SlickDizzy SuperDork
Nov. 9, 2011 8:31 p.m.

So for the past week my girlfriend's Jetta (1992 GL 1.8 8v Digifant) has been randomly stalling while driving, unable to start once it happens (with characteristic non-working tach while cranking, etc). Wiggling all the relays seemed to work for a while. I traced it back to the Digifant ECM relay (pos 3), a #32 relay. Tach still works when engine is cranking when I pull the fuel pump relay, so I'm 100% sure it's this one. Initially I thought it was just a bad connection, but I pulled the dash knee panel out and troubleshot it for a few hours. Seems like the relay randomly gives up, as I jiggled it and messed around for quite a while trying to get it to quit running, whereas when it finally did quit it was firmly seated and not being touched at all.

Now, I went to my local NAPA (local dealer is notoriously E36 M3ty) and had them order me an ECM relay. I got a #109, grey box, which SHOULD work according to my search here on the Vortex - but it does not. Pins are clearly different, but I tried it anyway, no dice, unsolvable by any amount of wiggling - popped the #32 back in and it started right up...until it randomly stalled again 5 mins later and would not start until after 45 mins of wiggling the damn thing.

I've been trying to get this licked for a while now. She has to go to a funeral 400 miles away this weekend, and I went through tires, brakes, cooling system, be defeated by a relay. I took the plastic cover off and let the whole thing soak in a coffee cup full of WD-40, who knows if that will help, but it's something.

So, where should I look next? Is there a proper newer relay to retrofit? Is there something ghetto I can do just to ensure that she gets there and back okay? Everything I read says the #32 has been superseded by the #109 anyways - should I try running a jumper wire to a different pin on the #109 and use that? I don't even know what to do! Just took it out for a long drive, the 2-hour WD-40 soak hasn't failed me yet, though I remain skeptical.

Photobucket Photobucket

noddaz Reader
Nov. 9, 2011 8:46 p.m.

I would have to guess that the grey relay is not a replacement for the 357-906-381 relay you have in the picture... Have a local Junkyard? Go strip a few relays out of various euro cars until you find the right one... You said you had the relay open... If you are careful you could clean the contacts and try that. And be nice to your local dealer. You never know when you will need help... On another note, if you have a local shop that specializes in euros they probably have relays in stock... Good luck...

vwcorvette HalfDork
Nov. 9, 2011 9:27 p.m.

How's the ignition switch feel? Does the key return on it's own after starting back to the run position?

How are the grounds? Especially in the engine bay for the fuel system.

Water leakage into the relay panel? Only time I've had issues with relays on a 2nd gen VW.

SlickDizzy SuperDork
Nov. 9, 2011 9:31 p.m.

Key returns on its own. Feels proper. Grounds were not great when I bought it but I cleaned them all thoroughly and added 3 redundant thick-gauge ground cables - intake manifold to valve cover, valve cover to battery, and battery to intake manifold. Suffice to say, I'm pretty sure for once a ground isn't the issue

No known water leakage. The car was parked for ~2 years before our purchase in September, though. This is the latest problem after blowing every single brake hardline, dry rotted tires, old coolant hoses, etc etc...

After soaking the open relay in WD-40, the WD was really sparkly and cloudy; looked like it managed to clean SOMETHING off. We can only hope, at this point.

friedgreencorrado SuperDork
Nov. 9, 2011 11:09 p.m.

Take the case off, and clean the contacts. I actually did mine with the file on a fingernail clipper.

What I'm hearing from my local Mk.2 buddies..the #109 is the replacement for the #32..on Chinese built "home" market cars.

This is becoming a big problem with aftermarket suppliers (especially on the internet) when you're looking for Mk.2 parts. Since the thing is still being made over there, you get the "updated" parts for the Chinese cars, instead of for the US/Euro/Canadian cars.

Nov. 10, 2011 2:18 a.m.

If the car has a Bosch ignition control module like Volvos/Saabs/etc. of the same era, then stalling with subsequent no-start, then eventual start is a pretty classic symptom of a failing module. If you bypass the relay and she stalls, that'd be where I'd look next

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