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    Thread: P2181 - performance malfunction in cooling system... HELP!

    1. Former Advertiser
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      05-29-2008 09:52 AM #26
      Hello
      This is so true about the gage being an idiot light.
      If you need help give me a call. I specialize in these cars.
      I'm in Montgomery NY.
      Best,
      Jack
      email
      vwemporium@aol.com

    2. Member
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      Dec 23rd, 2001
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      2003 Audi A3 Wagon
      05-29-2008 04:00 PM #27
      i noticed 2 things today about my car...
      1. even at 190 degrees on my dummy light, there is almost no pressure in the reserve reservoir and it never boils over
      2. The fans never turn on. When the a/c is active sometimes only the small fan is turning.
      Eric Guizzetti
      2008 Audi A3 3.2L


    3. Member xsp2467's Avatar
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      1986 TDi Syncro, 1981 1Z TDI Rabbit Pick-Up, 1998 Jeta TDI
      05-31-2008 01:23 AM #28
      I noticed that my fans dont come on until the engine is at the high temp, im not exactly sure but i thought that they were suposed to go on the low setting when the a/c was on

    4. Member
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      Current: 2010 CW GTI 6spd. Old cars: 02 GTI 337, 04 Audi TT 3.2, 04 R32
      06-06-2008 12:38 PM #29
      Well, both big and small fan are supposed to go on when a/c is on (low setting). I tested mine and only small fan was on, so replaced big fan and both are working now.

    5. Member
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      06-06-2008 01:41 PM #30
      Quote, originally posted by rowdyzombie »
      Well, both big and small fan are supposed to go on when a/c is on (low setting). I tested mine and only small fan was on, so replaced big fan and both are working now.

      I have heard so many mixed reviews about the fan's spinning. Some say low speed setting in only the passenger side fan. Some say that both fans should spin.
      I have seen both of my fans run before. Then sometimes only the small fan.
      I have a new theory about the p2181 code. I noticed when i took out my last green top sensor that it has no o-ring gasket. I am curios if some of the pressure is escaping due to the fact?
      Eric Guizzetti
      2008 Audi A3 3.2L


    6. 06-06-2008 02:07 PM #31
      both fans ALWAYS switch together. if one is running in either low or hi speed, and the other is not, the one that's not running is broke. if neither fan is running in low speed with a/c on, they're both broke.
      if you're using a/c in hot weather, and your low speed fans don't run, your a/c compressor may be at risk.
      if you get stalled in traffic on a hot day, and your low speed fans don't work, be very careful. if your high speed fans don't come on, you should stay in your driveway, or stay on the highway and never stop!

    7. Member xsp2467's Avatar
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      06-06-2008 03:49 PM #32
      Thats good to know, ill have to get the vag com and heat test the car and graph the warm up process and log when the fans come on. As for the o-ring, I just replaced the greeen sensor with another green sensor, both of the sensors had their o-rings.

    8. Member Mike Solo's Avatar
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      01-26-2010 08:02 PM #33
      Back from the dead. I threw this code a few weeks ago, driving down the freeway at about 70 mph.
      Cooling fans are working properly.
      Water pump is functioning properly.
      Green-top coolant sensor installed.
      If there is nothing else to check, I'll flush the coolant & replace the thermostat, and hope that covers it. Just wondering if anyone found anything else.

    9. 03-01-2010 09:39 PM #34
      Quote, originally posted by Mike Solo »
      ...
      If there is nothing else to check, I'll flush the coolant & replace the thermostat, and hope that covers it. Just wondering if anyone found anything else.

      Did flushing the coolant work for you?
      I've got this code too. Have already replaced the sensor 3 times, thermostat, and water pump.

    10. Member
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      Two '04 BMP R32s - One cloth, one leather; '09 Tiguan SE AWD
      03-15-2010 04:48 PM #35
      Mine started this last spring on cold mornings, after doing 70 mph on the highway for a few minutes I get a CEL. Error code P2181.
      Errors went away over the warm summer months, but came back in the cool fall weather. I parked the car for most of the winter, but I'm still getting Error code P2181. Coolant topped off, lots of heater output, no overheating, fans working, new coolant temp sensor...
      Any insight is greatly appreciated.
      Nothing but VWs...30 years and counting.

    11. 04-01-2010 11:41 PM #36
      You should check the freeze frame data for when the fault is setting, instead of just throwing every part in the cooling system at it.

    12. 03-17-2012 02:52 PM #37
      A problem with the probe sensors in the coolant tank IS a sensitivity to the coolant fluid's electrical resistance (Ohms) and if not just right, your car will throw P2181 codes. As has been stated, don't use an excess of antifreeze (as suggested, 60% water and 40% antifreeze is a good mix). Also don't use "purified" water, use only the stuff that comes out of the water hose and hopefully there's enough mineral content in your water to maintain an operating fluid resistance level.

      As suggested, check your coolant mix ... you might have too much coolant ... my 2003 Audi TT had too much antifreeze at 35K miles. If someone added "purified" water to your coolant mix, then you're really screwed.

      If your handy with a digital voltmeter, measure the before and after resistance of the coolant tank solution at the tanks connector ... with the cable connector removed. Hopefully note a lower resistance.

      And if your P2181 codes occur at specific street locations, that's because a nearby radio transmitting device is affecting the coolant tank sensing circuitry. Radio signals are introducing a signal voltage on the coolant probe cable going to the ECU. So the solution to the problem is (1) use more water with minerals, (2) use less antifreeze, (3) use a grounded, braided shield over the sensing wire.

      Application of silicone insulating grease on the coolant tank's probe connector pins would help with this "dry" circuit. "Dry" circuit refers to a circuit with very little electrical current, causing connector contacts to become more easily contaminated. Therefore, not assuring a good, electrical contact for "dry" circuit conditions.

    13. Member
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      03-20-2012 09:40 AM #38
      Great 1st post BillR123

      I have been plagued with this error on and off for the past 6 months and had the water pump changed (with timing belt), and the sensor. When I go back in time I did go to mr Lube and have them change the fluid. I remember they put in the green stuff and flushed out the high mileage red stuff. I told the dealer and they said that's fine. It was shortly after this fluid change I recall that the problem with my CEL and coolant gauge dropping to C, yet it still blew hot air even at -30C outside.

      I was just about to pay and have the tstat changed but I think I'm better off to change the conductivity of the coolant. Do you know approx the value I should read off the sensor? Also what kind of tolerance in that value I might have?

    14. 04-14-2012 11:05 AM #39
      First check ECT sensor resistance, if its within spec let car cold soak then take on test drive. Use your scan tool to monitor temperature and check to see if the car gets up to 175ish degrees within a few minutes. Average speed must be over 6mph to trip the light so keep it up over that. If car is to slow to reach operating temperature, 2181 will set. 99% of the time its been the thermostat.



      Resistance should be between

      Min Ohms Max Ohms Temp F
      5000 6500 32
      1500 2000 86
      500 650 140
      275 375 176
      200 300 194

      Trouble code 18613 (P2181) indicates the cooling system is not reaching operating temperature quickly enough.

      1. With the engine at 68 degrees F. under normal driving conditions 175 degrees F or more should be indicated after about 4 to 5 minutes of driving.

      2. If the engine is not reaching operating temperature quickly enough, a faulty thermostat is usually the cause of the slow warm up condition.

      3. Check for poor or corroded connections at the Coolant Temperature Sensor (CTS) as well.

      I hope this helps.

    15. Semi-n00b
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      2004 VW R32 with stage two VF supercharger
      05-31-2012 12:38 PM #40
      i have just replaced the sensor with the green one and when i bought the car i had to replace the radiator fan. and i also replaced the coolant res. not because i thought it would have been a problem but it broke.
      i have a VF stage 2 super charger on the car i don't think that should have any problem. i find the problem only comes with cold starts or if you don't let it idle for at least 5 mins in the morning. i know its inconvenient.but you should do it every day any way.

    16. Member
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      2006/Audi/A3/2.0T
      10-01-2012 04:48 PM #41
      I just wanted to update this thread to say that I was wrong!!

      It wasn't the coolant. I tried swapping out the green and replacing with G12 and the Code came back. Also the sensor was replace but the code came back after a day.

      So on the weekend I bit the bullet and replaced the thermostat. What a PITA job on my A3 but in the end everything is working fine now and temp sits perfectly in the middle of the gauge.

      There are lots of tips I could give someone that wants to do this. So if any of you want to change this part be aware it's not fast or easy. If you don't like getting your hands dirty and don't have patients then just take it to the dealer haha.

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