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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am having trouble getting my golf to start. It’s a 1.8L 16v PL engine with CIS-E. TCI-h system with knock sensor.

I was working near the ignition coil and disconnected the Terminal 15 cables from the coil to unplug the terminal 4 cable. While I was plugging back the cables I swapped cable-2 with cable-1 (see image below). Cable-1 is ignition power and Cable-2 is test lead for Termnial-1 of coil.
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Without realizing I plugged the cables in the wrong location, I tried to start the car and it would crank but would not start. I double checked the cables and realized my mistake and placed the cables back in their original location. Tried to start it again, same result. Cranks and no start. What went wrong?

Then I started to troubleshoot the ignition system per the Bentley manual. Below are my results;

Ignition Switched On
  • Ignition Coil Terminal 15, battery voltage.
  • Ignition Control Module, pin 2 and 4, battery voltage.
  • Hall Sender/Dist plug, negative and positive terminals, 11.38 volts.
  • Knock Control Unit, Pin 3 and 5, battery voltage.
Starter Actuated
  • Ignition Coil Terminal 15, 10.5 - 10 volts.
  • Probe Hall Sender (dist. Pin 2) with LED light, blinks.
Ignition Control Unit Voltage to Coil
When the ignition is switched on, the meter should display a reading of at least 2 volts for approximately 1 to 2 seconds, and then drop to 0 volts. If not, either the ignition coil or the ignition control unit is defective.
- The test above failed, I saw 4-5 volts and then the volts would stay at 2.3 volts after 2 seconds.

Ignition Control Unit Response to Hall Sender Signal
To test the TCI-h system with knock sensor, disconnect the knock sensor control unit harness connector. Turn the ignition on and, using a jumper wire, briefly connect terminal 12 of the knock sensor control unit connector to ground. The voltage should briefly increase to at least 2 volts.
- The test above failed, when grounding terminal 12, the voltage increased to 4-5 volts from 2.3 volts.

If either test above fails, then either the ignition coil or the ignition control unit is defective. I went ahead and acquired a new old stock ignition coil and bench tested the coil for resistance; Terminal 1 and 15 .56 - .76, result .70 Terminal 1 and 4 6500 - 8500 ohms, result 10300 ohms. Terminal 1 and 4 results are out of spec, I proceeded with the installation anyways.

After installing the new coil, Ignition Control Unit Voltage to Coil and Ignition Control Unit Response to Hall Sender Signal test pass! Voltage drops to zero after 1-2 seconds. Grounding pin 12 of the knock sensor harness raises the voltage to 4-5 volts and then goes down to zero.

With the new coil installed, no start. I proceed to double check for spark at the coil and at the spark plug cables. With the spark plugs removed from the engine and connected to the spark plug cables and grounded, I crank the engine and can see a spark on all 4 plugs (orange/yellow color spark). Not blue. Is this bad? Weak spark? Inspecting the plugs after removal, they were wet and smelled of gas. I can rule out any fueling issues.

Parts Installed and Notes;
  • new dist. cap
  • new dist. rotor
  • new spark plug cables
  • new old stock ignition coil
  • cleaned all grounds
  • fully charged battery

Ignition Timing.
I pulled the dist. cap off and rotated the engine by hand until the 6 deg. BTDC mark on the flywheel lined up with the arrow on the bellhousing of the trans. Double checked the rotor with the TDC mark on the dist. housing and the rotor was about 6 deg. BTDC. Made sure cylinder 1 was up, I can see it through the spark plug hole. Since my car does not start I can not check Ignition Timing using a timing light. Is there anyway I can make sure the distributor is installed correctly and not 180 deg. off?

Anyways, this is where I am at in my troubleshooting steps. No start, just cranks and cranks and cranks. Is there anything I could be missing or overlooked?
 

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'91 GLI, '98 Vr6 GTI, '17 Golf R
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My car is a '91 running cis-e but the 2.0, it has this little thing hidden behind the coil called the "power stage" if I remember correctly. I have knocked the single wire off it (when doing coil swaps or clutch cable work) and it kept my car from starting, at least twice.

Now that you have spark maybe your plugs are fouled? I usually take a little propane torch and heat up wet plugs before reinstalling, to burn the gas off them.

If you didn't move your distributor I don't know why your ignition timing would be off? Unless the timing belt was loose and it jump a tooth or two?

My personal xperience with coil readings has been old and new Bosch coils both didn't match what the Bentley stated.

I'll try and read your troubleshooting more tomorrow, at a glance it looks like you've been pretty thorough.
 

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Also use search function, search "spark, no start", then make sure you select "advanced search" and pick "16v engine" in the forum category. I did a quick search and there's lots of similar posts, probably some good info.
 

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I see the ignition module tested good after replacing the coil.

My Scirocco 16V also loves, just loves to foul its plugs. It first fouled them when my Scirocco was new.

They will fire great out of the head. Nice strong spark. Put them back in and it won't start. The dealer mechanic said "Your plugs are fouled". I told him they sparked great out of the head. He said "Your plugs are fouled". They sent a flatbed to come get it and take it to the dealer 100 miles away. They called me back a few hours later and told me they replaced the plugs and to come get it.

If it won't start right away, the plugs will foul. Every time the pump starts and the Cold Start Valve squirts, the plugs get wetter.

If the plugs are wet with gasoline, they are probably fouled.

I keep some cheap Champion plugs in case it doesn't start right up.
 

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sounds like you grounded the transistor ignition module output and fried it
I had the same thought from the early steps of the troubleshooting steps he listed.
If not, either the ignition coil or the ignition control unit is defective.
- The test above failed, I saw 4-5 volts and then the volts would stay at 2.3 volts after 2 seconds.

But I thought a later test after he swapped the coil showed good?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I had the same thought from the early steps of the troubleshooting steps he listed.
If not, either the ignition coil or the ignition control unit is defective.
- The test above failed, I saw 4-5 volts and then the volts would stay at 2.3 volts after 2 seconds.

But I thought a later test after he swapped the coil showed good?
That is correct. After I swapped the coil for a new one I tested again for Ignition Control Unit Voltage to Coil and Ignition Control Unit Response to Hall Sender Signal. Both of these test passed with the new coil.

I forgot to mention while I waited for the coil to arrive in the mail I went ahead and replaced my distributor since the plug to the hall sender was covered in oil. This was on my to-do list for a while and took advantage of the down time to replace it with a new OEM Bosch unit. Before pulling the distributor off, I turned the crank by hand until cylinder-1 was at TDC (as close as I can get the rotor to align with the mark on the dist. body). This is why I started to investigate ignition timing as a possible cause of my no-start issue.

Fouled Spark Plugs, could this be the root cause of the no-start issue? The car has been sitting for about 3 days since I last tried to start it. After taking the plugs out to check for spark I reinstalled the plugs and cables and called it a night. Plugs could possibly still be wet/fouled to this point. I might source new plugs just in case.

One more note; during trouble shooting I removed the cold start valve from the intake manifold and confirmed fuel spray while cranking. Caught a couple of ounces in a glass jar and no leaks/drips were visible from the injector tip.
 

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16v Distributor marks courtesy of the Techtonics Tuning Timing Page.

Since you are now mentioning you replaced the distributor (did we know that?) I would check the marks according to the picture, check that wires are in the correct firing order, and look at getting fresh plugs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the dist. timing reference photo, (y).

A quick search on vortex and I came across this thread for setting/reviewing Static Ignition Timing, CIS and DigiFant. I'll be reviewing the ignition timing soon. I also placed an order of Spark Plugs; Bosch F6DTC Super Plus (Copper Core). Same plugs I currently have installed in the car.

If there is anything else I should be reviewing related to my no-start issue, let me know. I feel I am pretty close to solving this puzzle.
 

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Buy the cheapest plugs you can find if there is any chance they are fouling. When it's drivable, change to the "good plugs".

It will run just fine on cheap plugs for testing. I think my cheap plugs are Champion. Unfortunately they weren't in my Scirocco when I was playing with it the last time. I had the good plugs in it.

I kept my $11.00 plugs even though I fouled them. They eventually dried out but it took like 6 months before it would start. I checked every possible cause of it not starting. I went out to the garage about once a month. It refused to start until about 6 months later. The only reason I can think of for it not starting for six months but then starting as if nothing was wrong is that the plugs were fouled and eventually dried out. Silly me, I was throwing out fouled plugs before that.

I would also suggest unplugging the Cold Start Valve and only plugging it back in when the temperature drops. That will go a long way to keeping you from fouling plugs. Every squirt of the Cold Start Valve increases the chance of fouling the plugs.

You could also leave it plugged in but leave the key in the ON position after the first crank and wait for the Thermo Time Switch to time out. I am not sure of the time but it's in the Bentley. Anywho, wait for it to time out before attempting to start again. That way the Cold Start Valve will (hopefully) not squirt again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
The new spark plugs arrived in the mail and I continued where I left off with troubleshooting. With the car sitting for more than 5 days, I tried to start it and almost fired up. I stopped and proceeded with removing the spark plugs.

Come to find out they where wet/fouled. Out came the spark plugs and I was convinced at this point the car is not able to start due to the cylinders being wet with fuel.
I did some research online and you can dry out the fuel in the cylinders by cranking the engine with the fuel pump disabled for a few seconds. I let the car sit for a couple of hours while I waited for cylinders to dry up. Then, I installed the new spark plugs and disconnected the cold-start valve. Finders crossed, I tried to start it and....it fired right up on the first crank! Huzzah!

We are not out of the woods just yet. I let the car idle for a bit before I took it out for a drive. During the test drive I noticed my idle is stuck at 1500 RPM. Before my no-start issue, the car idled perfectly. Could incorrect ignition timing be the cause of the high idle? I'm looking into acquiring a ignition timing test light to make sure it's set correctly.

I have no vacuum leaks, idle switch works prior to the no-start issue. I have a hard time believing the usual suspects (ISV, vacuum leaks, throttle switches) are the cause of my high idle. I'm stumped at this point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
With the timing light in hand, Innova 3568 Digital Timing Light, I checked my ignition timing and it was not correct. Line-1(red) shows where the distributor was before I made an adjustment. Line-2(green) shows how much I turn the distributor toward the radiator in order to achieve 6 deg. BTDC. You can see I marked the distributor with a white pen before I started trouble shooting.
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With the ignition timing adjustment I was able to get the idle down to spec, 850-900 rpm. I still need to adjust the idle a bit more using a dwell meter as the car stalled a few times coming to a stop from 3rd gear. I plan to address this sometime soon. But, the car pulls nice and strong all the way to redline! Smiles for miles. :)

In retrospect, the steps I took during trouble shooting of no-spark ultimately lead to flooding/fouling the spark plugs. The constant testing of "With ignition on..." and "Starter actuated, check for LED blink..." kept the engine from starting. I solved the no-spark issue after I replaced the coil, but since the spark plugs were fouled by this point(I did not know this at the time) lead me to start a thread here. I felt I reached a dead-end.

Appreciate everyone's help and contributions to guide me in the right direction get the car back up and running! Next up, replace my axel flange seals! It's party time.
 
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