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1998 VW Jetta starting problems

07-23-2003, 01:16 PM
My jetta intermittently starts; at times it will not start at all, other times it starts after the second attempt or 3rd or 4th, etc..., and sometimes it starts right up the first try. It seems worse during wet weather or if the car has been sitting for a long time (>2 days). I have had a tune-up done (new dist. cap, rotor, s-plugs,wires), an ignition coil pack replacement and the ignition wires replaced. The car has ~73K miles on it.

My car has been sitting at the Atamian VW in Tewksbury MA for 2 weeks. They could NOT figure out the problem or fix it. (To those of you in the MA area, avoid this dealership at all costs). I assume that when they replaced the distributor they would have also made sure the timing is correct.


My problems started in November 2002. My car has had hardly any problems prior to this. The weather was wet due to a weekend of rain, it was a Monday and rather cold, but not cold enough for the water on the ground to turn to ice. The car wouldn't start on the first try (no big deal, it's cold and may need a few attempts). Well, 8 attempts later, it finally turned over, I let it run for a few minutes to warm up, then as I started to drive off it stalled out, almost like it it wasn't getting fuel. I tried starting it again, I beleive if my memory serves it started up, and as I was driving away, I noticed that as I started speeding up a bit it would get worse, and come closer to stalling out (loss of power?), and when shifting into second gear and accelerating, it stalled out and there was a loud pop under the hood (much like an old carburator when it lacks air flow). The check engine light turned on and I decided to leave it parked on the side of the street.

At this moment I left it to call my boss to let him know I would be late to work. About a half hour later I tried it again and it seemed to be much better, almost like I had not had the problems just a half hour before. I drove it to a local garage who told me they couldn't work on it so I just drove to work. It was fine for a few days after that, since the only issue was a check engine light (which I knew I needed to have checked out) I figured it was a one-time occurance due to bad weather and inactivity. I figured the check engine light was due to the loud pop, maybe a sensor wire was popped lose, no biggie.

Well a week or so later I had a similar issue, but not with the popping or power loss, but with the car not starting. After that I brought it to a garage and they replaced the ignition cables. The car was good for about a month. During this time the weather was bad and I was travelling again so the car would at times be sitting for a few weeks of inactivity. When I came back from my business trip the car had problems again. During the period of December to June 2003 there was a 2 week period of inactivity each month due to business trips.

In February 2003, I brought it to a dealership and demanded they replace the ignition coil pack, due to a recall I heard about in regards to faulty ignition coils. They replaced this free of charge and the car started without error for about 3 months. Now, in June 2003, I have the same problems, although it seems worse. This month, I had taken the car to another dealership (Atamian listed above, the same dealership I had used to give the car a 40k mile service in 2001), and here I am, with no fix and no confidence in my car.

Has anyone experienced similar things, if so, do you have any advice, wisdom, or suggestions to share?

I thought it was purely electrical, but now I wonder if it has anything to do with the fuel line or the fuel injection, but I am not too sure. I have had alot of important electrical items pertinent to ignition replaced, so I am now at a loss as to the extent of this problem and whether it is fixable. At the moment I beleive I have a lemon. :frown:

09-15-2003, 09:53 PM
Hi, I own a 1997 Jetta and I am having the EXACT same problems. I have not been able to figure out the problem. Have you had any success in correctly diagnosing the problem?

09-23-2003, 09:02 AM
Hi mfk5150,

In fact, I brought my car to a local mechanic, not a dealership. He found that the crank sensor was bad and when that went it shorted out the computer. In short, I needed a new crank sensor and a computer. Luckily, the mechanic had a used computer that he sold me and replaced the bad computer with, I saved alot of money this way. Now, I requested to keep the old computer and saw no noticable problems, so I am not surer if it needed to be replaced. My car also has been running fine with no problems since, it's been about a month since the trouble, so I will not question the validity that the computer was bad.

So, in summary, take your car to a local mechanic and ask them to inspect the crank sensor, hopefully your computer will not need to be replaced like mine did.

The dealerships I worked with were terrible and didn't even come close to figuring out the problem in 2 weeks, it took this mechanic 2 hours to figure out the problem.

09-25-2003, 10:40 PM having similar problems with my 95 check engine light will come on occasions, and i will lose large amounts of power, also i have trouble usuallys starts up the second try...but this is just gettin annoying and embarrasing in parking lots :banghead: ....

09-29-2003, 04:38 PM
I have had a similar problem. The engine on my 1998 Jetta K2 will crank over strongly, but will simply not light up. Especially when damp or wet. By chance I mentioned this to a colleague with a 1998 Golf, who said he had the same problem. It turned out to be the ignition coil, which his mechanic replaced with a used one. When the problem continued, he put in a new one, which fixed the issue. I have since learned that many 2001/2002 VW coils have been recalled...

09-30-2003, 10:39 AM
Anyone know if 94 Jettas have any recalls.. we are having the same problem... So are many other people I have talked to... Ha that meens we don't have to pay for the new one right? haha rock! Free is good.

10-11-2003, 08:57 PM
my 97 jetta is having the exact same problem - can't get it to start in wet weather...what a pain. mechanic recommends replacing spark plugs, wires, etc. to the tune of $300.

10-13-2003, 08:52 AM
What the hell is he charging you for? $300??????????
Wires, Plugs, Cap and rotor don't even cost that much and that is a full tune-up. That should cost around $60 or more depending. What is he including in that. Do it yourself for that... a tune-up is so incredibly easy. But that isn't my girl's car's problem. It is way more involved than just a tune-up.
Where do you live? Damn give me $300 and I'll do your tune-up and throw in an oil change and tire rotation... Damn haha

10-21-2003, 11:47 PM
same here, 97 2.0 jetta... having that same problem, as well as after i start it it "lags" a bit when i get on it... it putters and appears as if i do not know how to drive a standard car... like i need a lesson on when to use a clutch.. its definately embarrassing... anyway, i put in new neuspeed spark plug wires ($100 and change... put in myself...) and it helped alot in the beginning but it seems as if its getting back to the way it was... i was thinking maybe the o2 sensor?

10-22-2003, 03:07 PM
Occasional failure to start when it is wet or damp out is a very common problem with Jettas. I keep a can of "Wire Dryer" handy and when this happens I simply spray the distributer cap and plug wires with it, and the problem generally goes away.

Sometimes, if it doesn't fail to start completely, only two or three cylinders will fire initially. This causes a misfire condition which results in a severe loss of power (especially if you give it more gas) and the check engine light will start flashing. Again, waiting for the wires to dry off - or spraying them with wire dryer - will probably make this go away, but your check engine light will probably stay on for about 400 miles or so.

If it happens more than occasionally, then it is probably time for a new wire set, and distributer cap.

10-22-2003, 07:37 PM
BigA, that is actually an exact explanation of what is happening ot me... im gonna try the distributor cap within the next couple days, since i already have the wires taken care of.... ill reply reply with what happens. thanks

10-24-2003, 08:29 PM
This is my experience with 90's Jetta 1.8 digifant having problems with cold start and hesitation
Problem Description: When you turn the ignition the engine starts for a few seconds , after that the engine stall and die
The engine start but you can only keep it running at hight RPM, after warm up it runs fine
The engine starts, run fine for a while then die
Iddle problems

Does this problem sound familiar to you? Jetta are not a good cars, 1992 its the worst was assembly in Mexico, can you imagine those little mexicans eating and drinking jalapeņos with tequila. Well, this its only for people who knows a little about mechanic, if you have the money or dont have a clue, dont try.

1. Check tank fuel pump, you can do it in or out, remove the incoming fuel hose right next to the fuel presure regulator, drink a 20oz beer and put the end of the hose in there, crank the car couple times and you should have 50psi or 1/4 can full, if not, fuel pump located inside fuel tank in the trunk its busted.Outside, get the pump out and give 12 volts from the battery, watch sparks and fuel tank or you may not need your Jetta
2.Fuel presure regulator, dont know how to check it and its very unusual to be bad
3. Clean the iddle screw (co) on the front of the intake manifold pull it out and carburator cleaner with it, as well to the PCV valve and O2 sensor
4. If the problem still, then disconect the two water sensors on the upper radiator hose housing, one blue and the other black, if the problems goes away then you know what to do, drink another 20 oz can of beer and go to the yunk yard, that sensor shorts and draw the voltage from the computer, The one mos important its the blue. At 85 F suppose to have 1500-2100 ohms.

Other problems like ignition switch, fuel filter, Computer $$$ , broken grounds, catalytic converter,air flow sensor and vacuum leaks, EGR

Now good luck and let me know if it works out for you

10-27-2003, 03:15 PM
I have a 1997 Jetta with the exact same problems in wet weather. Tried replacing the distributor cap and rotor, but that didn't help. Next on the list may be the plug wires.

Any advice as to which may be the culprit??? Seems that the crank sensor or the ignition coil may be a leading candidate, but I'll have to wait until it dries out to start it again!

Any help is appreciated..............

10-28-2003, 04:46 PM
I would check the Coil. On those cars, it is screwed into the firewall, right up near the top. Especially if you park either uphill, or downhill, sometimes water can flow right onto it. It's a relatively inexpensive part and simple to replace, so you might try replacing it, or simply getting a can of wire dryer and spraying it off. On my 96, I actually had somebody watch the coil while I tried starting it, and they could see it ARCing.

06-19-2004, 05:09 PM
I started this very post a year or so ago, and here I am in June 2004 and my car has been SOLID since. The crank sensor and computer replacements have fixed my problem!!! I hope the rest of you who had problems were able to get them resolved. Take care all!!!

09-10-2004, 12:53 PM
Carcarius, I have an 88 Jetta with the same problem but I'm not sure if I have a crank sensor or even a computer, and were these items expensive. I don't think I do. What about the air flow sensor plate. Please ck out my listing on 09/10/o4. 88 VW jetta gli - starting problems

10-23-2007, 02:11 PM
we all have jettas in our family...i started with a used 90, then got a problems until i got rear ended and the car was saved my life! i now have a 98 daughters both have 96 jettas, my dad has a 97 jetta...(my sister has a passat wagon)..i'll never drive anything other than a jetta...i had the starting problem too, especially in wet weather...changed the ignition coil, and it hasn't given me a problem daughter experienced the same starting problems, especially in wet humid foggy mechanic checked it out and it needs 2 sensors....everything else checked out ok...probably $200 to fix...jettas are great cars...low maintenance (if you do your research first, like i do....)....i'm so happy with my jetta!!!:p

12-30-2007, 02:13 PM
Hey, if your vehicle needs a tune-up, get one done! Don't listen to this idiot, termitesgraffix (, he obviously never looked at the engine. The way the engine is setup, a tuneup on this vehicle involves a lot of labor. Plus, plug wires are expensive. However, I don't think that your problem with not starting is related to the plugs and wires. I'd check your crank sensor first and check your grounds.

12-31-2007, 08:24 AM
Hello All! Thanks to everyone who responded with the same problem; it's comforting to know it's not just my car with problems...:-)...I find Jettas to be very dependable and generally any problems only require a quick and inexpensive repair...I ended up taking my jetta to a trusted turned out to be the crank sensor giving me my headaches. haven't had any issues since. All is well in my Jetta's world.
Best wishes to you all for a mechanics-free new year!

02-13-2008, 11:23 PM
My 97 golf had the same problems. I just made a shroud around the distributor and wahoo I have no more problems. I still would like to know in more detail what it was exactly you did to your car to fix this annoying problem.

11-07-2008, 12:10 PM
My 98 jetta has the same problems as everybody else. I think my distributor could use better clips. The things falls off from time to time. The car could use a new coil and wires and i'm thinking of getting a new destributor for the car. Glad to know i am not the only one with this problem in wet weather.

01-07-2009, 12:45 PM
I have a 97 jetta that would not start when it was wet out. just keep a can of wd-40 with you. i just sprayed the ignition coil and distributer cap and she started up just fine.

02-06-2009, 07:02 PM
Same problems here. My car intermittently would not start. And wet weather definitely made it worse most times. I've owned my 97 Jetta for 9 years. I've put 170,000 miles on it, not counting the 20,000 on it when I bought it! I drive it hard and it's always been a willing accomplice. Reliable and fun to drive. I've driven it all over the USA and really like the car. Forgive the long post- I've had this car for a long time and know her ways. lol Hopefully it will help someone out there. Unfortunately the check engine light is a common occurence with this car- though it usually runs fine while on. Every once in a while in the rain the car will lose power very briefly and then run fine- the check engine light will usually stay on for 3 days then go off.

Sometimes it would not start even though it cranked fine. If was able to start it on a particular day it was always fine the rest of the day. Seemed not happy sitting at night, maybe dew? When it wouldn't start I could smell gasoline so I knew it was pushing gas and you can hear the fuel pump turn on when you try to start the car. This was worse in the rain or real humid mornings. Turns out that the coil on the firewall was the issue. I experimented by wrapping it in electrical tape (when it was dry out and warm from running), After I taped it up it was fine in the rain. Probably best to not run it toolSo I bought a new one and it didn't work. Put the old one in and it starts. Returned the new one and it didn't work either! Bosch part I believe (I try to stick the the original manufacturer parts and there's a lot of Bosch under the hood) Asked if they had that part made by a different brand (forget what brand it was) and they did and it worked fine. So that problem went away for a couple of years and was solid- starting every time.

One time I tried to start it and it just clicked when you turned the key-not turning over. Turned out the large guage wire running to the starter motor was loose. It's quite exposed and corrodes easily. It got so bad that the bolt was stripped where the nut had rusted making the electrical connection to the motor bad. Being a cheapskate I haven't bought a new starter motor. Instead I put another nut behind the stripped nut and tightend it real good and it was fine-until it rusts out again! WD-40 is awesome.

Another time it just clicked and it was just a loose battery connector. Always check that. If you can twist it by hand it's too loose.

Two summers ago it started (lol) not starting intermittently again. This time it was not starting after having been driven. I took to turning off the car when I parked it and then trying to restart it. 1 in 10 or so times it would fail and just turn over. I thought electrical- still moving gas. I unplugged most of the harnesses under the hood and checked the connectors. Some were slightly corroded and I scraped them clean with a screw driver (carefully!). I reconnected them and the car started every time. Keep a decen set of tools in your car and you can tackle many problems. My original 15 dollar Walmart set has paid for itself many many times over.

All was fine until May this year. I was having the same problem as above but worse. Once it wouldn't start I couldn't get it to go even after a while. So back to checking the wires...The only thing I saw was the large diameter wiring harness (shaped like a can) had somehow dropped onto the ground cable going to the engine block. It may have come loose from my explorations from the previous year. The bracket that holds the harness is easy to bend so I bent it back up away from the ground cable. Started every time fine for a while.

Then at Christmas this year I was driving home and the check engine light popped on. A few hours later the car started bucking badly and then it totally died. I wrangled it into a parking lot. None of my usual tricks described above had any effect. I even tried the old taped up coil with no effect. I tried for three hours and it only started once and immediately died. So it's been in two shops since then. Finally the second guy comes up with bad computer. I would think that it should have been found faster. But no after reading some of the above posts I will see if he knows how to determine if one of the sensors is bad before replacing the computer. I'll let you all know what happens. Poor ole girl has been away for over a month!!

03-09-2009, 05:52 PM
Have any of you thought to replace the ignition switch? My 98 would do the same once in blue moon it wouldnt do anything turn key nothing at all ,the warning lights came on everthing worked strong battery but no starter movement at all I thought it was a security problem but since I replced the switch it hits 1st time everytime

12-11-2009, 06:57 PM
Engine Coil....Engine Coil

From experience and a lot of repair costs if your car is not starting during wet weather (rain or snow) I would put replacing the ENGINE COIL on top of the list. I went to auto repair shops several times due to the car not starting during wet weather and the distributor cap was replaced at least 3 times, I burned the starter trying to get the car to turn over, had wires replaced but I still had the same problem. One weekend this happened in the town I was born and raised and the neighborhood mechanic who have never worked in an auto repair shop diagnosed the problem in 5 minutes...haven't had any problems with wet weather since then and it's been about 1 year now.

Unfortunately I'm having problems with the car not turning over during cold weather. The battery is good, the coil is good, so I'm hoping getting the ignition switch replaced will solve the problem. Update: Not turning over at all was the starter. But the issues in the first paragraph was the coil.

03-28-2010, 10:37 AM
I was having the same problem with my Jetta either stalling or not starting in wet weather or after washing. I took it to a VW mechanic who immediately informed me that it was a tiny crack in the ignition coil. Apparently this is a very common problem in Jettas. He showed me the crack and misted it water and sure enough the engine cut out. This is most likely your problem.

10-29-2010, 11:02 PM
My 97 golf had the same problems. I just made a shroud around the distributor and wahoo I have no more problems. I still would like to know in more detail what it was exactly you did to your car to fix this annoying problem.

Well Boys ,

Same problem with my 1998 Jetta .

Won't make this a long explanation , but this is what I do . Some kid gave me this tip in a Canadian Tire store ...

I bought a can of Electrical contact Cleaner . ( for cars )
I also bought a can of Ignition protector .

I un-plug one wire connector at a time . I spray '' electrical contact Cleaner '' on both Male and Female parts of each connector . Then I reconnect the connector and move to the next one .

( I do all of the electrical connecters under the hood , no matter what it is )

Once I complete the cleaning , I then Spray some ignition protector on the spark-plug wires , and also some on the distributor cap as well.

After that is done , I wait atleast 10 minutes ... and 20 mins to the max.

Then I start the engine .

I turn the key and then .... Vroom Vroom .

It turns evenly , steadily .... and runs at the first crank of the key .

I don't even go close to the ignition coil. I don't spray it with either sprays .

Now ... guess what . It is on a Wet day . This keeps the car starting for a good year , then i repeat the procedure every fall .

or need it be if it happens during a rainy week during summer .

Hope this helps .

10-31-2010, 06:10 PM
MY problem was fixed for good when I ran a wire from the small wire on starter tapped into the wire in the ignition switch the nput a push button switch in the car you can hit the button every time and she fires you must have the key in though and turned on so the fuel pump will work but ever since I did this when it does happen I'm ready and theres no waiting around for the crazy thing to decide hey I won't to start

12-09-2011, 10:42 AM
This is exactly what was happenening to my car. I chose to swap out the crankshaft position sensor. Its been a couple days and everything seems to be checking out fine. I had an oil leak that my friend(retired VW mechanic) and I had fixed. After the fix he had asked me to spray my engine bay out. I did not want to do it but I figured that if he had directed me to do so and I covered everything he had told me to I would be fine. Clean engine but no go! This forum post helped me out the most, thank you Cacarius.

My mechanic friend did not want to do it because he was almost certain that the sensor was not the issue, and the location of it makes for a difficult and time consuming job. Well I read the entire thread about twice and decided that this is what I was gonna do. I found the sensor for $37. If you are any kind of mechanically inclined, and have a mildly advanced collection of tools, please save your money and do this yourself. This particular job flat rate pays 3 hours. In my driveway I was finished in and hour and a half.

Jack up your jetta so you're comfortable underneath(use jackstands please), find a 2x4 about a foot in length, place the 2x4 inbetween your jack and the oil pan. Snug the jack up to the pan so that the wood doesn't budge. The sensor is located behind the front motor mount. Take off the 3 bolts(I believe) so that it is free from the block. There is a bolt on the bottom section of the 2 peice mount, free that so now th mount is comlpetely free. The bolt securing the sensor is the same as the bolts that secure the coolant hose bracket and the fuel rail up top. Not the best metal.. Very soft! I suggest you spray a penetrant and go have lunch or something. Use a 5mm allen socket I believe, and gently back that out. I would have someone uptop making sure that the bolt turns with the rachet. A lot of heating up and cooling happens in this area. So it changes the game a bit when it comes to simply backing out bolts. When the bolt is backed out the sensor should be free. Disconnect the rest of the sensor on the starter and replace it. Motor mount/starter, lower jack from engine, remove jackstands, Remember to hook anything else you may have disconnected! Turn key and problem solved.

This job does not require you to pull the filter housing like I was told. No draining of the oil no unnecessary oil changes. Save 45 minutes. I'm no mechanic. I don't know everything about cars but if I can look at something I can usually figure it out. You don't have to be a pro. Just ambitious! Good luck! And thank you everyone who commented on the original post. In the begining I was ready to sell it:)

02-07-2012, 04:06 PM
I recently had a room mate buy a 98 jetta automatic. I almost wish to use the word "lemon" there is already a button for starting after inserting the key but the problem lies with the key. I can turn the key but it does not stick in the position for lights, heater, etc... I can still start it regardless but obviously driving in the winter with no heat would suck. Same with lights at night. On a good day it only takes five minutes of repeatedly removing the key and inserting and turning until it sticks. WHY? Im assuming i need to just replace the ignition lock switch but my roommate is stubborn and a penny pincher so Im to find a different way.... I figured just add another switch but im not sure how and i dont want to rip under the dash apart and mess it up. I once had this happen with an older honda and that only took me 20 minutes. But Ive looked under the dash. Its a jungle. Any help or suggestions will win my undying appreciation and love.

02-07-2012, 08:14 PM
audiofase88, I'm not saying you're in the wrong thread... maybe one of the readers or previous commentors have delt with such a problem. What I would do though, is try a more specific thread. Or type relevant keywords in your favorite search engine. That's what I did, that's how I got to this thread and ultimately how I fixed my problem.. Good luck!

09-03-2012, 06:22 AM
I have a 97 jetta that would not start when it was wet out. just keep a can of wd-40 with you. i just sprayed the ignition coil and distributer cap and she started up just fine.

I tried this and it actually worked :)

01-10-2013, 11:22 PM
Please help!

I bought my VOLKSWAGEN-JETTA 4 1.6 COMFORTLINE (2003) second hand two years ago. Four months ago I started having intermittent starting problems. Cold start, at times at hot start. All kinds of weather.

The VW Garage replaced the Camshaft Sensor and installed a new starter. The problem continued. A second repair shop replaced the Crank Angle Sensor since their diagnostic system pointed to this as the problem. For two weeks the car was find and then the starting problems resumed. This time I could actually get it started by pushing it down a hill, in reverse. Jump starting with another car hasn't been successful in the past

I took the car back to this shop and they found that the diagnostic system still points out the error as the Crank Angle Sensor. A second opinion confirmed this. The mechanic assumed that the new sensor must have been a faulty part and ordered a brand new Crank Angle Sensor.

Got my car back yesterday and this morning it wouldn't start again.

Please help, I am loosing it. I can't get to work without a car!

12-11-2013, 06:27 AM
I have a problem with my Jetta 3 1.8 L 1998 Model, it just can't start the ignition is turning ok and the starter is ok but no iddling

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