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A Settlement for Defective Timing Chains and Engine Failure

A timing chain is the critical connection between the top and bottom of your engine. It links the crankshaft1 to the camshaft2, and matches the timing between the pistons and valves so everything operates in harmony.

Unfortunately for many VW owners, the harmony sounds more like a 3rd-grade class rendition of the national anthem.

Update: There may be a settlement on the way for owners of 2008-2014 VW and Audi vehicles. Read on for more details.

Timing Chain Defects and Premature Engine Failure

Like anything in your engine, a chain will eventually require some maintenance. However, timing chains have made a resurgence over timing belts because of their longer lifespan. Volkswagen’s own warranty and maintenance schedules say you shouldn’t have to worry about timing chain maintenance for 120,000 miles.

The reality, however, is 2008 and older models with the EA888 2.0L engine have significant problems with premature timing chain tensioner failure. The problem can happen as early as 20,000 miles! So VW was only off by 100,000 miles or so. No biggie.

The Result of a Tensioner Failure

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 wouldn’t help pay for repairs on a defective timing chain tensioner system. 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.

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.

Settlements on the Way (Pending Approval)

In May of 2018, Volkswagen agreed to settle 7 class action lawsuits in one combined action.

There are multiple levels of reimbursement, based on the age of the vehicle, how many miles it has, and what (if anything) has been replaced. CarComplaints.com has more details but the gist of it:

Timing chain tensioner replacement:

  • For work done at an authorized VW dealership, the customer will be reimbursed 100% of the paid dealer invoice amount for covered parts and labor within 10 years / 100,000 miles.
  • For work done at an independent service center, the customer will receive a refund up to $1,100.

Timing chain or chain + tensioner replacement:

  • For work done at an authorized VW dealership, the customer will be reimbursed 100% of the paid dealer invoice amount for covered parts and labor within 10 years / 100,000 miles.
  • For work done at an independent service center, the customer will receive a refund up to $1,500. If both the chain and tensioner are replaced, the amount will be up to $2,000.

Engine replacement due to a busted timing chain:

  • For work done at an authorized VW dealership, the customer will be reimbursed 100% of the invoice subject to time and mileage qualifications.
  • For work done at an independent service center, the customer will receive a refund up to $6,500 with mileage and time limits.

The settlement must be finalized by a judge. The proposal includes all owners or lessees of the 2008-2014 Audi and VW vehicles, to be verified by the vehicle’s VIN.

Note: You can find out which Audi vehicles are involved in the settlement over at AudiComplaints.com.

  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. 

Where This Problem is Likely to Occur

Model Gen Years PainRank
Beetle Gen 1 1998–2011 7.14
Gen 2 2012–2017 4.58
CC Gen 1 2009–2017 9.36
Eos Gen 1 2006–2016 3.96
Golf Gen 5 2006–2009 1.1
Gen 6 2010–2013 8.85
GTI Gen 6 2009–2014 7.43
Jetta Gen 5 2006–2010 23.81
Gen 6 2011–2017 18.91
Passat Gen 5 2006–2010 19.92
Gen 6 2012–2017 15.08
Rabbit Gen 5 2006–2009 2.58
Routan Gen 1 2009–2014 8.77
Tiguan Gen 1 2009–2016 12.26
Touareg Gen 1 2004–2010 3.75
Gen 2 2011–2017 1.31

What Owners Are Saying

“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

Story Timeline

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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.

  1. File Your Complaint

    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 CAS

    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

    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. Contact Volkswagen

    Volkswagen Support

    2200 Ferdinand Porsche Drive Herndon VA 20171 USA

    • (800) 822-8987
    • @VW

    This site is not affiliated with Volkswagen.