VW 3.2 VR6 Engine Problems & Reliability!

VW 3.2 VR6 Engine Problems & Reliability!

June 18, 2023 0 By CarGuy

Are you interested in purchasing a VW or an Audi with the VR6 engine and you are asking yourself what are the VW 3.2 VR6 engine problems? If that’s correct, you are in the right place because in this article there will be a lot to cover.

Before purchasing a used car, doing proper research is mandatory. You just don’t want to leave things to chance, you need to get yourself properly informed on the vehicle you intend to buy, as well as the engine that is installed in this specific model. And this is why we are here to help you out.

First, we are going to learn more about the specs of this 3.2 VR6 engine, then we are going to cover the VW 3.2 VR6 engine problems in great depth and understand how they appear. Lastly, we are going to cover the applications in which you can find this engine.

VW 3.2 VR6 Engine Specifications

This 3.2 engine was part of a major redevelopment in the VR6 family. This new engine was introduced in 2003 and greatly replaced the good old 2.8 VR6 that we covered recently.

The 3.2 engine is also known simply as the R32. This engine, just like the previous model, was featured in the top Golf model that was known as the R32. Specifically, we are talking about the Mk5 R32 model.

But this engine also found its way in other VW and Audi products. More about the applications, we are going to elaborate further on. Now let’s share the specs of this engine.

  • Configuration: VR
  • Displacement: 3.2L
  • Number Of Cylinders: 6
  • Cylinder Bore: 84 mm
  • Cylinder Stroke: 95.9 mm
  • Block Material: Cast Iron
  • Cylinder Head Material: Aluminum
  • Head Design: DOHC with 4 valves per cylinder
  • Fuel Injection: Port Injection (MPI)
  • Aspiration: Naturally Aspirated
  • Compression Ratio: 11.3:1 or 10.9:1
  • Firing Order: 1,5,3,6,2,4
  • Horsepower: 235 – 250 hp
  • Torque: 232 – 236 lb-ft

VW 3.2 VR6 Engine Applications

Now let’s see in which applications you can find the VW 3.2 VR6 engine.

  • VW Golf Mk5 R32
  • VW Transporter T5
  • Audi A3
  • Audi TT

VW 3.2 VR6 Engine Problems List

Now let’s list the common VW 3.2 VR6 engine problems.

  • Serpentine Belt Tensioner Failure
  • Spark Plug & Coil Failures
  • Timing Chain Failures
  • Warm Stall Problems
  • Water Pump Failures
  • Head Gasket Failures
  • Oil Leaks
  • Oil Pump Failures
  • PCV Valve Failures

We covered the VW 3.2 VR6 engine problems, now let’s move on and learn more about these problems in-depth. In the following chapters, we are going to further elaborate on these problems and learn when and how they appear. As well as how serious these issues are.

1. Serpentine Belt Tensioner Failure

One of the biggest issues with the VW 3.2 VR6 is the serpentine tensioner failures. This tensioner is in charge of keeping tension on the serpentine belt.

For those guys who don’t know, a serpentine belt is a special belt that is used to drive the accessories of the car. These include the alternator, AC, power steering pump, and so on.

Whenever this tensioner fails, there will be a loss of tension and the belt can slip. Causing some problems with the engine.

The engine will not be happy so the battery can be empty, the power steering can perform badly, and so on. In addition to this, there will be squeaking noises coming from the engine bay, especially at idle.

In some cases, the tensioner can fail completely and the timing belt can jump. So, you will lose all the accessories and the engine will stall.

The solution to this issue is replacing the tensioner, as well as the idler pulley and serpentine belt if these parts are also worn out.

Now let’s move on to the next VW 3.2 VR6 engine problems

2. Spark Plug & Coil Failures

Spark plugs and coils can also fail quite often on these 3.2 VR6 engines. The spark plugs, as you probably know, produce sparks. But the coil that sits on top of the spark does all the magic.

These electric transformers create a very high current from the 12v battery supply and then they send this power to the spark plugs which with the help of the electrode create a spark.

What is unfortunate is that on these VR6 engines these components fail very often and cause many issues like check engine light, engine misfires, rough idle, and poor engine work.

The only solution to this problem is to replace the spark plugs with new ones and call it a day. This can be somewhat expensive but it has to be done in order not to have issues starting the engine and keep the car’s reliability in good order.

3. Timing Chain Failures

Timing chains are also a problem on the 3.2 VR6 engine. So, what is a timing chain, and what does this component do?

Well, this component is designed to keep the timing of the engine in check. Remember, the R32 is an interference engine. So, the top and the bottom of the engine have to be perfectly synchronized. If they are not, there will be problems.

And these problems happen when the chain starts to stretch. This will cause the timing chain to become loose and even skip timing.

Symptoms of this problem will be the rattling noises coming from behind the timing cover, check engine light, engine misfires, and engine damage in the worst case if the valves and pistons collide.

Sometimes this problem can be caused by a bad timing chain tensioner or a timing chain tensioner guide. The important thing is to detect if there is a rattle and sort out the problem as soon as possible.

Now let’s move on to the next VW 3.2 VR6 engine problems.

4. Warm Stall Problems

Another common problem with these R32 engines is the situation when you experience a warm stall. So, what is a warm stall?

A warm stall is a situation when the engine stalls while it’s already warmed up. It simply shuts off and you have to restart the engine again.

This was a problem reportedly caused because of a bad ECT sensor. This is the coolant temperature sensor.

This sensor plays a huge role when it comes to adjusting the air to fuel mixture at startup and if the sensor has bad readings, it can cause problems such as this.

Sometimes the O2 sensor can cause similar issues, as well as the throttle body. So, make sure that you also check these components as well.

5. Water Pump Failures

Water pump failures were also noted on the 3.2 VR6 engine. As you probably know, the water pump is the component that circulates the coolant inside and outside of the engine block.

This pump has to work in order for the car to cool down. If the pump has failed, the car will simply overheat and experience running issues.

Common symptoms with this pump are the coolant leaks and the whining noises that the pump creates. These noises are a tell-tale sign that you have a problem with the pump

Now let’s move on to the next VW 3.2 VR6 engine problems.

6. Head Gasket Failures

Head gasket failures were also noted on this engine. And this is a completely normal thing for these high-performance engines.

The gasket sits between the cylinder head and the deck of the block. And is the first line of defense when it comes to preventing coolant and oil from mixing together.

When they mix, the head gasket fails. So, if you have a sudden coolant loss or a milkshake type of stuff on the oil dipstick, this means that you need to replace the gasket.

The cylinder head has to be resurfaced first and that’s why this job is somewhat expensive to do. The important thing is to not delay it since this can total out the engine.

7. Oil Leaks

Oil leaks are also common on these engines. Remember that these engines are 20 years old. So, to have oil leaks here and there is a very common thing.

There can be leaks from the oil pan gasket, front or rear main seals, valve covers can also leak oil.

That’s why it is a very good idea to replace all these gaskets and seals if you have leaks in order to bulletproof the engine for the foreseeable future.

Now let’s move on to the next VW 3.2 VR6 engine problems.

8. PCV Valve Failures

And the last problem on our list is the PCV valve and the failures that happen on this valve. This valve has a diaphragm that can disintegrate and fail completely.

This valve can cause the engine to consume a lot of oil. So, if you have increased oil consumption, you better check out his valve and replace it. It is very cheap anyways.


What Are The Common Problems With The VW 3.2 VR6 Engine?

Common problems with this engine include head gasket failures, oil leaks, timing chain rattle, serpentine belt tensioner failures, and water pump failures.

Is The VW R32 Engine Reliable?

Overall, the R32 engine is very reliable. This engine can be pushed hard without caring much. It is very durable and with good maintenance will definitely serve you for more than 200,000 miles.