vw diesel rabbit issues

Asked by Sep 17, 2016 at 03:25 PM about the 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit 2 Dr L Hatchback

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Hard to start when cold.

2 Answers


Keep some starting fluid spray cans in the car with you these older engines can be a pain to start.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Had the same problem with 81 Rabbit 4 door LS. Bought remanufactured starter in the spring, then in the winter cold start problem recurred. Then found out from Haynes repair manual their were two different starters for 81 Rabbits. Called VW and rep informed me there were two different starters-was I having cold start issues he asked told him yes. He gave me the proper starter number. Now the problem was corrected, then put in fast glow plugs to speed start up in cold weather. Later I talked to a truck diesel mechanic who liked VW diesel pickups. He had just bought an Optima dry cell battery for it. Said it was amazing. So I bought an Optima and from then on I could start the Rabbit in the coldest winter days without even waiting for glow plugs. The secret with these starter and battery changes was it takes cranking speed of 120 RPM's to start these little diesels. So in the summer car may start quickly but in winter crank, crank, crank - unless you have engine heater installed and plugged in overnight. So make sure you have the correct starter - somebody else may have replaced original one and if they went to parts dealer it is most likely they got improper starter. I checked with two dealers whom I had bought two different starters from and each winter after replacement winter cold start issues came back, so asked them if they had the replacement starter number given me by VW rep, they said no - no listing in their catalogs for said starter. So contacted a VW parts dealer in Spokane and they had the starter VW referred me - problem solved. But would suggest to definitely get an Optima battery - get standard red Optima and it will be too large to sit in battery bracket in Rabbit but you can modify the area and batter will sit in there - strapped mine in with stretchable rubber strap with two metal hooks on the ends. I have over the years bought Optima's for three different cars and all of them have lasted for 10 years before replacement necessary. Good luck!

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