When I first heard about the new VW Amarok it appeared to be shrouded by skepticism and controversy. I noticed many staunch enthusiasts questioned the long-term reliability of its 2.0-liter turbo-diesel engine. Since its 2010 debut, skepticism loomed among journalists and those favoring the larger engine capacity Oriental Utes. That wasn’t enough to stop me from purchasing my Amarok and my personal experience told a different story. So what was the Amarok’s reliability like?
The most common reliability issues associated with the 2.0 Diesel VW Amarok are:
- EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) valve failure.
- Serpentine/Accessory drive belt failure before its 75000km kilometer change over an interval
- DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) getting clogged
Over 2 decades later, the Amarok has surpassed all my expectations, proving its worth and often outperforming competitors. However, it hasn’t been without its challenges. This article will delve into these common issues and provide available solutions.
Table of Contents
Amarok Reliability: The 2.0 Engine
When I owned my Amarok, I used it as a daily, my family vehicle, and for my business. I can tell you one thing, when it comes to family, work, and play no vehicle checks those boxes better than a reliable double-cab Ute. Reliability is the operative word here since more hours spent in the workshop means fewer hours on the job and less money in your bank. It is a mammoth task.
From my experience, the Amarok is without a doubt a working-class vehicle with a touch of luxury. VW released it to compete directly against the more popular Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, and Isuzu, to name just a few. This it does, and very well at that because this is by no means a bare-bones commercial UTE. As in typical Volkswagen fashion, it’s luxurious, oozes class, and did well for my business image.
But let’s look at those common faults in some more detail now
Some Common Faults: EGR SYSTEM
The VW Amarok often experiences EGR valve issues. I was also a victim of this issue. Picture me merrily driving on the freeway only to be greeted by a warning sound on the dash followed by a check engine light. The dreaded EGR had struck! Apparently, this EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation), controls exhaust fumes’ flow to reduce NOx levels by reintroducing them into the engine. This process cools the engine, lessens oxygen intake, and lowers NOx emissions, benefiting the turbo’s durability and oil performance. In theory!
When the vehicle drives slowly or lacks a heavy load, the EGR system becomes active. This occurs during lighter-load driving, allowing the engine to manage some capacity. The EGR’s cooling effect contributes to a lower engine temperature during such conditions.
A cooler engine and lubricating oil benefit the turbo’s performance. Cooler oil lasts longer and functions better compared to oil subjected to continuous overheating. Therefore, the EGR system plays a crucial role in maintaining engine coolness and safeguarding engine oil from consistent heat exposure. In THEORY!!!
At this point, I want to briefly emphasize how important it is to own a decent ODBII Scanner. Diagnosing issues on any modern, 4WD can be nearly impossible with all their sophisticated sensors and electronic components. If you do not already own one I would highly recommend this OBD2 Scanner & Engine Fault Code Reader on Amazon. It’s the #1 bestseller with almost 30,000 good reviews, so check it out! It will save you heaps of money in the long run and unnecessary time at the dealerships.
The Nitrogen and oxygen in the engine combine to form NOx which reacts with sunlight and causes dark smog.
Car manufacturers are under constant pressure to produce greener, cleaner engines so the EGR valve is an anti-pollution device designed by manufacturers to drastically reduce the NOx levels that get pumped into the atmosphere.
EGR Failure Symptoms
I pulled to the side and switched off the engine. After restarting the light disappeared and everything appeared normal like nothing ever happened. Unfortunately that wasnt the last of it because the Amarok’s EGR often fails, causing rough idling and triggering the dashboard’s orange “check engine” light. In protective measures, the vehicle might enter limp mode.
I immediately suspected EGR issues in my Amarok, and after some research found that a common culprit is a leak. The coolant, meant to cool unburnt exhaust gases within the EGR Radiator cooler, might leak into the intake, mixing with gases in the combustion chambers.
If EGR faults go unnoticed and engine coolant levels drop, it can lead to severe engine damage when coolant mixes with gas in the combustion chamber. NOT GOOD!!!
Below are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Engine knocking sound – This is caused by high combustion temperatures on overheating
- Stalling – A clogged EGR will result in emission gasses being shut off, resulting in engine shut-offs.
- Engine Light – The engine light will be triggered on the dash. Don’t assume anything and take the vehicle to a garage ASAP to have the engine scanned to exactly identify the error code.
- Rough Idle – Rough idle occurs when there is a problem with the EGR and the vehicle suffers from power loss.
EGR Failure Causes
Under warranty, EGR replacement is viable unless severe engine damage has occurred. Regular inspection and cleaning can prevent several EGR problems.
Several, myself included, opt to entirely remove or block the EGR valve, yet this choice has its pros and cons. In my case, I noticed the engine took longer to reach operating temperature. Throttle response felt better and even consumption appeared to have improved.
Amarok EGR Fix
Option 1 – Leave it in and Clean it regularly
Ensure regular cleaning of your EGR system and inlet to avoid failure caused by soot accumulation that can obstruct the engine. The benefit of this approach is maintaining the vehicle in its factory condition, and alleviating concerns about warranty claims or potential legal problems in the future. However, the downside is the inability to prevent EGR failure caused by cooler cracking and subsequent leakage into the inlet, potentially leading to severe damage.
Option 2 – Blanking off your EGR and Tune
This option prevents both failures, better fuel economy, more power, and better drivability.
The downside – It is a bit of a legal grey area but for technicality’s, sake let’s just say blocking the EGR is a legal no-no in some countries. A lot of people are quick to say ‘warranty will be voided’. Well no it won’t be, the dealership has the responsibility to prove an engine fault is a direct result of the EGR delete and tune. Certain dealers have offered tunes from the factory and have yet to see one knocked back as a result.
Advantages of EGR Delete
Deleting the EGR system leads to smoother combustion of exhaust fumes and offers benefits like improved throttle response and slightly increased power output. in my experience, I noticed that this modification resulted in a more fuel-efficient engine, reducing oil contamination and carbon deposits within the engine. An EGR DELETE KIT enhances engine efficiency, leading to reduced oil contamination and thorough combustion without leaving residues in the combustion chamber.
Amarok EGR Blanking Kit
Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDi EGR Cooler Delete Kit blanking plates bypass
- 2x EGR blanking block off plate (intake & exhaust side)
- Coolant hose
- 2x Coolant hose coupling
- 2x Hose clamp
- Exhaust Gases Recirculation valve block off plate.
Amarok Serpentine Belt Failure
Turbo Diesel Amarok models commonly face Serpentine Belt Failure, leading to potential severe engine damage. I, fortunately, did not experience this but I know of somebody who did and read of many others both locally and internationally.
Reports indicate belt failure occurring before the 75,000km mark. If the belt snaps, debris can interfere with the timing belt, causing it to jump teeth or break. This disrupts valve timing, potentially causing valve-piston contact and major engine repairs, often requiring cylinder replacement.
Volkswagen addressed this by introducing an improved timing belt cover in May 2012, shielding the timing belt from debris. This cover was retrofitted to all Amaroks during subsequent major services.
Amarok Serpentine Belt Fix
Replace the cam belt every 50,000 miles or 4 years, whichever is earlier, and consider changing the water pump preventatively.
Install the updated timing cover. For Amaroks before My14, ensure your cover is the newer version to avoid potential engine damage if the belt snaps. Regularly check belts, especially in dusty conditions, as they might need earlier replacement.
Also, check for misaligned pulleys during major services to prevent premature belt failure.
Amarok DPF Failure
The Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) in the Amarok is susceptible to faults due to its poor design.
The DPF aims to reduce toxic particles and NOx emissions by capturing about 80% of soot from the combustion chamber. When these particles clog the filter, the Engine Management Light on the dashboard alerts the driver. City stop-go traffic often causes blockages in these filters.
Though there’s no official VW recall to fix the DPF, its high premature failure rate is under investigation.
Blocked DPF Symptoms
Over time, the DPF filter accumulates soot, causing blockages. The Amarok employs an ‘active regeneration’ process: when soot buildup hits 10%, extra fuel is injected to raise exhaust temperatures, burning off the soot in the Diesel Oxidation Catalyst at around 600°C. However, this method requires a quarter tank of fuel, 10 to 15 minutes of continuous driving over 2,200rpm, increasing fuel consumption altering the engine’s sound, and emitting a burning smell. DPF warning lights illuminate during this process.
Blocked DPF Fix
The Amarok’s DPF tends to block quickly, triggering a short-lived warning light before limp mode activates. Once in limp mode, blockage exceeds 50%, preventing active regeneration. To resolve this, visit VW for forced regeneration or DPF replacement.
For city or farm drivers with infrequent high-speed, freeway drives over 2000rpm, DPF issues may arise. When the warning light appears, immediately head to an open road, downshift, and drive at high revs for 10-15 minutes to elevate exhaust temperatures and burn trapped soot.
Amarok Owner’s Real-World Examples
User Experience #1
I bought the Amarok to replace a 2011 Navara, I couldn’t be happier with it, I’ve had 40,000 miles of trouble free motoring, it’s still on the delivery tyres and servicing costs are the lowest I’ve had with any car yet. The auto gearbox works well with the engine and means towing is progressive even with a full load. A Discovery or Land Cruiser it is not but for a pickup it’s worth it’s weight in gold….. which is good as they cost a small fortune.https://www.carbuyer.co.uk/reviews/volkswagen/amarok/sports-utility-vehicle/owner-reviews
No major engine failures or EGR faults were reported there, but rather CV joints and brakes. This could be due to heavy off-roading, which can destroy cvs.
User Experience #2
Excellent all round and a comfortable drive. In nearly two years mine has not used any engine oil. The only thing I do not like about it is the Sat Nav. A Garmin is far superior to what the VW has in it. Everything else is perfect although it would have been nice to have had a memory seat.https://www.carbuyer.co.uk/reviews/volkswagen/amarok/sports-utility-vehicle/owner-reviews
No complaints about reliability there either.
Amarok Recalls And Known Issues
Before you purchase an Amarok check to make sure it has been subject to all the necessary recalls.
Volkswagen recalled all Single-Cab Amarok’s built between 2010 and 2013 for a potential fuel leak problem, while 2014/15 Amarok’s needed their front brakes checked as the calipers may not have been tightened to the correct torque.Reference: http://australiancar.reviews/reviews.php#!content=recalls&make=Volkswagen&model=Amarok&gen=927
Fuel Leak – Single-Cab
In November 2013 a recall was issued for VW Single Cab utilities due to incorrectly positioned fuel piped in the engine compartment. This defect combined with engine vibrations could lead to chaffing or cracks developing in the fuel pipes. If this occurred diesel fuel may leak into the engine compartment and could pose a fire hazard. As part of the recall, a chaff protector would be fitted on the fuel line at affected points to prevent damageReference: http://australiancar.reviews/reviews.php#!content=recalls&make=Volkswagen&model=Amarok&gen=927
Loose Brake Callipers – Single-Cab
On June 2015 a recall was issued for all MY2015 Amarok vehicles. On certain Amarok vehicles, the bolts on certain Amarok may not have been tightened with the specified torque. If bolt tension was lost, the loose brake caliper may make a noise, damage the wheel, and at worst cause the wheel to lock up, which could cause loss of control and possibly an accident.Reference: http://australiancar.reviews/reviews.php#!content=recalls&make=Volkswagen&model=Amarok&gen=927
Airbag Fault – Single-Cab
In April 2017 a recall was made for 2016 and 2017 single cab 2H Amarok’s. In the event of a collision, variations of the mixed ratio of propellant for the airbag and belt tensioner may prevent them from deploying. Failure to deploy would increase the risk of injury to occupants.Reference: http://australiancar.reviews/reviews.php#!content=recalls&make=Volkswagen&model=Amarok&gen=927
Software Update – Single-Cab
In October 2015 a recall was issued for all Single-Cab Utilities with the 2.0 EA189 Diesel engines.
According to the recall notice, the emissions levels may not meet regulatory requirements when the affected vehicle is driven under normal conditions. This was like a NOx emissions “defeat device”
For the 2.0-Litre EA189 engine a software update will be introduced which takes advantage of improved simulation of air currents inside the air intake system. Volkswagen aims to implement the software update from January 2016. The labor time to install the update is around a half-an-hourReference: http://australiancar.reviews/reviews.php#!content=recalls&make=Volkswagen&model=Amarok&gen=927
Loss of Power Steering Assistance (3.0 V6 Tdi 2017-18)
In January 2018 a recall was issued for 2017 and 2018 model year VW Amarok vehicles that had 3.0 Turbo diesel engines. During production, a clip may have been fitted incorrectly and this could damage the power steering return hose. This could cause hydraulic fluid to leak and for power steering assistance to be lost.
The loss of power steering assistance would affect the handling of the vehicle, posing a safety risk to occupants of the vehicle and other road users.Reference: http://australiancar.reviews/reviews.php#!content=recalls&make=Volkswagen&model=Amarok&gen=927
Amarok Maintenance Checks
Inspect the power steering return hose frequently for leaks to prevent power steering failure.
Recall in 2017 for the timing belt on the Bi-turbo TDi: monitor regularly for cracks or misalignment to avert engine damage if it breaks early (around 50,000 miles).
For off-road readiness, check the undercarriage for dents and scratches. If buying an Amarok with a tow hook, inquire about its towing history due to increased drivetrain wear from heavy towing.
EGR cooler is prone to corrosion: monitor oil usage and exhaust smoke for engine damage signs; Volkswagen redesigned the EGR cooler. Regular checks are advised.
Volkswagen as a brand is well known for refinement, build quality, reliability, and fuel efficiency. I can honestly vouch for that and in my experience, the Amarok checks all these boxes and does it well. With that being said, no vehicle is perfect and they all have an Achilles heel of some sort. Some more than others and the Amarok is, unfortunately, no exception. Take care of the above and you’ll have a bullet-proof Amarok that rivals oriental reliability with a touch of class.
Keep on top of maintenance and it should deliver reliable service. The Amarok is well worth considering if you need a tough, smart pick-up truck that’s more car-like than commercial in its driving manners. You have my word!