Question about 1997 Volkswagen Golf

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My '97 died while driving and now cranks but won't start

My ex-boyfriend's dad gave me this '97 VW Golf and it had been a dream car for me as a teenager.  Ran just fine every day I needed it . . . now, I've moved out on my own and the car died while it was running.
I don't know much about cars -- I was going like 40 mph and it just turned off.  I coasted to a stop and when I tried to start it again it just turned over but didn't "catch"? (wouldn't start).
The two truck cost me most of my free money and due to a language barrier the tow driver couldn't answer any questions.
I know I have gas in the car - 1/2 tank.  I had a recent oil change (about 2,000 miles ago).
Any ideas for things I can check with tools limited to like a screwdriver and basic knowledge?  The car isn't worth much to others, I can't really afford to tow it to the VW dealer and pay a diagnosis fee on top of a repair.
Thank you for your help, Tina

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  • Tina89 Aug 16, 2008

    Is there a way for me to tell if it's the timing belt?  Like by looking to see if something's moving (valves?)?

    Does losing a timing belt in this kind of car cause bigger problems?

    One other weird thing, the tachometer went really weird when it died and for some reason my clock has a different time now too.  But, the battery isn't dead because it cranks fine.

    Thank you thank you for the help,

  • grvsyng Feb 26, 2009

    1997 golf with the same problem one year now. Change distributor, ecu, crank sensor, cam sensor, timing belt intact the coil started a 1.8l etc but up until now still have not started.
    The only time it sparks, is when i attempt to remove the terminals, then it gives a strong spark but thats it.

  • Tina89 Jun 14, 2009

    Well, months later and the car is still not running. Been great for staying in shape as I've been riding my bike a lot - but, it stinks when I want to make a trip to say the grocery store and need to get a friend to take me :-(

    I had a friend (not a mechanic) look at the car and we have done the following:

    * He said the car was getting fuel.
    * He said the timing belt looked fine
    * He tried putting a screwdriver in a plug wire when I turned over the car and since it didn't arc he said there was no spark.
    * We ordered and he installed a Crank Positioning Sensor

    Unfortunately, $70 (and a home cooked meal for him) later and I'm still riding my bike.

    Any suggested causes for this '97 Golf 2.0 Gas not getting spark? Could there be a fuse somewhere or something?

    Thank you for your help,


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Hai Tina89,

I have a Golf 97 in Malaysia and have the same problem. My engine at one time died while going at 110 km/h and on a few other occation on slower speed. Once it died can't get it started for 1 or 2 hours. My mechanic changed the computer box relay numbered 53 and for years now it never happen again. I'm a visitor here and you can give me feedback at


Posted on Sep 08, 2008

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Do an oil change. I know this sounds stupid but it worked for my vw golf. I first changed the plugs, cap, rotor, the three oil sensors. And it still didn't work. I changed the oil and filter and it started up.

Posted on Feb 19, 2009

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Hey I don't know if this helps or not, but there is a piece of plastic moulding on the 97 Golf right above your shins when you are in the driver's seat, above the clutch, gas pedal, and break. A few tabs hold this in. Pull it out to reveal your fuses. I had the same problem as you, and as it happened, the problem was that one of the fuses became unseated. I was dead at a red light and had to be towed home. After finding the culprit fuse and pushing it back it, the car started right back up.

Posted on Sep 14, 2009

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Check the coil and see if it is cracked or not. I had the same problem once and the coil was cracked. This causes the distributer not to fire right because the electricity is being grounded out at the crack in the coil. Easy do it yourself. Just follow the cable that runs from your distributer up to the back of your engine compartment just infront of the steering wheel. Plenty of room for removal and installation.

Posted on Jan 27, 2009

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Sounds like the timing belt broke.
if you know any one that can help with that. that is where i would start.
timing belts are usually around 15-40 bucks, but they are a ****** to replace.

Posted on Aug 16, 2008

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Well it could be anynumber of things. Bad fuel pump, fuse blown, timin belt broken, bad distributor. The only way to diagnose it is to see it and test it. Needs to go to a shop...

Posted on Aug 16, 2008

  • Ed Woods
    Ed Woods Aug 18, 2008

    You will need to contact a dealer to find out if you have whats called a interferance motor. Also if you try to crak it while someone looks at valves (may have to take valve cover off) and they do not move then belts or other timing component is bad. Most common is the belt. Also if its a interferance motor you will have problems. This means that the pistons enter the valve space and the timing is very critical. If timing gets off for like a belt breakage the pistons can and usually do hit the valves. This bends valves and does not end well for the pistons either. Also the tach jumping around is normal when the belt breaks. The sensor that reads the cam (turns via the belt) as it moves the valves open and closed tells the tack guage where it needs to be. When the belt breaks the cam speeds up suddenly for a aplit second thn slows down quick.


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