Doctor Diesel

Holy Smoke!

I have a 2005 Volkswagen Touran 1.9 TDI. My problem is that smoke frequently belches from underneath the car, but only when the outside temperature is around three degrees Celsius and the car is idling at traffic lights, or stopped in traffic. This is accompanied by strong diesel fumes, actually inside the car, even with all windows closed. Other drivers beep their horns to alert me to the fact that the car looks like it’s about to burst into flames, as it is totally surrounded by thick smoke, which takes a few minutes to disperse, and next time the car is idling, the problem recurs. I have checked the issue online and it appears to be a common problem with this vehicle. I can’t see anything which might explain the cause, or any suggestions to rectify it. 


I contacted Volkswagen in the wake of the emissions scandal, as I wondered if it could be linked in any way to that. Their only response was to advise me to take the vehicle to a main agent for investigation, which will probably cost nearly as much as the car is worth! Do you have any ideas of a possible cause of this problem? Thanks, 


Ray Brady, Liverpool


Ray, 1.9 TDI Tourans of that age had a diesel-powered engine pre-heater, to assist in faster engine warm-up. They always were a bit nasty, and some set fire to the grass on quite a few caravan sites! That’s probably why you notice it mostly when it is cold outside, but it should (maybe it does?) go away when the engine warms up and the pre-heater cuts out. But there may be a fault, and possibly a diesel leak, or it could be that your engine pre-heater plugs are not up to scratch and not working properly.


As you correctly fear, a VW dealer might hit you hard cost-wise to diagnose and repair it, but plenty of independent VW specialists should be able to sort this more cheaply, particularly as this system was used in quite a lot of light commercials, with which these great little garages do lots of business. Please keep me posted on how you get on. It does need sorting, so don’t delay.



Doc D


Ray replied: Thanks for your reply. I have looked into the suggestion that it may be the engine pre-heater plugs causing the problem and came across the VW Audi Forum. A large number of VW owners on the forum report experiencing exactly the same problem, some have been in direct contact with Volkswagen, as I have, without a satisfactory result. It is a common suggestion that a recall is required as the matter does appear to be a design fault. (I think all those postings are quite a few years old. Doc.)


One mention was of the carbon monoxide fumes, which is especially concerning for me as I frequently have my toddler grandchildren in the car with me. Volkwagen is clearly ignoring the concerns of many owners in this matter and I wonder if perhaps an article in Diesel Car Magazine might make them more inclined to pay attention. Or even an enquiry from your magazine requesting some comment from them?


Thanks again,



You must, to be fair, Ray, and appreciate that this is a 12-year old car. I very much agree with you regarding the dangers of the fumes in the car to passengers ñ all the more reason to not delay taking some action. With all due respect, and obviously with no knowledge of your personal financial circumstances, you would be doing the right thing by your grandchildren if you got rid of the troublesome old Touran and bought something that is a lot younger, and safer, in terms of crash avoidance technology, crash protection, and toxic emissions! Otherwise, I suggest that you follow my advice and get the Touran looked at without any further delay!


Best regards,

Doc Diesel

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