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2000 Volkswagen Polo runs rough and dies in wet weather and rain


Our Volkswagen Polo is made in Argentina and has the 1.8litre non-turbocharged petrol engine. It runs fine normally but in our heavy tropical rain here in Brasil, it starts to run rough and then dies. It only happens in very heavy rain when the car is driven through some standing water (we get a lot here). After standing for 30 minutes, the car eventually starts again and can be driven for another 5 minutes, then dies again, and so on and so on. The next day, the car runs fine again.

Car has new plugs, air filter, new dizzy rotor and I cleaned the HT leads and dizzy cap with wire wool and alcohol. Also the battery seems very good and has no problems cranking the motor.

When we have the problem, I checked and there is no water in the air filter box or in the distributer cap and I still get a weak looking spark on all 4 HT leads to the plugs (I put the leads close to the block and can see the spark jumping across).

Last night it happened again and spraying some oil on the outside of the distributor cap and all HT leads and all the electrical connectors in the engine bay, allowed me to drive the last 3 km to get home but it may be co-incidence. Parts are very expensive here and very hard to find so I can't afford to change out everything. I'm thinking it's probably the ignitor/coil that is getting old, but maybe it's water on the lambda sensor, bad HT leads or anything else I didn't think of.

Many, many thanks if anyone can please point me in the right direction,

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  • kakilala Feb 13, 2009

    Let me start from the begining. The starter motor on our vw polo 1.4L was gone and whenever I turned on the ignition it made noise like explosion. After the starter motor was changed, the problem disappeared. 3 days ago the car started misfiring & we were told it needs new distributor. We put new distributor and now the car is too rough & very noisy. We also notice the same noise which we had prior to changing starter motor. Is anyone there who can really help us as we have lost faith in the garage. Thank you in advance for helping us.


  • jonathan_ran Feb 23, 2009

    Hi all,
    Just to let you know that I solved my problem with our Polo, although you may not like the solution! I had already replaced the distributor rotor, plugs and air filter. In the end I got totally desperate and replaced (in one go) the distributor cap, all 5 leads and the coil, all with aftermarket parts. I also went underneath the car and gave every open wiring loom a liberal spraying with WD40. Problem is now totally resolved. I can now drive the car through a swimming pool of water and it will keep going, no problems.
    So it seems the problem was definitely with the HT system, probably some combination of ageing HT leads, poor output from the coil and possibly a cracked distributor cap. I hope this helps. In the end I got the parts brought over in a suitcase by a friend from the UK, so was able to but non-original parts at very good prices.
    I agree also that this car has terrible splash protection underneath; I often get water all over the head, so I will be fitting some DIY protection shortly to try and semi-seal off the engine.
    As for the rest of the car, what a pile of junk. Drivers's side electric window broke (some poor quality plastic part just snapped), glove box handle broke, some plastic strip just about the number plate broke, cigarette lighter is stuck "in", the exhaust always makes clonking noises and fuel consumption is far too high, especilly when you use the AC. I'll never buy a Volkswagen again.
    Hope this helps someone else resolve their problem.
    Best regards,



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Girlfriend's 99 Polo had same issue. In fact it recurred yesterday! Anyway, am not expert, but it seems to be due to deposits building up inside distributor cap area and then getting damp in wet conditions, causing shorting of ignition 'signals'. Found solution is to clean inside cap every 6 to 12 months with a cloth and IPA (or water if you're stuck - just make sure to dry it properly!) and the problem goes away. Silly thing about her Polo is that there's no decent splashguard to protect the engine area from splashes from puddles etc. I've lost all respect for VW coz of the amount of silly things that have gone wrong with her car...! Hope this helps - sounds to me like it's exactly the same problem.

Posted on Jan 16, 2009


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SOURCE: 2000 Engine runs rough, cuts out/dies in wet weather, rain, water

if you haven't changed your spark plug wires they do break down and usually need replaced every 40,000 miles or so. the dealer can't do anymore than you can they would change parts out too. they could get a code if its something that the computer recognizes

Posted on Dec 15, 2008

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