How to remove a bad starter and replace it for mk4 Passat TDI

difficulty: 2/5
back to 1000q: B5.5 Passat TDI "how to" index


This article shows how to test for a bad starter and remove it on your B5-4th gen VW Passat TDI (-2005)

The starter assembly consists of the starter motor and a solenoid.  When you turn the ignition key to start, the solenoid pushes out the starter gear to engage the starter ring on the driveplate and gives the motor 12V which turns the engine.  If you hear a metal-metal grinding noise even after you release the key, the starter gear is stuck and grinding against the flywheel starter ring.  This can be caused by excessive dirt build-up on the starter shaft or a bad bearing inside the starter.

Always disconnect both positive and negative battery terminals and make sure that there are no flammable fumes or sources of ignition nearby!  Follow all precautions listed in the  factory service manual.  Take care to not touch the battery terminals together or let any metal object like a wrench, wristwatch, or necklace touch them together!

Parts (click links to compare current prices)

10, 13, 16mm socket
6mm allen bit socket for the AC belt
various extensions
(optional) battery terminal cleaner brush, shown below

Starter for BHW engine: VW# 068 911 024 g or 068 911 024 f (the parts catalog shows both)  Note - if the part number shows the "x" suffix, it indicates a rebuilt unit and may require a core charge.  The starter is a Bosch starter.  Because of the high cost of a genuine VW part, I would just get the same exact thing in a Bosch labeled box for less.

Solenoid only (wrapped in blue tape for illustration) VW# 012 911 287 or 068 911 287 h (not 100% sure of correct part number) - available through the dealership for about $100-150, a generic part from most alternator or starter shops should cost about half that.


Troubleshooting the starter

If the starter does not engage a second time after releasing the ignition key from "start", this is normal.  You have to turn the key all the way to "off" before it will go to "start" again.  

Since all B5.5 Passat TDI in North America have automatic transmissions, the car will prevent starting if the gear selector is not in Park or Neutral.  If you have a manual transmission you could have a defective clutch switch.  It's possible the switch is broken.

The problem could be related to a low battery.  You should normally still hear the solenoid click at the starter and detect other symptoms of a low battery.  Test for at least 12V at the battery with a voltmeter with the engine off, about 14V with the engine running.  If the engine is cranking but not starting, it is not a starter problem, it is probably an air or fuel problem, or a sensor problem causing the no-start.

The battery should not drop below about 9V when cranking.  However, it's possible for a battery with good voltage to fail a load test.  Many auto parts stores will test your battery for free.  Also make sure the battery terminals are clean in addition to the battery posts. If the battery drops really low it's bad. For example, if it drops to 4v when cranking and the battery were good, a fuse would pop or the battery cables would be really hot.

To test for a faulty ignition switch, turn the key and hold it at start.  You should see at least 8V at the starter plug (terminal 50, pictured above).  Also try jiggling the key in the ignition switch.  If the dust cover on the tip of the key hole is stuck, jiggle the key around while pushing it in.

Check for bad wires, corrosion, shorts on the wires to the starter.  There is a braided heavy gauge wire going from the solenoid to the starter, check for damage.  The starter heavy plastic shielded cable at the starter should go from the battery-starter-around the transmission, to the alternator.

Oil leaks can get blown around and spread by air being blown up around the engine bay.  Make sure they haven't blocked the solenoid contact.

All B5.5 Passat have immobilizer 3.  Immobilizer 4 started with the B6 Passat.  If the anti theft immo is activated the engine can still start perfectly fine but it will shut off after about a second.  Another clue is a blinking immobilizer light on the dashboard.  Click here to see 1000q: immobilizer troubleshooting FAQ.  So if the engine starts fine but quickly shuts off, this is not a starter problem.  There could be something wrong with the ignition key or pickup coil since there is an immobilizer antenna in it, see the immobilizer FAQ for more details.

I believe the alarm system can prevent the ignition signal from reaching the starter solenoid.  Refer to your service manual's wiring diagram for more details.

On the 2004-2005 Passat TDI the relays are a little different than earlier cars.  The numbers may be different but the positions are all the same.  

The Starting interlock relay could be bad so test it.  There is no fuel pump relay on TDI but if you have a gasser it would go where the white label is.  My car didn't have a multifunction steering wheel but if it did, it would go where the white label is.

The load reduction relay shuts off power to things like the wipers and interior cabin ventilation fan to give maximum power to the starter when cranking the engine.  If they don't shut off when cranking or if they don't work during normal operation, the relay is bad.

Only do this next test if you are comfortable working on the car's electrical systems!  You can put 12V to the starter wiring directly to bypass the solenoid to test the starter while it's still on the car.  Make sure you pull the round connector on the cylinder head to disable the fuel injectors!  This is for TDI only!  Make sure you know what you're doing to make sure the engine does not start!  Remove the positive and negative plugs on the starter and apply 12V directly to the starter, bypassing the solenoid.  If the starter spins, then the problem is in the wiring, controls, or the solenoid.  If the starter does not spin, then the problem is in the solenoid or wiring.

Once you remove the starter from the car, you can also do the same test to determine if you only need to replace the solenoid.

Here is a video for an older VW which explains most of these points:

Here's a non-VW video which shows how to check for voltage drop.

Starter removal

Make sure that there are no sources of ignition including flammable vapors or liquids nearby!  When you remove the battery terminals there may be a spark and it could ignite any flammable fuels.  Always remove the negative terminal first and put it back last.

Raise the car safely as specified in the factory service manual and remove the splash shield.  See 1000q: Passat jack points for how I raised my car.  Since each situation and car is slightly different, it's for my car and my exact situation only.  Always take the utmost care when raising or supporting your car.

Disconnect both the positive and negative battery terminals and make sure that they are not touching each other. (2x 10mm nuts).  I suggest wrapping them with dry rags or gloves so that they cannot touch the battery terminals.  This would be a good time to clean the terminals wires and battery terminals with the battery cleaner brush or apply an anti corrosion coating.

Remove the AC belt as shown in 1000q: AC belt removal (2x 6mm allen bolts)

Remove the AC compressor 3x 13mm long bolts, ignore the 13mm nut holding the bracket.  See 1000q: AC compressor removal for pics and details.  You just have to remove the compressor to move it out of the way, not the whole system.

Remove the battery cable from the bracket on the starter.  Remove either/both 10mm nuts.

Remove the starter bolts (2x 16mm).  The motor mount and turbo support block access to the nuts holding the cables so remove the 2x 16mm bolts holding the starter first.  Then you can remove the 13mm nut holding the battery-starter-alternator cable and the terminal 50 electrical plug.  Pictured below is the position of the starter on an engine out of the car for illustration.

The short lower 16mm bolt on the front is easily reached.  Remove it first.

The longer 16mm bolt on the back is harder to reach.  It could be loosened by reaching around from the front with a wrench but you won't have enough leverage or room.  I suggest using extensions and a universal joint from the rear near the exhaust pipe - you'll have a good angle and lots of room for leverage.  While holding the extensions from the rear with your left hand, hook your right arm around the front to guide the socket onto the bolt.  If you don't have enough extensions (I used an extra long extension), remove the passenger side front wheel and axle splash shield/sound barrier.  You may also have to remove the CV head shield, see 1000q: CV boot replacement for more details.

Once the starter is loose, tilt it down.  You now have access to remove the 13mm nut holding the battery-starter-alternator cable and the terminal 50 electrical plug.  Unclasp the plug to avoid breaking it.

You can now remove the starter.  Installation is the reverse of removal.

Torque specs:

shorter lower front starter bolt: 33 ft-lb
longer upper rear starter bolt: 48 ft-lb

Please post a comment in the mk4 Passat TDI discussion board if you have more tips or would like to report a broken link or pic.