracket! Thus, both were able to move and potentially collapse this part causing the turbo to be blocked of air!

I could not identify what the part number was so off to the community I went again! BAM! In just 30 seconds I had my answer! (literally, 30 seconds!) I started my internet part search only to find it available in the UK. Okay…wind partially out of my sails because I didn’t know if this was just a fluke or the issue. None the less, I ordered the part from Germany (along with other stuff but don’t tell the wife!) and had to wait for shipping. Day after day I keep looking for shipping updates but things aren’t progressing as quickly as I’d like. SO…what’s a guy to do but search for the part again? Low and behold, I find that Van-Again in New Jersey has several on hand!!! Damn straight I ordered it! Got it in 3 days!

Moment of truth… I get it installed and take it for SEVERAL hard test runs over the weekend with VCDS logging in the background. ZERO MAF errors nor getting limp mode! The picture (above) shows the clear line of sight to the replacement part. My general assessment is that a trained mechanic should have been able to visually inspect and identify this issue fairly quickly. A shop which has a vehicle for 15 WEEKS should have stumbled across this MANY times over! Instead, Westy Motorwerks claimed it was a bad ECU, alternator, wiring, MAF, N109 relay among MANY other things! Now, again in fairness, there’s a lot of troubleshooting and testing to have been done. However, I cannot help but feel taken advantage of that it was THAT many weeks and my “non-mechanic” self in the driveway identified and fixed it in 20 minutes. Perhaps chalk it up to “beginner’s luck”?

My video assessment

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