How to replace your VW Jetta TDI timing belt (also Golf TDI and New Beetle TDI, ALH engine 1998-2003) - part 1

Back to a4 VW TDI FAQ list and "how to" index
difficulty level: 3/5

This article shows how to remove the timing belt on 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 VW TDI with the 1.9L ALH engine.  This includes the VW Jetta TDI, VW Golf TDI, and VW New Beetle TDI.  Below are links so you can quickly compare the replacement cost of the timing belt.

The procedure is divided into two parts: part 1 deals with removal of the timing belt and is also applicable to injection pump, water pump, and cylinder head removal.  Timing belt part 2: installation shows how to install the timing belt on your VW TDI engine and final checks.  It's in my premium content forum so please join our community to view and upgrade your account to premium. If you find the tips on this page helpful, please use the donation button at the top so that I can continue to keep publishing great articles! The Bentley service manual is about $80 vs. this website which has more pictures, color pictures, videos, and greater detail. Thanks in advance!

Differences between this and older writeups on other websites
The torque spec for the vertical motor mount bolt is updated to help avoid stripping, the recommended torque spec for the camshaft sprocket is raised, pictures have been added to correct a common mistake of misplacing the pump pin, you don't need a cut down an allen wrench for the valve cover, stripped crankshaft pulley bolt notes are added, counterholding method for the crankshaft pulley is different, revised VW tools are shown, and final pump sprocket timing adjustment is corrected (other writeups show it reversed which is incorrect).  Misc bolt sizes and detailed torque specifcations are also listed to aid in identification.

General notes when replacing the timing belt on your VW Jetta TDI, Golf TDI, or VW New Beetle TDI: ALH engine

If you've never done a TDI engine timing belt, the main difference vs. many engines is that you must buy/make/rent/borrow the timing belt index tools.  Some of the tools can be fabricated or substituted.  For example, the sprocket counterholder, spanner wrench, or injection pump pin can be substituted with an equivalent tool but the camshaft tool is a fine fit and is required.  The sprocket puller also makes removal quick and easy without damage to the cam.  

The procedure in the factory service manual must be followed because when the timing belt tensioner is tightened, the camshaft and injection pump must stay stationary using the tools to maintain time while their sprockets rotate independently.  This ensures proper timing and even tension across the belt.  Unlike many engines, the TDI engine doesn't use index marks on the belt or sprockets.  Do not try to use paint index marks because many user experiences have shown that this method often results in failure of the timing belt, even when done by a professional mechanic.  No write up on this site uses scaremonger language.  You must use the correct procedure using the correct tools.  Please read all of the instructions here and in your factory service manual thoroughly before attempting the timing belt replacement.  If you have any questions regarding the tips on this page or the timing belt instructions, do not hesitate to ask at the forums here: forums.  If you are not comfortable that you can successfully do this job take it to an experienced Audi or VW TDI mechanic!

Older TDI and automatic transmission TDI were rated for lower timing belt change intervals.  The replacement timing belt should be rated for 100,000 miles because the new belt system uses larger rollers, bearings, and belt.  Because of this, you must change all rollers, tensioner, and belt to the new style.  Even if you already have the long life parts, all the idler rollers and water pump should be replaced anyways to last another 100k.  All parts linked below are for the 100k mile parts.

You need a Ross Tech VCDS (computer cable and diagnostic software) to fine tune the injection timing.  The injection pump pin will just set the pump to a range where the engine will start and run.  If you don't have a VCDS, find someone to check and/or fine tune the injection timing when practical.  It won't cause any damage to run the injection pump within the acceptable range but it'll run better if it's in time.  Details are on page 2 - installation.

Tools, parts, and replacement parts cost for the VW TDI timing belt

Click the links to compare current prices and kit components, shipping, tax, etc.  At a minimum, you need 1 timing belt kit with some replacement engine coolant and a timing belt special tool set.

Timing belt kit (recommended) - click the links to see the current prices for the 100k mile kits from Dieselgeek, Kermatdi, MetalManparts kit, MetalManparts deluxe kit , Wild Rose Motors, or Precision Tuning (Canada).  The different kits contain different components.  Because these are all well known TDI vendors, the linked generic parts are often made by the same supplier as VW and are just as good as genuine VW parts.  The kits above may vary in exactly what parts are included.   Below are the individual components.

CAUTION - generic parts available on ebay or other online sellers may be of questionable origin and may not be the 100k part since some similar parts are also used on other VW/Audi engines.  The above linked sites are all well known and experienced TDI vendors.

CAUTION - I would never buy a timing belt kit from or any other of this seller's copycat sites.  I strongly believe they are all low quality copycat parts because their retail price is usually lower than the wholesale price of high quality components!  It's not worth saving $75 when it can result in thousands in engine damage!  I also had a very bad experience with this seller so never again.

The metal impeller water pump is preferred because the plastic impeller water pumps sometimes fail and spin on the shaft.

Kit components (every kit is different, all required for 100k mile change interval belt)
038 109 119M  long life 100k mile timing belt , from MMparts
    038 109 243N timing belt tensioner , from MMparts
    038 109 244M large idler pulley from MMparts
    058 109 244 small top idler pulley from MMparts
    038 109 244E small lower idler pulley, from MMparts
    038 121 011A water pump, generic part MM
    038 145 345 vacuum pump seal (end of camshaft) genuine VW

Also get some G12 coolant to replace lost coolant.  You only need 3 liters of coolant or 1 gallon and an equal amount of distilled water for the timing belt job and to account for spilled coolant.  Do not use generic green coolant, see 1000q: coolant flush for more details.  
genuine VW (1 gallon size , VW #G 012 A8F A4 ) genuine VW (1.5 liter size, VW #G 012 A8F M1), available from kermatdi 1.5L size, dieselgeek (1.5 liter size, VW #ZVW 237 G12)

Always replace bolts
available as a kit from MMparts + second kit from MM parts or individually below
    (quantity 2) N 106 653 01 engine mount-body bolts
    (quantity 2) N 102 096 05 engine mount-engine bracket bolts
    N 903 285 04 injection pump bolts (if yours are the old style stretch bolts they should be replaced, otherwise optional, quantity 3x bolts)
    N 905 969 02 large idler pulley bolt
Optional parts
crankshaft pulley/harmonic balancer bolts (these often get stripped, qty: 4 bolts, pre 2003 cars may use a different harmonic balancer and bolts than 2003 cars) VW# n 903 396 05 
    small top idler pulley bolt genuine VW
    n 101 725 01 (valve cover bolts)

VW special timing belt tools set:

    3036 camshaft holding lock (referred to as the sprocket counterholding tool)
    3418 camshaft setting plate (can also use T10098a, in this writeup I call it camshaft lock bar)
    2587/T10020 2 pin spanner wrench (for tensioner)
    injection pump lock pin(you can substitute this with the back end of a 6mm or 15/64 drill bit)
    t40001 puller set (for camshaft sprocket)

These tools are available as a kit from Metalnerd and are distributed by dieselgeek for metalnerd.  They are also available for rental from MMparts.  I also rent them as a courtesy service, see this page for details: myturbodiesel tool rental

If you have fabrication skills, here are pictures of the VW timing belt tools (not metalnerd) and their dimensions  Your ALH engine is found in the "A4" chassis car.  A3 B4 is the earlier generation car.  To buy OEM VW tools, see VW snap on tools.  These pictures are thumbnails, click for a larger view.  Pics and measurement of TB tools by Ray_G.

Below left is an OEM equivalent camshaft tool for ALH engine made by Purple dye.

Above right are the two new style camshaft tools VW# T10098a.  The silver one is a metalnerd replica and the black one is an assenmacher replica.  The OEM VW tool is T10098a.  You don't have to remove the valve cover to use these.  This saves time and the hassle of dealing with stripped valve cover bolts.  They are shown in use in the procedure section.  You can find them from assenmacher or the OEM VW parts site, or the replica from metalnerd.

Regular tools:
-5mm and 6mm ball end allen wrenches, (pictured below left).  Despite what you may read elsewhere, you don't need to grind down an allen wrench for the valve cover.  These are not required if using VW tool 3428.
 -metric offset wrenches
 -regular and deep socket metric wrenches
 -T25 Torx bit/screwdriver
 -torque wrench
 -regular pliers and spring hose clamp pliers (pictured right, these are optional and are remote operated)
 -wheel chocks/blocks of wood, floor car jacks, jack stands

Timing belt removal and replacement procedure for VW TDI ALH engine - part 1

Disclaimer: this article is revised and updated to include the most current information but is not a substitute for the factory service manual!  See the TOS Agreement for the full legal disclaimer.  Although a timing belt job can successfully be done with basic tools plus the timing belt tools and basic mechanical experience, improper installation of the timing belt can cause severe engine damage so take all precautions listed in the factory service manual.  If you have never worked on your car, I suggest gaining experience with easier projects first before doing something as critical as a timing belt or finding an experienced local mechanic who is willing to thoroughly read these tips.

If you wish to use a service cover, do so now.  I tape an old clean towel to the fender to prevent scratches.  If you have a belt buckle, jeans button, or watch, it can put scratches into the paint.  Also make sure you don't have loose necklaces, hair, sleeves, etc., when working on your car, consult your factory service manual for all cautions, always wear eye protection, see the TOS for the full legal disclaimer, etc..

Some general tips: if you're not familiar with the engine bay, label each part as it's removed with tape and a marker.  Don't use pencil since it wipes off.  .  you are not familiar with the engine bay, label each plug or wire with a piece of tape and marker, not pencil.  It will make installation much easier, especially if you are doing other maintenance items over a few days. 

Remove the engine cover (3x 10mm nuts).  You can modify it so that it's held on by pop-off clips instead.  See 1000q: engine pop cover mod for details.

Remove the upper intercooler output elbow labeled below as 1 and air filter box accordion hose 2 (2 band clamps each).  Tape over the intake so nothing can fall into it.  I try to avoid using paper towels because they can get pushed deeper into piping and forgotten.  Tape will seal the hose tightly and not fall in like a paper towel.  Now look at 3, the vacuum pump.

Set aside the vacuum line going from the black vacuum reservoir ball and remove the plastic vac line bracket (10mm x2 bolts, green in below pic).  These 10mm bolts sit on top of the threaded heads of the 13mm bolts holding the vacuum pump.  If you have a manual transmission car, remove the coolant glow wires and remove the center coolant glow plug using a deep socket.  The automatic transmission car does not have these glow plugs.  They block access to the bolts so an offset wrench is for removing the 10mm and 13mm nut/bolts.  A 1/4" socket with a small joint or swivel socket will also work.  You can remove the vacuum pump now or later.

Now move to the other side of the engine bay.  Remove the coolant reservoir overflow hose and coolant sensor plug (1 and 2 in the next few pics).  Also remove the 2x phillips screws holding the coolant reservoir down (yellow arrows in below pic).  This is a good time to check for coolant migration, see 1000q: coolant migration for more details.  Once it's loose, remove the hose underneath the coolant reservoir and tuck it to the side.

Remove the fuel lines at the fuel filter (white arrows in below pic and #3 in the next pic) and tuck one end to the side.  (Later engine shown, your fuel lines will look slightly different).  Also unclip them from the plastic intercooler output pipe.  After removing each spring clamp, twist the hose at the connection to break the seal before pulling it off.  This makes it much easier to remove the hoses and helps prevent damage to the line.  If they won't come off, remove them at the engine side.  Caution: the plastic T on the fuel filter may be brittle.  Be gentle when removing the fuel line from it.

Note the blue and white arrows on the lines and mark which is the feed and which is the return line.  Label them 1 and 2, A and B, supply and return, etc. and whatever so they are installed correctly.  Diesel fuel melts rubber and asphalt driveways so wad a rag around the ends to prevent excessive spilling.  Clamp or tightly wrap some clean rags or paper towels around the exposed fuel lines to avoid contamination. 

Optional: change the fuel filter if it's due for its 20,000 mile change.  See 1000q: fuel filter change if you need more tips.  

Remove the 5mm allen bolt holding the power steering reservoir down (red arrow in the below picture, pic is from a later similar engine).  Move the power steering reservoir and line around as needed for clearance but don't disconnect the lines.

In the below picture you can see a blue line on the rubber elbow hose (right side of pic) that lines up with a notch on the intake piping.  Note the marks when you put the hoses back.

Optional but suggested - remove the intercooler outpipe hard pipe, outlined in light blue (1 spring clamp).  This will give you more clearance.  Depending on the position of the lower spring clamp, you might have to remove the passenger side headlight rear access cover.  They tended to have the spring clamp tips facing down.  If it's positioned correctly, use a remote operated spring clamp plier (pictured below) to remove it.  Tape over the exposed coupler so nothing falls into the intercooler piping.  I try to avoid using paper towels because they tend to get stuffed down the piping.  Sorry for the odd picture but the rubber "elbow" hose to the intake manifold should have already been removed.  Now emove the upper timing belt outer cover (5 metal clips).

If the car is not on jackstands yet, engage the parking brake, jack up the car, rest the car securely on jack stands, chock the rear wheels, and make sure the car is secure before getting under it at all.  There are tips on jacking cars and making wood jack blocks at 1000q: tips for the mechanic , 1000q: making wood jack blocks.  Refer to your factory service manual for your year for any differences and the official procedure.  If you are not sure how to raise the car, find an experienced local mechanic or helper to assist you.

Remove the splash shield (large plastic thing under the engine) and the passenger side splash shield.  (torx for lower splash shield, 2 speed nuts for side shields)  Speed nuts can be removed by turning them with a screwdriver.  Here is the pass side shield removed.  Some replace the plastic splash shield for a metal skid plate because it provides protection against road debris and potholes from hitting the aluminum oil pan.  See 1000q: skid plate for more details.

Put a few drops of PB blaster or liquid wrench penetrating lubricant under the heads of the (4x 6mm) harmonic balancer pulley/crankshaft pulley bolts.  This will make them easier to remove later.  Don't remove the bolts yet, the picture below is just to point the bolts out.  Let them soak since PB blaster needs time to soak and penetrate into the threads.  

Remove the serpentine belt by releasing the tensioner clockwise with a wrench, outlined in green below.  Your fingers could be pinched if the wrench or tensioner slips while you are removing the serpentine belt so be careful.  While you are under there, you should also consider tightening the AC compressor pulley, see 1000q: AC compressor nut for more details and why.  The AC nut is the center nut on the funny looking pulley at lower right of the picture.

Above the car....
If you have VW tool# 3428 (pictured earlier) you can leave the magnesium valve cover (VC) on.

If you don't, you have to remove the VC.  Remove the VC bolts (5mm allen bolts x7) and loosen the crankcase ventilation (CCV, looks like hockey puck) hose on top of the valve cover.  If the VC can't be removed by hand, use a block of wood to gently tap the edge of the VW.  Don't hit directly on the valve cover with a metal hammer.  You don't need a special stubby allen bit cut down.  A ball end allen wrench (pictured right) will get to the hard to reach bolts.  After removing the cover, try to keep the cover on if you're leaving the car alone for a while.  This will keep dirt or tools from falling inside and helps keep moisture out.  The rubber VC gasket is not available separately from the metal cover and should be reused.

If your car is a manual transmission, put the car in neutral so that the engine can turn over.  Since you chocked the wheels and applied the parking brake the car won't roll away.

Set the TDI engine to top dead center (TDC)

There are 3 checks for TDC: the #1 camshaft lobes (on the timing belt side) should be pointing upwards like a V when viewed from the side of the car, the groove in the end of the camshaft for the vacuum pump is horizontal, and the TDC stamp on the flywheel is lined up with its index mark.  These are detailed in the next few steps.

Set the engine to top dead center TDC by turning the 19mm triple square bolt on the crankshaft.  Note: the car should be in neutral when you turn the engine over or else the transmission will hold the engine.  Do not apply strong force to the crankshaft bolt like an impact wrench because it's a one use only torque to yield "stretch" bolt.  It's safe to use the bolt to turn the engine over by hand because the force is low compared to the bolt's torque value and this is how the service manual says to turn the engine over.  While you could also turn the engine over at the camshaft sprocket using a counterhold bar, this is not recommended. Despite having more teeth engaging the timing belt, it pulls on the tensioner side of the belt instead of the water pump side of the belt. This stresses the tensioner so don't turn it over there unless you're discarding the tensioner. Do not use the injection pump sprocket or water pump to turn over the engine (I don't even think it's possible but just mentioning it so you don't find a way!)  Another reason is because if the serpentine belt is still on, the crank sprocket is where the timing belt is normally "turned" from, not the camshaft sprocket.

Both of the camshaft #1 lobes (closest to passenger side on a North American left hand drive car) should be pointing up in a "V" shape, brake booster vacuum pump slot at the other end of the camshaft should be horizontal (marked with red lines in the pic below).  The reason why the camshaft lobes should be pointing up is because this shows they aren't pushing open the valves.  The camshaft lock should fit in the machined slot at the end of the camshaft.  If the camshaft lock is in and the #1 lobes are pointing up, the TDC mark on the flywheel (shown in the next few steps) should be close to the viewing window on the transmission.  If you see the TDC mark and the #1 lobes are pointing down, rotate the camshaft 180o until you see the TDC mark on the flywheel again and #1 lobes are correct.  The camshaft rotates once for every two crank rotations.

If you're using VW tool# 3428 you can't see the lobes since you didn't remove the VC.  If the injection pump pin goes in or is just a hair off you are at TDC.  If it's not even close you aren't.  This assumes the engine was previously running (not an engine with the timing belt off or new camshaft).

Unbolt the vacuum pump (13mm x3 bolts) and move it to the side.  Two of the bolts held the vac line support bracket from an earlier step.  Pictured below are the bolt locations.  Ignore the removed coolant hoses, they are for another procedure.

At the end of the camshaft is a slot parallel to the valve head cover flange.  In a later step, you will insert the camshaft lock bar into that slot and shim it with business cards or feeler gauges to center it.  This is pictured in the appropriate step.  Do not torque the camshaft lock bar or use it to counterhold the camshaft sprocket or timing belt because it can break the camshaft or tool!  The service manual says that if you use the camshaft lock bar to torque, "camshaft damage will usually result", the metalnerd tool also says "not for torque". 

Now look below the coolant glow plugs and the coolant flange.  Remove the rubber plug on top of the transmission bellhousing.  (red arrow, similar engine pictured below, yours looks a little different)

Turn the engine slowly until the TDC index mark that's stamped onto the flywheel is centered in the window.  I painted mine red for faster identification.  The pictures below show a manual transmission.  If you have an automatic transmission, TDC is shown in the illustration below - the "0" and dashed stamp should be at the frontmost edge (closest to front of car) of the rectangular hole and not the center.  Below right is a flywheel removed from the car w/red mark.  On a manual transmission car, you won't be able to see the "0", you'll only be able to see the stamp.  Again, if you see the TDC flywheel stamp but the #1 camshaft lobes are pointing down, just turn the engine 180o until you see the flywheel stamp and the camshaft lobes are pointing up like the picture above.

Underneath the car...
Remove the "10mm nut to body" nut (place it back after you remove the pipe so it doesn't get lost) and remove the close clamp at the intercooler.  Bend the turbo-intercooler pipe out of the way - the rubber section at the turbo is soft enough to let you bend it.  It's normal for a little dribble of engine oil to be in the intercooler.  Oil mist from the crankcase vent (CCV) system condenses and settles at the low spots like the intercooler.  A lot of oil like a pint may be abnormal.  See 1000q: engine runaway for more details.

If you want more clearance or are removing the turbo or cylinder head, you should remove this hose completely. There's an additional spring clamp at the turbo outlet (in green in 2nd lower pic).  Tape off the turbo outlet and intercooler inlet pipes.

Unbolt the serpentine belt pulley/harmonic balancer pulley (4x 6mm allen bolts).  If you let the 4 allen bolts soak with penetrating lubricant, they should be easier to remove now.  Don't let it drop when you remove the last bolt.  

The best way to counterhold the pulley is to put the car in gear/park and have a helper step on the brakes.  This prevents the harmonic damper pulley from turning and will counterhold the 4x 6mm bolts.  Try to use a 6mm allen bit on a wrench since it reduces twisting and the chance for stripping the allen bolt.  

Since you applied PB Blaster or liquid wrench in an earlier step it should help but sometimes they just get stripped.  Most were be solid but a few seemed to be made out of butter.  You may want to temporarily remove any timing belt locking tools that are being used to hold the engine.  They are not for counterholding the engine.  If the camshaft lock slips, it could damage the machined surfaces on the head or cam.  The camshaft lock can also crack the camshaft if you use it to counterhold.  

Caution: The pulley you are removing is the crankshaft pulley/ serpentine belt pulley/harmonic balancer pulley only!  Do not remove the crankshaft sprocket (the one that looks like a gear and drives the timing belt).  Its bolt (the 19mm 12 point bolt – the large rusty bolt in the picture below) is a one use only stretch bolt so don’t remove it.  I use the bolt to turn the engine over but not to counterhold the allen bolts.  This is because the force being applied to the bolt when turning over the engine is low but force being applied to the bolt is high when using it to counterhold the allen bolts.  As mentioned below, I suggest putting the car in gear and having someone step on the brakes to counterhold the allen bolts.  However, the service manual shows in illustration A13-0009, using the 19mm bolt to counterhold against the 4x 6mm allen bolts. Considering the amount of force I've had to use to loosen the 4 allen bolts, I suggest using the helper-brakes method as a primary method of counterholding and using the the 19mm bolt as a secondary assist only.  

If they end up getting stripped, use an EZ out stripped bolt extractor like the one pictured above to grip the outer diameter of the bolt heads.  If the harmonic balancer is stuck after the bolts are removed, use a rubber hammer or a piece of wood to knock it back and forth to wiggle it off.  The 4 bolt holes are not symmetrical.  The pulley will only go on with the holes oriented in the correct pattern.  

CAUTION: Post 2003 engines may use a different length bolt than pre 2003 engines so check with your parts vendor.  Some timing belt kits include replacement hardened allen bolts.  The pulley pictured above uses the short bolts.  If your pulley has 4 raised bumps for the bolts, you use the long bolts.  If you put long bolts on a short pulley it will gouge the front oil seal and cause a big leak.  If you put short bolts on a long pulley it won't hold securely.

Insert the camshaft lock bar into the slot.  Shim it with business cards or feeler gauges under the sides of the bar to center it as pictured below.  Again, do not torque the camshaft lock bar or use it to counterhold the camshaft sprocket or timing belt because it can break the camshaft or tool!  The service manual says that if you use the camshaft lock bar to torque, "camshaft damage will usually result"; the metalnerd tool also says "not for torque".

If you have VW tool# 3428, you don't have to remove the valve cover.  First screw the bolts into the holes for the vacuum pump.  Shown below are the Metalnerd too (silver) and the OEM VW 3428 tool (black) with bolt on top) Do not use this to counterhold either.

Then slide the tool to the passenger side (towards the camshaft) to engage the camshaft slot.  It appears that the OEM VW tool is locked by tightening the top bolt.  Below right is the Metalnerd equivalent tool in use.  The metal index bar is welded in place.  The knob is there to help remove it from the slot.

Insert the injection pump lock pin but see the cautions below!

CAUTION - When viewed inline with the axis of the injection pump sprocket, the pin must be aligned with the center of the mark on the injection pump cover.  The metalnerd lock pin almost touches the sprocket's center nut when it's all the way in.  After the pin goes in, double check the position with a mirror and you should see the image below.  You should clearly see the hole bracketed in the sprocket's slot.  Here are 2 views: one in a mirror and another view with the engine out of the car for illustration.

If you can visually verify the hole and it's a mm off or so, that's OK.  Loosen the 3x 13mm bolts that hold the sprocket, rotate it a little, and insert the pin.  If it's a lot off, it may not be correct.  Make sure you're at TDC.  If you're 180 degrees out of TDC the camshaft slot will be horizontal but the pump pin won't be even close to lined up.

I have highlighted the alignment with a topaz line in the picture below.  During reassembly, if the pin is not perfectly aligned with the mark on the cover, the IP sprocket bolt, and is not in the correct hole, it's not right and your car will not run well!  The back end of a 6mm or 15/64 drill bit will also work.

Triple check the position with a mirror!   A common mistake is to place the pin into the spaces left or right of the hole!  If this happens you will have trouble starting the car or have injection timing outside of the acceptable range.  Here are more pictures.  The pin should be aligned with the center of the square mark on the pump and be in the hole.  Be aware of parallax when viewing the pin location.

Warning - the large 22mm center nut on the pump shaft holds the hub on.  Do not loosen the nut!  There is no key indexing the hub to the injection pump shaft so loosening the nut and rotating the grey hub will screw up the pump!  You want to loosen the 3x 13mm injection pump sprocket bolts only!  Each bolt hole on the sprocket is shaped like an oval so the injection pump sprocket can be rotated somewhat without moving the grey hub (you locked the grey hub with the pin but not the sprocket).  Again, don't loosen the grey hub or its large nut, you only want to loosen the sprocket.

Remove the engine mount alignment plate bolts circled in white below (13mm x2 bolts).  Support the engine BEFORE you remove the red and green circled bolts in the above picture!  See the next paragraph for more details on this!  Once the engine is supported, remove the engine mount (16mm x2 bolts circled in green and 18mm x2 bolts circled in red).  The 16 and 18mm bolts are one use only stretch bolts, make sure you use new bolts when replacing them!

After you remove the alignment plate, raise the engine slightly to get the weight of the engine off the engine mount, just far enough for it to be in a neutral position (about 1/4" raised).  If the engine is supported and you use the updated torque specs on these bolts, they bolts are less likely to strip the threads in the aluminum mount.  If they are a little stripped, get a new mount since the engine can fall if the 18mm bolts strip.

The factory method is to use a support bracket above the car.  Refer to your service manual for more details on the bracket.  If you want to buy a support bracket like the one pictured below, they are available at Northern Tool or Harbor Freight.  The pass side hook can reach its engine support bracket, the driver's side uses a chain looped around a bolt/nut through its engine support bracket.

If you don't have a engine support, you can use a hydraulic jack on the oil pan with a block of wood so that it doesn’t crack the aluminum oil pan.  If the engine or jack slips, the engine will fall and could cause injury to persons or property so make sure the engine is secure!  Hydraulic jacks can also suddenly fail so you should never put yourself in a position where you could be injured if the jack fails.  I suggest using a backup to the jack like the above engine support.  Some jack stands on the sides of the wood next to the hydraulic jack can also act as a backup.

Raise or lower the engine slightly to expose the remaining engine mount bolts (3x 16mm).  The wheel well is blocking access to all 3 bolts at the same time.  Since the bolts are hidden, here is the mount pictured on an engine that was removed from the car.  Don't bother trying to remove the mount until the timing belt rollers are removed because there isn't enough clearance yet.  You can also leave the bottom bolt only hand loose so that the mount can be pivoted and isn't in the way while you remove the belt.  

It's difficult to remove the mount from the car because of clearance so if you just want to loosen it and move the belt around it, that's acceptable.

The upper right bolt is longer (about 120mm long) vs. the other 2 bolts (about 94mm long).  If the shorter 16mm bolt holes or the engine mount tab on the engine block are broken you can use the mount repair kit from dieselgeek to fix it.

Remove the lower timing belt cover (5x 10mm bolts).  The middle-lower piece overlaps the lower-lower round piece.  Note the tabs on the edges.  You might have to remove/tilt the serpentine belt tensioner (3x 13mm bolts, ignore the damper's bolt) to access the rightmost bolt.  

Double check for TDC at the engine flywheel stamp.  If you haven't already, insert the camshaft lock bar and injection pump locks.

If you have the metalnerd kit, insert the crankshaft lock by lightly screwing in the 2 bolts.  The flywheel shouldn't move much on its own if you don't have this tool.

You will now remove the timing belt.  Loosen the timing belt tensioner (13mm) bolt.  Use the spanner wrench to turn the tensioner counterclockwise in the direction of the yellow arrow to loosen the timing belt.

Loosen the camshaft sprocket (19mm x1 bolt).  Remember, the camshaft lock bar at the other end is NOT for counter holding the camshaft sprocket bolt.  You could damage the camshaft if too much pressure is applied to the camshaft locking bar.  It's best if one person loosens the camshaft sprocket bolt so they can apply equal amounts of pressure to the bolt and the counter hold bar at the same time.  This minimizes the chance that the camshaft locking bar will get torqued.  If you're really worried you can remove the camshaft lock bar and reinsert it later.  Since the camshaft sprocket is a tapered fit onto the camshaft, loosening the bolt will not release the sprocket yet.  (Picture is for demonstration only, don't use a torque wrench for loosening).

Don't completely remove the bolt.  Just loosen it a few turns so that the bolt and washer can catch the camshaft sprocket when it pops off.  There should be a space for the sprocket to pop off (red arrow).

Use the t4001 puller to remove the camshaft sprocket.  You could also use the metalnerd camshaft sprocket puller shown below.  (picture is staged from an earlier step but you get the idea).  You can also loan (with deposit) a generic gear puller from autozone.  It appears that autozone tool OEM27009: timing gear puller may work.  The sprocket is pressed on by a tapered fit.  It might look like there's a key missing but there is not supposed to be any key on the camshaft sprocket.  This is a major reason why you must use the timing belt tools to lock the camshaft position.

If you do not have a puller and have an early 1998 New beetle TDI, you may have a hole in the inner timing belt cover where you can use a punch to pop the sprocket off.  Later TDI have a relief where you can drill a hole to insert a punch.  Pictured below is an earlier generation VW timing belt showing the punch method.  I suggest a puller since the force applied is more even and a punch can damage the sprocket. 

You can now remove the old timing belt tensioner, old timing belt, and the rollers as needed, note their original positions!  The large roller's bolt is a single use only stretch bolt so you should also replace that.

Remove water pump if needed.  1000q: ALH: water pump replacement
If you need to remove the cylinder head, you can refer to : 1000q: cylinder head removal

end of timing belt part 1, refer to timing belt part 2 for how to put everything back including color pictures and torque specs.   The detailed pictorial and step by step installation procedure is for premium members only so please sign up and upgrade your account here for $2: Thank you for your support!

Disclaimer : This page provides only tips to doing the timing belt and any or all tips here are superceded by and are not a substitute for the services of a professional mechanic or the official procedure listed in the factory service manual.  This procedure is rated at 3/5 difficulty, most people with any mechanical experience can successfully do this procedure by following their official factory service manual.  By following any or all of these tips, is not responsible for a messed up timing belt job or any damages resulting from it.  The full legal disclaimer can be read at the TOS agreement.