Washed Motor on 96 VW Cabrio now car will not run


Asked by Aug 26, 2012 at 01:06 PM about the 1996 Volkswagen Cabrio 2 Dr STD Convertible

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

We purchased a little VW for our kids a few days ago. Right after we signed papers we took it to the car wash to clean it up. Not really thinking I sprayed degreaser on the engine to get things cleaned up. After I thought about it it was too late, car would not start. I spent a few hours and changed plugs 1 and 4 since they were easy to reach and it started. We then proceeded to try nd drive the car home. We drove @ 40 miles at highway speeds with very few issues, a little stutter and hesitation her and there. We got to a own and pulled i to top off the fuel tank. We never turned the car off, but when we pulled out it stopped running and has not restarted. My initial thought was it got hot, so while it cooled down I changed plugs 2 and 3.  Still no start, had to trailer it home.
Since its been at my work shop we have changed the coil and speed sensor. We have confirmed timing belt s in tact and changed the fuel filter which was installed backwards by previous owner. Yesterday we worked on it for several hours, used a air hose to blow out everything. At one point we thought it was going to start but the battery got weak and then no luck. When you turn the key you get 1 spark, but then nothing. This is really stressing me out. Can anyone tell me what I should do next. Everything I can find basically says what I've already done. We are over 6 hoursaway from a VW mechanic and the port for the obd is empty so I dont know how to pull codes even if I could find a scanner. Any input is very much appreciated and Thank You in advance.

11 Answers


Still can't get it running had fan on it for 2you days. Any suggestions. Thanks


You didnt mention in your post, but Im assuming you checked fuses and I would if you havent already pull the electrical connectors apart and blow them out with your hose and put a little silicone grease on them when you put them together, maybe you ve already done this stuff too? also make sure your ground wire are good or go ahead and put in some new grounds to be sure - not much help I know, but its all I got!!?!?

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

Yes I have checked fuses and connections atleast the ones I can find. I have also blown them out and sprayed them with wire drier and blown them again. I will recheck my grounds. I also ordered a knock sensor, I will put that in and keep my fingers crossed. I think my next step will be the coolant sensor, I read that someone had the same issues and that was the culprit. I know it sounds odd but I'm willing to try anything. Thanks for your help, and if anyone else wants to chime in I'm all ears. Thank You

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

I got stranded many times with mine. First it was the igintion switch on the steering column, then I had the starter replaced only to find out that the new starter was bad. You can test the starter by having someone hit it with a wrench or small hammer while you try to turn it over. Then I had the battery tested and it was real weak, so I replaced it., Things have been going smooth for months now. I got the car for a real good price since the previous owners obviously knew about the problem.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

when i turn the key it cranks but wont start. Then I have to shut it off to retry, my other cars you just try to start it again. Is that normal for this car do you have to turn yours off and on each time you try to start it? I figured it was normal for this car, might be my problem

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

I believe I had to also. Sometimes had to wiggle the steering wheel. That was last summer and I had the switch replaced. A friend replaced the switch and said it was a 40 dollar part, but he had some laying around in his garage because he tinkers with VW's and said it was common. A couple months later I started having starting problems but it was more cranking and cranking till it eventually started. One day it didn't start at all and had it towed to a mechanic who specializes in VW. Found him with a Google search, I think all along the battery was also weak because now I have a new ignition coil, rotor and cap, starter and battery and haven't been towed in 10 months. I did have 11 tows in a 8 month period. If I didn't have free towing with my insurance I would have dumped the car.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Ok people I have some new info. Maybe you can enlighten me more. First I finally got my scanner, but I couldnt get it to power up. I replaced a blown fuse and my scanner came on then i started getting smoke from beside the fuse panel. I pulled the keys and it stopped, put in a smaller fuse and read the codes. First what would cause the smoke, would my switch maybe be faulty? Second I got the following codes: Engine - 16684, 16686,16687,16688 all misfire codes. A/T - 00518, 00532, 00297 297 has several references to speed sensor which I replaced 00518 tps out of range or loose ecm power relay 00532transmission control module relay, malfunction low battery of bad ground (B+) or supply voltage B+ SRS 00532 - same as above Im still not getting car to start, but I have no idea where to go now. I do not know what half this stuff is. Any insight would be great. Thanks in advance

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Try replacing the high voltage coil (ignition coil) /coil packs .That solved my misfire codes on a ford focus once.I hope you already solved this problem by now i only read it today.Just thought i would throw out this answer anyway ,


we had the same problem with our vw 95 cabrio after we had the engin washed...had to tow her home...after days with no luck,i changed the coil,distributer cap and roter and gave her one turn of the key and presto...pussed like a tiger..let me know if this works for you...regards..Vince vincentfourie@hotmail.com

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Faulty ignition coil, spark plug wires, cap and/ or rotor due to worn parts shorting out from getting wet.

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.

Im not sure if I have an answer, but I'll be darned if the exact same situation happened to me. Sprayed Purple Power on engine of my 99 Cabrio and sprayed it down. Engine looked great! But car wouldn't start after that! Blew it out with an air hose, let it sit overnight and still wouldn't start. I live in AZ for god's sake things dry in minutes here. Was driving my brother (an excellent mechanic) crazy. Finally when my brother had me start and he watched there was an arc from (not sure what part) to the coil. So, he replaced coil and starter and it worked.

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