The VW 1.5 TSI Engine is used in almost all of the smaller Volkswagen Range of vehicles, its engine code is EA211.
This includes the VW Golf, Polo Passat as well as the Skoda Karoq, Fabia, Octavia and others. With the high number of units produced, we can round up and discuss the most common VW 1.5 TSI engine problems.
We’ll run through the commonly reported issues, as well as discuss the best ways to listen out for these issues in your own car. These can help to remedy certain issues before they turn into expensive repair bills.
This guide will also help you to decide if this engine is the one for you, and if so, what things to notice when on a test drive. Avoiding a ‘lemon’ from the garage is the best way to save money on repair bills!
Engine Features of the VW 1.5 TSI – EA211
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Variable turbocharger geometry (VTG)
The 1.5 TSI is one of the first mass-produced petrol engines to feature a VTG system. This varies the pitch of the turbine blades, depending on engine load and speed. The general purpose is to improve low-end torque, whilst still retaining the high power output in the +5,500 rpm range.
The electronic VTG actuator controls the VTG system and is monitored by the Engine ECU.
Low and High temperature cooling system
Volkswagen has devised, for the first time in such a small engine, a multi-loop cooling system. This involves a high and a low temperature circuit, both cooling different parts of the engine. This system also involves control modules and electronic valves, to both improve cooling and decrease the warm up time when starting a journey.
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Benefits of this system include increased fuel efficiency, as well as reduced carbon emissions. Achieved by allowing components to reach their operating temperature as soon as possible.
Active valve timing
Similar to traditional variable valve timing systems implemented by Honda and BMW, AVT builds on this using new technologies. Hydraulic actuators precisely control both the exhaust and intake valve gear, allowing for extreme precision.
The system is designed to improve fuel efficiency and increase power. The figures back this up, with the 1.5 TSI improving on both compared with the outgoing 1.4 TSI engines.
Active cylinder technology (ACT)
First devised by Cadillac in 1981, VW’s modern ACT system is a more advanced but basically the same version of the tech. In short, when less load is detected, the ECU shuts off fuel to one or two of the 4 cylinders.
This is also implemented with the AVT system, to reduce ‘pumping losses’. These are inefficiencies traditionally found with ACT systems, relating to the moving parts of the engine acting as a pump when not combusting fuel and air.
As always this system’s primary function is to improve efficiency. Under normal conditions, the driver cannot detect when cylinders are firing or not, as it is so precisely controlled by the ECU with the aid of multiple sensors.
Found in almost all modern cars, the exhaust gas recirculation system re-routes exhaust gases into the intake manifold. This increases intake temperature, improving fuel efficiency.
Whilst initially only used on diesel engines, EGR valves are now found on all of VW’s lineup. The physical valve is actuated by an electronic control module, controlled by the ECU.
Common problems with the VW EA211 1.5 TSI engine
This is a problem reported across all of the 1.5 TSI range, both manual and automatic vehicles. It is however more prominent in the manual variants. It is best described as the car being hesitant at low RPMs. This can result in the car ‘Kangarooing’ when accelerating.
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Some drivers have even reported their vehicles cutting out whilst trying to pull away at junctions and traffic stops. This is obviously a serious problem, and justifiably so; many consumers are outraged at VW for their delay in responding to the issue.
VW has released multiple announcements discussing the solution to this issue, but none of these recalls has categorically solved the issue for most owners.
The fixes are generally via software patches to the car’s main ECU, but there are many dealerships refusing this option as a potential solution. In some cases, dealerships take cars back, whilst others are insistent the problem is just a characteristic of the car.
To diagnose this issue, pay close attention when accelerating from a standstill or whilst moving slowly. Particularly when the engine is not up to temperature, but not completely cold, i.e. after 5 minutes of driving.
If a car you’re looking at buying is exhibiting this issue, it’s best to talk to the dealership about the potential recall fixes before going through with the purchase. If the car you’re looking into has the VW 1.5 TSI engine, be sure to check with the dealer, and check for yourself on a test drive, that the issue has been resolved.
Timing chain failure
The timing chain is what connects the camshafts to the engine’s crankshaft. In almost all modern cars, a failure of the timing chain results in severe damage to the engine. This can either be damaged pistons, which would require a full engine rebuild to remedy or simply a damaged valvetrain. In almost all cases the latter will occur without the piston damage.
Timing Chain Tensioners are the main cause of timing chain failures. If the tensioner fails fully, or even partially, the chain can become slack. Best case scenario, the chain will wear excessively due to the improper engagement on the cam and crankshaft sprockets.
In many cases, however, the chain can jump teeth, and cause the engine’s timing to be out. This will cause poor running at best and can see serious damage at worst.
In cases of complete chain tensioner failure, the chain can never jump from the sprockets completely, due to jamming or binding, again causing massive damage to the engine.
Symptoms of a failing timing chain can be heard outside the car when idling. With the hood open, listen for a ticking or ‘clicking’ sound from the top, right, and side of the engine. This is where the timing chain cover is located.
If you can hear this sound, especially when revving slightly, it is best to have the chain tensioner, and chain health surveyed. VW states that the timing chain on the 1.5 TSI engine never needs to be replaced. The experience of some owners, however, is to the contrary, and it is advisable to listen out for the ticking.
For the DIY mechanics reading, get your required parts here. Simply enter your registration to get suitable part recommendations for your specific car make & model. A full timing chain kit can be found under the “Major Service” tab once you have entered your registration.
As discussed, the valve timing is controlled precisely by the AVT system. Whilst an impressive tool for improving the power and efficiency of the 1.5 TSI engine, the AVT system is complex, and cases have been reported of issues specifically with the actuation of the AVT system.
Controlled by the ECU, the AVT actuators are hydraulic motors that adjust the cam sprocket timing when required. The most common failure mode of this system is the actuators or associated valves becoming slow or unresponsive, causing inaccurate adjustments of the cam gears.
Most likely causes of this include poor oil quality. This can be from inadequate oil change frequency and even the use of low quality oil. It is reasonable to suggest the relatively low amount of issues is not entirely the fault of the manufacturer, and the owner needs to ensure their maintenance schedule is kept. Order your Motor Oil now to keep your car in top shape.
AVT failure causes poor running and in some cases even failed to start, or issues with cutting out. This is due to the engine’s timing being out, specifically, it will be out of the parameters the ECU and therefore ignition and fuelling system are expecting.
Excessive oil consumption
Another of the VW 1.5 TSI engine problems is excessive oil consumption. Some drivers have reported their car repeatedly being low on oil when checked. This is indicative of high oil consumption.
Worn valve guides are best identified by an odour of petrol in the oil. This can be found either when changing the oil, or simply when topping up. Check this when looking at a potential car purchase.
Turbo failure is an issue that some owners of the Volkswagen 1.5 TSI engine have reported. While this engine is generally reliable, it is important to understand the causes, symptoms, and prevention of turbo failure to keep your engine running smoothly.
One of the main causes of turbo failure is a lack of regular maintenance. Like any turbocharged engine, the 1.5 TSI requires regular oil changes and filter replacements to ensure proper lubrication and prevent the buildup of contaminants that can damage the turbo. Over time, oil can break down and become less effective at protecting the turbo, so it is essential to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
Low oil pressure can also contribute to turbo failure, as it can cause inadequate lubrication to the turbocharger bearings, leading to premature wear and potential failure. This can be caused by a clogged oil filter, a faulty oil pump, or a low oil level. Regular oil changes and filter replacements can help prevent this issue, as can addressing any warning signs of low oil pressure, such as dashboard warning lights or unusual engine noise.
What oil should the VW 1.5 TSI engine use?
The service history is the most important factor when looking at a car to purchase. Ensure all the service intervals have been met, either through the number of months, or miles between services.. It is also a good indicator that the car has been serviced at a dealer, or at least a VW specialist. As a cheaper shop may not use the correct grade of oil.
Are the VW 1.5 TSI engine faults fixed in 2023?
In March 2020, VW released a software patch to fix the juddering and ‘kangarooing’ issues found in many 1.5 TSI cars. The degree to which this has solved the problem is contested.
Some owners report any immediate relief from the problem, whereas others are stating the car feels no different. The patch comes almost 2 years after the initial problem was reported, in early 2018.
All owners experiencing the juddering issues are recommended to speak to their dealer for information and advice regarding the software fix. Depending on the dealership it may be a simple process to get your car fixed.
Is the 1.5 TSI engine reliable?
Overall, the 1.5 TSI engine is considered to be a reliable powerplant. However, as with any engine, proper maintenance is essential to keep it running smoothly.
Does the 1.5 TSI engine require premium fuel?
The 1.5 TSI engine is designed to run on regular unleaded fuel, but some models may recommend the use of premium fuel for optimal performance.
What type of transmission is available with the 1.5 TSI engine?
The 1.5 TSI engine can be paired with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
How does the 1.5 TSI engine compare to other engines in its class?
The 1.5 TSI engine is known for its smooth power delivery, good fuel efficiency, and overall reliability. It is often compared favourably to other engines in its class.
Can the 1.5 TSI engine tow a trailer?
The 1.5 TSI engine is not designed for heavy towing, but it may be able to tow a small trailer or lightweight recreational vehicle. However, it is always important to consult the owner’s manual and follow all towing guidelines and weight limits. The larger 1.8 TSI would be more suitable for carrying medium loads.
In conclusion, the 1.5 TSI engine is a popular and versatile powerplant. It is well known for its reliability, efficiency, and smooth power delivery. While there may be common VW 1.5 TSI engine problems such as turbocharger failure or oil leaks. Proper maintenance and care can help to minimize these risks and keep the engine running smoothly for years to come.
Whether you are looking for a fuel-efficient commuter car or a reliable family vehicle, the 1.5 TSI engine is a great choice that offers a balance of performance and efficiency. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and care, you can enjoy many years of trouble-free driving with this dependable and efficient engine.
If you are currently having issues with your vehicle an On-board Diagnostic (OBD) scanner will help you diagnose the issue for as little as £25. We have put together a list of The 4 Best OBD-II Scanners for 2023 to help you decide which one best fits your needs.
We hope you have found this article on common VW 1.5 TSI engine problems helpful in diagnosing and fixing any issues you may have. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have experienced your own problems with this engine.