Some call it “Rabbit,” some call it “Mk3,” but the name doesn’t matter so much as the car, and the VW Golf pulls some impressive moves regardless of how she’s referred to. First released in 1974, the Golf now boasts seven award-winning generations, and shows no signs of stopping. The third generation Golf remains one of the most celebrated of this already elite group, and helped launch the European diesel craze that erupted in the late 1990s. Produced between 1993 and 2001, some older third generation Golf’s may suffer from erratic idling.
It likely starts after 100K miles, when the idle begins to waver between 900 and 2500 RPM. The check engine light might come on, but just as often it stays dark. The problem slowly increases to the point where the car won’t idle if started dead cold. It runs fine if the RPMs are revved up to 1500 or 2000 and held for a few minutes, but even afterwards the idle isn’t smooth. There might also be a noticeable increase in fuel consumption starting around this same time.
Possibly the car is dropping a spark here and there and the spark plugs need replacing, but the blame most likely lies with the idle air control valve. This part should manage the idle, and when it fails, well, so does the idle. Usually the check engine light will indicate if there’s a problem with the valve, but not always, so don’t rule it out just because the CEL stays dark.
Replacing this part is important in order for the Golf to run smoothly, and a trip to a local German auto service mechanic should be made as soon as an idling problem arises.
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