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Old 07-01-2013, 09:50 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Help me fix my car!

Possible blown head gasket?

I have a 97 Golf GTI 2.0. I was driving today, pouring rain, and went though a few massive puddles. I get to work, go over a speed bump, and the car stalls. I get it started again after a couple attempts and make my way down to the parking area but it doesn't sound right. After work the car will turn over but not start. The RPM gauge gets up to about 300 and no further and the fuel gauge comes up realllllly slowly as it turns over.

I read something online about the engine sucking in water possibly causing a blown head gasket so I checked the air filter to see if it was wet (it was a little bit damp). Inside the hose disconnected in the image below there is oil in all the little crevices. On a side note, I looked inside the distributor cap and it was clean and dry, but I noticed the little cup it sits on was full of orange dust and some shards of orange plastic (the inside of the dist. cap is orange, didn't look damaged though).

Thanks for any help you can provide.

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Old 07-01-2013, 10:01 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I know nothing of any VW's newer than 69', but I would venture to guess it could use an ignition tune up. Spark plug wires break down with age, add a little moisture and they will ground out not letting the ignition fire. Most auto parts stores sell a product called wire dryer (it's a spray). If you try that and it fixes the problem, I would recommend a tune up asap. I would highly doubt you swamped the thing bad enough to hurt the engine.
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Simple test for the electrical system.

When it's dark, or in a garage, start the engine and look under the hood. If it's humid then you may see fine blue sparks jumping from the distributor cap or wires to metal. If you have a fine mist sprayer you could spray the air a couple times above the engine to looks for those sparks.

That would tell you it's time to replace the wires or distributor cap. You may not be able to see fine cracks in the wire or cap. If you think you go water in the distributor cap you could spray a little WD-40 to displace the moisture.

Toyota Camery from the 90s located their distributor next to the wheel well so if you drove into a puddle of water too fast it would drive water into the distributor.
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:20 PM   #4 (permalink)
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my 96 golf has a similar issue, if i hit a massive puddle, it will stall

give it 5min and she'll start right up and keep truckin
one time (chirstmas of 2011) it stalled for a solid 15-20 min, but its only happened 3 times?

been that way for the last 2-3 years (i've had it for almost 5 years)
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Hobbes View Post
On a side note, I looked inside the distributor cap and it was clean and dry, but I noticed the little cup it sits on was full of orange dust and some shards of orange plastic (the inside of the dist. cap is orange, didn't look damaged though).
I think you need a new cap and rotor. Bits inside are not good. Time for a tuneup.




Also, the bit of oil in the intake pipe is not alarming, it probably got there via the breather tube from the cam cover. It comes in as a mist and settles and collects in the crevices.
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:38 PM   #6 (permalink)
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engines can generally ingest a significant amount of water before you will have hydrolock / blown head gasket / bent rods - check your electricals, it is a VW after all

oil in that hose is not uncommon - there tends to be some degree of reversion back into the intake track and over time you just get oil in there

have you check the coolant to see if you have any chocolate milk in there? checked the oil for coolant?
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:48 PM   #7 (permalink)
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have you check the coolant to see if you have any chocolate milk in there? checked the oil for coolant?
That coolant looked clean.

The car sat for about 5 hours after I had drove it last. Then it wouldn't start again over the course of an hour and a half.
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Old 07-02-2013, 12:29 AM   #8 (permalink)
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is the check engine light on..?
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Old 07-02-2013, 12:37 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Unless you regard small lakes as puddles, it is unlikely you ingested a dangerous dosage of water.

VWs, especially in that time frame and previous, are notorious for starting problems in the presence of moisture when the ignition system becomes worn/older.

Replace your cap and rotor at bare minimum, and see if that doesn't help.

If you have a manual transmission either roll the car down a hill or have someone push you with their vehicle and pop the clutch. If it will start in this fashion, despite not starting in the usual fashion, it is highly likely that the culprit is the need for a tuneup.
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Old 07-02-2013, 12:09 PM   #10 (permalink)
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*edit*

I unplugged the ignition coil and plugged it back in, then the car started after hesitating for a moment. I drive it around the parking lot and a couple times for a second it would seem to lose power. I feel like it had been driving a little weak before this, and it's been raining every single day. I'll definitely replace the cap/rotor (and wires?) but maybe the ignition coil is cracked?

Last edited by Hobbes; 07-02-2013 at 12:29 PM.
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