Long-time readers of this site will know that I’ve had a little bit (to say the least) of trouble with my cheap first-generation Volkswagen Touareg.
In the three years I’ve owned the car, it has left me stranded hundreds of kilometres from home, faced multiple expensive repairs, and is generally a frustrating money pit … yet somehow I still love it for its epic practicality, modern-car-beating comfort and immense capability.
As you might have guessed from this article’s title, the Touareg has done another ‘Touareg-y” thing recently and suffered a catastrophic fuel pump failure.
In this article, I’m going to share my experience with VW Touareg fuel pump failure, outlining:
- Repair costs
And remember, if you’re going to purchase one of these Germanic tanks and want to avoid facing as much automotive misery as I have endured, then you’ll want to read our comprehensive VW Touareg buyer’s guide.
Table of Contents
Touareg Fuel Pump Failure Symptoms & Diagnosis
The first sign of failure was fairly catastrophic.
I had actually lent the Touareg to my dad for the weekend, who was going to head up to a place called ‘Arthur’s Pass’ (NZ readers will know the weather can be inclement there, and snow was forecast).
Murphy’s law and all, he had just filled the Touareg with nearly 100L of premium petrol. At prevailing NZ prices, that is over $300 of petrol.
Not long thereafter, I got a call from dad to say that as he was leaving the petrol station he crossed an intersection – part way through the intersection the engine simply cut out, and he had to coast to a stop outside of somebody’s house.
The car would then turn on, but die 3-5 seconds after startup.
Dad called the AA (roadside assistance here in NZ) who:
- Determined quickly that the car hadn’t accidentally been filled with the wrong fuel – periodically you will read in the news about a car being filled with diesel or petrol by mistake, usually when there is a ‘mix up’ in the tanks.
- Couldn’t find anything that would easily allow the car to start and drive (more on that later)
- Suggested that the fuel pump was the likely culprit.
Once the vehicle was delivered back home, cursory searching online revealed that fuel pump failure was the most likely cause of the Touareg’s problems.
Further professional diagnosis confirmed the same.
Were There Any Hints Prior To Failure?
Honestly, not really.
Since ownership, the car has always made a bit of a rattling noise (kind of like marbles in a tin can) on acceleration at low RPM.
I would definitely say that in the few hours prior to the failure – where I had been using the car before giving it to my dad – that noise was more prominently noticeable.
Apart from that, there were no warning signs whatsoever.
How To Drive Your Touareg With A Failed Fuel Pump
Before I discuss the repair process (which is actually ongoing) let’s look at how you can drive your Touareg temporarily with a failed fuel pump.
Let’s say you’ve stumbled across this article because your Touareg has just failed in the carpark or petrol station (or even worse somewhere remote like up a skifield or something) and you don’t feel like waiting around for a tow truck … is there anything you can do?
The good news is that in most instances you might be able to effect a temporary fix.
You see the 1st generation Touareg actually has two fuel pumps.
I won’t go into the finer details (as I’ll probably get it wrong) but basically there is a ‘primary’ pump that runs during normal engine operation. There is then a secondary pump that runs only when starting the engine or under max engine load.
You can see this on the following diagram that the two pumps sitting in the fuel tank are laid out in a somewhat ‘H’-shaped arrangement.
My understanding is that the most common scenario is that the ‘primary’ pump fails (due to overuse). However, the secondary pump can fail too.
What you can do is actually remove the fuse for the offending/failed pump which effectively forces the car to use the other (hopefully still working) pump for everything. For example, as soon as I pulled the fuse for the primary pump, I was able to start and run the car on the secondary pump and drive it normally albeit with a check engine light displaying.
If the car starts but then dies after a few seconds, it’s likely that the main pump is the culprit and so the fuse for that needs pulling (fuse “X”)
The hardest part was actually getting to the fuse box, which is hidden under a cover at the very top right of the engine bay under a cover (almost tucked under the windshield).
And then working out which fuse to pull – fuel pump relays (fuse location A6 and C20):
|A1||Glow plug control unit (475)|
|A2||Terminal 30 power supply relay (109) / (219)|
|A3||Glow plug control unit (475)|
|A4||Fuel pump relay (53)|
|A5||Additional coolant pump relay (404)|
|A6||Fuel cooling pump relay (404)|
|B1||Terminal 30 power supply relay (219)|
|B2||Fuel pump relay (53)|
|B3||High power heating relay (100)|
|B4||Low heating power relay (100) Power supply relay 1 (100)|
|B6||Additional fuel pump relay (449)|
|C19||Fuel boost pump relay (404)|
|C20||Terminal 50 power supply relay (433)|
If that doesn’t work, put it back and pull the other.
I’ve read online of some owners who simply drive on one pump permanently – I wouldn’t recommend this as presumably the system has two pumps for a reason, but as a short-term measure that means you don’t need to arrange a tow truck and you can hopefully make it home or to the mechanic’s shop, this is a good option.
If this doesn’t work, it’s possible that either a) your fuel pump hasn’t failed (and there’s a different issue) or b) both fuel pumps have failed simultaneously.
VW Touareg Fuel Pump Repair
Let me get this out of the way – depending on your level of skill and what tools you have at your disposal, you might be able to complete this repair yourself.
There are a few tutorials online, albeit none of them amazingly clear.
I’ve seen plenty of forum posts from people who have done the work themselves, with time and skill estimates ranging from “I’m a novice and it took me one hour in the dark” to “I work on cars for a living, it took me all day, and I’d never do it again”.
Dad (who is the practical one) and I looked at the potential for doing so and decided against it for a few reasons:
- The fuel tank is completely full to the brim, and because the pumps are seated in the fuel tank this means the higher the fuel level in the tank the harder the job, with a higher chance of petrol spilling out of the tank into the surrounding carpet etc.
- You are meant to use a special tool to remove the seatbelt anchor (being an over-engineered German car you have to much around with taking the back seats out, basically). There are apparently some other tools that can be used, but as I’m looking to sell the car at some point I’m wary of doing anything that might accidentally compromise the safety of the vehicle and cause problems for the next owner.
- We didn’t fancy the outcome of accidentally igniting the released fuel vapour!
That being said, if you are practically-minded, then it is definitely possible to repair a Touareg fuel pump yourself. I’ll link a few useful resources below.
In terms of professional repair (which is what I opted for) I luckily enough had at the time of failure about a month left on the 3 year extended warranty I opted for when purchasing the Touareg.
After some careful ‘negotiation’ (i.e. politely but forcefully reminding the warranty company of their obligations as they tried every trick in the book to get out of paying, despite the expert VW repair shop confirming that the warranty claim should be valid) they agreed to meet the cost of the repair.
The estimated cost for the repair is around $2500 NZD, consisting of ~$1500 for a genuine VW fuel pump and 4-5 hours of labour to complete the work. All that’s left is for the pump to arrive from Germany, which is apparently going to take 4-6 weeks.
Annoyingly enough, only the faulty pump is being replaced whereas DIY repairers recommend doing both pumps at once as it’s not a crazy amount more work to do so and will save you the inevitable headache of the other pump failing shortly after the first repair.
In the event the repairs were to be done outside of warranty coverage, another mechanic quoted me about $1500 for non-genuine parts and labour, so it does pay to shop around.
One thing I would mention is that the genuine VW parts are crazy expensive. The mechanic that is completing the repair has to use them as they are an authorised Volkswagen dealer.
However, you can save a significant amount by buying quality non-VW parts from somewhere like FCP Euro (non-genuine seems to be about 50% less expensive).
If you’re really brave you can actually buy from Amazon.com a cheap ex-Aliexpress pump set for less than $150 USD, which has reasonable reviews although some complaints of poor longevity … to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised to find they are all made in the same factory.