16V Engine FAQ


The following are Frequently Asked Questions about the 16 Valve Engine.
Many Thanks to the Authors of each of these FAQs for their permission
to list these articles here. 
The Authors of these FAQs and Myself Assume No Responsibility for any Damages
 that might occur when using these FAQs.

16V Engine Distributor Oil Leak Problem

TECH NOTES FOR WATERCOOLED VWs By Chris Picot    Revised 8/12/04
ISSUE: Oil in 16V Distributor.
This article addresses the problem of oil leaking into the distributors of VW 16V engines.

There is a difference of opinion as to whether or not the distributor can be repaired, or must be replaced.
I have collected information from a number of posts in order to provide a history of this matter.

Since the 16V distributor is on a horizontal axis, it allows oil to pass along the shaft of the distributor.
When the seal is worn, oil gets into the internals of the distributor. This can lead to failure of the
distributor. This is not a problem for the 8V distributors as they are on a basically vertical axis.
Ed Armstrong (armstrong@cpi.com) said he had read in European Car that the owner of Advanced Motorsports
[Solutions] (AMS),reportedly a 16V guru, had devised a method to solve the problem.
David R. Derting (davidder@teleport.com) called Techtonics Tuning and was referred to Advanced
Motorsport Solutions (AMS) in L.A. AMS had told him they no longer sold the seals as they could no longer
get the seals from their supplier. I called AMS also and they confirmed that they no longer carried them.
They also posed the question of why would anyone want to replace the seal and take the chance that the
replacement would not be successful? Why not just replace the distributor? Tim Hildabrand ("Turbo Tim"),
founder of New Dimensions, expressed the same thought.
(Tim sold the business in June 2003. The new owners have expanded the car coverage beyond VW and Audi.)
[My guess is that if the seals are available and they have not found another supplier, it is because the
repair is not very successful. If they charged a customer $100 to make the repair (with the warning that
it might not be successful and was not guaranteed), and it failed and the customer had to return again at a
cost of another $100 (again with no guarantee of success), it would be easier to just replace the
distributor for say $275 ($225 parts, plus $50 labor) and save the extra trip? If you are doing the repair
yourself it will only cost you a few dollars in parts.]

The new distributor from VW costs about $225. I called 2 local VW dealers and they both said there is no seal
available, the entire distributor had to be replaced.

Martyn Kerluk (martynk@io.org) said he had the seal replaced in his distributor by VW Canada. There was no
reason to throw away the leaky distributor. (But see below.)
He also said the seals could be obtained from Cederbrae VW in Toronto. 416-438-1900.

From David Marshall (marshall@abc.awink.com) I found
out about:
Southgate Volkswagen
5220 Calgary Trail North
Edmonton, AB, T6H 4J7
Phone 403-435-4821
Fax 403-435-7602
Website http://www.southgatevw.com/
email ??? (Jane McDade)
Jane McDade, of Southgate VW indicated that these seals were available at $7.23 Canadian. The part number is
051 905 085 BRE (or PRE?).

Per SGVW there are two "seals". One is an "O" ring at the base of the distributor which seals the head to the
outside and one seal is inside the distributor. The one inside the distributor is the one involved here.

The shop foreman's admonition was "do not distort the washer which holds the seal in place." when doing the

In viewing the photo in the Bentley Manual there is no part identified as a "seal". There are shims and a
plastic washer. For those attempting the repair, there is a pin which goes through the shaft of the
distributor. Several people have indicated that it can be difficult to remove. Be careful not to bend
the distributor shaft During the repair. A hydraulic press might be the answer.

(NOTE: Apparently there is a hole in the cylinder head which allows the oil, which goes to the distributor
shaft, to drain away from it. This hole can be "relieved" (drilled larger) when the head is off a 16V
engine. This seems to avoid the problem. The head should be off the engine to avoid the possibility that
chips of metal would get into the oil galleys. Thanks to Shine Racing Service ( www.srsvw.com ) for this

(For reference: MY DISTRIBUTOR is PN 0237 521 010 which I believe is the Bosch part number, and PN 027 905 205P
which I believe is the VW part number. Number 050 Z415 also appears on the distributor.)
(February 7, 1996 A few days ago I got a response from Martyn Kerluk in regard to my inquiry. He said the
distributor on his VW started leaking 3 months after the seal repair.)
Andrew Traenkner replaced the seal on his distributor and at 30K miles it was still leak free. See his detailed
procedures at www.gti16v.org/16vfaq.htm He indicates that the original seal is 12.5 x 19 x 5 but is not readily
available. He used a seal that was 12 x 19 x 5.
As far as locating a seal, according to Dan Bubb <jdbubb@ix.netcom.com> Any bearing house should have them
or be able to order them. He gave as an example National Oil Seal P.N. 12X19X5 (08/04/2004)
Now david <pearl16v@yahoo.com> chimes in and says he ordered the seal kit from 
Virtual World Parts www.parts4vw.com (08/04/2004)

Note: Getting a single item or small quantities of items from industrial suppliers may take a bit of diplomacy. 
Most are used to selling by the hundreds or thousands. It takes them about the same amount of time to take 
an order for $10,000 worth of widgets (from someone who knows exactly what they want) as it does to take 
your order for a single $5 item that you are going to describe to them as best you can. 
If they act like they are doing you a favor by selling it to you it is because they ARE doing you a favor. 
Be patient, polite and respectful. (If you can spot a "car guy" head for his section of the counter. 
I once went to an industrial fastener supply house to get some bolts that were not readily available elsewhere. 
As I was telling the salesman what I wanted, I noticed signs all over the place saying "Minimum
order of 100 pieces per item"). The salesman noticed me looking at one of the signs and said "don't worry about that,
just tell me what you want and how many and I'll get them for you." It turned out that the guy was an 
antique car buff and aware of the need of some people to buy in smaller quantities.
I had struck gold!  Now there are some companies that need small quantities of items for R&D projects. 
If you go to a company that caters to the R&D folks you might be in luck because that may
have boxes of 100 items that they have "broken" to fill a smaller order. 
(Keep in mind that the R&D firms are likely to place a total order that is cost effective for the supplier 
to fill and the R&D company will likely be a frequent and long term customer.) If a supplier's salesman 
starts to balk, maybe offer to run to 7-11 for coffee (or Kripy Kreme for doughnuts if the going gets tough). 
It may be a lot to do to get a $5 part, but better than running all over town.
Now if Heidi Klum walks in while you are there she'll probably get anything she wants, in any quantity, 
gift wrapped and carried to her car - even if it only weighs an ounce.

Copyright 1996-2004 Christopher T. Picot


16V Engine Distributor Seal Replacement

OK, guys, here are the complete instructions for the distributor seal replacement. 
The seal size is 12x19x5. The factory size is 12.5x19x5, but that half size is 
virtually impossible to find, so just go one half size down.
First, make sure you have a wad of paper towels or a sturdy shop rag
handy. When you remove the distributor body from the head, oil pours out
of the hole and down the side of the block, so be prepared for this. Just
take the towels or rags and shove them in the hole to prevent the oil from
coming out. Try to mark the point where the distributor meets up with
head, this will make it alot easier to reset the timing, once everything
is put back together.

You will need either a vise, or something else to support the
shaft while you are driving the pin out.  DO NOT CLAMP THE SHAFT IN THE
VISE, it will immediately be reduced to trash. You will probably need a
second person to hold the distributor while you work with it.  Remove the
spring clip from the end of the shaft.  Use a small punch to drive the pin
out of the shaft. After the pin is out, you can remove the shaft from the
distributor body. Be careful to keep track of how things came apart.

Very carefully pry the sheetmetal cover off of the seal. Be careful
not to bend or mangle the cover. It is very soft, and you will need it
after you put the new seal in. Carefully pry the seal out. Now you are
ready to put everything back together.

Next, grease up the new seal, and use the back of a small socket to press
it into place.  Make sure the seal is true and square with the distributor
body.  If the distributor shaft has any burns on it, use some fine steel
wool to smooth it down.

Now press the sheetmetal back into place, taking care to align the
serrations. Grease up the shaft, and slide it back through the distributor
body. Now you press the pin back into the shaft.  This will take some
patience, but take your time with it, and be careful not to score or nick
anything. snap the spring clip back into place, and you are ready to bolt
the distributor back onto the head.

A quick note about the distributor.  The head is aluminum, so be very
careful when torquing the two bolts that hold the distributor to the head.
I have seen more than one person strip them. Not good.

Set your timing, and you are ready to roll!

I hope that this saves you guys some coin. The fact that rebuilt
distributors cost so much is usery. I now have 30K mikes on my new seal,
and when I checked it last week, it was still bone dry. Total cost under

Copyright 1998 by Andrew M. Traenkner	

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