I have a 2001 Passat GLS V6. I've been having problems with cold starts, and an engine code (P1296) with a "check emissions" warning. P1296 seems to be an intermittent problem with the coolant system (a lot of people have reported fixing this by changing the coolant temperature sensor).
So I did two things: replace the coolant temp sensor and a coolant flush. So far, the check engine light hasn't come back on, and I'll find out in the morning if there are any cold start problems.
My question to everyone - when I did the coolant flush, the coolant was REALLY dirty. Really rust-colored, with rust-colored particles suspended in it (I'm assuming this was all actual rust). Rust caking the coolant reservoir also. And when I changed the temperature sensor, that was also caked with rust and pretty corroded-looking.
Is this all normal? I got the car new in 2001, and I'm really not sure if the coolant has ever been flushed (unless that's done in regular checkups), so it stands to reason that it should be dirty. But I don't know if it's supposed to be so rusty? Also, the car had been sitting around in a garage for about 7 years (I was living in New York) and driven very infrequently, so it certainly seems possible that a lot could have rusted during that time.
Just wondering if there is anything more nefarious going on that I should watch out for, or I should just kick myself for not having maintained it better and move on now that things are looking okay. Thoughts?
Thanks in advance.