Defective Timing Chains and the Threat of Engine Failure

According to VW their timing chains should last at least 120,000 miles, but the ones in the 2-liter EA888 engines break a lot sooner.

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There's No Good Time for a Dead Engine

Your engine’s timing chain links the crankshaft1 to the camshaft2. Essentially, it connects the top of the engine to the bottom and makes things go.

The chain runs through tensioners that are supposed to keep a tight, consistent pressure on the chain. When everything is going smoothly, the chain matches the timing between the pistons and valves so they operate like a sweet symphony.

But when that chain fails or the tensioner stops doing its job, the pistons and valves will butt up against one another like a terrible mosh-pit.

Timing Chain Defects and Premature Engine Failure

Like anything in your engine, timing chains will eventually require some maintenance. However, according to Volkswagen’s own warranty and maintenance schedules you shouldn’t have to worry about this maintenance for 120,000 miles.

Except, that’s not always the case – especially in 2008 and later cars with the EA888 2.0L engine. Those engines have multiple reports of premature timing chain tensioner failure, as early as 20,000 miles! So only off by 100,000 miles or so. No biggie.

The Result of a Tensioner Failure

The timing chain tensioners are both spring and hydraulically controlled and can fail in a number of ways. One thing is for certain, when it does fail it’s not good news:

  • The timing chain loosens and the timing of the pistons and valves is all thrown off
  • You might hear a rattle
  • The engine might not start, or if it does, it might shutdown while driving
  • A check engine light might come on if you’re lucky to warn you of impending engine doom
  • In many cases, the pistons will just smash into the valves, bend them to hell, and catastrophically kill your engine.

Volkswagen has been hit with multiple lawsuits saying defects in the timing chain system are causing engine failure well before the recommended maintenance schedule.

In response, VW is blaming consumers for poor maintenance. And going back to 2010, the automaker has sent multiple technical service bulletins to dealerships informing them what to do if customers complained about the timing chains.

Class-Action Lawsuits

In May of 2016, a lawsuit was filed claiming VW sold cars with defects in the timing chain tensioner system and won’t help owners with repairs. A couple months later, another lawsuit was filed by 24 plaintiffs from 17 states claiming the timing chains “jump a tooth” in the camshaft.

In New Jersey, the lawsuits were combined and focused on multiple models dating back to the 2008 model year. Volkswagen’s motion to dismiss the case was denied by the judge.

The lawsuit is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

McCuneWright, LLP Lawsuit

Additionally, McCuneWright, LLP filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of consumers who who 2006-2016 VWs and Audis with 2.0L gas engines.

The lawsuit alleges what you might expect – that the timing chain tensioner is defective and eventually fails. Once that happens the engine is toast, and it’s not the consumer’s fault.

McCuneWright is interested in speaking with and representing additional consumers who have incurred out-of-pocket expenses related to a defect in the vehicles’ timing chain tensioner.


  1. The crankshaft takes power from the engine and transmits it to other parts of the vehicle. It spins with the pistons. Without it, your car wouldn’t move an inch. 

  2. The camshaft opens and closes the valves which deliver fuel / air mixture to the pistons. 

On the Record

“The mechanic stated to me that he has already performed approximately 8 of these [timing chain repairs] on Volkswagens in the last year and directed me to investigate a pending New Jersey lawsuit against Volkswagen for the same issue. This appears to be a common complaint.”

2009 GTI owner in Miami, FL

“I had the car towed to my local VW dealer and was extremely surprised upon receiving news that my engine and turbo were blown and both needed to be replaced.”

2009 Tiguan Owner in Wisconsin

“Check engine light appeared while driving and I brought to service station where I was informed that the timing chain had failed due to the tensioner. After researching on the internet I found that this is a safety issue that VW has known about since the early 2000's.”

2008 Passat Owner in New York

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, you can help make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

Below are a handful of steps you can take to make sure this problem gets the attention it needs.

  1. File Your Complaint at CarComplaints.com

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint

  2. Notify the Center for Auto Safety

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify the CAS

  3. Report a Safety Concern to NHTSA

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA

  4. Spread the Word

    Social media is all the rage these days. And for good reason – it can help spread a message quickly. So get out there and start spreading this page.