VW Golf MK6 (5K1) 2008-2013

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It doesn’t matter if you want to buy your first car, a second car, or if you just need a car which you would use every day. For all of these tasks the 6th generation VW Golf is a good, reliable and an affordable choice, BUT only if you know what to expect from the engines!

This Golf was available as a 3 or 5 door hatchback, as a more practical estate and also as a less practical convertible (+there is the Jetta and the Golf Plus). All of these versions are technically the same and they are nowadays very affordable + they still look pretty up to date, so nobody is going to think something like: damn your car looks old

This 6th generation is not like a completely new Golf on a brand new platform since it’s based on the 5th generation, which means, that we can technically call the 6th generation a bigger facelift of the 5th generation.

Interior

The interior of this Golf is a typical Golf interior, which means that:

  • -the used materials are durable
  • -the space is good for a small car like this
  • -the build quality is very good compared to the rivals / for example I would mention the premium padding inside the door pockets so it doesn’t matter what are you gonna throw there, nothing is gonna rattle there! / (the golf variant doesn’t have this)
  • -the ergonomics is logical / for example: the tilted and clearly visible position of the power windows switch is just flawless and all cars should have the power windows switch positioned like this. Why ? Because you can clearly see and quickly use the switch without accidentally lowering the back windows or without uncomfortably searching for this damn switch / (the golf variant doesn’t have the switch positioned like this)
  • -and lastly, the optional equipment list for this golf was pretty big so you can also find cars which are pretty well equipped

On the other side there are also some disadvantages like:

  • -if you are using the car in hot climate areas then the headliner can start to sag
  • -occasionally there are cases of rattling sounds mostly from the B pillar area
  • -while the optional touchscreen multimedia system graphics is still ok, the touchscreen response is slow
  • -and there are plenty of cars which are very poorly equipped (plastic steering wheel, basic front seats which are not very comfortable and zero other equipment)

“the multimedia system can be equipped with or without a navigation system, the graphics is still ok, but the touchscreen response is slow”

Body, paintjob, rust protection

Overall the body is protected well from the rust, however on cars used regularly on winter salty roads it’s definitely worth to check for rust on 3 places:

-the front fenders can start to rust

-the front edge of the sills can rust, mostly because over time dirt builds up in this area behind the wheel well liner (so check it, clean it + apply wax to minimize issues with rust)

-and lastly there is the tailgate which can rust mostly around the 3rd brake light, but also on the edges or around the middle drain hole, so check the whole damn tailgate for rust

Possible issues

1. the trunk door lock can fail more often causing the trunk door not to lock properly, or it will be stuck in closed position (in this case you won’t be able to open the trunk door or you won’t be able to close it properly-because it’s not gonna latch

example of a faulty trunk door lock in open position + fix video

how to replace the faulty trunk door lock video

2. excessive tail light condensation can occur too in the outer as well as in inner tail lights. The water can collect in the outer tail lights usually because of the not properly sealed housing, so in this case you can put silicone sealant around the edges of the outer cover. The inner tail lights can have the same issue but in this case usually the rear seals on them can let the water slowly in.

3. AC system:

-the AC compressor clutch hub can wear out – no AC

additional information about the AC clutch hub

how to replace ac clutch hub video

-the AC condenser can leak more often – no AC/weak AC

-the blower motor resistor can fail (cars with manual AC) /– in this case the motor will work only at max speed/

how to replace the blower motor resistor video

-the air recirculation flap motor located behind the glove box can break causing a ticking/grinding noise under the dash + it can be stuck in closed position causing fogged windows and shit, or it can also make a buzzing sound. So before buying its good to push that air recirculation button a couple of times to test the motor.

how to replace air recirculation flap motor video-on golf mk5

4. Then of course check the functionality of the other regular stuff like the power windows, door locks, rear and front windscreen wipers and all that other shit as usual + the LED tail lights can fail more often – if the car is equipped with them (common on GTI versions)

Water leaks into the interior

Rear of the car:

-the inner tail light seals let the water in + in this case there should be a visible condensation in them

-the 3rd brake light seal can let the water in

-occasionally the draining tube of the rear badge can be dislodged and let the water into the trunk

+let’s not forget the plastic washer fluid pipe which can crack usually in the wiring loom rubber grommet near the tailgate hinge /or somewhere along its path/ and in this case it obviously leaks washer fluid into the interior or into the tailgate

Front of the car:

-the water drains under the windshield in the scuttle area can be clogged letting the water to leak into the interior thru the plastic air inlet + the plastic air inlet seal can let the water in

-the AC drain in the front passenger footwell can be clogged and leak

-and also the rear windscreen washer plastic pipe located in the passenger footwell area (in the right corner) can crack and leak washer fluid

Sunroof drains

Additionally if the car is equipped with a sunroof then you can easily get another leak from the sunroof drains. There are 4 drain hoses in each corner of the sunroof frame. The rear drain hoses are usually fine, but the front drain hose endings can be often clogged. Long story short: the front drain lines go down the A pillars and drain into the cowl area. The drain lines have rubber nipple things at the ends that get plugged up.

To access these drain endings you have to remove the windscreen wipers and the plastic panel, since the front drain hoses drain the water into the scuttle area. However sometimes the drain hose can also disconnect from a rubber grommet which goes thru the firewall-and in this case you again end up with water in the front footwell (to check this: pop your drivers side A pillar cover off and you will see the drain line – if it’s still connected or not)

how to clean/fix front sunroof drain ending video

But I’m not finished yet, since the estate/variant models can be equipped with a big panoramic sunroof which also has 4 drains. But in this case you can get a leak from all of these drains since all of them have possibly faulty upper drain connections. The connectors glued to the hoses simply get a little loose over time creating a gap around the hose which allows the water to leak not just into, but also onto the drain hose and into the interior. + of course the front drains can get clogged the same way as on the regular sunroof.

The convertible version also has some drains but I can’t be bothered to talk about those since I’m just tired of this and I often feel like I’m trying to learn a snail to run, so let’s move on.

Suspension

This Golf was available with the standard suspension, with the lowered factory sport suspension or with the electronically adjustable shock absorbers. Obviously, the adaptive suspension is the best since you can adjust it from comfort to sport mode, however the standard suspension is good and comfortable enough + the standard shocks are much cheaper to replace than the adaptive shocks.

As always check for all those knocking or clunking, creaking noises from the suspension and be prepared that the electronic shocks are obviously more expensive than the regular type.

“creaking can be caused by worn ball joints / rattling can be caused by worn sway bar links”

Petrol engines

From the petrol engines the most reliable are the older 1.4 l and 1.6 l naturally aspirated units (timing belt, port injection, no turbo). They can easily withstand 300 000 km or more with regular maintenance only. However it’s worth mentioning that after approx. 200 000 km or 250 000 km you can experience bigger or smaller oil consumption.

+ of course let’s not forget about the 2.5 l 5 cylinder engine available in the US which is also a great, reliable and a fairly simple unit (timing chain-usually ok, port injection, no turbo) so all I can say is: buy it if you can!

“of course the classic petrol engine issues like the faulty spark plugs/ignition coils, occasionally vacuum leaks, faulty PCV or some minor oil leaks can occur even on these most reliable engines, but thats nothing unusual and all of this is cheap to fix”

But from now on it’s gonna be nothing but downhill on a highway to hell! Well, almost.

1.2 TSI

1.Timing chain

The the timing chain mechanism of this engine is made from boiled potatoes basically. It’s because in plenty of cases it was and it can be worn even before 100 000 km, and in fact in the earlier cars made to 2011 it was sometimes replaced even at 30 000 or as early as 20 000 km! So nobody knows when your chain is gonna rattle, skip a tooth or when it’s gonna damage your engine.

2011 Update: But a bit positive thing is, that these engines made from mid 2011 do have an updated chain and also an updated cover which is not gonna let the chain to skip. However, interestingly in late 2011 they did another update of the chain (+they updated the engine block and the cylinder head too), so if you really want this engine then the best is to buy it only from 2012. But even the updated chain can get worn earlier then it should, so the best is to find a mechanic familiar with these engines who is able to measure how badly is the chain worn.

Worn chain symptoms: strange usually rattling noises from the engine at cold start, at idle or constantly, check engine light with uneven engine running/rough idle/misfiring, but it can fail suddenly too and cause damage to the engine – bent valves and shit.

“By the way make sure that while replacing the timing chain you replace also the oil pump drive chain since there is no chain tensioner on it, so there is a higher chance that this chain also gets worn and loose.”

2.Turbo wastegate actuator

The next problem of this tiny engine can be with the faulty turbo wastegate actuator which will cause loss of power, limp mode, fault codes, check engine light and shit. But in this case the actuator arm can be only stuck, so before replacing the actuator itself it’s worth to first disassemble the actuator and try to free up the things.

wastegate actuator test – video

wastegate free fix

3.Oil dilution

The last issue worth mentioning is that this engine is more prone to oil dilution with fuel. So if you will use this engine for very short distances only, then you can experience that the fuel will slowly get into the oil which is not very good in the long term.

+there are numerous cases of damaged wiring to the igniton coils in early engines (this will cause misfires)

1.4 TSI 122hp

-the 1.4 l TSI with 122 hp is a much better engine, and I would even recommend it. However, even this unit can have issues with the prematurely worn timing chain. In this case you can expect this issue mostly between 100 000 km and 150 000 km. But in some cases the chain mechanism can be worn even earlier than 100 000 km, again mostly in the cars made to 2011. So it’s a good idea to measure how badly is the chain worn.

1.4 TSI 160hp (Twincharger)

This engine is equipped with a turbocharger and also with a compressor to achieve the very good performance. But the various possible issues of this engine are not that good as the performance.

1.Timing chain

And again let’s start with the damn timing chain, which as in the previous engine can be worn mostly between 100 000 km and 150 000 km, but there are also cases of worn chain mechanism even before 100 000 km mainly in cars made to 2011. So again the best is to measure how badly is the chain mechanism worn.

2.Compressor clutch

The next issue of this engine is related to the compressor, specifically to the magnetic clutch of the compressor which can fail even before 100 000 km causing weak engine performance since the compressor is not gonna be engaged (limp mode/loss of power, fault code: P10a9 – 04265). In this case you will have to replace this clutch which is connected to the water pump.

how to replace the compressor clutch video

3.Piston crack

But let’s move onto the most interesting issue this engine can have which is related to the pistons. Specifically the side of the pistons can crack and also break off basically, even before 100 000 km.

Symptoms:

  • misfires because of low compression
  • rough idle / vibrations at idle
  • loss of power
  • excessive oil consumption
  • a check engine light can be also present
  • shuddering/jerking during acceleration or steady speed-because of misfires
  • knocking/rattling noise from the engine during acceleration and later you won’t be able to start the engine at all.

If you don’t have any of these symptoms or if they are still barely noticeable (the crack can be very small in the beginning) then the best way to check for a cracked piston, is to measure the compression of the cylinders. (this is cheap, fast and effective, and if the compression on one cylinder is gonna be lower than on the others, then you most probably have a crack on that particular piston)

Replacing the pistons and all the other necessary stuff(-head gasket, reconditioning of the cylinder head, new timing chain, gaskets) costs around 3 000 € – 3 500 € at an independent mechanic, so I would not recommend choosing this engine if you don’t have the extra money to fix this!

GTI – 2.0 TSI

The regular GTI version is equipped with a 2.0 l TSI engine which can have a couple of problems too:

1.Timing chain

In this case again the damn timing chain mechanism can be a bit problematic, specifically the very first weaker version of the timing chain tensioner can fail and damage your engine even before 100 000 km. However cars made from mid 2012 should have the second updated version of the tensioner installed which is much better and which can withstand a longer time. Long story short, all GTI golfs made from 2013 do have an updated chain tensioner fitted, but if you are buying a car made to 2012 then definitely check visually the tensioner thru an inspection hole on the side of the engine, since there is a noticeable difference between the old and the updated tensioner.

2.Camshaft bridge

The next problematic part of this engine is called the camshaft bridge which can occasionally cause oil starvation in the cylinder head or other damage if a small screen falls out from it. The good thing is that only the cars made to 2009 are more prone to this since they have the earliest version of the camshaft bridge. But the bad thing is, that the cam bridge was revised more than 3 times so the screen can fall out on later cars as well !

3.Intake manifold

Then there is the plastic variable intake manifold which can be faulty. This is a complex plastic garbage with moving plastic flaps in it which can wear out and fail and shit + it can also cause vacuum leaks, so be prepared to replace it with a newer, better and more sturdy updated part. Faulty intake manifold symptoms: loss of power, misfires/rough idle, P2015 (P215) fault code, eventually check engine light.

By the way, while you are replacing the intake manifold you should also: replace the injector seals, pull the injectors out and check them for carbon build up + an intake valves carbon cleaning is also a good idea while all this stuff will be removed.

how to replace the intake manifold video

4.PCV

Next there is the pcv valve which can be often faulty before 80 000 mi. In this case it can break internally or it can be clogged, so in other words: it can cause a vacuum leak or it won’t let the excess pressure out of the engine. However it doesn’t really matter how exactly it can break, what matters is, that it’s good to replace it preventively since it can blow the rear main seal which starts to leak oil and that’s an expensive repair ($1 000-2 000 fix), so before buying it’s good to check for an oil leak between the engine and gearbox. (It’s very easy to replace the pcv valve, since it’s on the top of the engine)

1.8 TFSI

The infamous 1.8 l TFSI was also available in this Golf even though it’s pretty rare. And that’s good, since this engine can have issues with:

  • prematurely worn timing chain mechanism with a weak chain tensioner
  • cam bridge screen
  • PCV
  • intake manifold
  • classic direct injection issues
  • + excessive oil consumption because of piston rings/pistons

GTI edition 35, Golf R

-lastly there is the Golf GTI edition 35 and the Golf R. Both of these models have a 2.0 l TSI engine which is much better than the engine in the regular GTI. It’s because this more powerful 2.0 l has a timing belt instead of a timing chain and it also has a slightly different – better intake manifold. The only thing worth mentioning is the HPFP cam follower which can get worn. + The PCV can fail too, but that’s not really surprising. So these models are a good choice unless of course the previous owner was a “racing driver”.

Other issues related to TSI engines

To finally end this journey of engine hell, I have to mention that all of the direct injection petrol engines can have often issues with leaking water pump so check the coolant level regularly!

+ Let’s not forget about the classic direct injection engine issues, so:

-You can expect a noticeable amount of carbon build up on the intake valves sometimes even at 50 000 mi / 80 000 km – but this of course depends on how was the car used. (So if it was used mostly for long distances with regular oil changes then it can be ok, but if the car was used for short distances then the carbon build up can be pretty major)

-Then issues with the faulty, clogged or leaking injectors can occur /symptoms: misfires, loss of power, illuminated check engine light/

-The Ignition coils can fail too, mainly if you don’t change your spark plugs early /symptoms: misfire/ (the best is to replace the spark plugs every 40 000 km)

-the HPFP can occasionally break + rarely it can leak fuel into the oil /symptoms: check engine light, limp mode/loss of power, long cranking, fault codes P0087, P053F, P0139, misfires, the engine shuts off by itself-stalling, the engine won’t start/

+there is also the oil consumption which can be occasionally present in basically all of these direct injection engines, although this depends on many different things and as I said it’s not like very common.

+the turbocharger can cause issues, obviously, but usually just in more abused cars

Diesel engines

All of the diesel engines can easily reach 300 000 km or 400 000 km, but of course they can have the regular diesel engine problems:

-So the EGR valve can be faulty before 200 000 km which is not like the end of the world, but replacing it is not that easy since it’s mounted on the back of the engine (bad EGR symptoms: limp more, issues with starting, uneven/fluctuating idle, check engine light with P0403 fault code)

how to replace the EGR on a 1.6 TDI video

-then the injectors can be faulty usually just after 200 000 km, but occasionally even before 200 000 km or at around this mileage point mainly in the 1.6 l TDI

-next, the Bosch CP4 high pressure fuel pump can fail and in this case it will release tiny metal particles in the whole fuel system which will destroy the injectors. This issue can occur for the most part only in the US or in some parts of Eastern EU because of the different quality of the fuel, but even here it’s not like extremely common

-after this it’s good to mention the infamous emission scandal and the associated software update which should correct the emissions, because some owners experienced some strange issues after this update. These issues include: faulty injectors, faulty egr, issues with DPF, uneven engine running, bigger fuel consumption, or bigger noticeable oil dilution with fuel even on cars used for longer distances: /fuel getting into oil: can be +0,5l fuel after 15 000 km/ + after the update even the aut. gearbox shifts earlier letting the engine to run a lot of times pointlessly at very low RPM which is bad for the engine and everything…/

But the good thing is that because of this emission scandal there still should be an extended warranty in the US for all the main parts of the diesel engine, which means that buying a diesel engine Golf in the US is not a bad idea if the extended warranty is still valid.

-if you are buying one of the more powerful 2.0 l TDI engine made to the end of 2009 which has CBAB or CBBB engine code then at approx. 200 000 km it’s a good idea to remove the oil pan and check the 77mm oil pump drive shaft which can be worn out and later cause loss of oil pressure which is not good. All the newer 2.0 TDI engines with more than 140 hp made from 2010 have an updated 100 mm long shaft which is usually ok, but even this shaft can be worn but just after approx. 400 000 km.

+it’s also worth to check the coolant level regularly since there are OCCASIONALLY cases of cracked EGR cooler which will slowly leak coolant into the combustion chamber

These are more or less the issues of the diesel engines, but of course if you are going to use them mainly for short distances then you can expect issues with the clogged EGR or clogged DPF filter earlier then you would like, so buying a diesel engine is not a good idea if you are doing less than 50-60km a day.

All the petrol engines are equipped with a timing chain except the older 1.4l, 1.6 l and the older 2.0l TSI (GTI edition 35, Golf R) engines which have a timing belt.

As I already said the chain mechanism in the 4 cylinder engines can be worn anytime basically, so even before 100 000 km. That’s why the best is to either measure it how much is it worn or to replace it preventively after buying, since if the chain skips then it can easily damage the engine pretty badly – bent valves and shit.

sound of a worn timing chain video (1.4 TSI 122hp)

to extend the lifetime of the chain: replace the oil in time (after 8 000 km), DON’T leave the manual gearbox in gear even on a small incline – since it’s going to put unwanted stress on the chain components ! + don’t “under rev the engine” so keep the RPM upwards of 1500 – 2000 RPM”

All the diesel engines and the already mentioned 3 petrol engines have a timing belt which you should definitely replace with all the pulleys, the pulley screws and with the water pump at the specified intervals in the owner’s manual. + don’t forget that there is also the accessory belt for the alternator and AC compressor so replace that too, since if it breaks then it can damage the timing belt and this can destroy the engine in the worst case !!!

“Replacing the timing belt with all the pulleys and water pump: approx. 600 – 700€

Transmissions

This VW can be equipped with the 5 or 6 speed manual gearbox or there are three types of automatic transmissions.

-The manual transmissions are usually reliable just check them for strange noises and it’s good to occasionally replace the oil in them. Then of course check the clutch which should operate smoothly without any kind of strange noises, vibrations or shuddering.

Keep in mind that some of the engines – mostly the diesel engines are equipped with a Dual mass flywheel which can be worn usually around 200 000 km, but sometimes even before this mileage. In this case it can cause vibrations at idle, vibrations in the clutch pedal or metallic clattering sounds from the gearbox area.

To extend the lifetime of the dual mass flywheel you should always release the clutch calmly rather than releasing it suddenly and never let the engine to operate at low RPM – so make sure that while driving the RPM stays above 1 400 RPM !

-From the automatic transmissions the regular 6 speed is the most reliable, but sadly this gearbox was mated only to the 2.5 l 5 cylinder petrol engine

-On the other side, the 6 and 7 speed DSG dual clutch gearboxes are not that reliable. Especially the 7 speed version can have often issues with the mechatronics even before 100 000 km + also the clutches in it can wear out (worn clutches can cause vibrations, so pay attention to this). The lifetime of the clutches of the 7 speed gearbox is approximately 150 000 km – so at this mileage you should be definitely ready to replace them. + keep in mind that the DSG gearbox is also equipped with a dual mass flywheel which can wear out !

DSG bad dual mass flywheel example vid

“sometimes a simple software update can also fix some DSG gearbox issues like rough shifts for example”

“all of the automatic transmissions have to change gears smoothly, without: shuddering/jerking, strange sounds, vibrations or fluctuating RPM”

4motion 4WD

If you are buying a model equipped with the 4motion 4wd system then make sure that the 4wd is working properly – so check for front wheel spin since the haldex pump can fail and in this case the car is gonna be just front wheel drive (without warning lights, sometimes there can be a stored a fault code but sometimes there is not) + it’s really important to change the oil in the differential every 50 000 or max 60 000 km and also change the filter in it which can clog and cause premature failure of the already mentioned haldex pump

(haldex pump fault code: 00448 – haldex clutch pump)

how to replace haldex fluid and filter long vid

how to replace haldex fluid short vid

To summarize things up:

-the older naturally aspirated petrol engines are the most reliable

-avoid the DSG gearbox unless you have additional 2 000 € to fix it

-avoid cars with performance upgrades and with questionable maintenance history

+ keep at least 1000 € for the maintenance and possible repairs, but if you are buying a car with a direct injection petrol engine or with a diesel engine then keep at least 2000 €, and to top of that if you want the more powerful 1.4 tsi twincharger or the GTI model then keep at least 3 000€

And as always if you have personal experience with this car or more information about it, then you can write it into comments!

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