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Volkswagen Golf Not Starting

Q. Hi, I am hoping that you can help me out. I have been working on this puzzle for a couple of weeks now. I have a 1989 VW Golf, 1.8 litre. Digifant II fuel injected system, 5 speed manual, 236,000 kilometers (146,643 miles). Here is my problem, Since the weather has started to get cool (below freezing) in the fall I have had trouble starting the car from cold.

Volkswagen Golf Not Starting

Usually the car would start on the third or fourth try. The first try the engine would just turn over. second try it would be start but not stay running and would cut out almost as soon as it started. The third time would usually start normally, but you would have to let it warm up, or the engine would cut out when you pressed the gas pedal.

The last time that I drove the car, was on a trip home from Montreal to Ottawa (200 kilometers). After about 150 kilometers (93 miles) into the trip, I noticed a miss fire from the engine. And then it would run normal for about the next 5 kilometers (3 miles), and there would be another misfire. Then the miss fires became more frequent, and more misses at once.

During this time, if tried to speed up, all I would get is a whole bunch of misses, and not much else, although I could still maintain 100km/h (62 mph). The car did manage to get me home, and when I was about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from home the missing seemed to stop, and everything seemed to be working normal, but when I pulled off the highway, and down shifted, there was no idle, the engine cut out. I restarted the car by popping the clutch, while the car was still moving.

Since this day, I have not been able to drive the car. It will start and run for about 1-2 seconds and then cut out. Sometimes it runs longer but will stop instantly if the gas pedal is depressed slightly.

Here is what my father and I have tried;

  1. Checked the spark plugs. Looked to be in good condition.
  2. Checked the ignition coil. Resistance of primary and secondary coils all okay, and no visible cracks.
  3. The fuel pressure and regulator valve, and it checked out okay.
  4. Removed the fuel injectors, and cleaned them. Tested the injectors outside of the inlet manifold, and they worked fine when the engine was turned over.
  5. Can't find any air leaks into the inlet system anywhere.
  6. Replaced the mass air flow sensor with a used one that tested better then the original.
  7. New distributor cap.

Could the Ignition Control Model or computer cause this kind of problem? How can I test these two units? The idle stabilizer valve works okay. Are there any of the other sensors that could cause this problem? I hope that you can give me some clues or something else to try.

Thanks for your help!!!!

A. Since you checked the injectors and they sprayed fuel, I'm going to assume that the fuel half of the equation is okay. I would still like to see you do a fuel pressure and volume test however.

Make a spark tester by gaping an old spark plug to 0.200" and sticking it on a plug wire. Lay it on a metal ground and crank the engine over and see if there is spark. If not then we are correct in looking at the ignition system.

Check for battery voltage at the positive side (15) of the coil with the key on. If there is no voltage check the yellow wire from the ignition switch. If there is power there you have a break in the wire somewhere in between.

If you have power to the coil, stick your spark tester in the end of the coil wire. Then, with the key on, hook a jumper wire to the negative (1) side of the coil and MOMENTARILY ground it. If you get a spark, then the Hall Effect sensor in the distributor is either bad or not getting power. At this point I would recommend getting a Motors Import Car Service Manual from the reference section of your local public library. It has a more detailed testing procedure for the testing the Hall Effect sensor and ignition module. It is much too long for me to include here.

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