Article Updated: February 27, 2023
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The Volkswagen EA888 engine was debuted with two available sizes: 1.8t and 2.0t. The 1.8t TSI/TFSI was introduced in 2007 and has been modified into 3 generations, which are referred to as 1.8 TSI Gen1, 1.8 TSI Gen2, & 1.8 TSI Gen3. All of the 1.8 engines feature a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder K03 turbocharged (except Gen3, which had an IS12 turbo) engine that are still being modified and produced today. The 2.0 TSI/TFSI was introduced shortly after the 1.8 in March of 2008 and also has three generations, which are also referred to as 2.0 TSI Gen1, 2.0 TSI Gen2, & 2.0 TSI Gen3. The 2.0 TSI/TFSI engines feature a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder K03 turbocharged (except Gen3, which had an IS38, IS20, or a 1752S turbo) engine that are also being modified and produced today.
The EA888 superseded the popular EA113 Volkswagen engine but is seen as a more unreliable engine than its predecessor. The Gen2 for both the 1.8 and 2.0 gave this engine a bad reputation, due to its high oil consumption. In this post, we’ll be going over the common problems for this Volkswagen engine. To preface, we’ll try to be specific in which generation of the engine experiences the problems the most.
*For the replacement options listed below, PLEASE ensure they fit your vehicle. We were unable to list out all the different model numbers for 6 generations of this engine.
Common Problems are Applicable for:
B6/B7/B8 Passat (2005 – Present)
MK5 Jetta (2006 – 2011)
MK5 GTI (2006 – 2010)
CC (2008 – Present)
MK6 GTI (2009 – 2014)
MK6 Jetta (2010 – 2018)
MK7 GTI (2014 – 2020)
MK7 Golf R (2014 – 2020)
Tiguan (2016 – Present)
MK7 Jetta GLI (2018 – Present)
The 7 Most Common Volkswagen EA888 Engine Problems
- Ignition Coil Failure
- Excessive Oil Consumption
- Thermostat Housing Leak
- Water Pump Failure
- Carbon Buildup in the Intake Valves
- Stretched Out Timing Chain
- Weak PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) Valve
1. Ignition Coil Failure
Ignition coil failure is a common problem in most turbocharged engines on the market. An ignition coil/coil pack is a crucial part of a vehicle’s engine. It transforms the battery’s voltage to create a spark in the spark plugs to ignite the vehicle’s fuel which instigates combustion.
We wouldn’t say this is an issue that pops up all the time, but if you happen to have an engine misfire, odds are it’s your ignition coils or spark plugs. Some reasons why they fail are worn/bad spark plug ignition cable, improper spark plug gap, intrusion of moisture, or leaking valve covers. Now, how do you know if your ignition coils have failed?
Symptoms of Ignition Coil Failure:
- Vehicle not starting
- Check engine light (CEL) or Engine management light (EML) flashing or on
- Turbo shuddering in mid to high RPMs
- Rough Cold/Warm Idle
- Engine stalling
When trying to self-diagnose an ignition coil pack failing, we strongly suggest getting an OBD scanner. If you are experiencing misfires and your CEL is on, you will probably get back any of these fault codes: P0300, P0301(cylinder 1 misfire), P0302(cylinder 2 misfire), P0303(cylinder 3 misfire), P0304(cylinder 4 misfire). Receiving any of these codes, we strongly suggest replacing all your coil packs to avoid any annoyance down the road of others going out randomly. If you aren’t too handy, then you can take it to the dealer self-diagnosed and you should be looking at around ~$225.
Ignition Coil Pack Replacement Options:
DIY Difficulty: Easy
2. Excessive Oil Consumption
This is a hot topic for the Gen 2 engines, both 1.8 and 2.0 series. This is also the main reason this Volkswagen engine gets a bad reputation. Excessive oil consumption is what it sounds like, the engine takes in more oil than the acceptable range of oil during normal conditions. Now, this can get quite annoying and costly, if not addressed immediately.
This problem occurs because, in the Gen 2s, Volkswagen made the piston rings too thin out of the factory. Unfortunately, if you have a Gen2, you will have to replace the pistons and piston rings with the previous Gen 1. Or, if you’re lucky, it is just a faulty PCV valve. How can you determine if this problem is occurring with your engine? See below for symptoms.
Symptoms of Excessive Oil Consumption:
- Oil deposits in the engine or on spark plugs
- Blue smoke out of the exhaust
- Lower engine oil than expected for the duration you’ve been driving
- Faulty PCV valve
- Metal in the oil pan
As stated above, if you are noticing any of these symptoms act on them right away, regardless of what generation you have. If your engine has low oil due to consuming too much, it can cause oil deposits and the engine will put more stress on the oil you have left. We would recommend replacing your PCV Valve first to see if this alleviates the problem. If not, you may want to ask your shop to get a consumption test to confirm or deny the piston rings being the problem. If it does happen to be the piston rings, we suggest taking it to a shop to get it fixed and you’ll be looking at a costly repair of ~$5,000 – $6,000.
3. Thermostat Housing Leak
A thermostat housing leak is more prominent in gen3 engines and unfortunately is fairly common. The thermostat housing is the coolant outlet and, believe it or not, houses the thermostat, which regulates coolant flow.
The thermostat housing fails for four main reasons: a defective part, normal wear and tear, sludge, or overheating. Unless the part is defective or normal maintenance is not performed on your vehicle, you should only need to replace the thermostat housing once every 60,000 miles.
Symptoms of a Thermostat Housing Leak:
- Leaking engine coolant
- Engine overheating
- Inconsistent engine temperature readings
- Low coolant light illuminating
- Coolant leaking through the weep hole
Replacing the thermostat housing is not a difficult DIY, it’s just a matter of if you would like to change the water pump and thermostat/thermostat housing simultaneously, which we would recommend. Prior to performing this DIY, you may want to perform a pressure test if you are unsure that the problems you are experiencing have to do with the thermostat housing gaskets. If you were to take your vehicle to the shop for them to diagnose/repair this problem, you’re looking at a cost of ~$200 – $300.
DIY Difficulty: Easy
4. Water Pump Failure
Water pump failure is a common problem in a majority of vehicles on the road today. Throughout the lifetime of your vehicle, you are bound to have at least one water pump go out. The water pump circulates coolant from the radiator through the cooling system and returns to the radiator and is very important to your vehicle’s health.
Water pumps can fail for several reasons: everyday wear and tear, using the wrong coolant, worn bearings, or low coolant levels. Without a functioning water pump, your vehicle is prone to overheating, which will only cause more issues.
Symptoms of a Water Pump Failure:
- Engine overheating
- High pitch noise coming from the engine
- Coolant leak (Low coolant indicator illuminating)
- Steam spewing from the radiator
- Gunk built on the water pump
This problem goes hand and hand with the thermostat housing and if either goes out, we recommend replacing both. Replacing a water pump by yourself can be done, and to no surprise, it is much cheaper. If you are looking to take your vehicle into the dealership, you’re looking to spend about ~$700. If you choose to DIY, we would recommend getting the water pump kit to avoid any annoyance of a mix of new and old parts.
Water Pump Replacement Options:
Buy Here: VW EA888 Replacement Water Pump
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
5. Carbon Buildup in the Intake Valves
Carbon buildup seems to be a reoccurring problem in a lot of today’s newer direct injection vehicles. Essentially, when your engine burns fuel, carbon deposits will gradually coat the intake valves until it potentially gets worse enough to “clog the windpipes.” Something to note is that there are preventative measures you can take to reduce carbon buildup. See below for pictures of clogged vs. clear intake valves. We would say this clogging will likely happen at least once in your vehicle’s lifetime.
Symptoms of Carbon Buildup in the Intake Valves:
- Loss in fuel economy
- Engine knocking
- Cold start misfires
- Loss of power & engine stalling (Vague symptoms because this could be many things)
Ways to Prevent Carbon Buildup in the Intake Valves:
- Running your engine hard for a set amount of time (3000rpms+ for ~20-30mins)
- Use the best quality fuel (93+ Octane)
- Manually cleaning the valves occasionally
- Use an oil catch can *We don’t recommend this route, but it is an option
- Media/Walnut/Soda blasting (Every 60,000 miles)
If you haven’t taken a look at your intake valves and your vehicle is over 45,000 miles, we highly recommend doing so. If there seems to be quite the build up, then we would suggest taking it to a shop (~$600) or manually cleaning the valves by DIY. Doing so is not the easiest, but if you are more mechanically inclined and like to save money, DIY might be the best route. After cleaning the valves, ensure to follow the preventative measures above to avoid buildup in the future.
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
6. Stretched Out Timing Chain
A stretched-out timing chain is a problem that is more prominent in the 2.0t Volkswagen Gen1 and Gen2 engines (More specifically CCTA, CBFA, CAEB, CAEA, CDNC, and CPMA). A timing chain connects the crankshaft to the camshaft so the transmission can turn in unison with the engine. So, if your timing chain fully fails, your vehicle will not start.
The main reason that we have heard of the timing chain stretching is due to higher-than-normal power for an extended amount of time (i.e.: Stage 2 power for 45,000+ miles). It should last the lifetime of your vehicle, unless unforeseen circumstances put more stress on it, then you may have to just replace it once. The timing chain is not usually a scheduled maintenance item, so usually, this issue won’t be caught until some of the symptoms below start to occur.
Symptoms of a Stretched Out Timing Chain:
- Check engine light or engine management light illuminating
- P0506, P0016, P0011, P0341, P000A, or P052A fault codes
- Timing chain past maximum range of 126mm or ~5in
- Engine skipping a gear
- Vehicle not starting
- Metal shavings in the oil pan
- Rough Idle
Timing Chain Replacement and Diagnosis Options:
DIY Difficulty: Advanced
7. Weak PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) Valve
The PCV Valves for Volkswagen engines are not the most reliable (especially in turbocharged engines), causing this to be a common problem for many Volkswagen engines. This part may be referred to as many things: breather valve, crankcase ventilation valve, or the oil separator. In simple terms, the PCV valve controls the emissions in your vehicle. It takes the fumes produced by the crankcase and reroutes them into the engine’s combustion chamber to be burned causing no harm to your vehicle or the environment.
There are a few reasons why a PCV will fail: the rubber diaphragm on top ripping, orange check valve getting stuck or weak spring, or leaking oil from the main PCV valve gasket. If your PCV valve does happen to fail, severe sludge buildup and oil leaks can become prevalent. If you notice an oil leak, this should be one of the first places to check. PCV valves typically last around 70,000 miles, but since all the Volkswagen EA888 engines have turbochargers, this could lead to shorter PCV valve lifespans.
Symptoms of a Failing PCV Valve:
- Misfires depending on air leaks – P0300
- System lean codes – P0171
- Idle regulation code
- Oil leaking/increased oil consumption
- Loud whistling/whine noise from the engine
- Rough idle
- Sluggish power
Replacing a PCV valve is not the most difficult DIY, especially if you know your way around the engine. If you’re looking to do it yourself, you’re looking at just the cost of parts, which we recommend buying the kit for ~$125 – $200. If you were wanting to take this to the shop for them to do, depending on how much they are replacing, you could be looking at anywhere from $150 – $300.
Buy Here: VW EA888 PCV Valve Replacement Kit
DIY Difficulty: Easy
Volkswagen EA888 Engine Reliability
Is the Volkswagen EA888 engine reliable? There may be many problems listed above to make you think otherwise about this engine, but the overall engine series is rather reliable if maintained properly. The Gen 2, being the most prominent in the series and because of the issues it had with excessive oil consumption, it gave the EA888 engine a bad reputation. Volkswagen’s dedication in modifying the engine has made it stick around still today.
These engines do provide the applications with decent power, torque, and tunability to certain expectations, with stage 3 hindering the engine’s reliability for most engines on the market. We have seen these engines last up to 200,000 miles IF the proper service intervals are maintained and high-quality oil/fuel is used.