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The 1999 Volkswagen MkIV GTI's 1.8T EA113 engine

Which Used Volkswagen Engines Are the Most Reliable?

Reliability can be an issue for some Volkswagen models, from its sedans to its SUVs. That being said, the German brand’s cars are often more reliable than you may think, provided they’re maintained properly. This applies especially to the engines VW uses in its cars. So, if you’ve been trying to find a reliable used …

Reliability can be an issue for some Volkswagen models, from its sedans to its SUVs. That being said, the German brand’s cars are often more reliable than you may think, provided they’re maintained properly. This applies especially to the engines VW uses in its cars. So, if you’ve been trying to find a reliable used Volkswagen, consider getting one with one of the powerplants described below.

If you’re looking for a reliable Volkswagen engine, the 1.8T EA113 and EA888 should be on your watchlist

One Volkswagen engine consistently appears on ‘most reliable’ discussions and lists: the 1.8T. Haynes calls the 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine the best VW engine. ItStillRuns compares it to the LS small-block V8 in terms of durability and tunability. And “[w]ith proper car,” the 1.8T can easily see 200,000-plus miles of service, FCP Euro reports. But you have to understand which 1.8T to get.

The original version, the ‘EA113 TFSI,’ debuted in 1995, Haynes reports. And in 2007, it was replaced by the first-gen ‘EA888 TSI’ 1.8T, Car Engineer reports. Volkswagen still uses this engine, albeit in third-gen form, Motor Reviewer reports. And it’s the EA888 that’s considered one of the “best and most dependable Volkswagen engines,” MagicAutoRepairs reports.

The 1999 Volkswagen MkIV GTI's 1.8T EA113 engine
1999 Volkswagen MkIV GTI 1.8T EA113 engine | Volkswagen

Volkswagen used the EA113 1.8T engine in a variety of cars besides VWs, though. While it’s found in Golfs, New Beetles, Jettas, and Passats, the Audi TT and A4 also used it, Grassroot Motorsports reports. These cars also later used the EA888.

VW’s 2.0T EA113 and EA888 engines are also a solid reliable choice

The 1.8T isn’t the only EA113/EA888 engine, though. Volkswagen also made a 2.0T EA113 engine, based on the earlier non-turbocharged 2.0 FSI four-cylinder, Motor Reviewer reports. And VW still uses an updated version of the 2.0T EA888 in many of its products. You can find 2.0T variants in used Golf Rs, Tiguans, Audi Q3s and Q5s, Passats, Jettas, CCs, and Audi TTs, Motor Reviewer reports.

The 2.0T EA888 engine inside a yellow 2007 Volkswagen GTI Pirelli Edition
2007 Volkswagen GTI Pirelli Edition 2.0T EA888 engine | Volkswagen

Being based on the same architecture as the 1.8T, the 2.0T is similarly reliable, especially in EA888 form, r/Volkswagen sub-Reddit users report. It’s also won multiple ‘Best of’ Ward’s Engine awards, and has hefty aftermarket support, DriveTribe reports.

The EA888 has some upgrades over the EA113

It’s not always obvious if a Volkswagen has an EA113 or an EA888 engine. The two look very similar in both 1.8T and 2.0T trim, but there are some visual differences, Bar-Tek Motorsport reports. The EA113’s dipstick is in front of the valve cover, while the EA888’s dipstick is on the side. And the latter’s oil filter is on the left side, rather than on the right.

It’s worth seeking out an EA888 over an EA113 if possible, as Volkswagen made several adjustments to the engines. The EA113’s high-pressure fuel pump’s cam follower, the bearing that connects the camshaft to the pump, wears over time, GT Innovation reports. And if it fails, your engine can go with it. Volkswagen rectified this in the EA888 engine, VW Vortex forum users report.

Secondly, the EA113 ‘FSI’ engines are known to suffer from carbon buildup. Being direct-injected, the EA888 also suffers from this, but to a lesser extent, VW Vortex forum users report. They also consume less oil than the earlier 1.8T and 2.0T engines, despite a somewhat-prevalent reputation for doing otherwise.

This reputation stems from a design flaw with the ‘Gen 2’ VW EA888 engines, VW Tuning explains. These 2.0T engines have too-thin piston rings. But there is a solution: fit Gen 1 or Gen 3 rings. Also, Volkswagen engines require synthetic oil—and if it’s not kept topped-up, sludge develops, TDI Club forum users report.

Even the EA888 VW engines aren’t fault-proof

But, while Volkswagen’s EA888 engines have some upgrades over the EA113s, they have some weak points. Chief among them is the timing chain, which is known to stretch in Gen 1 and Gen 2 engines.

Not only is that annoying, given that chains are supposed to last longer than timing belts, but it’s also a bit of a ticking time bomb. If stretches enough, it can jump and collide with the pistons and valves, Deutsche AutoParts explains. And if it breaks entirely, you’re out an engine. This happened often enough for owners to file a class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen, which the automaker eventually settled, VW Problems reports.

Luckily, this was at least partially resolved with the Gen 3 engines. That’s because the timing-chain stretch and failure was in part due to a faulty timing-chain tensioner, VW Tuning reports. Volkswagen upgraded the tensioner for the Gen 3 EA888 engines, and the upgraded part is available for earlier ones, eEuroParts reports.

EA888 engines are also known to suffer ignition coil as well as water-pump failure, VW Vortex forum users report. But again, newer parts seem to avoid these problems. In the case of the water pump, it’s because the original has plastic parts that degrade and crack over time. Upgraded replacement pumps have more durable metal impellers and housings.

Finally, as is the case with any engine, VW or otherwise, gaskets and hoses fail over time. In the case of the EA888, though, the PCV valve is especially prone to this. And if it’s not replaced in time, your engine’s rear main seal can fail, Deutsche AutoParts reports. But it’s easy to catch, as you’ll often notice rough idling, misfires, and check-engine lights before that, Rusty Autos reports.

Are these problems deal-breakers?

Naturally, we recommend getting a pre-purchase inspection before considering a used car purchase. It’s also why VW Vortex forum users strongly recommend making sure your used VW has an extensive maintenance history. That’s because more than a few potential used Volkswagen engine-related issues stem from improper or deferred service.

That being said, if properly cared for, the VW engines described here can be reliable, EnginesWork reports. That even applies to the PCV valve, which is a maintenance item in other cars; I just changed the one in my Miata. Plus, by now many of the problematic original parts have been replaced with stronger ones. And if they haven’t, these parts are available, including kits to convert the EA113’s cam follower to the EA888’s setup.

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