Volkswagen Touareg I with a mileage: the horrors of complex timing and brittle alusil

Running gear

Brake system

The Touareg’s braking system is sturdy and adequately designed to handle a heavy car on high-speed roads. Even the weakest versions have ventilated discs front and rear, and the size of rotors is impressive, 308/314mm. Combinations of more powerful versions look even more solid: 330/314, 330/330, 350/330 and even 368/368 – quite in line with engines power and weight.

The brakes vary greatly depending on the engine and year of manufacture. The most troublesome – it is, of course, six-piston Brembo on versions with V10, W12 and V8 with 20-inch wheels: they have aluminum pistons without dusters, which corrode under the influence of reagents, and not cheap huge compound rotors with aluminum hub part. A set of pads from ATE for such brakes cost more than 10 thousand rubles, and if at least one piston seizes up, the service life of the pads will be ten or two thousand kilometers.

On less powerful versions of the brakes, respectively, simpler, up to quite “civilian” caliper with a single cylinder on the version with gasoline VR6, as well as diesel in-line “five” and V6. And this version of the resource is little different from the budget solutions for the mass machines, the same 5-7 years to the first repairs, provided that the “left” lubricants are not used, killing the dust cover and guides. The price of expendable components of such a system is three times lower than the top ones, not to mention the cost of the calipers themselves.

It is necessary to pay some attention to the vacuum booster. It is powerful, but quite capricious, and leaks in its system occur rather often. Usually such units are conditionally perpetual, but here there are real chances to get in for its replacement.

Rear brake disc 314×22

Brake hoses and tubes are very loaded. The condition of the hoses needs to be monitored in both, even on cars a little over 5 years old for bloat. They are long (especially on versions with air suspension), they jerk on roads, and powerful brakes warm them up. It’s better to change them with reinforced ones, it makes the braking system feel much better. It is cheaper, than to install 350mm disks and capricious six-piston calipers. It’s a little easier with the tubes – they get rotten in the back of the body.

The ABS block also fails quite often. And the trouble is not only in plate soldering, but also in dying pump. The reason is in its location – it’s wet and dirty in overmotor niche of Touareg. The motor seems to be sealed, but even just an increase in humidity is enough to make the brushes start to crumble and smear the collector of the pump motor. To get the unit for repair is quite a task: it is necessary to pull out the external part of the climate unit and, most likely, to take off the hood.

A complicated handbrake drive looks a trifle against a background of the rest, especially as the parking system works rather reliably.


The Touareg’s suspension can be both spring and pneumatic. The air suspension is appreciated by those who like comfort and lack of roads, where 30 centimeters of ground clearance comes in handy. The spring one was put only on the budget versions, but now it is more often met in the cars, which initially had the “pneumatic”, but then the owner realized that they “do not pull” the service of the system.

And it’s not surprising… Original prices for air struts are such that for the cost of 3-4 of these suspension kits you can take an excellent restyled Touareg as a whole. Simply to change cylinders for Chinese, Arnott or Bilstein means to doom oneself to constant control of both executors of work and remodeling. All variants of repair serve many times less than original struts, though you can breathe a sigh of relief for 3-5 years, if to rebuild everything completely.

Besides struts the compressor and valve block can fail, but luckily the owners have good quality analogs. It also matters all sorts of little things like fittings, level sensors, tubes, etc. All this is incredibly expensive and troublesome to maintain, so do not throw too many stones in the direction of those who throw out all this stuff and put ordinary springs.

Aluminum levers with 10+ year old non-replaceable ball joints are a potential 40-50k for a budget repair on a slightly tapping suspension. And a full re-build at a price will easily step over 150 only on spring suspension and with partial use of “non-original”. At 150+ mileage it is quite possible to kill not only silent blocks and ball joints, but also hubcaps, and some fans of driving without comprehension of the road burst and subframe.

In general, the running gear is strong, but if you exploit the car carelessly, it is easy and easy to spend up to one third of price for its repair.


The usual steering with a rack with variable force is reliable enough. Except that the rack is heavily loaded, and therefore knocks and broken side bushings are more common.

Driving in the mud with cracked dust covers usually is the beginning of the end – the rack is located low and gets dirt at once, and then corrosion finishes the stem. The steering pump is from ZF, which allows finding cheap analogues if you want. There are Touaregs with pumps even from Shniva…

General problems

The layout is classical, which means a separate front gearbox, transfer gearbox and two cardan shafts. Potentially problematic assemblies include the rear driveshaft and front gearbox. The joints are strong enough, and in general the mechanics is made with a good margin of safety. True, this reserve is not enough, if there are serious failures on the transmission – thus, a month of driving on the dying gearbox, shifting with jerks, can easily destroy joints and a rear gearbox at the same time.

Manual Transmissions

If you will meet a car with manual transmission you will have only two problems. One big one is to sell it later, and the other is a small one, with a dual-mass flywheel. Otherwise everything works surprisingly reliable. Probably, there are just very few cars with such complete set, and their failures are not appreciable against a background of number of problems with automatic transmission.

Automatic Transmissions

VW bought a license for the new Aisin six-speed automatic transmission for Touaregs. The Volkswagen designation is 09D, but the Japanese catalog says it’s TR60SN. The box is very strong, in any case, Toyota did not hesitate to put this series on the Land Cruiser and large Lexuses, but in the version for VW has its own nuances.

There are no questions to mechanical part of the transmission, it holds even such monster motors, as V10 and W12, at least, does not die at once, and serves 120, and even 150 thousand up to the first repairs. It’s just that the chances of breakdown with such engines are naturally higher, and there are more problems with the service life of planetary gears and hydraulics.

Almost all troubles start with the hydroblock. In VW it is adjusted rather aggressively in comparison with similar gearboxes in Toyota, and the service life mainly depends on the driver. The settings allow intensively engaging the floating lock-up of torque converter at intensive acceleration, and for comfort of driving the full lock-up is made only in steady driving modes. With partial lockup, pad wear and tear makes the oil contaminated very quickly. It is known that dirty oil wears out the hydrobox and oil pump, at the same time killing box seals. As a consequence – the drop of working pressure and increase of temperature, what kills clutches and bushings.

The hydroblock wear is expressed mainly in the deterioration of throttle locking quality and jerks when K1 package is working, from 1st to 4th speed. This is the so called “first bell”. All service life problems become significantly worse at overheating.

The radiator in the box is big and the thermostat is set for adequate 75 degrees, but in traffic jams and on the highway the box easily warms up to 100+ temperatures, and with a dirty radiator package and 140+, which dramatically reduces its service life. The versions with a heat exchanger in the system are no better, with overheating occurring mainly due to the heat exchanger being littered with contamination products from the ATF.

The situation is a little bit worsened by the fact that the official regulations did not stipulate oil replacement at all, and the original ATF cost inadequate money – about $80 per liter. Now the price has dropped by 3-4 times, so nothing prevents changing oil more often, once in 30-40 thousand.

Prior to 2005, extremely unsuccessful first revisions of hydroblocks were encountered in Touaregs, but now they are almost uncommon. They could rarely go more than 100k without major repairs, and now they are mainly found after a major rebuild with Sonnax kits. Mostly they were replaced with new ones, because up until the end of the model there were no repair solenoids on the market. The newer power units have a better life, and the parts for their repair are on sale, from solenoids and wiring to accumulators and rods. But the repair process still requires a lot of skill and is not always successful. The situation is complicated by the fact that Aisin (unlike ZF) in Russia has no certified service that would perform “factory” restoration with a guarantee.

The four-wheel drive

The transfer case more often has the fail-switching engine and its electrics, including the position sensor – at repair it is necessary to put the last revision. For example, with a code 0AD.341.601.C.

The hardware itself with engines up to and including V8 lasts a long time, but only if the interlock actuator motor and the position sensor are in good working order. The transmission with V10 and W12 is torn in all literal sense of the word – twisting yokes of propeller shafts, breaking the transfer case, all its giblets and the rear axle at the same time.

The front gearbox breaks in all versions, not only powerful – thanks to the “clever” cooling system, it is cooled by hot air from the engine. As a result, bearings break down, and then the main pair, if you ignore howling and oil leaks for too long.

With mileages just over a hundred it is already worth checking the assembly for dryness and listening to the sounds of driving along walls and in tunnels, as noise isolation masks the process till the last moment.

But a cardan shaft is not disguised, tender “bumps in arm-rest” are familiar to many owners of old Touareg – a killed suspension bearing behaves in such way. Moreover, a shaft is inseparable here, so it is necessary to go to a specialized workshop for replacement. Many people “hobble” the support, putting pieces of hose, it may even last for a year or so.

Common problems

Complexity and age are the main reasons for sending Touareg to the chopping table of disassemblers. The motors are fully affected by this aspect. Dense layout, dense and polluting radiator package, weak and capricious gasoline pumps in the tank and obviously excessive complexity of most systems.

No one disputes that technical finesse is at an all-time high, but all the auxiliary engine systems are not only environmental and performance improvements, but also a high chance of leaks and air leaks on older cars, extra costs for the cooling system, and as a result, sooner or later the potential amount of investment greatly exceeds the market value of the car.

Gasoline Engines

Gasoline engines for Touareg offered a lot, but the bulk of the machines in our market are variants VR6 3.2 and 3.6 liters, V8 two generations are less common, and W12 is not that absolutely exotic, you can find them on sale, but the choice will be a few instances of the whole country.

VR6 3.2 liters are 24-valve engines AZZ, BKJ, BAA, BMV, BMX, BRJ, well known from other VW models. Many consider these engines as very strong and reliable, and in general they are right: structurally the engine is not bad, but there are a lot of nuances.

First of all it is necessary to remind that the chains are located at the flywheel side, there are two of them, and their resource is not outstanding: they can go 150, maximum 200 thousand kilometers before first repairs. If you don’t change the dead strainers and tensioners in time, you will have to change the chains themselves, and this requires removing the engine or gearbox.

Left upper tensioner

Generally speaking, removing the motor on the Touareg is a regular practice, not just with this VR6. The life of the chains themselves can be up to 300,000, but with good oil, idle softeners and a calm driving style. You can look at the condition of the timing chain with a VCDS scanner. With readings of divergence greater than 5 degrees, repair will be necessary, with readings from 8 degrees – urgent repair. In general, it is not an option to drive and rattle chains. The price of parts for repair of timing chains is now about $700, not including small items and sealants.

The second surprise is the construction of crankcase ventilation system (ECV), it is extremely capricious on engines from 2000-2010 years at VW. The torn membrane of the ECG valve usually results in decent increase of oil consumption, with good chances to put already piston rings and to finish the engine with detonation. The price of the valve is surprisingly high for such a simple part.

Dying coils seem to be no big deal, but on this motor any ignition interruption creates a strong vibration. In addition, the diaphragm in the vacuum intake manifold flap actuator is flying.

The oil pump and liners don’t like long oil change intervals – it is fraught with pressure drop, especially at mileages “over 200”. If to keep an eye on the engine, change oil in time and do not overheat it, the piston will go 300-350 thousand km. May be more, but usually the accompanying problems increase.

The V6 3.6 FSI BHK/BHL engine also belongs to the VR6 family, but it is a newer generation. The block is different, with a smaller camber angle, and the injection is direct rather than distributed. Mechanically and vacuum the engine is even stronger in some way. At any rate, scuffing of the liners and problems with the intake valve are much less frequent. The resource of timing, however, is as short-lived, and its price is even a little bit higher. Moreover, it is less tolerant to high revolutions – rockers sometimes twist because of wedging valves. In general, those buyers of Touaregs, who specially waited for restyling to buy “corrected”, have badly miscalculated.

Direct injection, even with a cast-iron block, strongly deteriorates piston group, the wear-out at cold starts is much more appreciable, but the main thing is that the oil ring coke, it is boxed here, and the oil in it seizes up tightly after the first hundred thousand runs. Also the direct injection also coke the intake valves.

The block is rarely cracked, it is very lightweight, and this increases its vulnerability to improper actions by repairmen. And, the most unpleasant, soot clogged intake strongly reduces capacity to 50 thousand mileage – according to measurements of cars with mileage under a hundred, it does not gain 200 powers. In general, for normal operation, you need to clean the intake, use special oils or change the piston, and do not forget about the timing and its peculiarities.

The most reliable engine on the Touareg is the V8 4.2 AXQ, which was installed before the restyling. Aluminum block, cast-iron liners, timing belt drive, and from the front, so it is not necessary to remove the motor for replacement. There are two main complications: the high cost of intershaft chain tensioners and capricious intake valve system.

But the consumption is less than in VR6, and the traction is more. In the repair of the engine is also easier, it needs to be removed only during overhaul, up to which it can pass 300-400 thousand with minimal maintenance. Certainly, it is necessary to change timing belt in proper time, not to allow the thermostat pipe to be chafed when the belt is loose, and also to watch for supports and tightness of an intake, coils and wiring. There are basically two minuses: high vehicle tax and limited selection in the aftermarket. There are not many cars with this V8.

But the V8 4,2 FSI series BAR on the post-restyled Touareg is exactly the opposite – the most problematic motor of all. This is a whole new line of engines, there’s a four chain timing on the flywheel side, direct injection, and, most annoyingly, allusilic cylinder coating. It’s slightly more powerful than the old motor and in theory more economical, but in fact it drives worse, requires more fuel and dies earlier.

There are many reasons for this. The new timing design looks like a work of art, but in practice it’s an insanely overcomplicated design where the plastic calipers can’t withstand engine temperatures and rpm. The chains themselves stretch pretty quickly when vibrations occur. Dirty intake and soot are fraught with errors and loss of power, and in the case of aluminum engines, also cylinder scuffing. Direct injection on cold starts also hurts alusyl.

True, the majority of motors are already lined with cast iron, but not always with high quality. And shrunken liners, crooked block surface and other problems after low-quality repair lead to the necessity of regular repairs. Don’t believe? Look at happy owners of cross-platform Audi Q7 – this engine occurs there more often, and that means the owners have more pains.

Diesel motors

The car has entered the market with quite remarkable in-line five-cylinder 2,5-liter series BAC and BLK, which after 2005 were replaced by upgraded versions BPD and BPE. And there are still plenty of cars with these engines on the market.

Why do I think these engines are unusual? Five cylinders in a row, camshaft and fuel pump drive by gears (!), pump injectors, steel manifolds and aluminum block without liners. More precisely, the liners were plasma sprayed, at that time it was a unique technology in the automotive industry. It would seem, what could go wrong?

Usually, when it comes to problems of this engine, first of all they remember separation of the liner material. At that, scoring is not the same here as for alusil, the block not simply scoring, and can at once jam tightly. If the scoring is gone, the engine is dead. It will not be possible to drive for a while, wasting oil: impacts, full loss of compression and piston wedge will threaten at any considerable load.

The funniest thing about the new family of engines is that their cast-iron liners are getting scuffed. Of course, it’s cast iron, and you can’t just kill it. This kind of problem is rare, but regular, and the treatment is the same as with other engines – liners. The causes are most often in fuel system failures or soot or sliders getting into the cylinders.

The timing mechanism here is the same as in the 4.2 FSI engines, with sturdy short timing chains, unsuccessful upper chain stabilizers and a long and thin chain for the oil pump and balancer shaft drive. True, by virtue of low working revolutions and low temperature such timing chain on 3,0 diesel engines can go 300 thousand and more kilometers. But it remains as expensive and problematic for repair, since it is located at the flywheel side.

A more common, but relatively inexpensive problem is the intake manifolds and their flaps. The flaps have flyaway linkages, and they had to be seriously upgraded, because the flaps are severely wedged with soot inside. New flapper rods have hemispherical heads, and the old ones have just a flat head. It is usually necessary to change the whole intake, the new flaps are stronger in their place, and the old flaps could fly off the axis and go straight under the valves, causing damages of cylinder-heads, and sometimes of pistons.

Another common problem is a broken intake throttle, it’s electric and serves both to muffle the engine and reduce NO emissions by slightly reducing flow at low load. Slow operation of the choke, or failure of the choke, results in a lack of traction or simply an inability to start the engine. And if you happen to run the diesel “out of power”, you can’t shut it off.

Antifreeze leaks are quite common, in addition to increased chances of “blowing” the cylinder-head gasket, there are chances of oil heat exchanger and EGR leaks, pump cover leaks and, of course, all the hoses with quick-release fasteners. Especially if the cars are over 10 years old and the radiators don’t get washed every year.

The fuel system is pretty solid, but the quality of EGR isn’t great, even the particulate filter versions pollute the intake a lot. And for a diesel engine, a smooth running fuel pump in the tank is very important, and the Touareg has just as much of a problem with that.

Overall, the 3.0 V6 isn’t as trouble-free an engine as we’d like it to be. Breakdowns happen and repairs are expensive. But you have to do it, because used units are very expensive, from 2000 dollars for a naked engine of unknown origin. The good news: with careful operation the life of the motor can be 500+, examples are enough too. And only old gasoline V8 or 3,2 V6 are more reliable than this diesel, but they have better appetite, and the age of cars with them is appreciably more. It turns out, that it is the best choice for Touaregs after restyling, practically without alternatives.

The monstrous V10 engine is literally two R5 motors which were put to work on a common crankshaft. The same technical solutions, only all elements are twice as much, much is exclusive and extremely expensive. The monster with the torque of 850 Nm literally destroys automatic transmission and transmission as a whole, but in work it is a little bit more reliable than usual R5 due to smaller average load and more stable thermoregulation. However, piston and other problems are the same here, and it will be more expensive to solve them.

Should I buy it or not?

Everything is clear with the engine: either old petrol or new diesel, the rest looks very irrational. If you take Touareg not at the bottom of the market (where everything is clear), but in the middle or more expensive than average, you still have to invest. Even if you don’t care so much about factory equipment, and replacing the native pneumatics with springs doesn’t seem shameful to you, there will still be plenty of other potential trouble spots. Is this big, powerful and honestly off-road station wagon worth the expense? Perhaps, until you drive it yourself, you will not understand.

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