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Thread: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

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    1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Hey everyone, I'm new here.
    Background: I recently acquired a 1981 diesel Rabbit as my first big "project car." The car was full of mice and had been sitting vacant for ~8 years. Paid $400 for it, as it was complete and body-wise good shape for Michigan (where I live.) The rig didn't run, but would crank. I stripped all interior once I got home, and focused on getting the engine running. I drained the tank, replaced fuel filter, all new clear fuel lines to the injector pump and between the injectors. Cranked it and she fired up, good. I had done my best to prim the system, had the fuel filter full of diesel, and the injector pump was primed via vacuuming the return line.
    Now the problem: The "Pesky Wittle Wabbit" won't draw fuel. I'm sure there is no air in the injector, it's been primed and primed. (I hook my brake bleeder up to the return line and suck fuel from there.) When the brake bleeder is hooked up, and I start it, it will run beautiful, as long as the return line has some vacuum on it. But once the bleeder is removed and the return line is placed back on, the engine will slowly rev down, lope and finally quit. The whole time it's dieing, no fuel is being pulled from the filter to the injector. The engine will run fine if a jar of fuel is hung and connected directly to the injector pump.

    Does anyone know why my injector pump wont draw fuel? Tank is clean, both incoming and return lines clear, no air leaks, new fuel filter.
    ANY help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Sounds like you either have a timing issue with the pump, or a air bubble in the manifold.

    Crack each injector port at that manifold one a a time while the engine is cranking. Then tighten. If that
    don't work then you are looking at a possible rebuild of the injection pump.
    What do Divorces, Great Coffee and Cars all have in common?
    They all Start with good GROUNDS.
    Replace all of them that you can, 99 percent of flakiness will disappear.


    92, 93 Cabriolet.... 89, and 90 are Deceased.


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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Cracked the injectors as you said, and problem still resides. The only way I have found to get the engine running smoothly, is to put the brake bleeder on the return line and draw fuel manually into the injector pump. Could it be the fuel shutoff? I hear it pop when the key is on, but maybe it's gummed up and sticking? Thanks for the help, and the quick response!

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    If it will only work when you are pulling fuel through it, then you have a pump that isn't pumping as it can't draw. To see if it is external or internal If you take a bucket and fill it with fuel, can the pump pull it out of the bucket with no filter? As it could be just a bad pump.
    What do Divorces, Great Coffee and Cars all have in common?
    They all Start with good GROUNDS.
    Replace all of them that you can, 99 percent of flakiness will disappear.


    92, 93 Cabriolet.... 89, and 90 are Deceased.


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    Senior Member Mushroomman1856 is a glorious beacon of light Mushroomman1856's Avatar
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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Charlevoixboy, use a high pressure air hose and blow back through the pick up line there may lie 8 years of wee bits and pieces. if that don't work then do what brian said. If you need a pump I got one from Emiata.com 250.00 after i sent the core back, worked like a charm, you need the timing "tool set" too it's like 70 bucks i think, or borrow one from your local VW mechanic. Heres the other issue it may seem impossible but I bought my neighbor Diesel Dan a couple fuel filters on line and one was bad, his 1.6 loaped sputtered and stalled, he then put the other one on and worked like a charm. hope this helps..MM
    81 Rabbit Diesel 5 speed pain in the ass
    84 VW Quantum Turbo Diesel 5 speed can't judge her yet.... too early.
    Both run on Used Veggie oil and waste motor oil
    There are Old mushroom hunters and there are Bold mushroom hunters but there are no Old Bold mushroom hunters. If you don't know let it go. If YOU THINK.. it's it don't pick and get sick.

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Put fuel into a bottle and inserted the incoming fuel line (after the filter) as Brian said. It looks like it tries to pull fuel, but not very well at all. Still runs like crap. Guess I will look into a new pump. :/ Hey, at least I know the engine is good (no burning oil, leaks, good compression.) Is there a rebuild kit I could buy to rebuild the pump myself?

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Hate to bump and old thread, but does anyone know what part of my pump is not functioning correctly? Personally, I'd like to try the rebuild myself. Symptoms are (and described as best I can) :
    When a funnel attached to the incoming fuel line, is filled with diesel and attached to the hood (above the injector pump) the car will run just fine. When the incoming fuel line is placed in a jar filled with diesel (below the injector pump), it will not draw fuel into the pump and runs rough, misses and sputters to a halt. So as long as the incoming fuel is being forced into the pump, either by gravity of pressure, the engine runs smooth. But the injector pump wont draw fuel on its own power. There aren't any air bubbles in the system either. Any insight is appreciated!

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    You either have a air leak on one of the seals, or a problem internally.

    The ip pump when you take it apart is a very simple thing you have a cylinder with 3 or 4 wiper blades that spin around in the chamber and create not only suction to pull the fuel out of the tank, but also pass it through a diaphragm to create pressure.

    There are places where you can buy a new one that is tuned for a few hundred plus core. Mushroom Man can steer you there.
    But I would verify that you don't have a leaky fuel line from the hard steel line to the ip. I had to replace that clear hose as I kept seeing bubbles in it, and finally fingered out that it was leaking at the filter banjo bolt.

    Don't remember much more as it was 95 when I had to repair mine after 15 years of spinning.
    and I had to repair it after having thrown away my spare about 6 months earlier....damnit.
    What do Divorces, Great Coffee and Cars all have in common?
    They all Start with good GROUNDS.
    Replace all of them that you can, 99 percent of flakiness will disappear.


    92, 93 Cabriolet.... 89, and 90 are Deceased.


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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Trust me, I've done the same thing.
    I'm sure the line is not leaking, (no air bubbles) and the line will also hold vacuum. I think I will attempt the rebuild myself, I found a nice tear-down article online that I'll use as a reference.
    EDIT: Links added

    http://etc.gnarlodious.com/Vanagon/B.../-Rebuild.html

    http://etc.gnarlodious.com/Vanagon/B...h_VE_Pumps.pdf
    Last edited by charlevoixboy; 08-18-2010 at 12:48 AM.

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Just to update the thread, I tore the IP down and sure enough, the vanes were varnished in place. I put a good polish on the vanes, and reassembled the pump. The Rabbit runs beautifully now. Made the 3 sided bolt removal tool by cutting out an old 1/2 socket. The whole rebuild cost was $0. It's nice to hear the engine purr on its own. Thanks for all the help!

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Here's the frozen vanes:
    Pump broken down:
    Reassembled and ready to run:

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Good to hear that shes on the road again. MM
    81 Rabbit Diesel 5 speed pain in the ass
    84 VW Quantum Turbo Diesel 5 speed can't judge her yet.... too early.
    Both run on Used Veggie oil and waste motor oil
    There are Old mushroom hunters and there are Bold mushroom hunters but there are no Old Bold mushroom hunters. If you don't know let it go. If YOU THINK.. it's it don't pick and get sick.

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Instead of making a new thread, I'll use this one. So I've been driving the VW for a while now and have been having this reoccurring problem. The car looked at though it was pulling air somewhere from the fuel tank to the IP. After some digging I found that the screen in the tank was plugged and causing the tiny air particles in the fuel to expand as the pump drew a vacuum on the line. After cleaning the tank screen and blowing the lines out, I have clean lines and filter. The bubbles have disappeared and the car runs with much more power. Now the kicker- the car will start and run fine, but after cruising at road speeds and coming to a stop, the engine will shudder to a halt (stall.) After waiting a couple of seconds, the engine will restart and go on it's way as if nothing happened, until the next stop. I'm stumped, fuel filter new, clamps on all the lines, tank appears clean from sending unit hole, supply and return line blow air freely. Problem still occurs without tank cap. I've read that there is a rubber piece in the bottom of the tank that will deteriorate and get sucked into the path of the pick-up line, and cause the stall and quick re-start. Anyone heard this?

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    I have heard of the pick up line in the tank rotting out and internally collapsing. I personally never have seen it.
    What do Divorces, Great Coffee and Cars all have in common?
    They all Start with good GROUNDS.
    Replace all of them that you can, 99 percent of flakiness will disappear.


    92, 93 Cabriolet.... 89, and 90 are Deceased.


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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Just a thought... for the IP's that won't pull fuel, I would think that an easy, cheap and quick fix would be to install a low pressure fuel pump inline between the filter and IP.

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    The IP will pull fuel hard enough to put a vacuum on it, I've just rebuilt it too. Wouldn't a collapsed pick-up line pull air?

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    No it is like sucking on a straw that you put your finger over the other end...

    Since the tank is a bottom feeder, the fuel and air usually don't mix in the tank.
    What do Divorces, Great Coffee and Cars all have in common?
    They all Start with good GROUNDS.
    Replace all of them that you can, 99 percent of flakiness will disappear.


    92, 93 Cabriolet.... 89, and 90 are Deceased.


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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    The low pressure fuel pump is an excellent fix up until your pump starts leaking from somewhere else. Ive had my electric pump on for a good 2 years now but the pump is leaking soo bad now it takes a looong time to get the mechanical pump reprimed

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    OK, I pulled off the fuel line to the IP and ran a piece of hose into a gallon of fuel. Started her up and it pulled fuel JUST FINE. After getting up to running temps, the throttle response started to get lazy and not as responsive. Then it wouldn't idle. I could turn the idle up but after revving the engine, the idle will hang (because of the screw being adjusted in.) I'm unsure if there should be a one-way in the incoming fuel line (I don't have one), but after shutting the engine down the line gravity feeds back and pulls a largish column of tiny air bubbles out of the pump. The problems only occur when the engine is at operating temps, so I have to ask the question: could my IP be timed off (too advanced) by a degree or 2? I've timed it the hill-billy method per instructions off another VW forum. Would this explain why it wont run right at warmer temps? Or could the IP be full of air? It runs fine cold. Thanks in advance

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    Re: 1981 VW Rabbit 1.6L Diesel Engine Problems

    Yes that could be a very good reason.
    2 get rid of that air. The air bubbles can eventually stop the ip from pushing fuel out to the injectors.
    Air bubbles isn't a good thing.
    What do Divorces, Great Coffee and Cars all have in common?
    They all Start with good GROUNDS.
    Replace all of them that you can, 99 percent of flakiness will disappear.


    92, 93 Cabriolet.... 89, and 90 are Deceased.


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