Volkswagen’s EA888 2.0-liter engine has a history of tensioner problems that can lead to a loose timing chain and catastrophic engine failure. A series of lawsuits eventually led to a settlement that offers an extended warranty and potential reimbursements for owners.
Timing chains are the conductor of your engine. Through a series of guides and tensioners, the chain links the crankshaft to the camshaft and is responsible for keeping the valves of the cylinder head in sync with the pistons of the combustion chamber.
If the timing chain becomes loose, either by stretching or a failed tensioner, there are serious problems ahead.
What’s Happening in VW’s EA888 Engine
VW owners have reported timing chain issues as early as 20,000 miles on the odometer. Why so early?
Volkswagen’s own warranty and maintenance schedules say you shouldn’t have to worry about timing chain maintenance for 120,000 miles. That’s one of the main reasons chains have replaced belts in high-displacement engines.
The most likely cause is a timing chain tensioner failure. Tensioners make sure the chain is tightly wound to the pulleys and gears. If the tensioner fails and the chain becomes loose, the timing of the engine is thrown off.
Symptoms of a loose timing chain
Whether the timing chain itself has stretched, or a tensioner isn’t doing its job, the result is the same.
First, you might might hear the engine rattle during startup or idling. This is likely the loose timing chain vibrating inside the motor.
If the chain is loose, you could have trouble starting the engine or it might misfire while driving. That’s because the timing between the valves and pistons are out of sync, and the combustion part of you internal combustion engine is busted.
Sensors in the crankshaft and camshaft should pickup on timing issues like this and illuminate the check engine light. However they’d be better off displaying an “SOS” and sending up a white flag.
If you find metal shavings in the oil it might indicate that the links and rollers in the chain are worn out from age of improper lubrication from dirty oil.
If a loose timing chain isn’t addressed immediately it could break, and cause catastrophic damage to the engine.
As the problems piled up, the lawsuits rolled in
VW started sending out Technical Service Bulletins (TSB) to its network of dealerships around 2010. The TSBs outlined how to respond to customer complaints about the timing chain.
Many owners were met with accusations of improper oil and filter maintenance. Dirty oil doesn’t lubricate as well and can cause excessive wear on the timing chain.
If the owner couldn’t produce perfect oil maintenance records with receipts, they were likely denied warranty service on the timing chain.
Fed up and facing massive repair bills, the first timing chain lawsuit was filed in May of 2016. It placed blame on the tensioner system and said VW should help pay for repairs.
Another class-action lawsuit soon followed by 24 plaintiffs in 17 states claiming the timing chains “jump a tooth” in the camshaft.
The lawsuits were eventually combined in a New Jersey court, despite VW’s motion to dismiss the cases.
VW Timing Chain Settlement
As the court fees piled up, Volkswagen agreed to settle 7 class-action lawsuits in one combined action in May of 2018.
As part of the settlement, the following Volkswagen vehicles were given an extended “new vehicle limited warranty” to cover future repairs or replacements of the timing chains and tensioners.
Owners and lessees of the vehicles are automatically awarded the extended warranty unless they opted out of the class-action by December 3rd, 2018.
Note: You can find out which Audi vehicles are involved in the settlement over at AudiComplaints.com
Reimbursements for timing chains and tensioners
The deadline for filing a reimbursement claim has now passed. More information is available on TimingChainLitigation.com.
If you’ve already repaired or replaced the timing chain system, you may be eligible for a reimbursement if the service was done within 10 years or 100,000 miles of when the vehicle first entered service.
If the work was done at an authorized VW dealership, 100% of the cost will be refunded. Otherwise, a refund between $1,100 and $1,500 will be awarded depending on what needed fixing.
Two conditions of the settlement:
- VW says they will not be responsible for any problems associated with timing chains or tensioners repaired by an independent service center, unless the parts were ordered from an official dealer and fail within 1 year or 12,000 miles.
- There will be no reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs of any repairs or replacements to the timing chains, tensioners or engines if the work was performed more than 30 days after the settlement notice date by anyone other than an authorized Audi or VW dealership.
More details on the timing chain reimbursements. Still with me, good?
Reimbursements for engine damage related to a timing chain failure
As part of the settlement, VW will reimburse you for expenses related to engine damage. However, an authorized dealer will need to make the determination if the timing chain was actually to blame. Who wants to place bets on if they’ll make that process difficult?
Reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses will be based on the following parameters.
The same parameters apply if an independent service center performed the engine work, but a maximum amount of $6,500 will be awarded.