Article Updated: January 20, 2023
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The 6th Gen Volkswagen GTI was first introduced at the Paris Motor Show in October of 2008 and was coined as the “reengineered facelift” to the Volkswagen MK5 GTI. This GTI is essentially a re-skin of the MK5, except for engineering improvements that shortened the assembly time from the MK5. Production runs ran from late 2008 – 2013 in Europe and early 2009 – 2014 in the US.
Under the hood, it features a 2.0t TSI engine (CCZB) with a K03 BorgWarner turbocharger that puts down 210 hp & 207 lb-ft. It comes with two different transmission options: 6 Speed Manual transmission and a 6 Speed DSG (Direct-shift gearbox) automatic transmission. We’re gonna go over the 7 most common problems that someone looking to get a 6th Gen (MK6) Volkswagen GTI should know prior to purchasing. As a disclaimer, these are the most common that we have seen, some are more prevalent in different vehicles.
Common Volkswagen MK6 GTI Engine Problems
- Water pump failure
- Ignition coil pack failure
- Timing chain tensioner failure
- Carbon buildup on the intake valves
- Wastegate rattle
- Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) failure
1. MK6 GTI Water Pump Failure
Water pump failure is probably one of the most common engine problems for all Volkswagen’s unfortunately. Sometimes, your vehicle may not even show symptoms, out of nowhere you’ll see a low coolant alert light pop-up. Odds are, your water pump has failed. What does the water pump do and why is it important? The water pump plays a crucial role in ensuring your car’s engine maintains an optimum operating temperature. The water pump constantly pushes coolant and water into the engine to avoid the engine from overheating.
There are many reasons how a water pump can fail: installation error, plastic cracks/deteriorating, and oil leaking on the water pump causing the gasket to swell. When it does fail, you will have low coolant levels (leak) and/or your car will be overheating.
Common 6th Gen GTI Water Pump Failure Symptoms:
- Low coolant warning – More than likely a leak in the engine compartment
- Vehicle overheating in idle, but not overheating when in motion
- Vehicle overheating in high RPMs, but cools down at idle
Water Pump Replacement Options
There are two obvious options for getting your water pump replaced: Take it to a local shop or DIY. If taken to a local shop or dealership, some years may be under warranty while others will not. You can expect to pony up from $500 – $700 for them to get the part and replace it.
Buy Here: MKVI GTI OEM Water Pump Replacement Part
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
2. MK6 GTI Ignition coil pack failure
Unfortunately, coil packs are another very common engine problem with turbo Volkswagen’s. Ignition coils (coil packs) are very important for your engine to run at optimum levels. This engine has one ignition coil per cylinder, so 4 ignition coils in total that operate completely on their own. The role of an ignition coil simply stated transforms the voltage from the battery turns it into watts needed to charge the spark plugs.
There are a few common ways that ignition coils fail: improper spark plug gap, leaking valve covers, and moisture intrusion caused by A/C condensation. Ignition coils in this engine should be changed every 40k to 60k miles, and in some cases, if not taken care of properly, they could be changed in half of that time.
6th Gen (MK6) GTI Ignition Coil Failure Symptoms:
- Vehicle not starting
- Rough idle
- Check Engine Light (CEL) or Engine Management Light (EML) on
- Engine shuddering in mid to high RPMs
You can easily self-diagnose this issue with a code reader to see which cylinder is misfiring, odds are it’s a bad ignition coil. The three main codes you will see are: P0300 (Random/Multiple Cylinder misfired detected), P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304 (1st cylinder misfired, 2nd cylinder misfired, so on and so forth), & P130A (Hide cylinder). When one coil goes out, we would advise replacing the entire coil pack because then you could be in a situation where they go out more often and you would be trying to figure out which one is bad too much.
Ignition Coil Replacement Options:
Changing your ignition coils is a simple DIY that could take an hour or less if you know what you’re doing. If you were to take your car to a shop or dealer, you could expect to pony up anywhere from $400 – $600, depending on if they’re wanting to change both the ignition coils and spark plugs at the same time. So, we HIGHLY advise buying the parts below and doing it yourself.
If you are tuned or plan on getting tuned, we highly advise going with the 1-step colder spark plugs. The more boost you’re running, the hotter the engine gets, which leads to misfires under full throttle on OEM spark plugs. Especially if you happen to have a K04 upgrade, you will want to go with 1-step colder. Spark plug gapping can vary from .024, .026, or .03 depending on the engine.
Buy Here: 1-Step Colder MK6 GTI Spark Plugs
DIY Difficulty: Easy
3. MK6 GTI Timing chain tensioner failure
As of July 23, 2012, VW has a TSB 15 12 01 (Technical Service Bulletin) that has addressed this issue. Unfortunately, this issue can affect all 2008 – 2013 model years and these engine codes: CCTA, CBFA, CAEB, CAEA, CDNC, and CPMA. What exactly is a timing chain tensioner? It is a device that places the ideal pressure/tension on the timing chain to allow the chain to properly rotate the engine crankshaft and camshaft at the proper speed.
The main reason a tensioner fails is due to poor product design, which is why there is a TSB. Volkswagen acknowledged that the tensioner was of poor quality and issued a recall, but this is what you should be looking for when shopping for a used MKVI GTI.
When the timing chain tensioner fails, the timing chain can skip due to improper tension, which would cause unwanted contact between the piston and valves. This can cause serious engine damage, to the point where you have to get a brand new engine. Volkswagen’s maintenance schedule recommends getting the tensioner changed every 120,000 miles, but some owners have seen them go out as early as 20,000 miles.
Timing Chain Tensioner Failure Symptoms:
- Rattling noise coming from the engine bay after start
- Engine not starting
- Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) or Check Engine Light (CEL) on
- Engine failure
- Engine going into “limp mode”
Timing Chain Tensioner Replacement Options
There really isn’t any preventative maintenance that you can perform to avoid the tensioner from failing, but if you experience any of the symptoms above, you can perform a simple inspection to check it. If your timing chain tensioner happens to fail, DO NOT DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE. More than likely, you will have to take it to a local shop, unless you are a car mechanic and can perform this difficult DIY by yourself. The cost depends from car to car because VW did extend their warranty on the timing chain and timing chain tensioner to 100,000 miles or 10 years. If you are not under warranty, the cost of the fix can vary drastically.
Buy Here: Replacement MKVI GTI Tensioner
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
4. Carbon buildup
Carbon buildup is another common problem for ALL direct-injection engines on the market. It is essentially unburned oil vapors, fuel vapors, or anything else on the intake valve which causes a blockage of airflow in your engine. What causes carbon buildup? The PCV system. The PCV system pulls leftover combustion gases from the crankcase and routes them back into the engine via the intake manifold. The unburned oil vapors, fuel vapors, etc leave carbon deposits on the intake valve since it is the most restrictive component in the intake manifold.
Carbon Buildup Symptoms:
- Poor fuel economy
- Misfires at idle or while running without an engine code
- Loss of power, feeling sluggish
- Cold start misfires
How to Reduce Carbon Buildup:
- Use an oil catch can
- Run your engine hard over 3,000 RPMs for an extended period of time (20-30mins)
- Use a chemical, such as seafoam, every 10,000 miles
- Media blasting (Soda, Walnut, etc.) every 60,000 miles
- Manual Cleaning (Scraping and Picking)
- Using “Top-Tier” Gas (93+ Octane if possible)
If you haven’t checked your intake valves for 45,000 miles or more, then it would be advised to get them walnut blasted and take the precautions listed above to prevent carbon buildup. If you were to take your car to a local shop or a dealership, you should expect to pay $600+ for manual carbon removal. Now if you would rather do this yourself, you are looking at a rather difficult DIY project that could take you upwards of 4 hours.
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
5. MK6 GTI Wastegate rattle
If you have owned this GTI from the years 2008 – 2012, you have heard this noise before. As of August 25th, 2010, Volkswagen has a TSB 21 10 01 that has addressed this issue. The rattle is caused by the wastegate actuator rod rubbing back and forth on the wastegate and can be quite annoying. Unfortunately, this is just a manufacturing fault. This rattle can occur on start-up, while idle, or while accelerating from 1800-3000rpms.
Now as the TSB above states, VW only covers 2008 – 2010 model years. However, there have been some VW dealerships that have covered 2011 – 2013, but it just depends on what kind of service manager you are dealing with. If it is not covered, you could be looking at a bill of $120, which is absurd for something that could take you 10-15 minutes to fix. If you come prepared with the TSB in hand and the part # (06J145220A) for the Wastegate Actuator Rod Rattle Clip, it is harder for a service writer to turn you away.
Solution: MK6 GTI Wastegate Actuator Rod Rattle Clip
Price: $9.59 + Tax
DIY Difficulty: Easy
6. Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) failure
The last common engine problem to note is the PCV Valve failing. The PCV valve helps emit fumes and recycles them back into the intake system to reduce emissions. Also, controls the PCV system (which has many functions of its own) and if the PCV valve is clean, it can extend the life of your oil and even the engine itself.
There are a few ways the PCV valve can fail: the rubber diaphragm on the valve splits (most common), carbon buildup on the valve, and the check valve on the inside getting stuck. Unfortunately, there is no “usual” time you need to replace the PCV valve. Sometimes they only last 5,000 miles and other times they can last 100,000+ miles. Ideally, you would like to get it replaced around 60,000 miles or right before the powertrain warranty runs out.
PCV Valve Failure Symptoms:
- Rough or high idle
- Sluggish acceleration
- Increased oil consumption
- Engine codes: P0171 – System too lean; P0300 – P0304 – Cylinder misfires; P0507 – rpm higher than expected
- Whistling in the engine bay
PCV Valve Replacement Options:
When it comes to replacing the PCV valve, there’s only one option and that is to replace it with a new one. Replacing the PCV valve is a pretty straightforward DIY and can be done by movie DIYers. If you aren’t comfortable DIYing, a local shop will likely charge around $200-$300 to replace the PCV valve.
Buy Here: Replacement MKVI GTI PCV Valve
DIY Difficulty: Easy
Volkswagen MK6 GTI Reliability
For the most part, this GTI is very reliable if it is taken care of properly. I have seen some last upwards of 180,000 miles with no major issues. As always, you can likely expect a few issues with the common MK6 problems above such as the water pump, PCV valve, and carbon build-up. Maintain the car like you’re supposed to, and you’ll be fine. It will last! If you have or had an MK6 GTI, let us know your experience in the comments below! If you’re interested in modding your MK6 GTI, here is a mod guide written by us.