Article Updated: February 8, 2023
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The Volkswagen Tiguan was first introduced in 2007 and is still in production today. At the time of its release, it was the second CUV produced by Volkswagen. The first-generation, often referred to as 5N, was built on Volkswagen’s PQ46 platform, while the second-generation, often referred to as AD or BW, was built on Volkswagen’s MQB platform. Believe it or not, the Tiguan is actually Volkswagen’s best-selling vehicle across the Volkswagen Group, selling more than six million units worldwide.
First-Generation Tiguan (5N) Engines
The first-generation Tiguan was introduced in 2007 and produced through 2015. Initially, the 5N Tiguan was released with a 2.0 TDI engine that put down 138hp and a 1.4 TSI engine that put down 148hp. However, in the US and Canada in 2008, it featured a 2.0TSI engine that put down 197hp. And in China, it even featured a 1.8TSI engine that put down 158hp. The transmissions available were a 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, and 7-speed automatic. It featured different trims with many different names across the globe, but in the US the trims available were: S, SE, & SEL.
The first generation had a facelift in 2012 making the headlights bolder, changing the grilles aesthetic, and taillights more modern. The interior trim was also upgraded in the facelift.
Second-Generation Tiguan (AD/BW) Engines
The second generation was introduced in 2015 and began production in 2016. The AD/BW has a shorter wheelbase but a longer and wider body. There were many engines available in this generation: an EA211 1.4TSI, EA211 evo 1.5TSI, EA888 2.0TSI, EA288 1.6TDI, & an EA288 2.0TDI. The transmissions that are available include a 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 7-speed DSG automatic, and an 8-speed automatic. Like the first-generation, there were many trims with different names globally, but in the US they were named: S, SE, SEL, & SEL Premium. However, released after launch was the R-Line, eHybrid, and Tiguan X.
The AD/BW Tiguan got a facelift in 2020 that again updated the headlights, grille, taillights, and trunk. The interior also got many technological upgrades, such as an upgraded touch screen and Volkswagen’s Travel Assist feature.
Common Volkswagen Tiguan Engine Problems
Before getting into the Tiguan engine problems, we want to preface that all of the replacement parts are for the 2.0TSI engine. So if you happen to have a Tiguan with another engine and need assistance looking for parts, reach out in the comments and we’ll assist in any way possible!
- Ignition coil pack failure
- Clock spring failure
- Defective timing chain and tensioner
- Premature water pump failure
- Defective N80 valve
- Plastic intake manifold failure
- Subframe clunk
1. Ignition Coil Pack Failure
Ignition coils or coil packs are common downfalls in many Volkswagen engines. They transform the lower voltage supplied by the battery to the higher voltage the spark plugs need to create a spark in the combustion chamber. There is one ignition coil and one spark plug per cylinder. There are 4 cylinders in the 2.0TSI Tiguan engine, therefore there are 4 coils and spark plugs. Without a functioning coil or plug, the engine will be sluggish. However, if there are multiple coils or plugs that aren’t functioning the engine may not turn over.
The main reasons ignition coils fail are due to normal wear and tear, defective units from the factory, or engine’s being modified. The likelihood of a Tiguan being modified is low, so the main reason they fail on Tiguan’s is normal wear and tear. A good rule of thumb is to change out ignition coils and spark plugs every 60,000 miles.
Symptoms of Coil Packs Failure:
- Engine misfires with P0300 – P0304 fault codes
- Check engine light illuminating
- Poor engine performance
- Engine having trouble turning over or not turning over at all
- Engine stalls
When an engine receives misfires, most of the time it is a failing coil. When one ignition coil goes out, we highly advise changing all 4 plugs and coils when one of them fails. The reason is that they typically go out at the same time and it will save you a headache in the long run. If you are DIY savvy, this is a simple DIY to do if you have the proper tools. A local mechanic or dealer would charge around $200.
2009-2018 Tiguan Coils: Volkswagen Tiguan 1 & 2 OEM Ignition Coils
2009-2018 Tiguan Spark Plugs: Volkswagen Tiguan 1 & 2 OEM Spark Plugs
2018-Present Tiguan Coils: Volkswagen Tiguan MQB Ignition Coils
2018-Present Tiguan Spark Plugs: Volkswagen Tiguan MQB Spark Plugs
DIY Difficulty: Easy
2. Clock Spring Failure – Volkswagen Tiguan
Just like on the Atlas, there has been a recall on the clock spring’s. A clockspring is mounted between the steering wheel and the column. It is a special electrical rotary in a vehicle’s steering system that allows the vehicle to turn and controls the electrical buttons on the steering wheel. The recall was issued in 2015 by Volkswagen on 2010-2014 Tiguans. However, there are some claims that this recall didn’t alleviate the problem.
The reason the clockspring fails is that it is defective out of the factory. If the clock spring hasn’t failed on your Tiguan yet, it is just a matter of time. When it does fail, the airbag will be disabled and communication from the electronic buttons will be blocked. Typically a clock spring should last the lifecycle of a vehicle.
Symptoms of Clock Spring Failure:
- Airbag warning light illuminating
- Car horn not functioning
- Steering wheel electrical buttons not working
If a clock spring goes out, it is crucial to take it to a mechanic or DIY it ASAP since the airbag will be disabled. When it does fail, there is only one option and that is to replace it. More than likely since it has been recalled, there shouldn’t be Tiguan’s on the market without the fix, but we all know that not everyone pays attention to recalls. If you are in the market for a Tiguan, get the maintenance records to ensure it has been changed.
Buy Here: VW Tiguan Clock Spring Replacement
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
3. Defective Timing Chain and Tensioner – Volkswagen Tiguan
Timing chain and the associated tensioners are not very reliable in many Volkswagen’s, and the Tiguan is no exception, unfortunately. A timing chain, in essence, opens and closes the valves in an engine. Without a functioning timing chain, major engine damage will occur. Tensioners optimally retain the tension of the timing chain that the engine needs to run efficiently.
There are a couple of reasons a timing chain can fail: stretching due to tensioner failure or breaking completely. When a timing chain or timing chain tensioners fail, the valves can collide into the pistons causing $6,000+ worth of damage. A timing chain shouldn’t fail in a vehicle’s life cycle. However, most of the time when the chain fails is because of the tensioners.
Symptoms of Timing Chain or Tensioner Failure:
- Engine dies
- Engine not cranking, starting, or turning over
- Rattling noise coming from the passenger side
- Engine timing off
- Stretched timing chain
- Sluggish engine performance
When a timing chain stretches or breaks, the timing chain itself will have to be replaced. Something we highly advise is replacing it with a full kit, like the one listed below. The reason being is because you should keep everything new when it comes to the timing chain since it is so crucial in an engine. A timing chain service is very expensive, so make sure to stay on top of maintenance.
Buy Here: Recommended VW Tiguan Timing Chain Kit Replacement
DIY Difficulty: Difficult
4. Premature Water Pump Failure
Water pump failure is very common in Volkswagen’s and Audi’s, but the Tiguan water pump fails prematurely. A water pump recirculates coolant from the radiator to the engine and then back to the radiator. It is very crucial to the engine’s cooling system and without a functioning water pump, the engine will slowly overheat and go into limp mode.
The main reasons water pumps fail are due to gasket leaks (because of the plastic components), normal wear and tear, or lack of coolant. In Volkswagen’s you will more than likely go through at least one water pump throughout its lifecycle.
Symptoms of Water Pump Failure:
- Low engine coolant/antifreeze indicator illuminating
- Engine overheating
- Limp mode initiated
- Water pump leaking engine coolant
- Coolant leaking onto the ground
- Fault codes: P3081, P2181, P0087, etc.
Whenever the water pump fails, there is only one option when it comes to repairing it and that is replacing the unit. We highly advise replacing it with the kit listed below that includes: an aluminum water pump, aluminum thermostat, an upgraded temperature sensor, and more. When it comes to replacing the parts listed, it isn’t the easiest DIY, but if you know your way around the engine, it shouldn’t take more than a few hours. A local mechanic would charge around $800.
5. Defective N80 valve
There are quite a few Volkswagen vehicles that have a defective N80 valve, or often referred to as EVAP purge solenoid. An N80 valve is a component in the EVAP system that regulates the fuel vapors that go back into the intake manifold to get burned off. Without a functioning n80 valve, too much or too little fuel vapor can cause a check engine light to illuminate.
The reason these fail in Tiguans is mainly because they are defective or wear prematurely. Many customers have claimed to hear a popping noise coming from the trunk after refueling. This occurs because if the valve is stuck open it causes the fuel tank to pressurize resulting in a popping noise. Also, the vehicle not starting after refueling can occur because of it being open. Typically an N80 valve should last the lifecycle of a vehicle.
Symptoms of a Defective N80 Valve:
- Check engine light or Malfunction indicator lamp illuminating
- P0441, P0442, P0171, or P0172 fault codes
- Popping noise from the trunk
- Rough engine performance
- Decreased fuel economy
When an N80 valve is stuck open or defective, the only thing to do is to replace it with a new one. This isn’t a hard DIY if you know the location of the valve, linked above. If you were to take it to a mechanic to get it looked at and replaced, you would be looking at a cost of $250.
Buy Here: VW Tiguan N80 Valve Replacement
DIY Difficulty: Easy
6. Plastic Intake Manifold Failure
This is another major issue with 2.0T’s Tiguans and Volkswagen issued a TSB to address the issue. An intake manifold ensures the air being breathed into the engine is evenly distributed in the four cylinders. The problem with the intake manifolds in the 2.0TSI’s is that the runner flap may not open correctly with the regulator valve. So the issue is not necessarily the intake manifold itself, but it’s the solenoid valve controlling the flap.
When an intake manifold fails, the runner flap can remain open or be stuck closed causing AFR’s to be thrown off. When this occurs, engine performance is severely affected. An intake manifold should last through a vehicle’s lifecycle.
Symptoms of Plastic Manifold Failure:
- Engine misfires
- P2015 fault code
- Poor engine performance
- Rough idle
When the solenoid valve on an intake manifold fails, unfortunately, the whole part will have to be replaced. Since the manifold is on the top of the engine, it isn’t the hardest DIY, but you have to know what you’re looking at. If you are lucky, like some Tiguan customers have claimed, you can present the above TSB to a dealer and it will be covered under warranty. Volkswagen has actually extended the warranty on the intake manifold to 10years/120,000 miles. So odds are this will be covered, so take it to a dealer to get it done. If for some reason it isn’t covered under warranty, you will be looking at a bill of $450.
Buy Here: VW Tiguan Intake Manifold Replacement
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
7. Subframe Clunk
Now, this next issue is very peculiar and is the first time we’re hearing anything like this for any Volkswagen vehicles. Tiguan’s from 2008 – 2016 are affected with “subframe clunk”. So what exactly is the “VW subframe clunk”? Essentially it is, as it sounds, a clunking sound that comes from beneath the floorboard on the driver’s side or middle of the vehicle. The subframe of a car is a structure that is below the vehicle’s frame and supports the axle, suspension, and powertrain. What ends up happening in Tiguans is the bolts that connect the subframe to the bottom of the engine bay start to stretch. This allows the subframe to move and collide with the bottom of the car during acceleration and this is the clunking sound customers are reporting to Volkswagen.
Volkswagen has been made aware of this problem and has issued a correction that includes better bolts and spacers to prevent subframe clunk. This is not something that is detrimental to a vehicle in the short term, however, if left ignored it could cause some issues down the line. Mostly, it is just annoying to have to hear while accelerating or turning every time.
Symptoms of Subframe Clunk:
- Clunking noise under driver’s seat from acceleration
- Clunking noise in the middle of the vehicle when downshifting
- Squeaks or groans while turning
- Front alignment off
Before going into replacement options for the “VW subframe clunk”, we highly advise obtaining maintenance records on any 2008 – 2016 Tiguan to make sure this service has been done. If an existing Tiguan is experiencing the subframe clunk, you can buy an aftermarket kit, like the one linked below, and DIY it or take the vehicle to a dealer or mechanic to add Volkswagen’s correction. Some customers have got this service covered, while others had to pay quite a bit.
Buy Here: VW Tiguan Subframe Locking Kit
DIY Difficulty: Intermediate
Volkswagen Tiguan Towing Capacity
The Volkswagen Tiguan is not great, but not far off from the average mid-size SUV. The VW Tiguan’s towing capacity is 1,500 pounds. Towing capacity is the amount a vehicle can pull safely on the roads. The new EA888 2.0T engines in the Tiguan only put down 184hp and 221lb-ft of torque, which means less towing capacity. It also has a payload capacity of 1,146 pounds. What does this mean? Payload capacity refers to the amount of weight the vehicle’s axles can take. It would be advisable to stay way under those numbers when towing because the more stress that is put on the axles the worse it is on your vehicle. Lastly, If you are looking to tow frequently, upgrade to Volkswagen’s 4motion AWD system. You’ll thank us later.
Volkswagen Tiguan Reliability
Although the Volkswagen Tiguan has received stellar safety ratings, these vehicles can be very hit or miss when it comes to reliability. We aren’t going to sugar coat it, the Volkswagen Tiguan’s reliability rating is dead last, 26th out of 26, on RepairPal for all CUV’s. The 2011 model year was by far the worst model year when it comes to engine problems, so, if possible, try to avoid these. However, the 2022 model year has a 76/100 JD Power reliability rating. Just like many early model-year vehicles, there seem to be hiccups that are resolved in later model years. If possible, try going for the newer first-generation Tiguans (2014-2016) or newer second-generation Tiguans (2020-present).
With all that said above, we have seen many Tiguans last past 100,000 miles without any issues. An important aspect of vehicle longevity is going to be maintenance. As long as vehicle maintenance is followed religiously, you should be okay. Just to preface, every engine is created differently. So one vehicle may have a better built engine than another, so it is hard to pinpoint when ALL Tiguan’s will have problems.
Could be strange to some, but to us, we love a good lowered Tiguan. If you’re wanting to lower yours, check our Tiguan coilover guide.