What Are The Most Common Issues With Volkswagen VR6 Engine?

WVDOT Automotive is reader-supported. This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It is safe to say the Volkswagen makes some amazing engines. The VR6 engine is close to the top on that list. With its release in the early 1990s, the engine has been famous due to its excellent balance between fuel efficiency and performance.

Although the engine has been praised for its performance, there are some problems associated with it.

Let me outline the most common VR6 engine problems so you know what you are dealing with:

  1. Failure Of The Ignition Coil Pack
  2. Faulty Timing Chain
  3. Water Pump Issues
  4. Leaking Head Gasket

This article will be focused on describing all of these issues, including repair options and how to diagnose each of them.

The 4 Most Common VR6 Engine Problems

This article will now be diverting its entire focus towards the problems that were listed above. From the root cause of these issues to the repair options, everything will be covered.

So, let’s begin.

1. Failure Of The Ignition Coil Pack

One problem that has been very commonly found on all Volkswagen engines is the failure of the ignition coils.

The Issue

As you may have already deduced, any problem in the coils can lead to many issues. So, what can be the issue with the coils of an engine? As is the case with many engine parts, wear and tear get the better of them. No matter the engine, the coils are prone to becoming faulty due to wear and tear.

Symptoms

As ignition coils are extremely important in ensuring that the engine performs optimally, their becoming faulty creates a lot of symptoms, some of which you can use to your advantage and diagnose the problem early.

Some of the common indications of coil failure are:

  • Poor engine performance.
  • Unexpected misfires.
  • The engine rough idles.
  • Check Engine Light has turned on.

As you can see, all of the above symptoms indicate that there is indeed a coil issue in the VR6 engine.

Repair

The first that you should do is not drive your vehicle. Unexpected misfires can cause serious accidents. Plus, there is no point in driving the vehicle when the fault has been diagnosed. You should get a towing company and get the vehicle hauled to the nearest mechanic.

In the case of ignition coils, the only thing you can do is to replace them. In the case of coil packs, like the ones used in this engine, you have to replace them entirely. It is already advised to get all coils replaced, except for one, so you will not run into problems with mismatched hardware.

2. Faulty Timing Chain

Whether it be the timing chain or the timing belt, Volkswagen engines have been reported to have issues with them. The VR6 engine uses a timing chain.

Let’s see what the issues are with it.

The Problem

So, what can go wrong with the timing chain of the VR6 engine? Just like the previous one, wear and tear is the reason. Parts like timing chains are not designed to last forever. They are expected to cause you issues once you reach the 100000-mile range.

Some of you may be people who experienced quicker failure of the chain. Well, that may be owed to poor maintenance. If you don’t keep your vehicle and the engine maintained at all times, you are bound to run into issues.

Identifying The Issue

So, what can one do to confirm that it is the timing chain which needs some work?

Well, there are many symptoms that can confirm the presence of the issue:

  • The rattling sound coming from the engine.
  • Oil pan has metal shavings.
  • Unexpected misfires.
  • Vehicle stops while driving.

As you can see with the symptom of unexpected misfires, it can occur due to more than one issue. Regardless, symptoms like the shavings in the oil pan and the rattling sound do confirm that the timing chain has reached the end of its life.

Repair

The timing chain needs to be replaced whenever it is worn out. You can expect to replace it two times during an engine’s lifetime. Unfortunately, the replacement procedure will cost you a lot.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $1000 and more for the job. This is something that cannot be done at home as the process is quite complex.

3. Water Pump Issues

Believe it or not, but almost every single Ford engine I have checked out had issues regarding the water pump. Fortunately, it is not very common in the Volkswagen engines but was reported enough times by the VR6 owners that I had to included it on this list.

Cause Of Failure

Although it is named the water pump, its job is to pump the coolant throughout the engine. The coolant makes sure that the engine temperature is maintained at all times. So, you can expect many issues to arise when the engine overheats. And, once again, the reason for these pumps to fail is to wear and tear.

Many of you may not have expected it, but this looks like a serious cause for concern in the engine. If the water pump fails, you can expect to run into a lot of issues with the engine.

Narrowing Down The Problem

As a pump can fail due to various different reasons, the symptoms of the issue may vary from engine to engine.

I have gathered the most common of them, so you can identify the issue:

  • The vehicle has a coolant leak.
  • The engine overheats.
  • Motor producing a loud sound.
  • Radiator producing visible steam.

All of the above symptoms confirm the presence of the issue of the coolant. If there are any coolant issues, the first thing you should check is the water pump.

Replacement

Not only do you have to get your vehicle towed unless you want to inflict some serious damage to the engine due to the high temperature, but you also have to get the water pump replaced. You could perform the job yourself, but it is recommended to let the professionals handle it.

4. Leaking Head Gasket

The final problem on this list is one that was reported a lot of times by the VR6 owners. Let me explain to you the function of this part. It is responsible for sealing the pressure of the cylinders, which allows the engine to have compression. It is one of the most important gaskets of the engine.

Cause Of Failure

So, what causes the gasket to fail? Unlike the above three problems, which occurred due to wear and tear, this one is caused by the rapid temperature changes of the engine. As the gasket has to handle the high engine temperature and the low coolant ones, the seal starts becoming hard until it breaks.

This raises another question. Why hasn’t the manufacturer done anything to address the issue? Well, the gasket failure, due to temperature fluctuations, happens mostly when the coolant levels exceed the normal limit. It is common practice to use higher than the recommended levels of coolant.

Symptoms And Repair

Well, when the gasket starts leaking or blows completely, there are many symptoms you can be on the lookout for to catch the problem as soon as possible.

As the problem frequently occurs on highly driven vehicles, users have reported back many symptoms that confirm the presence of the issue:

  • Overheating of the engine.
  • Loss of coolant.
  • Oil becoming mixed with the coolant.

These symptoms confirm that there is a leak in the system. Depending on the location of the leak, the coolant may or may not mix with the oil.

In cases like these, it is better to get not to use the vehicle at all. The head gasket needs to be replaced. The job is quite complex and requires a professional to complete it properly.

What Is The Volkswagen VR6 Engine?

It always surprises me when a company gives support to an engine that is considerably old. In the case of Volkswagen, that engine is the VR6. The company had its own take against the V-6 engine. It even referred to this one as the V6. The engine was announced in 1978, with production beginning in 1991.

Although the prototype was a mere 2.0L engine, the final one was a 2.8L beast. One thing that stood this engine apart was that Volkswagen decided to use a one-cylinder head for all of the cylinders.

The engine was optimized to the extent that it was compared to the best inline-six engines of the time. It was the last put under the hood in 2009. The engine had a pretty decent run.

Is The Volkswagen VR6 Engine Reliable?

I think it is pretty safe to say that the VR6 engine is pretty reliable. Although there are many issues that occur with the engine, most of them are due to wear and tear. This is something not even the best engine can avoid.

All moving parts have a lifespan. It’s just that the Volkswagen parts get worn a bit quicker than the others. Other than that, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. This is the first Volkswagen engine I have checked out that can go over the insane 300000-mile limit. That tells you how durable and reliable it is.

What Cars Use The Volkswagen VR6 Engine?

As expected, with a solid engine like the VR6, the company made sure to utilize it for as many vehicles as possible. There were different generations of the same vehicle using the engine too, so I will be listing only the vehicle name.

  • Volkswagen Corrado
  • Volkswagen Sharan
  • Volkswagen Phaeton
  • Volkswagen CC
  • Porsche Cayenne E1 & E2
  • Volkswagen Passat
  • Seat Alhambra
  • Volkswagen Touareg
  • Volkswagen Atlas
  • Audi A3
  • Volkswagen Golf MK3
  • Seat Leon
  • Volkswagen Transporter
  • Volkswagen Teramont
  • Audi TT MK1 & MK2
  • Volkswagen Vento
  • Volkswagen New Beetle
  • Volkswagen EOS
  • Volkswagen Talagon
  • Skoda Superb
  • Audi Q7
  • Ford Galaxy MK1
  • Mercedes Benz Vito

As you can see, the manufacturer made sure that the engine was utilized in as many vehicles as possible.

Volkswagen VR6 Engine Specs

Material of the cylinder block Cast iron
Material of the chamber head Aluminum only
Fuel type Gasoline
Injection type Multi-point fuel injection
Arrangement Inline
Valves in each cylinder 2, 4
Valvetrain layout DOHC
Bore 3.31 inches or 84.0 mm
Stroke 3.78 inches or 95.9 mm
Displacement/L 2.5-3.6L
Combustion type Naturally-aspirated
Ratio of compression 11.3: 1
Power/HP 233 – 250
Torque/ft.lb 232 – 236
Engine oil weight SAE 5W-30
Engine oil capacity 5.8 quarts w/filter
Firing directive 1-5-3-6-2-4
Oil change duration 9000-miles (15000 km) or twelve months

The Benefits Of Choosing The Volkswagen VR6 Engine

I think it is about time we discussed the advantages of owning this engine.

Some of the main pros of the VR6 engine are:

  • The engine has incredible smoothness and the perfect amount of sound output.
  • The manufacturer also introduced a 24-valve variant in 1999, which had variable valve timing.
  • The newer variant of the engine had a better torque than the previous one.
  • The engine was often compared with the best engine of the time, including the inline-six ones.
  • Most of the problems that I wrote about above are due to wear and tear, which means there are no design flaws in it.

FAQs

Why Is The VR6 Dying?

There are many reasons for it. Due to modern engines, such as the turbo Inline four-engine, this one looks obsolete. Its performance is not up to par for this time.

How Long Do VR6 Engines Last?

The VR6 engine is stated to last anywhere from 250000 to 300000 miles. There are very few Volkswagen engines that can touch this mileage, so I am certainly impressed.

Can I Turbo A VR6?

Yes, you can! If you really want to squeeze every bit of power from this dying engine, the best way is to turbo it. There are many kits available, which have been designed specifically for this engine.

Conclusion

It is pretty safe to say that the VR6 engine is extremely reliable. Volkswagen really outdid itself when it designed this. Although this engine was released for general use in 1991, the design dates back as far as the 1970s. This shows you that it really was ahead of its time.

There are a few VR6 engine problems, but there is nothing too major to deter you from making the decision of buying it. The engine is pretty solid and will provide you with a memorable driving experience. Its smoothness and sound can still be compared with some modern engines.

Resources:
1. https://vwtuning.co/vw-vr6-engine-problems/
2. https://www.motorbiscuit.com/with-a-few-tweaks-the-vr6-is-a-more-reliable-volkswagen-engine/
3. https://www.griffinsautorepair.com/common-vw-car-repair-for-the-vr6-engine/