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    Thread: Car wont start when wet

    1. Member absentee's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 01:35 AM #1
      Hi, I have a 91 gti 16v, and it wont start when it is raining or wet. At all other times it runs practically perfect (I say practically because it is 20 years old), but whenever it rains, even if it just started, simply the humidity will make it not work. When it is raining the car will crank, and then when it finally catches it will just hind of give a dull thump and die, kind of like a "sigh"... This had been a problem as far back as november, but with the winter and the cold I guess it wasnt humid enough to be a problem? With the spring, all of the moisture is killing it. Right now it is sitting by my work, because it was a beautiful day and I drove it there, but then when I got off it was raining and the car wouldnt start.

      Any help?

      The battery also died about a week ago the day after it rained. It sat all day in the rain and wouldnt start, and then the next morning the battery was dead, but as soon as I jumped it it started right up. Since then, it has rained and then stopped raining 2 times, and every time when it rains it wont start, but almost as soon as it is done it starts right up.

      I have replaced the distributor cap and rotor as of 4 days ago, and the same problems are still occurring.

      Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
      Im sick of typical... 81 TD Rabbit LE19: Bugsy

    2. Member absentee's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 10:49 AM #2
      Anyone? Please?
      Im sick of typical... 81 TD Rabbit LE19: Bugsy

    3. Member TurboLover3's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 10:53 AM #3
      Check your ignition coil. Over time, the plastic casing can develop cracks and could let moisture in. There's also the possibility that your coil could be getting wet due to location. I've got a friend with a Rabbit that wouldn't start whenever it rained because his coil was sitting right under the vents in his hood.

    4. Member Fattmatt's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 12:48 PM #4
      ignition coil ftw

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      03-16-2011 12:55 PM #5
      Take the cover off the raintray and make sure it's clean and not full of debris that may block the drain holes causing the ecu to sit in some mucky water.

    6. Member absentee's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 12:59 PM #6
      Ignition coil looks fine, its under the rain tray, so there really isnt any way for it to get wet, and im not in the habit of leaving my hood open when it rains...

      Update: So it rained last night, and wouldnt start. I went over and picked it up today and it started right up. It smoked for about a minute out of the tailpipe, and that got me really worried, but then it stopped and was fine. I drove it home and it kind of has a hesitation when I accelerate, it will kind of stutter while it accelerates, but once it gets to like 3000rpms its fine.?

      But yeah, the main problem is that it wont start when its wet, thanks for all the help
      Im sick of typical... 81 TD Rabbit LE19: Bugsy

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      03-16-2011 01:26 PM #7
      It is trying to tell you it does not like wet weather.

      Seriously though, I agree with the above, as it sounds like an electrical/moisture issue.
      I will add, have you checked the cap and rotor recently?
      Also, take a look under the dash at the relays on a rainy day; do any of the areas surrounding them get damp?
      It could be an issue there with humidity causing contacts to not close like they should.
      Look at the fuel pump relay (upper right 2nd in from end) and the load reluctor relay (lower left 2nd or 3rd in from end).
      Those two might be part of the problem.
      Just to rule them out you could order them from germanautoparts.com or partsgeek.
      Just tips, good luck.
      Last edited by nbvwfan; 03-16-2011 at 01:31 PM.

    8. Member TurboLover3's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 01:28 PM #8
      Did you remove the coil and inspect it all the way around? Most of the fractures I've seen you really have to look close to see but are enough of a problem to cause arching issues.

    9. Member rysskii3's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 01:29 PM #9
      i had a similar issue. i washed the subframe and then the car wouldnt start all day. the next day i got it to work, and still cant find the problem. so now i keep it in the garage at all times.
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    10. Member Turbo-D's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 01:45 PM #10
      I would clean all the electrical connectors under the hood, motronic wiring harnesses are pron to get a bit oxidized.

      This stuff dose the job

    11. Member rysskii3's Avatar
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      03-16-2011 02:04 PM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by Turbo-D View Post
      I would clean all the electrical connectors under the hood, motronic wiring harnesses are pron to get a bit oxidized.

      This stuff dose the job
      i used that stuff. the car was idling funny for the first few starts but then its fine again
      Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health.
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    12. Member absentee's Avatar
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      03-17-2011 12:16 AM #12
      Ok, ill find some of that Electrical Cleaner and do work under the hood. I just disconnect them all, spray on both ends, and then plug back in?

      Just something else, if the car never gets wet under the hood, like, it is sitting and not moving, so no water can get in at all, that means that all of my problems must be caused simply by humidity. what does that mean? Bad grounds? Bad connections? Bad wiring?

      Thanks!
      Im sick of typical... 81 TD Rabbit LE19: Bugsy

    13. Member rysskii3's Avatar
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      03-17-2011 07:55 PM #13
      It could be grounds. That's what I think my issue was. I just have no idea which grounds to check on my 9a.
      Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health.
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    14. Member J.Knipl's Avatar
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      03-17-2011 08:13 PM #14
      Quote Originally Posted by absentee View Post
      Hi, I have a 91 gti 16v, and it wont start when it is raining or wet. At all other times it runs practically perfect (I say practically because it is 20 years old), but whenever it rains, even if it just started, simply the humidity will make it not work. When it is raining the car will crank, and then when it finally catches it will just hind of give a dull thump and die, kind of like a "sigh"... This had been a problem as far back as november, but with the winter and the cold I guess it wasnt humid enough to be a problem? With the spring, all of the moisture is killing it. Right now it is sitting by my work, because it was a beautiful day and I drove it there, but then when I got off it was raining and the car wouldnt start.

      Any help?

      The battery also died about a week ago the day after it rained. It sat all day in the rain and wouldnt start, and then the next morning the battery was dead, but as soon as I jumped it it started right up. Since then, it has rained and then stopped raining 2 times, and every time when it rains it wont start, but almost as soon as it is done it starts right up.

      I have replaced the distributor cap and rotor as of 4 days ago, and the same problems are still occurring.

      Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
      Replacing the cap and rotor was a good idea but what about the wires ? How old are they ?

      There's an old trick where you run the car after dark and use a spray bottle to lightly mist water all around the engine bay. If you see any kind of arcing that might be the source of your problems.
      I finally fixed my sig

    15. Member J.Knipl's Avatar
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      03-17-2011 08:15 PM #15
      Quote Originally Posted by absentee View Post
      Hi, I have a 91 gti 16v, and it wont start when it is raining or wet. At all other times it runs practically perfect (I say practically because it is 20 years old), but whenever it rains, even if it just started, simply the humidity will make it not work. When it is raining the car will crank, and then when it finally catches it will just hind of give a dull thump and die, kind of like a "sigh"... This had been a problem as far back as november, but with the winter and the cold I guess it wasnt humid enough to be a problem? With the spring, all of the moisture is killing it. Right now it is sitting by my work, because it was a beautiful day and I drove it there, but then when I got off it was raining and the car wouldnt start.

      Any help?

      The battery also died about a week ago the day after it rained. It sat all day in the rain and wouldnt start, and then the next morning the battery was dead, but as soon as I jumped it it started right up. Since then, it has rained and then stopped raining 2 times, and every time when it rains it wont start, but almost as soon as it is done it starts right up.

      I have replaced the distributor cap and rotor as of 4 days ago, and the same problems are still occurring.

      Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
      Also clean the hell out of the all connectors to the battery , both pos and neg with some sand paper . This can only help.
      I finally fixed my sig

    16. Member 89CARAT8V's Avatar
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      03-17-2011 09:19 PM #16
      im curious as to why this is happening to you. i had this same problem once after washing my engine bay. car ran like ish, but after 3500 rpm it was golden. couldnt find moisture in anything, ie: Dist Cap/Rotor, Plug Wires, Coil, nothing. Come to find out it was my injector seals. Once they were introduced to water the car ran like junk. It would always start tho, so that part idk about. good luck man, hope you figure it out.

    17. Member absentee's Avatar
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      03-19-2011 02:43 AM #17
      Thanks for all the help guys

      Quote Originally Posted by J.Knipl View Post
      Replacing the cap and rotor was a good idea but what about the wires ? How old are they ?

      There's an old trick where you run the car after dark and use a spray bottle to lightly mist water all around the engine bay. If you see any kind of arcing that might be the source of your problems.
      I dont know how old the cap/rotor were, so i replaced them. The wires are neuspeed and they look to be in good condition (those are some of the nicest wires you can buy, they shouldnt be going bad, should they?). I also tried the spray bottle trick just now, and there was no arching of any sort. I sprayed more than just a "light mist" on the entire engine and pretty much everywhere in the bay, and nothing changed. It ran fine even when everything was pretty wet.

      Also clean the hell out of the all connectors to the battery , both pos and neg with some sand paper . This can only help.
      There is no corrosion on any of the battery terminals, and they are connected just fine. They look to be in practically perfect condition. But ill see what I can do.

      im curious as to why this is happening to you. i had this same problem once after washing my engine bay. car ran like ish, but after 3500 rpm it was golden. couldnt find moisture in anything, ie: Dist Cap/Rotor, Plug Wires, Coil, nothing. Come to find out it was my injector seals. Once they were introduced to water the car ran like junk. It would always start tho, so that part idk about. good luck man, hope you figure it out.
      Sound like the same problem to me. Would yours like stumble and jerk when it was at low rpms? Mine does, and then as soon as im revving it higher it seems ok, but there still is like no power, or at least not as much...

      I still need to get some electrical cleaner, hopefully tomorrow, and then wait for it to rain again and see what happens

      Thanks for all the help!
      Im sick of typical... 81 TD Rabbit LE19: Bugsy

    18. Member Mr.V_Dub's Avatar
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      03-19-2011 03:49 PM #18
      These cars have minds of thier own.... they start when they want to... if they are tired of you're **** they will stall and give you a big middle finger.

      You probubly got the I WILL NOT START IN RAIN edition. You should find it on the side of you door

      Mine will not start if i turn it off at a drive-thru... must have got the, will not start in drive thru edition.... damn...


      But seriously, sounds like bad a connection somewhere, or its hiding water somewhere on some electronic part of the car... lol
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    19. Member 89CARAT8V's Avatar
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      03-20-2011 10:45 PM #19
      mine actually never stumbled and jerked. just had no power whatsoever. i could hold the gas to the floor and it wouldnt even make an attempt to rise in rpm for about ten seconds. its golden now tho.

    20. Member rysskii3's Avatar
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      03-26-2011 08:07 PM #20
      did you ever find out what causes the problem?
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    21. Member Blade3562's Avatar
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      01-12-2017 07:21 PM #21
      Necro-bump

      My '85 has developed this habit of not starting during a hard rain storm. I have replacement parts on the way but right now I'm at the store and it won't start, ideas? 1985 JH, 5 speed, no arcing or sparks and all contacts are clean + dry.

      I see no cracks in the dizzy cap but the rotor and cap look pretty fouled. Coil is dry, I don't see any visible marks or cracks but it too may have failed.

      Car cranks and cranks. Fuel pump primed every time.

      Wipers came on, on their own and won't turn off?

      Fuse panel appears to be dry but may be damp it's been torrential downpours this week. Main battery ground was replaced by previous owner. I live in Ohio maybe the corrosive road treatment stuff is impacting something?

    22. Member briano1234's Avatar
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      01-12-2017 09:41 PM #22
      Quote Originally Posted by Turbo-D View Post
      I would clean all the electrical connectors under the hood, motronic wiring harnesses are pron to get a bit oxidized.

      This stuff dose the job
      X4.....

      When there is a issue with wet weather, and not starting you usually have the 2 possibilities.
      1. The High Voltage circuits, as in Coil, Plug wires, Cap rotor having hairline cracks causing of carbon tracks or sparking fairies.
      2. Bad Grounds or power. Ground wires are from the battery to the frame and from the frame to the tranny/engine.

      Cleaning all connectors especially the Hall Generator, and the Hall Sender along with the Digifant connector, verifying that you have clean rain trays and drains.

      If you haven't replaced grounds, try this test the next time... Take your battery jumper cables and connect one to the negative post and then to frame, then the other one from battery negative to Engine.

      I had a OLDS 98 that wouldn't start @ 50degrees and 100 percent humidity. I rebuilt the distributor, and replaced the plug wires and cap.
      all was fine until the next 100 percent/50degree day and same thing.... I was po'ed. The car cranked but no fire.....
      I got a little upset and with a wrench 9/16 1/2 combo box snapon flew out of my slick hand and shorted between the negative post on the battery and frame,,,and it sparked...... 6 dollars later and new ground cables it was running.. When I took the old cables that I had re-ended off and stripped off the shielding about 8 inches from the terminal end was a GREEN crumbly set of independant and some burnt wires.

      To check for sparking fairies, at nite place a blanket over your hood, have some one try to start the car, if you see sparks jumping about that is your issue. You can usually scrub them clean with sand paper to break the track. Then spray with wd-40 or CRC wire-dry.
      Read the riddle in my signature.

    23. Member Blade3562's Avatar
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      01-12-2017 11:27 PM #23
      Well I'm stumped. I'm thinking the tranny to body ground was replaced the same time as the battery to frame ground. I'll find out tomorrow.

      We could find no sparks arcs etc. (it was dark here at the time this happened). We grabbed the jumper cables, hooked up to my buddy's car and did some more cranking, cleaned all the connectors, checked the plug wires(insulation was bad on 3 of the 4 and one is actually loose at the dizzy connection so new ones are needed.(new ones should be here any day) as for the cap and coil I could very much believe there is a hairline crack. I couldn't see or feel anything but as soon as it stopped drizzling the car fired right up and ran 100%. These gremlins are ones I haven't faced. And water seems to make them worse. I thought the movie said water killed them

      Totally unrelated note the starter solenoid is failing fast. Not disengaging so troubleshooting was frustrating.

      I'm hoping replacing them all fixes the issue. I have a feeling the battery is losing cranking amps now as well, when jumping the car the started ran at a much higher rpm!

    24. Member Greg57vw's Avatar
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      01-13-2017 01:38 AM #24
      Try a different ecu? Electrical part of the ignition in the steering column?

    25. Semi-n00b tinto's Avatar
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      01-13-2017 03:56 AM #25
      Just throwing this in here as my 91 8v digi (RV) was behaving very strangely a few months back. Wouldn't start, then would cut out with a dancing tacho needle before it died.

      Heavy rain, blocked up drains in the rain tray (small jacaranda leaves mostly) and as a result, an ecu with about a cup of water inside were what was going on.

      Took the ECU case apart, drained the water and dried everything out completely.
      Also cleared the rain tray drains so it can actually clear itself out.
      Has been running fine ever since.

      Sort of an embarrassing reason but one worth sharing, particularly if your car lives outside and there's potential for your rain tray to get clogged.

      I'm impressed my ECU didn't die, nice work Bosch.

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