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Mike, VW Technician
Category: Volkswagen
Satisfied Customers: 39198
Experience:  Tech Expert
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MY 1997 VW Golf mk 3 refuses to start after rain. the engine

Customer Question

MY 1997 VW Golf mk 3 refuses to start after rain. the engine turns over but won't start up. I've replaced the distributer cap as I'd heard that if my old one was cracked moisture could get in and stop the car starting. the problem is still there. It doesn't have to be a particularly heavy downpour either. any help appreciated.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Volkswagen
Expert:  Shantal-Mod replied 3 years ago.
I'm Shantal and I'm a moderator for this topic.
I've been working hard to find a Professional to assist you with your question, but sometimes finding the right Professional can take a little longer than expected.
I was checking to see if you had already found your answer or if you still need assistance from one of the Professionals.
Please let me know if you wish to continue waiting or if you would like for us to close your question?
Thank you,
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
No I have not shantai. So far very unimpressed with this service, especially having paid £33 for the privilege! I posed my question a couple of days ago on this site which promised "complete satisfaction". Extremely underwhelmed so far and would now rather have my money refunded than an answer to my original question. Very dissatisfied.
Expert:  Mike replied 3 years ago.
Hello and Welcome..

My name is ***** ***** Im happy to help if you do still need help..

Reading the above -it just unfortunate Im afraid that no one picked up your question - there can be many reasons for that - and then too, on the weekend when a lot of experts are not on... indeed myself included this last Im sorry about that - I hope that explains the delay you had. I can only apologise.....

How are you getting on with it...? Have you made any progress / or even fixed it - or do you still need help?

If you do just let me know - After I receive your reply, I will get back to you asap thereafter -

Kind Rgds, MIKE.....................................
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I've taken it to a few mechanics. I've had the distributor cap changed. I've enquired whether it might be the spark plugs getting wet and was told it was virtually impossible, and the only thing that could be would be petrol, which they found no sign of. Another suggested I bring it to him when I know it is about to rain - I don't know if he expected to actually do a rain dance! Nobody seems to have a clue! The car is old but apart from its refusal to run after rain it goes very well. after rain it turns over but just doesn't catch. like there is no spark. I've heard it may be to do with these old cars having the two spark system rather than the wasted spark system of modern models. Recently, i noticed it was very wet in the passenger foot well after a downpour, i don't know if this is connected or simply means the door seal has gone on the passenger side. I'd like to sort this out if i can as i can't have a car i can't rely on coming into autumn/winter.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Relist: Other.
This is all taking far longer than is advertised.
Expert:  Mike replied 3 years ago.

Hello again,..

This is MIKE who replied to as above..

Im sorry , I Know it must be frustrating when you don't know whats going on - with no reply. I'll explain what happened for you / the way the system works which should help -some anyway.

Basically when I replied to you - asking you for more info - you replied - fair enough - but before I could get back to you , the question "timed out" - which meant I wasn't notified of your reply to me... Its just the way the system is Im afraid - I can't do anything about that sadly... and then , less than 2 hours after you replied to me, with your add info, you put the question as a "re list" - which took it off my pending list altogether.... causing further delay... in that I just happened across your question now - I knew in my mind I was "on it" - so went searching for it... Again - its just the way system works and I have no control personally over that. You weren't to know neither that doing a re list would take even more time... So, again - I can only apologise and hope that explains how the "system" works, helps you understand whats gone on.

Now - Im more than happy to carry on from here to help you get your car issue sorted - but please just let me know you are happy to carry on...
Bear in mind that Im not here 24/7 as the saying goes - but am here at some point every day, so I will always get back to you when I receive a comm from you--

If you do wish to carry on - at the same time, please give me the cars Full reg number - and also the 3 digit engine code... that will help me ID exactly which system that particular Golf has-

I will by the way , keep the question on manual hold, so that I don't lose you again --

Best Rgds, MIKE.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Mike,


it's a 1997 1.6 mk3 (1595cc) 1997 reg R785VVX. The engine code is AEH.

Expert:  Mike replied 3 years ago.
Hello again,..

Thank you for your reply - Im glad we are back on track ;)

With this vehicle, the code must I think be AEK.. correct me if not.. but that comes back with that reg...

With regard to the problem you have... the first thing to do is to fit new HT leads - and a new rotor arm. While you may not be able to see anything wrong with these, when rain has occurred, its not the actual rain, but the damp in the air that causes the problem... in that the insulation on the leads -and sometimes the rotor arm which is why I suggest to change that too, breaks down and the electricity in the parts escapes / dissipates and you dont get full needed current to the plugs -- so you get the problem you have.

Also disconnect the electrical plug to the distributor and check its pins for any corrosion / cleanliness - Its a good idea to spray them with a "contact cleaner" from a local car shop - allow time for it to dissipate then refit the connectors.... you can check the other connectors to sensors etc in the same way - its a good move - but definately check the distributor one..

You have done right in replacing the cap espeically if it was old - but fit new plug leads now ...and the rotor arm. Then give the ignition coil connections good spray with Wd40... I think you will find the issue is cured then.

With the leads - you can fit genuine replacement ones ( Vw )..or fit a high quality "silicone" type - preferably 8 mm leads -

Do that and let me know how you get on - but these were common issues with this model with the symptoms you outline.

Im assuming the engine is up to date service wise - by that I mean, the plugs are not old and are of the correct type and gap... and the fuel filter is not more than 12 months old - if not - renew those also.

As regards the water in the car could be the door seals - but carefully check under the windscreen in the plenum chamber - often these fill with rain water -the drains need unblocking - and that will cure that issue - thats the usual cause there to be honest of such rain ingress....

Im very pleased to have helped you - Do let me know if you need anything more --

*** Meanwhile - - >>>> Please do click on the "OK/ Excellent ratings" for me - Thank you in advance for that...

You can and are most welcome to get back to me anytime you might need - clicking the OK ratings does not close you out at all..

Kind Rgds, MIKE.