VW shut off while driving, rough idle, white smoke

Asked by Jul 15, 2015 at 09:55 AM about the 1997 Volkswagen Cabrio 2 Dr Highline Convertible

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Hi. I have a 1997 VW Cabrio automatic transmission, it was a very rough idle and about
20 seconds after turning the car on (before putting into drive), it got even rougher and then
the RPM went down and the car shut off, no warning lights flashed.  I tried to start it again
and it started just fine without the rough idle or anything so I drove it. After driving for
about 5 minutes, the rough idle started again and it shook the car for a minute and then
the oil light came on and the car shut off, I pushed it in to a parking spot and then white
smoke started coming from the center under the hood (not from the radiator area and no
sweet burning smell- not that kind of overheating). I tried to start it and it did turn over but
then turned off much like it did earlier.

I called a tow truck and had them come get the car about an hour after it shut off and of
course it started perfectly for the mechanic.  No rough idle or no smoke, nothing! I left it for
about 2 days in the parking spot and fired it up this morning and it worked perfectly. Until
about 5 miles later. Then it did the same thing as the other night and shut off.  What is

5 Answers


Have the ( IAC ) Idle Air Control valve cleaned or replaced.


Yep sounds like idle control valve to me as well. So has the car smoked more then once since the problems started ? and to your best what did it smell like ? fuel ? maybe burnt oil? it most likely was something that leaked onto your exahaust. Pin pointing the source area would be key, Also this could be a couple of broken exhaust manifold bolts, its not uncommon for them to break off in the older cars. And if you can't find the source of the leak that caused the smoke its your second most likely culprit. Also try looking around for signs of burnt looking wires. some of them may have gotten frayed and started touching things on random occasions

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

It has not smoked other than that one time (at least since that one night). It did not smell like oil, but I don't have great knowledge of engine smells, other than burnt coolant. Mechanic said he couldnt find anything wrong related to my issue but she was going through coolant really fast. I drove her home (drove fine) and then when I put her in park and let her sit for a minute, the RPM was riding low, I turned on the AC and it wiggled, rough idled, and shut off


well if your loosing antifreeze and you don't see any signs of it leaking you most defiantly have a leak. Crack the oil lid open and check for wateriness or pee like smells from the cap (vw anti freeze smells like pee after its used its weird i know..). If your not loosing it externally good chance it is internally and the likely place to find it is in the oil. If i am correct this car should have a coolant flange on it. These Are the most comman causes of the leaks and coolant isues. The sensor in the flange often will get loose cause as the flange gets old the plastic or rubber gets weak and either starts cracking or letting go of the sensor. Look for signs of antifreeze over your trant at the end of the engine.


Flange should look like this.

Your Answer

Add photo

Related Questions

  • 97 VW Cabrio rough idle and cut off (long story but help a girl out please) 1 answer

    My 97 VW Cabrio had been running fine and then when I turned her on, she was idling very rough but I didn't think anything of it and I put her in drive and got about 6 miles down the road and at a s...

    1997 Volkswagen Cabrio


    Maintenance & Repair

  • Washed Motor on 96 VW Cabrio now car will not run 11 answers

    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 cleane...

    1996 Volkswagen Cabrio 2 Dr STD Convertible


    Maintenance & Repair

  • 99 vw cabrio standard

    I have a 99 vw cabrio stick shift and I cranked my car when bought it and forget to install my bike rack, so I pulled key out of ignition cause I couldn't find truck opener, and I realize car was ...

    1999 Volkswagen Cabrio 2 Dr GL Convertible


    Maintenance & Repair

  • 1993 VW cabriolet nightmare 1 answer

    I have a 1993 VW cabby, 64K miles on it. It started heitating and billowing black smoke after about 18-20 miles. Then I had to let it cool down for 30min, before driving it again. I have had the sens...

    Volkswagen Cabrio


    Maintenance & Repair

  • White Smoke/Oil leak/Not overheating 6 answers

    So I just bought a 2006 new beetle about 98,000 miles. I am beginning to think I got ripped off. There is oil leaking around the oil pan and the rear or front seal. Tried to add blue devil rear se...

    2006 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L PZEV


    Maintenance & Repair


Looking for a Used Cabrio in your area?

CarGurus has 83 nationwide Cabrio listings and the tools to find you a great deal.


Search Volkswagen Cabrio Questions

Volkswagen Cabrio Experts

#1 Tom Demyan
Tom Demyan
Reputation 4,030
#2 Mike Bonnell
Mike Bonnell
Reputation 1,230
#3 Fkpeach
Reputation 810
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used Volkswagen Beetle
136 Great Deals out of 8,974 listings starting at $1,500
Used Volkswagen Golf
34 Great Deals out of 2,608 listings starting at $1,850
Used Volkswagen Jetta
407 Great Deals out of 37,916 listings starting at $1,385
Used Jeep Wrangler
281 Great Deals out of 18,673 listings starting at $2,995
Used Chevrolet Camaro
148 Great Deals out of 32,788 listings starting at $1,995
Used Volkswagen GTI
80 Great Deals out of 6,479 listings starting at $2,000
Used Honda Civic
515 Great Deals out of 89,613 listings starting at $1,299
Used Volkswagen Passat
228 Great Deals out of 23,184 listings starting at $999
Used Audi A4
183 Great Deals out of 10,892 listings starting at $700
Used Ford Mustang
388 Great Deals out of 47,166 listings starting at $1,999
Used BMW 3 Series
970 Great Deals out of 33,580 listings starting at $1,000
Used Toyota Corolla
703 Great Deals out of 73,131 listings starting at $1,950