The TSI engine (designated EA888) has been utilized in vehicles across the Volkswagen group since its inception in the late 2000s. As of 2023, the TSI engine is in its fourth generation, but in this post, we are going to look back on the third generation, used from 2015 until 2020.
Now that the EA888 Gen 3 has been around for eight years, problems with this engine have had a chance to present themselves. Vehicles powered by the EA888 are becoming much more affordable. Read on to learn about some of the common issues associated with this engine, and what you should look out for if you are picking one up second hand!
Available in 1.8 and 2-liter displacement, this engine had a range of power outputs depending on the application. It was also used in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive cars and was mounted transversely and longitudinally. Three different-sized turbochargers were used
Many. This engine was used across Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche’s lineups. It came in everything from the high-performance Golf R, S3, and GTI to entry-level trims of the Audi Q7, A6, and Porsche Macan.
Like many European engines, the EA888 suffers from oil leaks.
Oil leaks can occur at the cam bridge on the EA888. Oil will leak from the seals on the inside of the cam bridge where the cam adjuster magnet sits, down into the upper timing cover.
The upper timing cover on the EA888 Gen 3 tends to leak oil. The rubber seals surrounding the cam adjusters, and the outer seal on the cover itself can leak oil externally.
The gaskets on the upper timing cover are serviceable independently, meaning they can be changed without replacing the cover itself.
The rear main seal, which sits on the engine of the engine block where the crankshaft connects to the transmission, is very prone to leaking oil on the EA888. While the seal itself is not expensive, the labor required to replace it can be costly. The transmission has to be separated from the engine to access and replace it.
On this motor, the water pump assembly is made of plastic. The plastic will become brittle over time after countless hot and cold cycles and can crack. Additionally, the gaskets that seal the water pump to the block will go bad. These failures can be accelerated by oil coming from leaks on the top of the engine. Leaking oil can work its way in between the engine block and water pump assembly, causing rapid gasket failure.
The PCV Valve, which is located on top of the engine, has been a failure point for all generations of the EA888. A failed valve can cause a wide range of issues from check engine lights and rough idling to loud squealing noises and oil leaks. Luckily, the valve is not expensive and requires very little labor to replace.
While not as severe as previous generations, the Gen 3 EA888 still suffers from carbon buildup on the back of the intake valves and runner flaps on the intake manifold. Changes to the PCV system reduced the rate of buildup, but as with most direct injection engines, carbon deposits still happen over time.
The reason direct injection motors like the EA888 have this problem is a result of how fuel is injected into the cylinder. As the name suggests, the fuel enters the cylinder directly, with the nozzle of the fuel injector inside the combustion chamber. Detergent and other additives, which are meant to reduce carbon buildup, are unable to clean the backs of the intake valves.
Carbon cleaning, either by hand or a method like walnut blasting, is the only way to eliminate the buildup of carbon and restore engine performance.
When Volkswagen switched over from the FSI to the TSI engine, they retired the timing belt and replaced it with a timing chain. Just like the belt, the timing chain is a wear item that is susceptible to stretching. They will need to be replaced if the stretching is severe, but the intervals are typically very long and can be made longer by changing your oil frequently and using OE fluids and filters.
The turbochargers on the Gen 3 EA888 failed at a very high rate. While Volkswagen made the switch from Borg Warner to IHI as a turbo supplier before the Gen 3 motor, the new turbos used on the Gen 3 were not nearly as durable.
Depending on the engine, there were three turbochargers available. The 1.8 TSI came with the smallest turbo, the IS12. The 2.0 TSI found in the A3, GTI, and longitudinal Audi platforms utilized the larger IS20. The highest output 2.0 TSI, found in the Golf R, S3, and Arteon, used the even larger IS38 Turbo.
While the actual turbochargers fail frequently, another failure point is the wastegate actuator. The actuator is electronically controlled and is responsible for opening and closing the wastegate, regulating boost pressure. The actuator is serviceable independent of the turbo, but oftentimes the dealership will replace the entire unit regardless.
Turbo failure is expensive, but it provides an easy opportunity to upgrade to a bigger OEM unit (the turbos on these vehicles are interchangeable) or go all out with an aftermarket big turbo setup.
The EA888 Gen 3 engine is highly efficient and powerful. While the recent releases of the Gen 3 B-cycle and Gen 4 EVO engine offer even better economy and power, the Gen 3 is still a great powerplant. If you are getting a car powered by this engine second-hand, make sure to keep an eye out for these common problems so you can get the most out of it. A pre-purchase inspection by trained VW/Audi techs can help identify any potential issues beforehand.
Whether you drive a GTI or a Porsche Macan, don’t let inexperienced hands touch the EA888 motor under the hood. Give Alex’s Autohaus a call or schedule an appointment online at our repair shop in Midvale, Utah today!
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